Month: March 2013

Spiritual Leadership – Part 4

The fourth attribute of spiritual leadership, I would attest, is for a leader to know their true selves. This comes more naturally to a leader who takes seriously the previously suggested traits: practicing the spiritual disciplines, honoring Sabbath rest, and listening well by noticing God, others and even oneself in an ever-deepening fashion. Therefore, knowing one’s true self before God will become a by-product of the above.

In general terms, 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. Blessedness and brokenness are the two sides of our human coin of life this side of heaven.

Our belovedness as sons and daughters of God is a much affirmed truth throughout the Scriptures. The biblical text is replete with examples of God’s unconditional, generous, grace-filled, lavishing, affectionate, cherished, personal, intimate, magnificent, glorious, unreserved, amazing, incredible, joy-filled, inconceivable, miraculous, eternal love (the list could go on and on!). Over and over again, the Lord is shown to be merciful, trustworthy, loving, and gracious. As the prodigal son discovered, even when he was afar off, the Father has His eyes peeled in the son’s direction. So, when he “comes to his senses” and turns toward home, the Father is running toward him with arms outstretched to lovingly welcome him home. He places a kiss on his cheek, a robe on his shoulders, a ring on his finger, new sandals for his feet, and kills a fatted calf as the feast is prepared to celebrate his joyous return. That’s belovedness-in-the-Father’s-eyes at it’s finest!

God not only initiates toward us in times of joy, but His unfailing love is a 24/7 reality even in our times of brokenness and disobedience. The Father was standing on the porch of heaven watching and waiting for the prodigal to finally awaken to the reality of his piggish lifestyle. The Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit is there for us no matter the circumstances or situations of our lives. Our times of brokenness are like a magnifying glass lens over our need for God. We are desperate for God especially when we need Him the most. What awareness do you have today about your propensity to lean away from God and entertain the temptations of the enemy of your soul? Give voice to that in prayer and invite the Spirit to empower you to say “no” to such pulls away from God, and invite the Lord to reorder your loves today.

One final note: if you haven’t already taken some of the self-awareness instruments available online and in person, such as the Myers-Briggs, DISC inventory, Strengths Finder, Enneagram, etc., then I strongly suggest you do so. These helpful assessments will enlighten your pathway toward a deeper self-awareness and will be an aid to greater relational health and emotional vitality. They are no substitute to the powerful transformation that occurs when we are in the Word and prayerfully postured before God in our spiritual formation process, but they can certainly assist you as a leader in the body of Christ in all aspects of your personal vision and mission.

As the “true self” leader goes, so goes the “true self” team and all who are impacted by leadership in the organization. Always remember: the truth (yes, even about you) will set you free!

Spiritual Leadership – Part 3

As a result of a leader’s prioritization of the care and nurture of one’s own soul, through the practice of spiritual disciplines and the honoring of Sabbath rest, a third focus of prayerful intention is “to listen.” Listening first and foremost to God, through His Word, creation, 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.

Listening to the joys, hurts, and needs of others is an acquired skill. We aren’t naturally inclined to listen to another. Instead, most of the time we’re actually not very focused on anyone but self. So much of life is about self-protection and self-promotion, that to earnestly listen to others we must put aside our own selfish needs and attend loving and compassionately to others. This requires humility of heart and openness of mind, attributes of our personhood that we only acquire through prayerful intentionality. When distracted by our own inner compulsions to self-reference, one can whisper a simple prayer, “Lord, help me to listen with empathy at all times and with all persons.”

Listening to oneself is by far the most challenging. We may consider ourselves self-aware, but in fact most of us are pretty skewed in our self-perceptions. We may think of ourselves as loving, kind, and gracious (for example), but it’s not up to us to evaluate – what does your spouse, children, or significant others have to say about you? Have you ever asked and truly listened? And, in your own personal time with the Lord, are you free to inquire of Him regarding an attitude or action, such as “Why did I respond that way, Lord?” Showing interest in your own responses will enlighten you for the way forward. Practicing healthy self-examination is good for the soul.

