Governor at Leadership Briefing: Leaders must fight apathy with strong convictions
The United States needs men and women of conviction who are willing to resist apathy and do uncomfortable things at critical moments, Kentucky governor Matt Bevin told a packed Heritage Hall at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for the most recent Leadership Briefing, March 19.
During the event, Bevin, a staunch defender of the sanctity of life at the highest levels of American government, said his political career owes itself to a single moment in a Colorado health food store in the late 1960s, when a stranger shared the gospel message with his mother. Bevin’s parents had previously been non-religious, he said, but that moment was a turning point in his family’s life. And that conversation has everything to do with his calling half a century later, according to Bevin, when the United States needs people willing to do “the right thing,” even if it’s hard.
“The reason I am blessed to have some modicum of this conviction is because I was raised by parents who had their trajectory and their sense of the spectrum of eternity broadened because of a conversation in that health food store,” he said.
During the event, Bevin read a famous excerpt from American founding father Thomas Paine’s work “The Crisis”: “These are the times that try men’s souls,” it reads. “The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.”
Those trying times have not ended, Bevin said. American citizens today are the beneficiaries of nearly 250 years of people of conviction making the hard but right choice. Bevin said Americans need to understand they follow in others’ footsteps, and others still will follow their own footsteps.
“I was always very mindful of this: Who are the people who have laid down footsteps that I have chosen to follow?” Bevin said. “I was also mindful, from the time I was a kid, to be careful about laying down footsteps for others to follow. I don’t why I was this way; I was just wired that way. But I’m grateful for the fact that it was affirmed by the environment in which I lived. I would encourage each of you to be thinking about that. … Whose footsteps are you following?”
If Americans today don’t have the same conviction as their forebears, deadly apathy awaits, Bevin said. And that apathy is the greatest danger facing the United States.
“If you don’t have intention, if you don’t move with conviction, you allow yourself to be moved into apathy. And that’s when you are most vulnerable.
“What changes cultures and civilizations? From the beginning of time, they have always crumbled from within. Why? Because the underbelly becomes soft. It’s true in your families, it’s true in your communities, it’s true in your churches, it’s true in your companies, it’s true in this state or any other, it’s true in any nation. If we allow ourselves to become apathetic, to become complacent, that’s the beginning of the end.”
Bevin reference’s the “watchman on the wall” in Ezekiel 33, noting that the text comes with a warning: If someone sees danger coming but says nothing, that person will be responsible for the coming calamity. This is why American citizens and all defenders of the defenseless need to be ready when “history knocks on your door,” according to Bevin. This is what Bevin has sought to fight for during his administration: for the unborn, foster care children, and prisoners.
“None of these are political constituencies. None of these things help you get elected. None of these things are political winners. But they are all things that need to be done, because they are the right thing to do.”
Few people are fully equipped to answer when they face challenges, Bevin said, and doing the hard thing is not fun. But the great leaders of history know that someone has to do the job and are ready when the time comes. Bevin said that in his own governorship, he tries to exemplify that readiness.
“People ask me why I wanted to get into politics,” he said. “I didn’t want to. I was willing to.”
Bevin, a native of Louisville and member of Southeast Christian Church, has an extensive history with Southern Seminary. He and his wife, Glenna, gave an endowment to the seminary in 2012 to fund the Bevin Center for Missions Mobilization. Their gift was in honor of their daughter, Brittiney, and her passion for missions. Brittiney died in a car accident in 2003.
Audio of the Leadership Briefing will soon be available through the Southern Equip page.