The Baby Elephant Principle

Some years ago when I was in Africa on a short-term mission trip my wife Lisa and I had the opportunity to take an additional day to spend in Masai Mara, a famous game reserve that spans the boarder of Kenya and Tanzania. We got to see all kinds of animals in their natural habitat. We saw lions with their cubs, rhino, giraffes, hippos, and more. It was literally like something right out of National Geographic. But surprisingly some of the most incredible animals to watch were the elephants. These were a far cry from those circus elephants from my childhood. These elephants were larger than life powerful animals that trampled a path as they walked through the brush and knocked over trees, and broke branches. They were spectacular to be around. The largest living land animal, the average adult male is 10-13 feet tall at the shoulder and weighs between 10-13 thousand pounds. To get your head around just how massive these animals are, get this, their molars (their teeth) weigh about 11 pounds each and are 12 inches long! Their tusks weigh between 50-100 pounds and are between 5-8ft long! These are massive and impressive animals.

And when I think about those elephants that I saw in my childhood at the circus it’s almost comical that one of these grown massive, powerful 10,000-pound elephants could be tamed and chained to a little stake in the ground. What happens is when the elephant is young the trainer will drive a metal stake in the ground and chain the baby elephant to it. Unable to pull the stake out of the ground and lacking the strength to break the chain the baby elephant eventually gives up. It grows accustomed to the stake and conditioned to believe it can’t break free. In adulthood when the elephant is literally thousands of pounds, and has the strength to push a railway car, the trainer can still chain that elephant to a small stake in the ground to contain this giant powerful animal. All because it’s been conditioned to believe it can’t break free.

3 Questions to Ask about how Your Past is Affecting your Present:

1. What behaviors and practices does your church need to break free from that worked when you were smaller but are restricting you from moving forward and are keeping you stuck?

2. What ministries were effective at one point and breathed life into the church years ago but are now limping along and take energy to prop up?

3. What Staff Members were the right person at the right time some years ago, but have since hit a lid and need to be shifted into another role or off the team?

Posted in Leadership, Spiritual Formation

One Response to “The Baby Elephant Principle”

  1. jan fennell June 27, 2013 at 6:44 am #

    I am blessed by this reading.

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