Steve Macchia Blog

Spiritual Leadership – Part 9

Transformation. It’s a large and wonderful word. At its core it means “the operation of changing from one configuration to another; a metamorphosis; a conversion.” When Jesus invited his disciples to follow him, he knew they would be changed men as a result. Peter stumbled a few times but ended up convinced of his Savior, and the keys of the kingdom were placed in his hands. Paul was transformed on the road to Damascus by a bright shining light which blinded him temporarily, after which he changed from a persecutor of Jesus to one of the greatest evangelists for Jesus. Conversion usually begins for individuals, and has ripple effects on organizations and movements.

Spiritual leaders know that the transformation process takes time, even if welcomed initially by radical change. This primarily organic process includes discernment, decision-making, change management, strategic planning, continual improvement, and ongoing evaluation. Each of these steps in the transformation experience can be stunted by immaturity, hardness of heart, and/or outright disobedience to the call of God. Choosing to lean into transformation includes a recognition that change can be messy, difficult, and time consuming. But, the exhilaration of knowing that fruitfulness is just around the corner from Transformation Alley, a godly leader knows it’s always worth paying the price to fulfill.

When the metamorphosis occurs for either individuals or organizations, the impact on others is outstanding. Transformation is always to occur in order to unleash the fulfillment of an outwardly focused mission. We are changed from the inside out in order to bring that same life-transformation to others. Once experienced ourselves, the most natural reflex is to offer what we’ve received to all who cross our path. When Paul was converted, he immediately started to preach. It was shocking for those around him to make sense of the dramatic transformation Paul experienced. Thankfully, Paul had Barnabas to vouch for him and help him seamlessly enter the Christian community. The more they heard from Paul the more they believed he was truly a changed man. As a result, the church grew a hundredfold under his remarkable tutelage as a spiritual leader.

Christian leaders not only embrace the transformative process for themselves, but they regularly invite others to receive it as well. Spiritual leaders have a long-term perspective about what it takes to bring about meaningful life, church, organization, and/or societal transformation. Patient with the process, such leaders prayerfully wait for God to lead the way and empower them by His Spirit. When we place ourselves at the mercy of God, we are better prepared to see him more clearly and follow him more sincerely. There is no greater joy than to know you are smack dab in the center of His remarkable will…the place where transformation ultimately occurs.

In the Message, Romans 12: 1,2 is paraphrased as follows: “So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.”

Are you ready to be changed from the inside out? Then be sure to offer yourself as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God. The transformation process is about to begin once more!



Spiritual Leadership – Part 8

One of Jesus’ favorite phrases is “I tell you the truth.” It appears dozens of times in the gospels. Take a look at John 8 for an example of this…of the 9 times the word “truth” appears, 5 are in the phrase “I tell you the truth.” To Jesus, telling the truth was always essential. Especially when he spoke to those who were most skeptical of him. It’s a bit curious to read this phrase over and over again. Apparently he was sent for a truth-filled purpose? The truth indeed sets one free! For Jesus, the truth was focused around his message, his life, and his invitation to live fully and transparently for God. He had zero tolerance for lies about his message, his life, and his invitation.

Spiritual leaders value authenticity and truth telling, especially in relation to the gospel message we proclaim, the Christ-like life we are called to embody, and the invitation we offer to others to follow the same. The contrast to truth-telling is pretending, posing, denying, or hiding from the truth. Anything short of an authentic life is a hindrance to the gospel, the community of faith, and the expansion of the kingdom of God.

So why do we tolerate lying? Most likely because we are caught in the prison of self-protection and we simply don’t know how to get out. Even if the truth will set us free.

The role of a spiritual leader begins with one’s willingness to receive the truth about God and then about oneself. The gospel exposes the truth about how Christ sets us free from the reformatory of our sins, and ushers us into the light of truth. The gospel is the truth we proclaim in word and deed, and the life we incarnate is in fulfillment of that truth. The gospel life is what we invite others to embrace, as outlined for us in the truth of the biblical text.

