The movie The King’s Speech tells the true tale of a shy prince who becomes a King. “Bertie”—as only his family can call him—is the frog who becomes a prince who is crowned the King of England and who will lead the nation through World War II.
Bertie’s road to the throne is filled with potholes. It is his older brother who is the heir, not Bertie; the scars of his past create fear in this future king of a scared nation; and he stutters in an age when live speeches are the new way to lead.
At one point he mourns, “I am the seat of all authority because they think that when I speak, I speak for them. But I can’t speak.”
The movie opens as Bertie stammers through a speech at Wembley Stadium, a speech broadcast to the world. We share the prince’s anguish in his painful pauses and repeating c-c-c-consonants, every stutter amplified for the listening ears of the world.
Bertie reluctantly turns to Lionel Logue, an uncertified speech therapist. Lionel sees in Bertie a vein of gold. Lionel unearths this gold by teaching, cajoling, and even provoking the shy prince, until Bertie finally shouts:
Bertie: L-L-L-listen to me…
Lionel: Why should I waste my time listening to you?
Bertie: Because I have a right to be heard! I have a voice!
Lionel: [pause] Yes, you do. [stands] … You’re the bravest man I know. You’ll make a bloody good king.
In the movie, a commoner helps the king find his voice. And that is the way it works in the world, underlings give overlings a platform to be heard. Christ turned worldly wisdom upside down. Now it’s the leaders who help others find their voice.
The thing is, few Christian leaders know how to do it.
The wisdom of the world overflows the bookshelves of Barnes and Nobles (and the pages and leafs of Amazon). It teaches time management, financial analysis, leadership skills, and resource efficiency.
Worldly wisdom is not the same as gospel-wisdom. Judas was a resource-efficiency guru when he mocked Mary’s wasted ointment. Jesus calls her a resource-efficiency genius.
Worldly wisdom says your life for mine; gospel-wisdom says my life for yours. Worldly wisdom says leave the one sheep for the ninety-nine; gospel-wisdom says leave the ninety-nine for the one.
Worldly wisdom says design products with interchangeable parts; gospel-wisdom says you can’t replace an elbow with a thumb.
The corporate church
Worldly wisdom says use the parts to cause the organization to thrive; gospel-wisdom says use the organization to cause the parts to thrive.
Worldly wisdom sacrifices the individual for the sake of the corporation. Such thinking was personified by The Soviet Controlled Economy. While initially successful, such economy was built on the backs of voiceless laborers at the cost of ten million victims. Ultimately the Soviet Union collapsed
Worldly wisdom says, “See the forest not the trees;’ gospel-wisdom says nurture each leaf, and the forest will be beautiful.
When the church is corporate, we arrange the parts to prosper the plans of our group. When the church is organic, we tend to the leafs and let God watch out for the forest.
True spiritual leadership
God has placed a vein of gold in each of us. He created us with unique voices, distinct perspectives, something only you (and I) can bring to this world. But we need other eyes to spot it in us and draw it out.
A Christian leader should be a gold prospector, finding the gold God hid in our hearts.
Worldly leaders grasp for their own “kingdom;” they use (and abuse) “commoners” to find a platform their own voice. The biblical view of leadership is the opposite:
He raises the poor from the dust, and he lifts the needy from the ash heap; to make them sit with princes, with the princes of his people. (1 Samuel 2:8)
The passage applies first to Christ—as he laid down his life to raise ours—and then it acts as a model for Christian leaders who are to lay down their lives in order to raise up others; to use our power to em-power others, to help them find their voice.
In The King’s Speech, Bertie’s brother is actually king for a short time before abdicating. Bertie wants to talk with him, but the king has been busy. When Bertie confronts him, the irritated brother snaps,
Brother: I’ve been terribly busy.
Bertie: Doing what?
The problem with Christian leadership is we are so busy “kinging” that we forget to “raise the poor from the dust … and make them sit with princes.”
Leaders, instead of busying ourselves with “kinging,” let’s concern ourselves with crowning. Let’s lift the needy from the ashes and make them sit with princes.
Even if they sit on our backs as they learn to sit with princes.