Lightbulbs, Lighthouses and Lasers: three kinds of light, three kinds of leadership

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30/05/2018 by Chris Green

Lightbulbs flood the room. When they’re on, you can see everything, and make sense of it all.  Confusion is banished, and order reigns.  Lightbulbs are good.

Lighthouses are needed for navigating (or were, before GPS). The order of the lights tells a crew where they are, where the rocks are, and where safety is to be found. They provide reliable information, which is more than lightbulbs do.  Lightbulbs give data, lighthouses make sense of it.

Lasers point with great accuracy, and with enough power, across great distances.  They can focus attention and direct you to a particular place, without any confusion or distraction. Lasers give great clarity on a precise issue.

  • If you’re in a room at night, and you know the floor’s covered with Lego, which kind of light do you need?
  • If you’re on a ship, in a storm, and the radio’s not working, which kind of light do you need?
  • If you’re giving a talk and want to direct people’s attention to the screen, which kind of light do you need?

You can play with this idea for quite some time.  Car headlights for example: they’re great for showing where you are going, but they’re lousy at showing where you ought to go.  For that you need a map and a torch. (Or Google maps, but that ruins the illustration, so just stay with me). But the torch is really bad at helping you drive down a country lane.  For that you need the headlights.

Let’s decode that.

You’re probably facing a series of leadership questions in your church, but it’s important to see that your role might not be the same in each circumstance.

You’re probably facing a series of leadership questions in your church, but it’s important to see that your role might not be the same in each circumstance.

  • When you’re preaching a sermon, you’re probably a lightbulb, making sense of a whole passage.  From time to time you might need a touch of the laser, but mostly it’s lights on, all the time.
  • When you’re seeing a couple with a marriage under strain, you’re probably more of a lighthouse – letting them do the work, but showing them where safety lies.
  • When you’re with the elders discussing potential building options, you’re probably more of a laser.  Forget the underground car park, forget the see-through baptistry, look at this plan, with this goal, of improving the seating capacity.


If you need biblical nuance, then of course we need to recognise that none of those three images is scriptural.  But ‘light’ is, and it does do different kinds of work. I’d suggest that when Jesus talks about light banishing darkness that’s parallel to our lightbulb image, when light exposes darkness and its deeds, that’s more laser, and when light comes into the world that’s more lighthouse.  Make of that what you will.

Light is good. Use it wisely.

What kind of light will you need in your next meeting?

Thanks for stopping by. Let me know your thoughts, additions and questions below.

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