Lifestyle and Worldview
Whenever I teach about spiritual leadership (i.e. why leaders lead and why seekers follow) someone will always protest that I sound so negative about what it means to be human. On one occasion in particular I was in Minneapolis speaking to a mixed clergy/laity gathering of United Methodists interested in church renewal. One woman (white, well-dressed, probably late 50’s) became quite angry: Why can’t you be more positive? Why can’t human beings be essentially good? Why must human beings be in such trouble? Why must they necessarily require grace or divine help?
The lifestyle portrait that came to mind was E19 Full Pockets, Empty Nests. Why? Because I do my demographic and lifestyle research before I speak to a group in order to be more relevant; because I have actually worked with most of the 71 lifestyle segments enough that I recognize who I am talking to rather quickly; because her questions above were remarkably articulate, suggesting that she was a public school educator or principle probably contemplating early retirement.
Immediately I began to understand the life context from which her questions (and anger) arose: a mid-wave affluent, liberal boomer with lots of discretionary income, a yen to travel, a charitable heart, cautious about institutional religion; probably anxious and frustrated that the utopian world she dreamed in the 60’s seemed to be in a worse state than ever because of politicians had mismanaged the economy and cut funding for education.
But we can go deeper than that. I understood that her quest for God was primarily driven by anxieties about emptiness and meaninglessness (frustrated hopes and the death of God). Chronic depression posed the greatest threat to her well-being. The divine incarnation that would be most relevant to her would be to experience Christ as mentor and model (truth-teller and guide) … and she needed to find a spiritual leader who could help find courage to participate (i.e. keep going, keep working, stay patient with the institutional church and political obfuscation … and don’t just run away on another cruise to Alaska.
She needed a pastor who was a blend of CEO and Visionary. This would be someone who could administrate effective social services and non-profits, and who could cast a bold vision for the future of Minneapolis and the world, and pursue it relentlessly. If she were to go to worship, she would seek out the most inspirational worship she could find – with a global mis