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Don't Kill The Dragons--Tame Them!

Thomas F. Fischer, M.Div., M.S.A.

Number 103

You know the story line. A threatening, fire-breathing dragon approaches the castle, threatening everyone who lives in the castle. The only hope? The charming, but powerful, medieval prince. It is he who must go out and bravely take on the dragon. Of course, his motivation is not all courage, duty and loyalty to the King. He has a prize waiting for him: A lovely princess.

So, whether out of duty or love, the gallant prince meets the fire-breathing beast in the battle of his life. After a fierce encounter, the prince slays the dragon and then goes off to claim the princess as his own. And, I almost forgot, he and she live happily ever after (we think).

For centuries Western mythology has used the prince and the dragon to describe and encourage leadership values which are thought to be most honorable and valued. The lesson is simple: When you see a dragon, kill it. Then take your reward.

The Oriental Version
 

But have you heard the Eastern (Oriental) version? The Eastern version of the battle of the prince and the dragon is quite different. It has the charming prince. It has the dragon. But, unlike Western traditions, the dragon is not seen as a force to annihilate. Instead, the dragon is seen as a force to harness and bring under control.

Thus, in the Oriental version, the prince goes out to fight the dragon. But instead of killing it, he tames it, thus showing even greater prowess and mastery for being able to subdue the beast than needed to kill it.

After the prince is victorious and the dragon subdued, a saddle magically appears on the dragon. The prince gets on and, having harnessed the power of the dragon, the prince doesn't go to the castle for his prize. Instead, he embarks on a dangerous journey into the unknown to face other and greater challenges which lay mysteriously before him.  During this journey, his greatest asset will be none other than his former enemy, the dragon.

Observations

Often our western impulse in leadership and ministry is to control, overtake and conquer. Especially in conflict, these western "virtues" can be our undoing. Following and acting on these Western impulses may actually prevent you from success. They can hinder our experiencing remarkable opportunities and growth as leaders.
 
Indeed, how tempting it is for leaders simply to smash the opposition. How tempting is it to stubbornly cling to our position and avoid negotiation. How tempting it is to attack our enemies and discount the possibility that they may possess a key to understanding necessary to begin and accomplish the next level of ministry development.
 
Western values often cause us to be driven by a desire for the "prized princess" of success and "arriving" in the castle. Unfortunately, this Western perspective so deeply ingrained in even the most Christian leaders may tend to deny the often overlooked truth that our lives and ministry are not about winning trophies or "arriving" at specific destinations.
 
Instead, our ministries--and our lives--are really an ongoing, transformative, spiritual journey marked by various struggles and apparently hostile forces. All along the way we will be engaged by dragons which we must confront. Our choice, as leaders, is to decide whether to kill the dragon or to master it.
 
What's The Difference?
 
The Western approach is quick, easy, and surgical. It takes care of the problem promptly.
But quickest is not always best.
 
The Eastern approach of mastering the dragon may not be so easy. But it may yield greater long-term opportunities for personal, spiritual, professional, and organizational growth. The battle may be difficult, but as the old proverb says,
 

If you want to escape the heat, sometimes you have to jump into the fire.

Confront The Dragon!
 
So often pastors may be tempted to shy away from the "heat" of conflict and dissension. Sometimes it is necessary. At other times, however, jumping into the heat may be the only way--and God's will--for pastors to confront and experience those things necessary to enhance the nature and character of ministry. Sometimes its the only way, humanly speaking, for congregational renewal to ever really occur.
 
Given  the opportunity to confront a dragon, maybe our perspective toward conflict, disagreement and antagonism should not be to "kill" and extinguish it, but to inquire, learn and understand it. With this insight, we may then be able to tame the dragon and make, with God's help, what was our foe our ally.
 
How many times does pastoral impatience get into the way of letting God work through a situation which should not be "killed" or squashed, but managed and controlled?
 
Watch that dragon! Don't kill it! It just may be your greatest friend. It may be your greatest opportunity to find new insights and a fresher and clearer perspective of the ministry opportunities and resources God has for His Church..
 
Thomas F. Fischer
 
For a response to this article, see Ministry Health Article 144,
"Response To 'Don't Kill Dragons...'"

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This page was revised on: Tuesday, October 05, 2004 11:02:17 PM