Bolsinger wraps up this book by finally bringing Sacagawea into the story. He teases us with her throughout the book, so I was so glad to understand her part in the success of the Corps of Discovery. We actually know very little about the daily role she played, except that she was a teenage nursing mother, wife of a French Canadian trapper who was hired as a guide. She often served as interpreter for the Corps. Her presence became important because the native peoples that the Corps met often realized they were peaceable since she and her infant were with them. She helped to navigate the terrain (even better than her husband) and trade with the native people. All this was possible because although the Corps was in uncharted territory, she was at home! What a stunning “aha” moment for me! How often do we make decisions about what to do in the local church, especially in areas where the neighborhoods around us have changed, and we don’t even think about talking with the people who are home there?
I can only imagine the transformation that happened among the men of the Corps of Discovery because of the actions and attitude of Sacagawea. She provided a new way of relating to people, probably helped them recover from fearful attitudes, and generally provided the calming presence that they needed to move through uncharted territory. Bolsinger writes: “Like the Corps of Discovery captains who figured out that all of their on-the-map education was less valuable than the life experience of a Shoshone teenage girl, many Christian leaders are only now beginning to realize that as the Christendom narrative is being rejected, they are in great need to collaborate with and learn from leaders who, because of their gender, social status, ethnicity and less-privileged life, actually are more equipped for the world today.” (Loc 3108 of 4571) I celebrate places throughout our Annual Conference where this kind of ministry is happening and bearing great fruit for God’s Kingdom!
Perhaps the most valuable lesson learned from this book is the freedom to think about things in more than one way. It may be the most critical skill for adaptive leadership. Edwin Friedman reminds us that reframing, or seeing a problem with a new lens, is more of an emotional capacity than a function of intelligence. The encouragement for me, as a Christian leader, is the more I acknowledge the emotional hold of “the way we’ve always done things”, then perhaps I can tap my adventurous, courageous side to navigate through the emotions to find new answers to our questions. If we can transform our lenses, then perhaps we can encourage others to join us on a path of discovery – develop our own corps – partnering with the Holy Spirit to greater fruitfulness for God’s Kingdom. This is my prayer for the leadership teams throughout our area!
Although I really don’t want to give away so much of this book that you won’t buy it, I do want to end my reflections with what Bolsinger shared as the way to navigate and lead through uncharted territory. He says “it is a maxim for the leader to live by and a goal to be developed within the larger leadership group.” (Loc 2012 of 4571) Here it is:
Start with conviction,
and stay the course.
Bolsinger, Tod. Canoeing the Mountains: Christian Leadership in Uncharted Territory. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2015.