The truth about one’s personhood is the place where the transformational life of Christ begins. A healthy leader is willing to recognize one’s gifts and abilities, as well as one’s shortcomings, vulnerabilities and weaknesses. The two sided coin of authentic self-appraisal glitters when fully understood. We are both saints and sinners, co-existing in our spiritual and natural bodies. We are called to be both. We are empowered by the Spirit of God to radiate our strengths with courage and clarity. And, we are dependent upon the Spirit of God to enlighten our hearts to see the truth about our desperate need for a Savior to cleanse us of all unrighteousness. Hand in glove. Side by side. Truth about both. That’s what sets us free.

In the context of our ministry teams and faith communities, it’s incumbent upon the spiritual leader to model an authentic lifestyle toward others. In so doing, we invite those we are called to lead into a genuine walk of faith by being ushered into the gospel message and the Christian life of truth-telling that will set them free. For some, this will be readily embraced. For others, flatly rejected. For still more, skeptically considered. A spiritual leader must be patient with each one. The key word here is “invitation” – not enforcement. When we shove truth down people’s throats they usually gag (trust me on this one…been there, done that, and it doesn’t work!). Instead, spoon feeding may be the best approach, even though it may tax your patience.

Valuing authenticity and truth-telling at all levels of ministry leadership is vital to the health of the leader and the context of the leader’s service. “I tell you the truth” – and it will always set you free!



Spiritual Leadership – Part 7

I recently purchased a book because of it’s fascinating title, “Three Mile An Hour God.” It was recommended to me by a colleague in a spiritual formation ministry on the west coast. I was fascinated by an excerpt he read to me and then found a used copy of it on the internet. The essence is this: God is very comfortable moving at 3 mph. In fact, He is content if His will takes 40 days, 40 years, or a generation to complete. When He sent Jesus to this earth He walked from village to village, and that pace seemed quite sufficient.

What a sharp contrast to our lives today. We get impatient when red lights seem to take forever, when the wifi we’re on seems slow, or when the speed of the highway is only 55 mph. We much prefer moving at 70 miles per hour, and we want everyone else to keep up with that pace, including God. And when that doesn’t happen, we growl with anger, frustration, and impatience.

Spiritual leaders need to learn how to move slower, particularly in their prayer closets and on days of Sabbath rest. We need to practice the spiritual discipline of noticing God – in His Word, in our prayers, and in our daily lives. We need to learn how to listen attentively to our own souls, and the heart cries of those who surround us – family, friends, work associates, and the myriad of individuals we are called to love and serve in Jesus’ name. We need to discover the beauty of God’s creation at a pace where we can actually enjoy the warmth of the sunshine, the chirping of the birds, the wonders of a wooded pathway, or the splendor of a mountaintop vista.

As we exit our prayer chairs and reengage in our ministry settings, spiritual leaders are best served by considering decision making, program development, and any new initiative more organically than strategically. When we veer exclusively toward the strategic, we tend to push our agenda, expect great things in record time, and become more aggressive in our intentionality. Our time frames become shorter, our work pace quickens, and our productivity is manipulated toward fulfillment of our goal(s) as quickly as possible.

However, when organic growth and development supersedes and remains precedent in our planning and execution processes, we generally allow more time to pray, to discern, to weigh options, to actually consider every angle, and then move forward with greater unity and perseverance. Organic processes calm us down, invite us to pray with open handedness, and then we lean into any new or improved entity with a more relaxed pace and a more realistic expectation. It’s generally better to move in this way. It’s more at the pace of God.

How comfortable are you with organic growth? Do you enjoy watching new seasons emerge in nature? Are you excited to see things from a long term perspective? Or, are you more impatient, prefer the strategic, and become intolerant to waiting? If so, then there might be an invitation for you within this space to consider a new way of leading. I’m suggesting here that spiritual leaders understand, affirm, celebrate, and embrace the organic, longer term approach to ministry leadership, and keep any forms of top down, fast paced strategic planning in prayerful submission to their personal and ministry processes.

Are you expecting God to catch up to your pace of 70 mph? Or, are you willing to walk with God at His pace of 3 mph?



Spiritual Leadership – Part 6

In the first five segments of this spiritual leadership mini-series, I’ve dealt with issues that are specific to a leaders inner life (spiritual disciplines, Sabbath rest, listening attentively, knowing their true selves, and crafting a personal rule of life). However, none of these lead to mature spiritual vitality unless lived out in a wider context of community.

