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Real leadership: leaving all for Christ

From the May 2012 issue of The Christian Science Journal

Lake Champlain

Lake Champlain, near Rob Warneck's home in Burlington, Vermont.

Robert T. Warneck

From his life résumé, it might seem that Rob Warneck would have been a shoo-in to become a Christian Science practitioner some day. He was raised in Christian Science, and his mother had her own healing practice. Early in childhood he came to “revere Mary Baker Eddy for the great sacrifices she made” to bring Christian Science to humanity. Later, after graduating from Syracuse University with a degree in British literature, Rob worked at The Mother Church for over 25 years. During that time, he researched Mary Baker Eddy’s healing work, and, in 1998, coauthored the book, Mary Baker Eddy: Christian Healer. He later expanded and amplified that book in 2009.

So, would you be surprised to learn that Rob never expected to go into the practice himself? As he told me with unflinching honesty, his research into Mary Baker Eddy’s healing work had given him a “fuller realization of how much the public practice requires of an individual if they are to do it according to Mrs. Eddy’s concept of it.” He didn’t think he could live up to the demand.

Yet Rob eventually obeyed a spiritual intuition to become a practitioner, which he did in 1998. Since then, he’s never looked back. In 2003 he became a teacher of Christian Science. Today, Rob practices and teaches in Burlington, Vermont, where he lives with his wife and two cats.

Rob had much to share with me about his work in the practice, and also about Mary Baker Eddy. He sees her not only as a healer—but as a leader, too. What is true leadership really all about? Can the leaders of today learn something from Mary Baker Eddy’s example? Read on to find out more about how incredibly modern and relevant this remarkable woman still is for the whole world.

Rob, while you were researching Mary Baker Eddy’s healing work, what’s one thing you learned about her that you were particularly impressed with?

What struck me while doing research for the book was how she viewed the public practice of Christian Science. I realize now I maybe should have expected it, but at the time I wasn’t in the practice and had not given it a lot of thought. But in reading letter after letter of her correspondence with her students, it became clear that Mrs. Eddy expected practitioners to love God to such an extent that they would sacrifice everything for the practice. For her it was a clear-cut matter of leaving all for Christ.

Nothing came before the practice of Christian Science in her thought—not family, not home, not income, not sleep, not anything. For Mrs. Eddy the practice required nothing less than a 24/7 commitment to God, demonstrating His healing Science and living with the purity that it required. She knew that if a Christian Scientist had that, then God would take care of all the details of human living.

As she wrote to her student James Neal: “To this glorious end I ask you to still press on, and have no other ambition or aim. A real scientific Healer is the highest position attainable in this sphere of being. Its altitude is far above a Teacher or preacher; it includes all that is divinely high and holy. . . . leave behind all else and strive for this great achievement. . . . Your aid to reach this goal is spiritualization. To achieve this you must have one God, one affection, one way, one Mind” (Mary Baker Eddy: Christian Healer, Amplified Edition, pp. 189–190).

You see, to Mary Baker Eddy the public practice of Christian Science was the most important activity on earth because she knew it would bring about the salvation of mankind.

Did learning this in your research inspire you to go into the practice yourself?

Actually it had the opposite effect. I was sure the practice was definitely not for me. Too much was required. I thought I could never be good enough, pure enough, and disciplined enough to be a “real scientific Healer . . . the highest position attainable in this sphere of being.”

Going into the practice was not of my own doing. It was the beginning of August 1998, when the thought came to me to put an advertisement for the practice in a local paper. This thought came to me a number of times, and at first I rejected it as ridiculous. It felt like when Moses said to God, “Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt? . . . they will not believe me, nor hearken unto my voice” (Exodus 3:11; 4:1).

I didn’t want to go into the practice. I wasn’t anywhere near ready for it. But the thought persisted, so I decided to pray about it for the next few weeks and see if at the beginning of September the thought was still there. I prayed along the lines of, “not my will, but God’s will be done.” When September arrived, the thought of the practice was still there, stronger than ever; so I reluctantly obeyed, and that’s how it started.

Did you find you had to make sacrifices, in the way you had realized Mary Baker Eddy expected of practitioners?

I had to sacrifice how I thought of and lived my life. I had to let go of any concept of “my” life, and understand that God ran the show, not me. It was no longer a matter of what I wanted or thought I should do. My days were no longer my own; they belonged to God.

