Archives For Historical Characters

Leadership Insights into the lives of historical Characters


Dr. Jay Strack —  March 7, 2013

An open letter to the College of Cardinals from a Protestant who believes that what happens in Rome still matters,

In this fourth quarter of civilization, we are faced with increased secularism, division between nations, and corruption among the trusted and true. It is because of this atmosphere that the College of Cardinals must appoint a transformational leader. As President of Student Leadership University, I have listened to the concerns and questions of emerging young leaders who report disillusionment on a global scale, and I believe emphatically that the church needs the ancient wisdom of the ages from Solomon to Peter Drucker in order to regain its effectiveness for this generation.

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During the time period of the birth of Christ, the Magi were men skilled in philosophy, medicine, and natural science. They were also mystical, possibly astrologers or at least astronomers, since they we’re guided by a star and interpreted dreams. They studied the heavens and pondered the One who made them. It is through these observations that God spoke to them concerning the entry of the King into the world. Some traditions say these men were kings (compare Ps. 72:10 and Is 49:7); although in later times, they might have been viewed as “magicians.”

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Dr. Lewis Drummond concluded this from John Wesley’s movement, “Evangelism experiences its greatest reaping time during the periods of spiritual awakening.” post by Brent Crowe

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This past summer of Student Leadership University was amazing. Students from all over the country, at different places in their leadership development journey, continued to delve deeper into what it means to think, dream, and lead. One of the highlights of the summer for me was teaching on the life and leadership of John Wesley (1703-1791) at SLU 301. Wesley led what has been referred to as The Evangelical Awakening in Britain and his Methodism has been compared to the French Revolution and the Industrial Revolution in impact. Therefore over the course of the next two weeks I would like to share some life experiences from this giant in history that can be interpreted into our leadership journeys and development.


Life is but a vapor

Wesley was number fifteen of nineteen children and he would be one of only six that would survive into adulthood. At the age of six he had a near death experience when their house caught fire and he was the last one to escape. Just before the roof collapsed some of the neighbors saw young John in the window and one man stood on another’s shoulders rescuing him from the fire. His mother and others would refer to him as “a burning stick snatched from the fire” (Zech. 3:2) and this near death experience would be a memory close to John for the rest of his life.


Know God…don’t just settle for knowing about God

Wesley was raised in a strong Christian environment, enjoyed a Christian education, and even went on a missionary trip to Georgia, and yet had never crossed the line of faith into the arms of Jesus. In fact, it wasn’t until May 24, 1738 while attending a meeting on Aldersgate Street in London while listening to the prologue to Luther’s commentary on Romans (wow that sounds exciting) when he recalls: “About a quarter to nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt that I did trust Christ, Christ alone, for salvation.”


Position and status are for the insecure

He also shows us the value and power of the fellowship of a few with the Holy Club. The Holy Club was a small group that included both John and Charles Wesley that met 3-4 nights a week during college. Their time would be spent reading classic literature and studying Greek, Hebrew and Latin. They also visited the poor and imprisoned, daily examined their lives, took weekly communion and fasted every Wednesday and Friday. They were committed to personal holiness and thus looked down upon by many of their fellow students. Their commitment to personal holiness far outranked their concern for what others might think.


Care for the obviously overlooked

Wesley would spend his entire life raising money for the poor and caring for those who would be often overlooked by the church. His ministry was not one that segregated the love of God involving both women and children in ministry and taking a public stance against the institution of slavery (more on that next week). When our students visit his chapel at 301 there in the courtyard is a statue of him with the inscription at its base: “The world is my parish.” His calling to be a preacher of the gospel was in no way reserved for only those who had preferred seating in a church. He was a revolutionary… and we have only begun to scratch the surface.


By: Brent Crowe


Few figures in American history cast a shadow as significant as Abraham Lincoln.  Very few have faced as many obstacles or as much opposition as this humble man and yet he is considered by virtually everyone as America’s greatest President. I want us to take a few moments and not only ask ourselves if we are attempting something great with our life, but also want us to ask, do we possess several of the greatest attributes as Mr. Lincoln such as self-confidence, moral courage and a sense of destiny?

Much has been made of Lincoln’s lack of good looks and sophistication yet this man was able to gain control in difficult circumstances rather than being controlled by circumstances and feelings that would have derailed virtually anyone else. I often refer to Abraham Lincoln as the “Prince of Recovery.” Look at this list:

1831            Failed in business
1832            Defeated for Legislature
1833            Second failure in business
1836            Suffered nervous breakdown
1838            Defeated for Speaker
1840            Defeated for elector
1843            Defeated for Congress
1848            Defeated for Congress
1855            Defeated for Senate
1856            Defeated for Vice President
1860            WON THE PRESIDENCY

Wouldn’t you think embarrassment alone would be enough to curtail Lincoln from trying again?
When I look at this list I see not defeats, but an education. For most of his life, Lincoln attended the School of Reaching for the Goal. The prepara­tion and experience helped to mold the character of America’s most well-known and remembered President. He allowed us an intimate peek into the source of his tenacity when after a Senate race he spoke these words, “The path was worn and slippery. My foot slipped from under me, knocking the other out of the way. But I recovered and said to myself, “It’s a slip and not a fall.”

The best way to get a sense of Lincoln’s self confidence, moral courage and sense of destiny was a featured article that ran in the Philadelphia Press only a few months before he was nominated for President.  The article listed 45 possible candidates and Lincoln’s name was not even on the list.  At 49 he was out of politics with little hope of returning to office. Another editor wrote, “The honorable Abe Lincoln is undoubtedly the most unfortunate politician that has ever attempted to rise in Illinois.  In everything he undertakes politically he seems doomed to failure.”  By the way, you might want to note that when that was written, he only had seven years left to live.  I’ve used this illustration to remind myself at several key moments in my life that my greatest work, my greatest service and my greatest accomplishments may just take place in the next seven years.

