a wilderness of mirrors

Saying thanks. Building trust. The first principles of leadership. Study them deeply and then do them creatively and repetitively and you will be well on your way in leadership roles, large or small.

Take trust, for example. How do you build it? Well, it operates like a bank account. The deposits are made early - like listening attentively, keeping promises, affirming continuities, sharing information, shirking (displays of) power, suffering with people, speaking with the accent of 'we' ... even extending credit to others, believing in them before they've fully earned it. On and on it goes. These are the deposits that must be made. Because when the time for withdrawals comes - in the midst of change, growth, and conflict - the account can empty so quickly and leave leadership in the red.

But here is the issue: trust is in trouble.

This is where Mark Meynell's A Wilderness of Mirrors enters the picture. As always, we linger with the sub-title: 'trusting again in a cynical world'. Meynell's approach is so unlike the paragraph above. This is no depository for handy hints on building trust. No! This is the necessary complement: a theoretical analysis of the roots of cynicism, which is met then by a theological response. There is more than a hint of Stottian 'double listening' here. World & Word - even Problem & Solution and, for me, as the sadness in the early pages sinks in, Garbage & Gospel.

Here is the way the book flows:
1. Fracturing Trust: The Legacy of Our Age (with a focus on political leadership, the media, and professional care-givers)

2. Mourning Trust: Life After Losing It (with feelings of suspicion, alienation, fragmentation, betrayal, paranoia - and fury)

3. Rebuilding Trust: Hope for Our Age (with the freedom of a fresh encounter with self, Jesus, church and the biblical story)

Yes, this flow makes for some dense, even depressing, early chapters. It just does. But the reader must persevere because, later on, the book sprouts wings. Here is a taste. I read this one aloud to Barby. It is beautiful. There is lots more like it.
Because we share both in bearing God's image and in enjoying Christ's rescue, the value of even the most vulnerable, broken, and despised is absolute. The church should be the safest place in the world. Because we all sin, we should have nothing to hide; but because Jesus died, we should have nothing to prove (168).
If you are familiar with Mark Meynell's blog (recently relaunched within a new website), or a friend of his on Facebook, or follow his Twitter feed, then this book is more of Mark. His mouse seems to hover over a thousand fascinations. The breadth of his reading and the depth of his thought mingle with a creativity and a vulnerability to produce stuff that is always worth engaging.

Other highlights for me:
Every page seems to carry a fresh quotation. Given this breadth of his reading, you are unlikely to find them anywhere else. Teachers and preachers will love this aspect of the book. And don't miss the author's own quotable-quote-worthiness, as demonstrated above.

In his blog, Mark Meynell has helped many by being so transparent and reflective about his own battle with depression. This book includes 'a personal coda' (67-71) which sources some of this battle to his experiences befriending Congolese refugees in Uganda. He writes about his own rage and fury, betrayal and doubt ... and a growing inability to trust others, especially those in authority.

Each chapter concludes with a simple little summary, accompanied by pictures. Very useful.

The book is written in a way that invites unbelievers to participate. There is empathy. There is honesty. But there is also apologetic ... and at the core of this apologetic is a re-imagination of sin with the acronym, LiGWaiM  - 'living in God's world as if (it was) mine' (121).

The journey through the chapters on humanity, to Jesus, and then onto the church and its leadership (109-180) is my favourite part. This section concludes with a useful engagement with worldview by developing a framework - origins:problem:solution:goal:outcome - and then applying it to the premodern, modern, postmodern and biblical stories.

nice chatting


NB: Mark is a colleague in the work of Langham Preaching and a former pastoral staff member at All Soul's, Langham Place in London. In this role he had the privilege of getting to know John Stott, then in his latter years. Mark's website contains the best single Stott resource of which I am aware - the John Stott Archive. One of Mark's current projects is gathering all John Stott's illustrations into a single resource.


Popular Posts