To me, the practice means I am available to take calls for help 24 hours a day, seven days a week. “Enough” sleep is no longer a consideration. My life has become the practice. Everything else is secondary, and I depend on God to take care of those things.

I learned a lot from Mary Baker Eddy’s sacrifices. Not long after she discovered Christian Science in 1866 and her second husband had deserted her, Abigail, her sister, offered to provide her a home and income, but on one condition: “There is only one thing I ask of you, Mary, that you give up these ideas which have lately occupied you, that you attend our church and give over your theory of divine healing.” Mary’s response was, “I must do the work God has called me to” (Mary Baker Eddy: Christian Healer, Amplified Edition, p. 62).

In 1866 alone, she would change her residence ten times. During the years from 1872 through 1875, to write Science and Health she gave up teaching Christian Science, which was her only source of income, and she had to move more than 15 times during that period. Her thought was so God-oriented—she was so totally devoted to working on this book about God and His final revelation of the Truth—that it disturbed and upset the thoughts of those she roomed with to such an extent that they inevitably asked her to leave.

I had to sacrifice how I thought of and lived my life. I had to let go of any concept of "my" life, and understand that God ran the show, not me.
–– Rob Warneck

But whenever resistance to her forwarding the Church and the Christian Science movement came up, she took no thought for herself. Whatever needed to be done, she did, no matter what it cost her. Nothing was more important to her than this God-given mission of bringing the Comforter Jesus promised to humanity, of bringing forth the Science of divine Mind-healing for the salvation of all. She sacrificed everything for it.

You see, her strength and tenderness, her humility and boldness, her love and wisdom, her firm stands and her patience with others, and her willingness to truly leave all for the Christ, were and are so inspiring and uplifting to me. She instructs my practice, through her writings and her example. She teaches me patience and perseverance, love and gentleness, courage and dominion.

How specifically has her example taught you to be a better healer?

One lesson I’ve learned: Never give up on healing, no matter what the situation, no matter how appalling the appearance, or how dire the circumstance, never give up. Sometimes when you’ve worked toward a healing for an extended period, and there doesn’t seem to be any progress—in fact, things may seem to be worse—that is the very time to be most joyful, most expectant of good, strongest in one’s declarations of Truth, because that is the very time the claims of evil are about to vanish.

Mrs. Eddy has written, “It requires courage to utter truth; for the higher Truth lifts her voice, the louder will error scream, until its
inarticulate sound is forever silenced in oblivion” (Science and Health, p. 97). And to one of her students, who had written her about a case that would not yield, Mrs. Eddy wrote, “ ‘Endure to the end’ when the case lingers—fight the error till it is beaten [or] else conquer it in the beginning” (Mary Baker Eddy: Christian Healer, Amplified Edition, p. 403).

And yet some might be tempted to give up on healing, because they may think they could never heal as effectively as Mrs. Eddy. Reading through Christian Healer, it seems literally true that she healed just about anything and everything, and quickly, too. But she wasn’t some superhuman. She made it very clear that she was practicing a Science that all could use, for all time, including today. To those who might doubt that claim, or think that Christian Science healing isn’t happening as often or as powerfully as it once did, how would you respond?

Nothing could be farther from the truth. Christian Science healing is happening as often and as powerfully as in Mrs. Eddy’s time. It is actively, every day, bringing about the salvation of mankind.

The material world is trying to do its worst in resisting the spiritualization of thought that Christian Science brings. But going back to Mrs. Eddy’s statement, “the higher Truth lifts her voice, the louder will error scream,” we see that this false claim about the diminishing power of Christian healing is merely a lie that the carnal mind is screaming right now. That doesn’t make it either true or real.

In fact, the louder it screams, the greater the falsity it tells, and the closer it is to its end. Think of the dragon in the Apocalypse. Science and Health states: “. . . when nearing its doom . . . the great red dragon, swollen with sin, inflamed with war against spirituality . . . [is] ripe for destruction. It is full of lust and hate, loathing the brightness of divine glory” (p. 565). That’s exactly what Christian Science is: the brightness of divine glory.

I had a healing a number of years ago, while working at The Mother Church, that underscores this point. It was at the end of a November that I began to feel ill with some sort of digestive problem and could no longer go to work. Over the next three weeks I lost about 30 pounds, could barely eat anything other than grapefruit, and suffered from bouts of extreme pain throughout the day. I called a practitioner early on to help me work and pray for a healing.

