Serotiny and Leadership

It takes heat for them to fulfill their purpose. Only when being burned do they release seeds that begin a new cycle of life. I’m referring to the serotinous pine cone of the lodgepole pine tree.These pine cones sit stagnant for years, appearing to be dysfunctional in comparison to other pine cones. But then, when you would least expect it, during a forest fire; they burst open. It is in the heat of the fire that the cones open and seeds are released for a new cycle of tree life to begin.

We learned about serotinous pine cones during last week’s trip to Yellowstone National Park, when the park guides talked about the fires of 1988. The fires affected 793,880 acres, or 36 percent of the park. Amazingly, many of these areas are now lush, green forest lands from which lodgepole pines have emerged. Because the trees were burned, the seeds of new life were released from serotinous pine cones.

The leadership lesson is that new life emerges through times of fire and heat. As much as it hurts, leaders are often refined and renewed when passing through fires in life and in ministry. The challenges that hurt us most deeply often become the means by which new perspectives and directions in life begin. Fire and death can lead to new life.

This is the message of Jesus: “Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds” (John 12:24).

And, it is also the message of Peter: “So if your faith remains strong after being tried by fiery trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world” (1 Peter 1:7).

Technically, the word serotiny means “late in blooming, developing, or opening.” As the term applies to serotinous pine cones, they are delayed in opening, rather than being late. And, this apparent delay in terms of the cycle of nature is actually right-on-time according to the purpose for which the pine cone was created.

Another lesson of the serotinous pine cone is for leaders to serve according to the purposes for which they have been created… even if these do not appear to be the same as the other “trees” and “cones” in the “forest.”

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Mark your calendar: Leadership and Commissioned Pastor Retreat is planned for October 25 – 26, 2013 at Camp Geneva, Holland, MI. Guest presenter: Pastor Marlin Vis. Topic: Reading the Bible through Middle Eastern Eyes. For additional information click here. To be put on the retreat mailing list, contact Alison DeBoer,

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