Across the span of human history, we have looked to the skies in awe and wonder of flight. In modern culture, ancient society, and even within biblical text, birds have a special place in our symbolic representation of things. When imagery of certain birds is invoked, it conjures thoughts and ideas immediately in our minds. As a Christian, try as you may to deny it, you will always associate a dove with God's spirit and peace.
Now imagine two types of birds that are omnipresent around the globe (with slight variations in species). Both birds, when you really investigate it, have similar size ranges from small to large, and both birds exhibit fairly consistent behavior across the locations they are found. Both birds play specific roles in the symbolism of many cultures, and as such they are constants.
One bird is resilient, adaptable, communal, and cooperative. Able to adapt to and survive in any environment. Both persistent through adversity and wise in approach and problem solving. This bird works for the good of their fellow, it understands the world around them. Yet it overcomes circumstance, without fundamental change to their core. It thrives through the storms that come. Where it is found, others are surely close by signifying freedom and abundance in life.
The other bird is an eagle.
Over the centuries the eagle has been used as a symbol of majesty, strength, and power. It has been the icon of empires and republics, of fascism and freedom. They are beautiful, strong, and unmistakable. Seeing an eagle in flight conjures feelings of wonder and awe. And leaders tend to be drawn to such things.
For all the eagle's majesty, it comes with an equal measure of fragility. Notoriously territorial, the eagle is dependent upon its environment for survival, unequipped to adapt to change, or rely on others for assistance. They can be rigid and unpliable, often in need of rescue. And for all their awe-inspiring majesty, it has taken significant conservation efforts to maintain populations.
The seagull, on the other hand, is not the first symbol a leader would recognize, let alone embrace. Perhaps, we should. Modern leadership effectiveness can no longer be measured in the loftiness of position (there are too many examples of failure for that perch in the Church). Effective leadership is measured in adaptability, building community, and finding ways to overcome and thrive.
It is more about adaptability than power, more about working together than solitary achievement, and more about empowering others than consolidating power.
As the landscape of leadership has changed, especially in the last few years, our understanding of what leadership needs to be must also change.
Much like an effective leader, seagulls know when to shelter from the storm and know when to venture out. When one food source is depleted, seagulls find another. When faced with adverse conditions, they find a way to overcome and thrive. And most curiously, unlike seeing a solitary eagle fly across the sky, you will never see a seagull truly alone.
To this end, CDF Capital has partnered with Exponential to support the ongoing work of a ministry called Leadership Network. Over its nearly three-decade history, Leadership Network has served so many in our movement with resources, connections, and tools to grow and adapt as leaders.
For CDF Capital, this partnership is the acknowledgement that we are better when we work with other ministries and is a doubling down to our commitment to care for the lives, wellbeing, and work of the leaders of the churches we serve. It is part of our ongoing commitment to Transformational Capital—the perfect alignment of Spiritual, Leadership, and Financial Capital in the life of a church.
And as the days and months come and more and more of CDF Capital’s church leaders benefit from the resources, opportunities, and events made available in new ways through Leadership Network, we believe our churches will thrive.
And now more than ever, when so much is in flux in our culture, we cannot strive to be like an eagle, we need to be like the seagull.