Chief Inspiration Officer. That’s how Scott Rigsby described to me his role in the Scott Rigsby Foundation, which is dedicated to influencing all physically challenged people to pursue an active lifestyle. After 2 days of hosting the first person in the world to finish the Ford Ironman Triathlon World Championship inHawaii in 2007, I had plenty of opportunity to watch this chief inspiration officer in action.
“Inspiration” means the act of “exercising a stimulating influence on the mind or emotions.” Another definition of “inspiration” is “to breathe in,” coming from the Latin inspirare, “to blow into.” Christians see the Holy Spirit as the breath of God and the source of our inspiration to lead a life of faith and discipleship. When you and I respond to God’s call in our lives, we are “God-breathed” and are thus empowered to inspire others.
The primary purpose of a leader (a.k.a. Chief Inspiration Officer) is to help individuals or organizations set a vision, then inspire, motivate, and train people to fulfill that vision. One of my hobbies is listening to, reading about, and observing the characteristics of inspirational leaders so that I can become a better leader myself.
- Inspirational leaders exhibit undiluted passion for their calling, whatever it is.
- Inspirational leaders know that their power comes from outside of themselves: it is God-breathed.
- Inspirational leaders have the ability to connect with people intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually. They communicate heart to heart.
- Inspirational leaders embrace obstacles and failure as necessary experiences along life’s journey.
- Inspirational leaders model possibility and hope.
Here are some observations from the time I was privileged to spend with this God-breathed man, Scott Rigsby.
- There was incredible power in the way Scott simply told his story. He was honest, open, and authentic about both his humanity and the role God plays in his life. While Scott receives big fees when speaking to corporations, he balances those speaking engagements with talks in schools and churches that don’t have the resources to pay him much. During his stay inGrand Rapids, Scott spoke to inner city youth, sports enthusiasts, people with disabilities, and United Methodists and inspired every one of them.
How are you and your church telling your stories? When are you going to leave the church building in order to share those stories with a world desperate for inspiration?
- Scott claimed over and over that what he is doing is a means to a holy end. “It’s not about me,” he would say. Scott finished the Hawaii ironman triathlon to glorify God, not himself. I was struck by a passage in Scott’s new book, Unthinkable, where he talks about one of his personal trainers, George Hyder. Hyder would repeat this phrase every morning, “I have a profound, positive impact on everyone I meet.” In the same way, Scott’s goal is to encourage everyone to reach their God-given potential.
Are you and your church committed to having a profound, positive impact on the schools, businesses, and other organizations in your community? Do you have a plan in place?
- When Scott was asked if he would want his legs back if he had a choice, Scott answered, “No. I can do more as a double amputee to share Christ and inspire others than I could if I had both legs.” 12 years after Scott lost his right leg in a tragic accident, he chose to have his severely injured left leg amputated as well. By letting go of his other leg, Scott became free of constant pain and inconvenience and received his life back, including being able to run again.
What do you need to let go of in order to become all that God created you to be? Most of us will never lose our legs, but do we need to let go of fear, pride, anger, or hard-heartedness?
- As soon as Scott arrived on Friday morning, he said, “Can you help me send my running legs back to California by FedEx? They need to be fixed.” I was eager to help but also realized that we had promised the Gazelle Sports running group that Scott would join them early Saturday morning. Because Scott can’t run with his regular prosthetics, the runners went on ahead, and Scott walked several miles with 4 men. Afterwards, Scott said more than once, “You know, it’s a good thing that I sent my legs back yesterday. I believe God wanted me to spend time with these guys instead. They needed to tell their stories.”
Are you willing to change your agenda when the still small voice of God breathes into your spirit and says, “No, go this way. These are the folks who need inspiration.”
- At the Friday night gathering that was open to the public, I was gratified to see a number of amputees who came especially to see Scott, including one all the way from Chicago. My eyes were opened in a new way that night to the difficulties that physically challenged people face every day and also to the hope that Scott could offer them. When I commented to Scott about those challenges, he replied, “Amputees need to learn patience. Often we have no choice but to rely on others. Sometimes I have to wait for weeks to get my running legs back, which means I can’t train. I had to learn to give up control. If we don’t have patience, God will teach it to us.”
Does your lack of patience get in the way of living according to God’s timing rather than your timing? Are you willing to “wait on the Lord?”
- Scott believes that winners win because they put themselves in a position to win. By “win,” I believe Scott is referring to anyone who is inspired to dream big and endure setbacks to accomplish his/her goals. Thomas Edison once said, “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% percent perspiration.” No one who heard Scott speak will forget his graphic story about dumping cups of perspiration out of his prosthetic sleeves during the run portion of the ironman.
Rather than lament, “Our church is too small,” grow it! Rather than moan, “We’re too poor,” teach your congregation stewardship! Rather than complain, “We’re too old,” create programs that will encourage young families to be in ministry! Get that God-breath blowing and the perspiration flowing, and winning will follow. .
Scott inscribes his books with these words, “What is your unthinkable? The world is waiting for you to inspire them. Show them what you can do when the Lord opens doors for you.” I’ve just figured out what my unthinkable is. I dream of the day when every United Methodist in West Michigan is a CIO: Chief Inspiration Officer.
Can you imagine what it would be like if we truly believed
that God not only inspired the Bible 2,000 years ago but inspires people today?
- Our churches would be filled with God-breathed people who are on fire for the Lord.
- The doors between the church and community would swing freely back and forth.
- We would minister to as many people outside the church as inside the church.
- Every disciple of Jesus Christ would be passionate about his/her faith.
- We would be constantly rethinking, reforming, renewing, and rebirthing.
- Every United Methodist church in every village, town, city would be known as a saving station, lighthouse, and oasis of grace.
- Everyone would belong, everyone would serve, everyone would grow, everyone would both perspire and inspire.
As I said goodbye to Scott late Saturday afternoon, I thanked him and said that he did his job as CIO: every last one of us was inspired. Scott replied, “God was truly here. Wherever I go, God shows up.” Spoken like a true Chief Inspiration Officer.