Awhile back I received The Bully Pulpit by Doris Kearns Goodwin. I can honestly say it wasn’t of much interest, initially, but it has been a delightful read. The rise of Theodore Roosevelt and William Taft as politicians and friends was a story I was largely unfamiliar with and Goodwin tells a great story (be sure to check out Team of Rivals). Roosevelt was a political force of nature. Taft was plodding relational leader. And yet, they were united by a vision and an agenda for reforming America. They were a triumphant team that accomplished much.
Despite the triumphs, their story has plenty of tragedy. Through a variety of factors – none seemingly worthy of rupturing a friendship or fruitful political alliance over – they became bitter political enemies late in their political careers. I want to touch on just one of the issues today.
Roosevelt was a crusader. He was always looking for a fight – and he pushed through some important legislation, even though it ruffled some feathers in his own party. He also wasn’t afraid to take what some (including Taft) considered constitutional liberties as our nation’s chief executive. Taft was far more collegial and more of a team builder. He had the same enemies within the party, but Taft tried to fluff those feathers rather than ruffle them. He also, judicious by nature, restricted his executive actions more than Roosevelt.
All of these differences aside, they had the same vision – and yielded similar results. And yet, one of the reasons their relationship fell apart was how Taft implemented the vision. He had one of the most successful legislative years ever when it comes to reforming and fulfilling the vision that he and Roosevelt shared. But because Taft didn’t do it Roosevelt’s way (like a steamroller!) and with some of Roosevelt’s most beloved lieutenants, a cold war soon became hot, figuratively speaking, between the once bosom friends.
As I’m reading this book, I’m amazed and frustrated. It’s crazy that two men who were so in sync ended up splitting – in an ugly way. And yet, how often do we “shoot our own” when it comes to our mission as a church. We, too, can lack a generosity with our brothers and sisters in Christ who do things differently – even if we share the same ends.
This is important for us as The Branch Church. We’re called to help others find a thriving relationship with Jesus. If you’re part of the Branch (or Cypress or Khmer Family Ministry), this is our vision. It’s what unifies us under Christ as this particular body of Christ.
But we need to recognize – and value – that we’re a diverse group who is going to do this in a variety of ways. Some may invite people to church or Life Group to hear the good news of Jesus. Others are bold evangelists who love mixing it up in debate with their friends and families. Still others cultivate long term friendships where they love and serve people, showing them Jesus’ love. And I’m sure there are other options as well.
Wherever you are on this spectrum, embrace how God has made you and equipped you and placed you to love others and show them what a thriving relationship with Jesus looks like – and don’t forget to give some space to others who are doing it differently. May we not make the Roosevelt/Taft mistake of thinking we can’t get to the same destination by different routes.
If we’re helping people thrive, we’re all on the same team. Let’s celebrate and pray for those who are helping others experience this new life in Jesus – even if they do it a little differently than we do!