Lisa Nichols Hickman: Love-cubed leadership

Leadership must have heart, might, and soul, all three, multiplied by one another.

Math makes my head spin. But there is one helpful equation for leadership in the church to multiply, exponentially, Christ’s love. Love times love times love equals Love-cubed leadership.

This equation is introduced in the book of Deuteronomy and continues through the New Testament. When Moses is teaching a new generation of Israelites the greatest commands of the Lord, he instructs them with the wonderful words of the Shema: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.” To enter the Promised Land, to increase and multiply there, the Israelites must follow this command first and foremost. To be leaders for God’s purposes, the people of Israel must love to the third degree.

This may sound like math class, but consider the exponential impact that kind of love combined with leadership might have. Leadership with heart, but no might or soul, may have compassion but needs greater vision. Leadership with might, but no heart or soul, may have great capacities, but there may be a disconnect from passion and prayer. Leadership with soul, but no heart or might, misses some of your best gifts, and even more so, God’s greatest strength in you.

A face of Love-cubed leadership for me is a young teen named CoCo. While in middle school, CoCo visited Africa several times with her family. The wealth of their family kept them at bay from the poverty prevalent throughout Africa. But she caught a glimpse. Later that year, CoCo participated in an Oxfam Meal. At the meal, the majority of the participants received rice without water or eating utensils. Others received rice, beans, water and a spoon. Just two of the eighty at the meal received a more substantive meal. CoCo was one who had rice for dinner that night. She went home hungry. She returned to youth group the next week with three hundred dollars in hand.

CoCo demonstrated love-cubed leadership when she took the questions of her soul (after witnessing poverty first-hand on a family trip to Africa), her heart for those who are hungry (after experiencing an Oxfam Meal), and her might (the possibility of her strengths to bring change) to be a leader in her community. After making the connection between heart, might and soul, she stood at the end of the cafeteria line at her middle school to collect money for hungry children in Africa. The culmination of her love for God through heart and soul and might impacted lives.

In Matthew 22, the Pharisees and Jesus are engaged in a little God-talk. Pushing Jesus on his theology, one asks, “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” Jesus replied, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.”

Jesus answers with a mathematical mindset to let your love multiply. And not only that, let your love for God exponentially multiply. All your heart multiplied by all your soul multiplied by all your mind will have exponential impact on the world around you. Eugene Peterson, in his interpretation in “The Message,” names it this way: "Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.” This isn’t mere romantic love. It’s love that brings dramatic change when turned loose through the church.

The challenge for the church is to create structures (like Oxfam) that encourage love-cubed leadership (like CoCo’s). Math may make your head spin, but this exponential equation might just help you fall in love again.

Lisa Nichols Hickman, a Gulf Coast native, is a Presbyterian pastor and writer. She serves at New Wilmington Presbyterian Church in New Wilmington, Pennsylvania.