A TRIBUTE TO LARRY CHRISTENSON
I want to be a balanced leader. By that I do not mean that I want to straddle in the middle between excessive passion and passivity. Don’t ask me to be balanced in my passion for my wife, the Minnesota Vikings, or, most important, the Lamb of God. Balance finds no place in the high worship of heaven. It rather means being able to go to this extreme, then that one, in response to the initiative of the Spirit instead of walking the delicate tightrope.
When I think of balanced leaders, I picture those who are not thrown by the latest theological fad when everyone else jumps in with a knee-jerk reaction. But their life cannot be described by lack of passion. They just know what to be passionate about, when to be passionate about it, (timing is critical in the life of the Spirit), and what to be circumspect about. They are not easily fooled or manipulated. They know that we can fall off the horse on the side of either legalism or libertinism, form or freedom.
And yet they know that Jesus holds high regard for those who get out on a limb, not for those who play it safe. Some who appear to be balanced may, in fact, just be chicken. Truly balanced leaders are not cautious in a way that reduces their boldness or tames their zeal. Neither are they predictable. People of the Spirit never are. How could you guess the way Jesus would bring healing to someone? Go ahead—write the manual. He taught His disciples to be men of the Spirit, not men of technique. Formula Christianity does not describe Spirit-anointed leaders.
They know and preach the whole counsel of God—sooner or later. You hear them teach about heaven and hell, judgment and mercy, unity and relationships, sin and grace. You look hard to find the hobby horses, except for the Lordship of Christ and the empowering presence of the Spirit. If they have pet doctrines, they are so powerful and impacting as to be universal, such as the apostle Paul’s common phrase, “in Christ.”
Larry Christenson struck me as a man of both great passion and great balance. He didn’t pull his punches when he needed to strike with fire. And yet he didn’t jump on and off the wagon like some are prone to do. When he went to the edge, you felt like going with him.
Balanced leaders understand the dialectic tension between such polar truths as transcendence and imminence (the God beyond and close at hand), holiness and happiness, suffering and glory, and crisis and process. An unbalanced leader is impatient with those who question him, spurns history in the quest of destiny, talks too easily of recovering lost truths, presumes to know and therefore stumbles over pride, uses proof texts more than the wide breadth of Scripture, likes shortcuts, and does not understand the difference between kingdom now and kingdom then.
I thank God for the impact of Larry on me and many. He influenced me toward marrying Karen, a great decision. He helped to shape my ministry. I followed him at Trinity and at Lutheran Renewal. I sometimes find myself asking, “WWLD?” I was happy to be his follower, and “though he died, he still speaks” (Hebrews 11:4b).