For two months the condition seemed to be getting worse. At the beginning of February I found myself lying on the bathroom floor one night in such extreme pain that a voice in my head screamed, “Call 911! Call 911!” Instead I called the practitioner and asked him to help me silence that voice. There was absolutely no way I was going to give in to the carnal mind’s threat that I would die that night if I didn’t go the route of material medicine. I knew that I was going to stand with God as my life, no matter what. I know this may sound radical, but I knew I would rather “die in the Lord,” as it speaks of in Revelation 14:13, than desert my Father-Mother Love, God.

Soon, the voice ceased, the pain lessened, and I was able to stand and walk to a chair. A few days later I awoke in the night from a dream in which I had two distinct selves: one spiritual and the other material, and in the dream they were fighting over control of me. That was when I began to try to vigorously understand the fact that I had no mortal, material self. I began to see, more clearly than ever before, that I existed solely as a spiritual idea, created and governed by God alone. He was responsible for all my thoughts; everything I was came from Him.

I was learning something of what Mary Baker Eddy said: “He [God] sustains my individuality. Nay, more—He is my individuality and my Life” (Unity of Good, p. 48). Very soon after this I began to perceptibly improve. In March, I returned to work healed.

Wow, what a powerful healing. It sounds like it really grounded you, and maybe prepared you to later go into the practice—and eventually to become a teacher of this Science. But Rob, it seems to me that some might think Christian Science teachers are somehow “better” than the rest of us, or that they are leaders for our movement. As a teacher yourself, and also as one of the authors of Christian Healer, do you think of yourself as a leader?

I could never think of myself as a leader. My role as a Christian Science practitioner is that of healer. As a teacher, my role is to instruct my pupils in Christian Science, teach them about Mrs. Eddy’s example, and turn them to her writings as their only source for self-instruction, so that they can follow her and be better healers.

There is a By-Law in the Church Manual that specifically states that a member “shall not be called Leader by members of this Church, when this term is used in connection with Christian Science” (p. 65). There is and only can be but one Leader for our movement, and that is Mary Baker Eddy. However, the qualities of humility and meekness, and of leaning on God completely, that she expressed in serving and blessing others, are qualities that we each need to understand and manifest more fully in our lives and as Christian healers.

Well, let’s talk about Mary Baker Eddy as a leader. One thing that amazes me about her is how she overcame what looked like impossible odds to rise out of total obscurity and become the leader of a worldwide religion. And not only that, but to establish a Church that would last for posterity. How was she able to do that?

While to the mortal viewpoint Mrs. Eddy overcame impossible odds, from her perspective she was simply following God’s direction. She knew that whatever the appearance of resistance to Christian Science or to herself, it was nothing to God. She trusted the Church and movement to divine Principle, Love, and knew that no power on earth could resist its progress or overturn it.

Her faith in and understanding of God is where her leadership abilities came from. She leaned on God and not herself. She knew Christian Science would triumph because it was salvation from God, not from herself.

While Mrs. Eddy was and is the acknowledged Leader of the Christian Science Church, she was not then and is not now recognized as the leader of mankind, which she definitely is. Through her writings she is leading humanity to its salvation.
––Rob Warneck

Mary Baker Eddy continues to lead our movement today through her writings, and she is also the Leader for all mankind in the Science of Being—much in the same way that the Bible and Science and Health preach not only for the Church of Christ, Scientist, but for the whole world (see Church Manual, p. 58).

But this doesn’t mean we worship Mrs. Eddy. She understood that God alone is worthy of worship. She saw Him as the one, perfect, omnipotent Mind. She believed no man or woman should be worshipped, only God. As Jesus said, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment” (Mark 12:30). And, “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve” (Matthew 4:10).

That’s so true that Mrs. Eddy sought not to be worshipped. In fact, she went so far as to write: “My loyal students will tell you that for many years I have desired to step aside and to have some one take my place as leader of this mighty movement. Also that I strove earnestly to fit others for this great responsibility. But no one else has seemed equal to ‘bear the burden and heat of the day’ ” (Message to The Mother Church for 1900, p. 9). Yet if no one was equal to the task then, what about now? How do we move forward?

