Steve Macchia Blog

Prayerful Leadership Intentionality

I’ve had the privilege of working with a group of leaders this week who are wrestling with the role of spiritual formation in the life of leaders and teams. The group is international…many from US ministry contexts, with others serving in Germany, Lebanon, Singapore, Japan, and Canada. One of the leaders shared with me her philosophy of leadership in the context of a military chaplaincy position. I was struck by the following quote from her conclusion, and wanted to share it with you in this blog. May it encourage you in your role as a leader in your own particular setting today…

With my ears I will listen carefully, with empathy and discernment.
With my eyes I will notice present needs, anticipate future desires and seek the vision.
With my hands I will aid personal growth and bind emotional wounds.
With my feet I will walk beside and guide those whom I serve.
With my mouth I will speak gently, praise often and laugh genuinely.
With my heart I will love fully.
With my head I will reflect deeply and act wisely.
With my body I will be an instrument of God’s grace and peace.

Pentecost: As Good As It Gets!

The day of Pentecost has to be the pinnacle of near holy perfection for the body of Christ…simply about as good as it will ever get for the people of God.

Consider the many initiatives of the Holy Spirit, poured out on those assembled. They were all together in one place. Without notice a sound comes like the blowing of a violent wind – from heaven – and fills the whole house where they were sitting. Tongues of fire came to rest on each of them. ALL were filled with the Holy Spirit, and they began to speak in other tongues not familiar to them, as the Spirit enabled. A crowd gathers, utterly amazed and perplexed, and hears the gospel in their own language.

Peter stands up and reminds them that all of this is a fulfilled prophecy, first spoken of by the prophet Joel, “I will pour out my Spirit on all people…I will show wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth below…and everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” With Jesus now ascended to heaven, exalted to the right hand of God, the promised Holy Spirit has been poured out among the people. Cut to the heart, those who believed what they heard found their sins forgiven and the gift of salvation received.

The fellowship of the believers is enviable to all subsequent generations: the people of God devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship in the breaking of bread and prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All shared everything they had in common. Selling their possessions, they gave generously to any who were in need. They met daily in the temple courts, broke bread in their homes, and ate together with glad and sincere hearts. They praised God and enjoyed the favor of all the people. And the Lord added daily to their number those who were being saved (Acts 2).

It doesn’t get any better than this! And yet we long for that same experience today. Christians around the world have celebrated Pentecost with the hopes of this day repeating itself in our generation. Perhaps we simply need to come close, draw near, and follow fervently after Christ – listening and obeying His voice above all other voices in our world. Possibly, it’s time to confess our sinfulness and our desperate need for a Savior – rather than assume our human strength and wisdom will be enough. Maybe, just maybe, we need to open the living Word of God and pray fervently for a fresh wind of the Spirit in our generation – depending upon God’s Word and the whispers of the Spirit. And then, watch, wait, and wonder for a new power from on high to rest on us once more – believing that if dry bones can come to life (Ezekiel 37), so too can our thirsty and hungry hearts experience Spirit-empowered renewal.

Come, Holy Spirit! Come, Lord Jesus! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.

Spiritual Leadership: A Summary

Over the past 10 entries I’ve sought to identify some of the key traits of a spiritual leader. Here is the listing in summary fashion:

1. To first and foremost develop rhythms of Scripture, Prayer and Reflection in their personal prayer closets. Here we enter holy spaciousness to listen attentively to the fresh movement of the Triune God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – in a delightful place of silence and solitude. Practicing these means of grace on a regular basis opens us up to a lifestyle of spiritual renewal and transformation.

2. To honor and maintain Sabbath as a holy day set apart for rest and reflection, worship and relationships. Sabbath as a day of the week set apart for rest underscores the Sabbath-lifestyle of the spiritual rhythms we seek to embrace throughout our week.

3. To embrace a prayerful intention to grow as a listener: Listening first and foremost to God, through His Word, in prayer and creation, and then in community, life experiences, disappointments and joys, the leader develops a heart for listening and noticing God. But, when a leader emerges from the prayer closet and enters the world of service, it’s important that a leader listen to those s/he serves. An additional person to listen to is oneself…self-awareness comes from internal listening and the “aha” of the conscience.