Author of “Team of Rivals”, Doris Kearns Goodwin said, “His success was both a product of his times and his unique qualities. As a young man, he had worried that the field of glory had already been harvested by the founding fathers; that nothing was left for his generation but modest ambitions.” I know I am not alone when I confess that I can relate to the pain and loneliness of Lincoln.  I know what it’s like to be overlooked, discounted and written off.  Just as Lincoln’s faith is what gave him the courage to persevere, I shudder to think what my life would be like without the life-changing faith that has captured my soul.  I’ve also asked myself, “Am I attempting anything great?” and the Lord reminds me of the scores of students who have come through SLU. Those of us that are parents, educators, ministers and coaches can honestly say that we are daily attempting something great when we seek to raise up not only young Timothys and Joshuas, Deborahs and Esthers but also young Lincolns and Churchills.  Remember, leaders are not made in a day but they are made daily.

During Brent Crowe’s recent work on his book The Call, he sat down with Pat Williams; this conversation was apart of their time together.

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Brent Crowe shares how psychiatrist Viktor Frankl found something greater than escaping a Nazi prison camp.

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Brent Crowe shares his insights into the Leadership of Peter Drucker

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Attempt Something Great

Brent Crowe —  March 7, 2011

The Yosemite Valley from Inspiration Point.

During the cloudy days of the Civil War, it was difficult to find joy or strength of spirit. President Lincoln would often slip into a Wednesday evening service at the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in search of encouragement and comfort through the sermon. After one particularly dramatic presentation, his young aide asked the president his opinion. He responded concerning Dr. Gurley’s message: “It was well thought out, powerfully delivered and very eloquent. ” The aide said, “Then you thought it was a great sermon. ” “No, ” replied Lincoln. “It failed because Dr. Gurley did not ask us to do something great. “

Adventure is the by-product of living outside of your comfort zone and taking risk in order to achieve greater good. “Risk‘?” you ask. Remember that in any adventure, risk is minimized by the amount of readiness achieved both emotionally and physically. The adventure of mountain climbing is an example. Though filled with the possibility of danger, those who do it prepare well in advance and will tell you that, in the end, there is nothing like it. Climbing inspires you to work harder and pull a little longer before giving up; to believe that you can conquer through sheer determination and careful advancement.

I read the most inspirational story of a young man named Mark Wellman in an issue of Time magazine. A fifty-foot fall during a rock-climbing expedition cost him the use of his legs, but he does not think of himself as disabled. “My whole thing,” says the park ranger, “whether it’s kayaking, skiing or rock climbing, is finding another way.” Since that fall, the “other way” took Wellman 3,569 feet up the sheer granite face of El Capitan in California’s Yosemite Valley.

After months of swimming and weight training, he left his wheelchair behind and, with an occasional lift from fellow climber Michael Corbett, pulled and hauled himself to the top. He likened the feat to doing seven thousand pull-ups! Despite blistering heat and winds that sometimes blew the pair ten feet out from the rock, they completed their ascent in seven days — a double conquest of El Capitan and of the presumed limitations of the human body.

You too will face mountains as difficult as El Capitan: mountains of` temptation, mountains of difficulty, mountains that challenge your spirit and your convictions. The preparation and strength Wellman put in made the difference between conquering the mountain or being conquered by his circumstances. We cannot expect to climb hurdles, to beat the odds, or to stand our ground without preparation. With it, you will not only attempt something great, you will accomplish it!

Using the New Wilderness Handbook, we can make an interesting comparison between the elements and techniques involved in scaling a mountain and the basic instruction manual for leaders, otherwise known as the Bible, concerning spiritual and emotional mountain climbing.

“Judgment, balance of the feet, and weight distribution are essential to the skill of climbing.”


Before you can begin a climb, clear judgment must be executed by taking all factors contributing to safety into consideration. Is the weather severe or tolerable? Am I in good health and physically strong enough? Has proper training, warm up, and preparation been completed successfully? Do l have the proper equipment and is it in good condition? For the climb to reach new goals, many of the same questions will be applied. Instead of weather, I should be concerned with my environment: friends, acquaintances, places I spend my time and money, the mental and spiritual influence I have allowed myself to be placed under. Am I spiritually healthy? Am I prepared with the knowledge of what I want to do and how it can be accomplished? Do I have a mapped out path to a sure landing spot?


Paul Petzoldt, director of the Wilderness Education Association, says, “Aside from judgment, balance is the basis of all climbing.” Balance is achieved by putting the emphasis on the footing rather than the hands. A climber concentrates on each step of his footing to be sure it is stable before using the hands to pull toward the cliff. The security of the foothold is dependent on the angle of the feet.

Balance in spiritual and moral things can seem impossible at times, especially when the tide of the culture flows against all that you stand for. God offers balance to your stance: “He also brought me up out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my steps” (Ps. 4022). Believe it-God desires for us to be climbers, enables us to be climbers, and climbs along with us!

Balance in decisions, in daily plans, and in goals for the future is essential to making the climb. Don’t settle for the flat, uninteresting terrains of life. You can begin climbing at any time.


A climber can be in a safe climbing position by transferring weight from one limb to another in a smooth, flowing action. This allows the climber to release one hold at a time while maintaining the other three points of contact as the mountain is ascended. Petzoldt says a skilled climber will appear to flow up the mountain rather than move with jerks and lunges.

Chris tells me the more difficult the climb, the more fun she has in the challenge and the bigger the high when she reaches the top. The way up is difficult, but that’s what makes it so exciting.

He makes my feet like the feet of deer, And sets me on my high places Psalm 18:33

Excerpt from Jay Strack’s The Sky Is No Limit