Mary Baker Eddy left the leadership of the movement in the hands of God, through the Manual of The Mother Church. She has written of the Manual: Its Rules and By-Laws “were not arbitrary opinions nor dictatorial demands, such as one person might impose on another. They were impelled by a power not one’s own, were written . . . to maintain the dignity and defense of our Cause; hence their simple, scientific basis, and detail so requisite to demonstrate genuine Christian Science, and which will do for the race what absolute doctrines destined for future generations might not accomplish” (Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896, p. 148). Our Church moves forward in proportion to our obedience to the Church Manual.

For example, being obedient to the Church Manual By-Laws makes one a better healer—for the simple fact that in doing so we’re being obedient to God who inspired each By-Law. As Mrs. Eddy wrote, “Of this I am sure, that each Rule and By-law in this Manual will increase the spirituality of him who obeys it, invigorate his capacity to heal the sick, to comfort such as mourn, and to awaken the sinner” (The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, p. 230).

With By-Laws such as Article IV, Section 1, “Believe in Christian Science,” which states that the Bible, Science and Health, and Mrs. Eddy’s other writings are a student’s only textbooks for self-instruction (p. 34)—and Article VIII, Section 1, “A Rule for Motives and Acts,” which requires that “neither animosity nor mere personal attachment should impel the motives or acts of the members of The Mother Church” (p. 40)—you’re looking at rules for Christian healing.

Article VIII, Section 4, “Daily Prayer,” tells us it’s a duty “to pray each day: ‘Thy kingdom come;’ let the reign of divine Truth, Life, and Love be established in me, and rule out of me all sin” (p. 41). Section 6, “Alertness to Duty,” says we are “to defend [ourselves] daily against aggressive mental suggestion” (p. 42). In Section 9, “Formulas Forbidden,” we are forbidden to use formulas for healing the sick (p. 43). It goes on and on. So many of the By-Laws relate to how to think and act correctly, which, when lived, and when coupled with metaphysical treatment, provide the mental environment for healing—and so enable the Christian Science movement of healing to move forward successfully and help bring about the salvation of humanity.

I like that you point to the Manual as leading the Church today, instead of to any one person. That goes hand-in-hand with something else Mrs. Eddy had to say about leadership: “The true leader of a true cause is the unacknowledged servant of mankind. Stationary in the background, this individual is doing the work that nobody else can or will do” (Miscellaneous Writings, p. 266). Why do you think she says a leader is “in the background”? Couldn’t that be viewed as counterintuitive?

Being in the background for a leader means they’re leading by ideas, not by personality or charisma. A truly great leader doesn’t want the focus on herself or himself, but on the ideas and values to lead a cause forward.

In the Bible it says: “There was a little city, and few men within it; and there came a great king against it, and besieged it, and built great bulwarks against it: Now there was found in it a poor wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city; yet no man remembered that same poor man” (Ecclesiastes 9:14, 15). Here is an example where wisdom led the day and not some personality.

The humility that “poor wise man” exhibited also has a lot to do with leading. The Christian Science Monitor recently ran an editorial regarding Christine Lagarde, the woman who was chosen to head the IMF, the International Monetary Fund. Her leadership style is described as inclusive, humble, and pragmatic. The editorial states, “Up to now, she has not been highly visible, even though she’s steadily filling a power vacuum for Europe. Lagarde prefers to work in the background, listening to diverse views, probing thorny details, and finding common ground. . . . She creates solutions without trying to take credit for solutions. With a soft-but-insistent style, she could become the unsung hero of 2012 who prevents Europe’s woes from crashing the world economy” (“IMF chief Lagarde: Woman of the year in 2012?” December 30, 2011).

As for Mrs. Eddy, she spoke a number of times of her preference to be in the background. To her, a leader is one that is an “unacknowledged servant of mankind . . . clear-headed and honest . . . demonstrat[ing] the Principle of Christian Science, and hold[ing] justice and mercy as inseparable from the unity of God” (Miscellaneous Writings, p. 266).

And yet it seems leaders get so much recognition, including Mrs. Eddy. She was one of the most famous leaders of her day.

While Mrs. Eddy was and is the acknowledged Leader of the Christian Science Church, she was not then and is not now recognized as the leader of mankind, which she definitely is. Through her writings she is leading humanity to its salvation.

Mary Baker Eddy saw leadership differently from how the world views it. She understood that to be a leader, one needed to be a servant. Jesus set an example of this when he washed his disciples’ feet (see John 13:3–17). Mrs. Eddy knew that only by serving her fellow man, through delivering the message of the ever-present healing Christ, could she lead all mankind to salvation.

