From time to time I get asked to talk about some of what I have learned in years of ministry leadership. What are some essentials for being a person who can lead spiritually?
First of all, I know I am inadequate and unworthy for such a calling. As I have thought about it, it seems that spiritual leadership has a lot to do with whom and what you know. These ideas, though surely not exhaustive, will help explain what I mean:
I mean really know Him. One of the most helpful activities for me has been to study the names of God. It certainly has not been an academic exercise—God reveals what He is like through every name He calls Himself.
As I discover that He is El Elyon the most high God, and He is Abba, my daddy, that He both sees and hears everything about my life—and so much more—I find myself on my face before Him, worshiping Him, talking to Him, listening to Him, thanking Him.
I can know the God who made me!!
A significant paradox of Christian faith is that you and I are nothing and everything. Scripture tells us we are nothing—we are made from dust and return to dust, we are like grass, even our substance is just a vapor. At the same time we are of unimaginable value—made in the image of God, treasured by Him, bought with the price of Jesus’ blood, a partner in the Kingdom-building team! Both of these truths should remind us of who we are.
Another amazing reality: God was there forming us inside our mothers, and when we were born He declared each a work of art, a masterpiece. He made us who we are because He loves us and because He designed us just right for the “good works He has prepared for us to walk in.”
Understanding our gifts, our like and dislikes, our strengths and weaknesses will help us to make wise choices as we consider what opportunities we pursue.
Know Your Culture
Leading spiritually requires understanding of the times in which you live. A few consistent activities will equip you to engage—and lead—across cultures and generations:
Read—Reading is still essential. In a visual world, fewer people read. But we need to know history as well as today’s news and events. The past always interacts with the present as we move toward the future. I read blogs, magazines, occasional newspapers—and books. Reading expands and enriches our thinking.
Listen—Oh how we need to learn to listen! What are people saying? What are their concerns, hopes, dreams, fears, struggles…? To touch their lives, we need to know the ways into their lives.
Observe—Go through life with your eyes open, not shut. Pay attention. The same truths you learn by listening you will also grasp as you observe the people you interact with, watch online, in movies, on TV. Ask questions. Make connections.
Technology—In our world, we must engage through technology to some degree at least. I am so not technological—I have no idea how it works. And yet it has given me access to people around the world—people I can love and encourage to believe God for the more He wants to do in and through their lives.
Know How To:
Take wise risks—Assess realities, don’t be foolish, but step out into the unknown, the uncertain, the scary with courage and confidence.
Learn from your mistakes—We probably grow more when we fail than when we succeed, if we take time to discern what happened and why.
Value relationships—Life is about people. Leading is about people. Meaning comes through relationships. Give priority to the people in your life.
Grow in the difficult times—I’ve found that God is more committed to my character than to my comfort. But I’m grateful that He comforts me while He works on my character.
Walk in the Spirit—This is the key, the bottom line. Scripture reminds us that in ourselves we can do nothing. But with Him, nothing is impossible. Jesus sent His Spirit to comfort, to encourage, to teach, to remind, to convict, to change us, to equip, to empower. Walking consistently in the power of the Spirit is the means to true spiritual leadership.
What about you? What have you found helps you to grow as a spiritual leader?
C2012 Judy Douglass