Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Beyond the Hundredth Meridian

OK. I don’t really expect any of you to read Wallace Stegner’s 1950-something classic with the subtitle, “John Wesley Powell and the Second Opening of the West.” But maybe you’ll at least read this blog as a challenge to pick up something outside of your normal reading bandwidth in the next few weeks.

When my uncle offered to take me and my 14-year old son on a weeklong rafting adventure through the Grand Canyon, he said that this was the book I needed to read before the trip. I ordered the book out of obligation, and began reading out of a desire to understand what it was like for Powell and company to make that first treacherous trip into the unknown.

Little did I know how much I would learn and how it could even apply to church leadership. Even though the American West was largely an unknown territory in the 1870’s, government leaders had many pre-conceived ideas that were shaping national policy. Ideas such as that the arid regions would suddenly become fertile without irrigation, and could therefore be settled with practices that had worked in the east. It took a persistent, visionary leader like John Wesley Powell to challenge the bureaucracy and begin to reshape some of the laws. I guess we’d never have these kinds of problems in a church, right?

Not only did I find some interesting lessons in the book, I rediscovered a lost personal enjoyment of history. So rather than reading your tenth book on leadership or theology or whatever is your pattern, have some fun with a different kind of reading this summer.

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