And she has done so through the ideas she received from God, which she shared in Science and Health. She has written: “Is it too much to say that this book is leavening the whole lump of human thought? You can trace its teachings in each step of mental and spiritual progress, from pulpit and press, in religion and ethics, and find these progressive steps either written or indicated in the book. It has mounted thought on the swift and mighty chariot of divine Love, which to-day is circling the whole world.

“I should blush to write of ‘Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures’ as I have, were it of human origin, and were I, apart from God, its author. But, as I was only a scribe echoing the harmonies of heaven in divine metaphysics, I cannot be super-modest in my estimate of the Christian Science textbook” (Miscellany, pp. 114–115).

The leaders of today need to tell the truth, whether it’s popular or not, whether the people want to hear it or not. If they don't, they are building nations on sand that will fall apart when hard times come.
––Rob Warneck

It all boils down to the absolute fact that the scientific, spiritual truths that pour out of that book have radically changed our world since it was first published in 1875. And those changes, through the gradual, spiritual progression of humanity’s thought, are, I feel, solely attributable to Science and Health.

So then how can Science and Health or Mary Baker Eddy’s example help our leaders today? It seems to me we live in a world right now where people all across the globe want more from their leaders.

The most important facet of Mrs. Eddy’s leadership was her humility and meekness before God. She never made a single decision about the Church or movement without praying to God for guidance. Like Jesus, her attitude was, “I can of mine own self do nothing . . . I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me” (John 5:30). This is why she said of herself, “As Mary Baker Eddy, I am the weakest of mortals, but as the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, I am the bone and sinew of the world” (Mary Baker Eddy: Christian Healer, Amplified Edition, p. 184). She knew, as did the Apostle Paul, that “God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty” (I Corinthians 1:27).

The weaker we are, the more heavily we lean on something other than ourselves. So Mrs. Eddy could say she was the weakest of mortals because no one other than Jesus has ever leaned more heavily on a scientific, spiritual understanding of God—and that leaning on God is the strength of her leadership.

Does this mean that leaders need to become weak in order to find true strength?

Human leaders need to recognize the utter weakness of the mortal self. They need to express the humility that says, “I can of mine own self do nothing.” They need to completely abandon the thought that the force of their personal character and wisdom can carry the day. They need to acknowledge that they have “no separate mind from God; . . . not a single quality underived from Deity; [they possess] no life, intelligence, nor creative power of [their] own, but reflect spiritually all that belongs to [their] Maker” (Science and Health, p. 475). They must strive to express divine Principle, Love, and turn to God for the ideas that will lead others to accomplishments that will bless humanity.

Looking at government leaders around the world, and it really doesn’t matter which nation we’re talking about, they often spin the truth to support their ideas and philosophy. But shouldn’t it be the other way around? Shouldn’t the actual truth shape their ideas and form their philosophy? Yet they tend to say what they think their audience wants to hear, whether it’s true or not.

Mary Baker Eddy’s leadership style was the exact opposite. She spoke the truth as she understood it from God. She made decisions based on God’s guidance alone. Divine Truth shaped her ideas; it was the basis for her decisions. And what she said and the decisions she made had nothing to do with what either the world or her followers wanted to hear.

An example of this is when, in 1889, she closed her Massachusetts Metaphysical College, suspended the organization, and went off to New Hampshire to pray to see more clearly what God wanted for His Church and movement. This was at the height of the prosperity of the College, when she basically shut it down. After three years she reorganized the Church and movement on the basis of laws and rules—in a Church Manual that was inspired by God.

Mrs. Eddy didn’t do the popular thing; she didn’t do what others might have considered the financially wise thing; she did the right thing as God gave it to her to do. The leaders of today need to tell the truth, whether it’s popular or not, whether the people want to hear it or not. If they don’t, they are building nations on sand that will fall apart when hard times come.

And if they do tell the truth?

Then their efforts will lead to success. When we build on the Truth, when we are led by the unspun Truth without ego, what is accomplished will withstand the storms of opinions, prejudice, slander, and hatred. It will stand because it is the Christ, Truth, that has led the way, and we in humility and purity of thought have followed.

Listen to this interview in an episode of the "Putting it on Record" series.

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