Leaders who choose to increase their attentiveness quotient in all areas of life will undoubtedly be the healthiest spiritual leaders. Begin by noticing God in His Word, His still small voice in prayer, through times of corporate worship or service, and in the beauty of His creation. Notice God in your everyday experiences with others, seeking to develop an ever-deepening awareness of those around you. Then, don’t forget to stay attuned to your own joys, needs, aspirations, and frustrations, and seek greater clarity to the “Why’s?” of your reactions and responses to all that life delivers to you.

“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” James 1:19.

Spiritual Leadership – Part 2

I believe it’s vital for spiritual leaders 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.

Equally important to the first priority is the second…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. Of all the 10 Commandments (Exodus 20), this is the one that God Himself modeled and practiced before us after his first full work week of Creation! After the sixth day of creation He looked back with fondness on all of His work, “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array and “By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.” (Genesis 2:1-3).

God worked hard, he saw that what he had done was very good, and then he rested. Spiritual leaders are invited to embrace that same rhythm: working hard, enjoying the fruit of their labors, and then resting deeply and refreshingly. I recently heard a pastor say “Exhausted Christ followers trying to justify themselves outside of Christ have nothing to offer an exhausted world trying to justify themselves outside of Christ.” I was struck by the power of this comment, especially in light of the essential priority of Sabbath. Without Sabbath rest, we exhaust ourselves working from our own human strength. As a result, we have little to offer the world we live within, which is filled with people working 24×7 in hopes of keeping their heads above water in all aspects of their full to overflowing lives.

Spiritual leaders understand and embrace the joy of Sabbath rest – as a day of the week, and as a lifestyle. Marva Dawn, Mark Buchanan, and others have written about Sabbath. The major movements of Sabbath are as follows: first we cease what we normally do throughout the week, then we rest with the delight of the work we’ve accomplished. Ceasing and resting are complemented by celebrating the life we enjoy in Christ and then embracing the call of God on our lives to continually contribute to building up the Kingdom of God in all areas of life and service. Cease – rest – celebrate – embrace. Sabbath rhythms that are restorative and rejuvenating for the soul.

Will you reconsider your view and treatment of Sabbath rest? Your heart, soul, body, work, church, community, and relationships are crying out for it…be encouraged today to explore this topic further and then watch how your life changes as result. Guaranteed!

Spiritual Leadership – Part 1

This week a group of leaders will gather for three days of retreat together. We’ll exegete the term “spiritual leadership” and assess our own life in reference to that calling. One of the primary ways we lean into becoming leaders who reflect the Spirit’s priorities is through the means of grace known affectionately as the spiritual disciplines. The main practices we will discuss surround the Scriptures, prayer, and reflection. Our focus will be on how we can receive from God through the gifts of His Holy Word, His tender voice, and His abundant life. “True, whole prayer is nothing but love” writes St. Augustine…spiritual leaders embody and emulate the love of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Richard Foster, in his marvelous book simply titled “Prayer: Finding The Heart’s True Home,” articulates the invitation of God to come close, draw near, and follow Him…

“Today the heart of God is an open wound of love. He aches over our distance and preoccupation. He mourns that we do not draw near to him. He grieves that we have forgotten him. He weeps over our obsession with muchness and manyness. He longs for our presence. And he is inviting you – and me – to come home, to come home to where we belong, to come home to that for which we were created. His arms are stretched out wide to receive us. His heart is enlarged to take us in. For too long we have been in a far country: a country of noise and hurry and crowds, a country of climb and push and shove, a country of frustration and fear and intimidation. And he welcomes us home: home to serenity and peace and joy, home to friendship and fellowship and openness, home to intimacy and acceptance and affirmation” (p. 1).

Spiritual leaders know how to follow God’s invitation home…where love reigns. Nothing but love, pure love.

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