4. To know our true selves…knowing ourselves begins with an acceptance of our two-fold blessedness as beloved children of God, as well as our inclination toward brokenness, as evidenced in our self-absorption, sinfulness, and residual idolatries that occupy our hearts.

5. To experience vitality in our walk with Christ and in service to others, it’s essential that we 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, one begins 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.”

6. To develop the importance of spiritual community and the significance of serving others as a team. Spiritual leaders understand that our role is to equip the team for the work of ministry, rather than do it all ourselves. 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.

7. To learn how to move slower and to practice the spiritual discipline of noticing God – in His Word, in our prayers, and in our daily lives. 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.

8. To 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. 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 us all free.

9. To recognize that the transformation process takes time, even if welcomed initially by radical change. This primarily organic process includes the deliberate work of spiritual discernment, decision-making, change management, strategic planning, continual improvement, and ongoing evaluation.

10. To leave behind a legacy of grace, joy and peace, knowing that our role here on earth is all about building up the Kingdom of God, strengthening the Church of God, and encouraging others toward a life filled with love for God.

These are the essential ingredients of spiritual leadership, into which every other leadership responsibility is included. Sit prayerfully with each of these ten and consider God’s invitation for you. I welcome your feedback and pray God’s blessing on your role as leader in the body of Christ. Pursue spiritual leadership with humility of heart, teachability, flexibility, and authenticity. God will certainly honor your humble desires and bless your faithful efforts!

Spiritual Leadership – Part 10

A leaders inner life with God is the first priority of a spiritual leader. This leads one outward into the context of team and community. Together, spiritual communities serve others in Jesus’ name. Each of the first nine segments of this series on spiritual leadership covered one or more variations of these themes.

However, when all is said and done, a spiritual leader desires to leave behind a legacy of grace, joy and peace, knowing that their role here on earth is all about building up the Kingdom of God, strengthening the Church of God, and encouraging others toward a life filled with love for God. Michael Youseff put it this way, “One characteristic of good leaders is that they prepare others to take over. They don’t just prepare their followers to ‘do well’ but prepare them to do everything they are doing themselves.” Isn’t this exactly what Jesus did with his disciples?

Could you walk away from your leadership responsibilities and leave your ministry intact today? Are you empowering a new generation of leaders to step in and take over from where you have left off? Are you preparing a foundation from which those who follow you can do greater things than you have done?

Most of us in leadership positions would rather avoid these questions than answer them. We are so engrossed in our day-to-day responsibilities that we have neglected the preparation of future leadership. Or at least most of us are not proactively and strategically covering this essential ingredient of effective spiritual leadership. We don’t necessarily mean to do so – many of us are just not sure how to leave a legacy. Mentoring and discipling others to lead is the only answer I know. With outstretched arms of love, we release ministry into capable hands, knowing that those who follow us will be led by the same Father, Son, and Holy Spirit who led us up to this point. We come alongside the ‘next generation’ of leaders and hand them the keys to the ministry as often as possible so they are prepared to pick up where we left off.

I would suggest this legacy includes several facets. First of all, when we lead others out of a spirit of joy, grace and peace, we embed into the hearts of others godly attitudes and motivations that are continuously purified by the love of Christ. Secondly, if unity on our team is a top priority, then a spirit of encouragement and empowerment will release others into their God-designed place(s) of servant leadership. Thirdly, if we are entrusting others with faithful leadership, then we must invite them into meaningful service each new day. Fourthly, if integrity is a part of our legacy, then we must be teaching principles and practices that embody the richness and vitality of truthfulness and reliability today. Fifthly, if our leadership is to last beyond ourselves, then this generation and the next need to embrace the vision and mission of the ministry today, owning it in their hearts and lives and ensuring its careful release into the future.

With all the demands for our time and attention this and every day, leaders don’t often ponder the significance of legacy. Far better for a leader to proactively attend to this now than to reap sloppy results in the future. Pray that the cascading effect of your leadership will be felt for generations, and faithfully listen to the promptings of God’s Spirit today in this regard. Choose wisely those who you will invest in today and pray fervently for God’s will to be continued long after you’ve departed from the scene. May it be so: for the glory of God, the sake of His Kingdom, and the flourishing of His Church.