The Beatles, Christianity, and Culture

https://www.facebook.com/Yesterday/

I recently went to the movies with my daughter-in-law to see “Yesterday,” a tale of a struggling musician who, through some twist of fate, finds himself in some kind of alternate reality where he’s the only person who knows who the Beatles were. He proceeds to introduce the world to the music of the Fab Four as if it’s his own. Comedy and conflict ensue. We enjoyed the film; it’s a fresh premise in a summer of adaptations, sequels, TV-to-movie offerings, and no less than three live-action Disney remakes. Plus, I have spent the last couple of days getting reacquainted with the Beatles catalogue.

Which, for me, is to say, I found some albums on Spotify. You see, in one of those unusual quirks of my personal history, I own NO music by the Beatles. For someone whose life has been marked by the music on my various radio stations, turntables, tape decks, and CD players, it seems unthinkable that I would not have any Beatles in my possession.

Except, it’s not that unthinkable, when I delve into my early history. This whole re-immersion has caused me to ponder my upbringing and engagement with rock-n-roll. The “what if the Beatles didn’t exist” premise of the movie is closer to reality for my childhood. The Beatles may as well not have existed in my household. No Beatlemania there. My dad would scoff at those “long-hairs” as beneath him. No chance to catch the Ed Sullivan appearance that was so defining for many of my peers; no sir, we went to church on Sunday nights. When I purchased a couple of packs of Beatles trading cards, my mom let me know they were not welcome. And when John Lennon famously proclaimed that they were more popular than Jesus, well, if he’d announced that he was the Anti-Christ, it wouldn’t have been any more reprehensible.

This is not to say that my childhood was overly-repressive or joyless. I was, after all, saved by the aforementioned Jesus during one of those Sunday night services that caused me to miss the end of the 4:00 football games and the Ed Sullivan show. I suppose Beatlemania arrived in my life well before the more independent and rebellious times of my junior high and high school years. So, I was more or less obedient to my folks and never learned to like the Beatles.

Plus, my parents, though flawed as all are, were simply trying to live out their beliefs in a world that didn’t always embrace our Christian faith. I can’t fault them for that.

H. Richard Niebuhr’s Christ and Culture identifies several ways that Christians have attempted to engage the authority of Christ when facing the culture around them. My folks were clearly in the “Christ against culture” camp. Things like drinking, smoking, and certainly rock-n-roll were vestiges of the secular city and were entities to be opposed as a Christian.

I’ve come to see Christ as the Transformer of Culture. There are certainly evil things in the world, but I’ve lost the “anything that is not Sacred is to be disregarded” mindset. In the common grace of God, John, George, Paul, and Ringo can produce something truly human that might just touch my soul in a way that can only be described as divine. So, I’m listening…and thinking.

Excuse me, Sgt. Pepper just ended. I need to “Get Back” to where I once belonged.

For a more complete discussion of Niebuhr’s book and the Christ and Culture debate, go here.

A set of good books

After many years of wanting this set, I was finally able to pull together used hardcovers from Amazon. I can’t tell you how much of an influence Francis A. Schaeffer was/is to me. Perusing these texts affirms their relevance even today. So much of his vocabulary has entered my own. “the God who is there,” “infinite-personal God,” “the mannishness of man,” “upper-story,” “space-time Fall,” “abnormal world.” So many others. The first piece I read of his long ago was the little booklet, “Two Contents, Two Realities.” This awakened in me a love for philosophical thinking that hasn’t quit. A giant in the 2nd half of the 20th Century, most evangelical believers have little idea of the debt we owe to this saint.

Have you read Schaeffer? What are your favorite books? Which concepts influenced you?

How a personality assessment saved my career

thought-catalog-217861-unsplashMany years ago, early in my professional career, I started a job as an assistant manager with a Wendy’s franchisee. It was just the right job for me as a young man and leader. Two other young men started with me at or near the same time. One of those young men was Zane Gross.

Shortly after we started, there came a vacancy in the general manager position. Suddenly, Zane and I, along with the other fellow, were in competition for the GM position. Pretty heady stuff for a mid-20s new father like me. We all wanted it. Bad.

Zane was/is one of those guys with a “Let’s do it!” personality. Assertive, confident, outgoing. Me, not so much then. And I tried my best to be more like Zane as we vied for that position. Eventually, our supervisors made the decision to promote Zane, and he did a great job and had much success.*

Several years passed, and I’d moved on to a couple of different jobs. All during this time, I kept believing that if I were to be really successful as a leader, I needed to be more assertive, show greater initiative, move much quicker in decision-making. The traditional view of the up-and-coming, go-getter businessman. In short, I needed to be more like Zane.

It was in one of those jobs that I was sent to a workshop with some of the other leaders. During that workshop, we all took some sort of personality assessment. I don’t even remember which one it was – possibly a GREGORC or a DiSC. The only thing I remember is that there were 4 quadrants.

As the first quadrant was described (the Zane Quadrant), I remember thinking that that’s what I wanted to be, what I needed to be to succeed as a leader. But, no. My quadrant was in the opposite corner, pitiful and weak, with its deliberative planning and organization skills. Big whoop.

When the facilitator got to my corner, he said something that changed my life and saved my career: “Every organization needs this person.”

Every. Organization. Needs. This. Person. Every organization needs…ME!

That was the game-changer. Suddenly I knew that I didn’t need to be Zane; I needed to be Mark. If there were deficiencies in my leadership, it was because I wasn’t being the most effective version of myself, not because I wasn’t like someone else.

In the years that have followed, I have learned that my greatest leadership comes when I play from my strengths. As I continue to coach young leaders, I help them understand and value their unique strengths and talents. I tell them,

“Every organization needs a leader like you.”

Question to consider: What are your strengths, and how do you bring them to bear on your unique leadership style?

I teach a course which utilizes the DiSC personality assessment. It’s called “Solving the People Puzzle” and is available in faith-based and non-faith-based formats. Please contact me if you are interested in this for your group or organization.

*Zane Gross now owns and operates a fleet of Wendy’s Restaurants in the Midwest. He is also a certified coach with the John Maxwell Team. He’s a successful family man and still, like me, a Browns fan.