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!