Spiritual leaders know the importance of spiritual community and the significance of serving others as a team.

Community is best understood in the biblical text via the various “one anothers” that are espoused by Jesus Himself and leaders like the Apostle Paul. Jesus’ almost exclusive focus is on loving one another and being at peace with one another. In the various letters Paul wrote to the churches he founded, his pastoral urgings are toward: being devoted to one another, giving preference to one another, serving one another, encouraging one another, bearing one another’s burdens, urging one another to love and good deeds, teaching and admonishing one another, and being kind, tender-hearted and forgiving to each other.

Whenever possible, spiritual leaders will hold the community of faith accountable to such attributes. And, the healthy spiritual leader will more importantly embody these him or herself. The one anothers in the Scriptures are there for a reason…to build up unity, strength, and commonality among the people of God. Is that your experience today?

In addition to the prioritization of community, spiritual leaders also create healthy teams who serve side by side for the glory of God and the edification of others. Spiritual leaders understand that their role is to equip the team for the work of ministry, rather than do it all themselves. The work of ministry is balancing a life with God in the contemplative place of prayerfulness and obedience to Christ, with active service meeting the needs of those to whom the team has been called. Healthy teams embody the traits of: Trust- toward God and one another; Empowerment-of each member of the team; Assimilation- synergistically combining efforts; Management- of the stuff and substance of ministry; and Service- always keeping in mind the greater needs of others. (For more detail on these traits, read my book Becoming A Healthy Team!).

Living life in community and serving others as a team are the first circle of the outward manifestations of godly spiritual leadership. What is the current condition of your spiritual community and the health of your ministry team? How will you positively contribute to both in this coming week?



Spiritual Leadership – Part 5

For leaders to experience vitality in their walk with Christ and in service to others, it’s essential that they consider Crafting a Rule of Life, the topic and title of my latest book with InterVarsity Press. When a leader is aware of his/her unique geography in the Kingdom of God, they begin to recognize with clarity God’s thumbprint on their life, and respond with a growing desire to fulfill their particular footprint for faithful, daily living.

What is a personal rule of life? It is “a holistic description of the Spirit-empowered rhythms and relationships that create, redeem, sustain, and transform the life God invites you to humbly fulfill for Christ’s glory.” To discover one’s rule of life begins by answering some fundamental questions: Roles: What are my primary relationships? Gifts: What are my God-given gifts, talents, and temperament? Desires: What are my deepest longings and core values? Vision: What is the intentional passion God has planted in me? Mission: What am I currently doing to pursue my vision? Sitting with the biblical text and considering these questions takes time and prayer-filled effort. None of these are answered quickly, but instead carefully and deliberately, and in the context of one’s faith community.

After answering these questions which frame one’s rule of life, forming one’s rule of life includes all the major areas of particularity that define our daily journey both descriptively and prescriptively. These include our spiritual, relational, physical, financial, and missional priorities. Looking at each of these areas one at a time will help weave together a personal rule of life that engages all the senses and brings to life all major areas of personal development. God’s invitation in each of these areas is what one needs to listen for, and then respond to the initiatives of the Spirit in every regard. Here it’s important to interview the Lord and seek His face in the primary places of personal and spiritual growth. And, recognize that along the way these specifics will be modified according to life circumstances and new realities.

Fulfilling a personal rule of life happens in the context of Christian community. We don’t fully understand or embrace our rule of life in isolation…we need our spiritual friends and community to affirm, celebrate and enhance the living out of our rule for the honor and glory of God and His collective call to all of us in building up His Kingdom and strengthening His Church. This is the invitation to the well-ordered way. A way of life that re-orders our loves and re-defines our priorities that keep us focused on loving and serving God. I hope you’re embracing this opportunity with joy and gladness!

Join the community of like-hearted disciples who are crafting their rule of life and learning together how best to embody this way of life at www.RuleofLife.com – the website for all things “Rule of Life”! Let us know how we can come alongside you in this journey. “You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand” Psalm 16:11.