Sermon Illustrations

Douglas Hyde was a major leader in the Communist Party in England during the 1930’s and 1940’s. However, in 1948 he converted to Christianity. Later he wrote a fascinating little book, Dedication and Leadership, in which he pointed out that the means of developing leaders among the communists were not all that different from the means of developing leaders among Christians. The only real difference, Hyde observed, was that the communists had actually employed those means.

Hyde developed an entire chapter to a young man named Jim. Jim had approached Hyde after a lecture in which Hyde boldly asserted that the Communist Party could take anyone who was willing to be trained in leadership and turn him into a leader.

Sizing him up, Hyde took Jim to be a man who “was almost pathetically anxious to be turned into a leader.” In fact, “As I looked at him I thought that I had never seen anyone who looked less like a leader in my life.”

According to Hyde, Jim was extremely short and fat, with a pale complexion, a slightly crossed eye, and worst of all, a most debilitating handicap: “Quite literally he came to me and said: ‘C-c-comrade, I w-w-want you to t-t-t-take me and t-t-turn me into a l-l-leader of m-m-m-men.’ I looked at Jim and I wondered how I was going to do it. Then I thought to myself: ‘Well, I told the class that we could take anyone who was willing to be trained in leadership and turn him into a leader, and here is Jim pathetically anxious for me to do it. This is a challenge.’ So I set about the job.”

Then Hyde writes: “It will be observed that I had made only one qualification. This was that the would-be leader must be willing to be trained. This presupposed a certain attitude of mind, which Jim already had. I was, so far as I could see at that moment, almost the only thing I had to build on.”

What was that one qualification, that one attitude? An eagerness to learn, a willingness to be trained. It was indeed all that Jim had - but it was enough to get started.

Jim spent many months showing up to lectures and classes, listening to the leaders discuss communist philosophy, history, and strategy. Then they put a man under Jim for him to tutor. From there they sent him into his workplace to build relationships with other men and gradually infect them with seeds of communist thought. Eventually they even enrolled him in a public speaking course.

“[Jim] was appalled at the thought,” Hyde wrote. “But he knew, nonetheless, on the basis of his experience in tutorial work that he had unsuspected potentialities. So he went. We did not turn him into a great orator, we did not even entirely cure him of his stutter, although, as he gained confidence in himself this became modified and finished up as a noticeable but not entirely unhelpful impediment in his speech.”

Jim eventually assumed leadership in his industry’s local trade union and from there went on to become a national leader and a key agent of the Communist Party. As Hyde put it, “Jim, the most unpromising-looking piece of human material that ever came my way had become a leader of men.”5

5. Howard & William Hendricks. Iron Sharpens Iron. Moody Press, C/O, Chicago, Illinois, 1995, pg. 53-54.

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