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Lead well, finish well

Lead well, finish well

The main season of the Annual Church Conferences and Meetings has almost ended. Fresh names of Heads of Churches have come up, and conversations are swelling around the final decisions and communique from the churches. 

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A good part of the conversations is on leading the Church in a rapidly changing society. Spiritual leaders are being expected to start well, continue well and end well, in their service to Christ and His Kingdom.

 Are there any key differences between general leadership, and Church leadership? What does it take for a spiritual leader to lead well, and finish well? We sample the presentations of a few key spiritual leaders on the subject.

First, Rev. Dr Daniel Reiland writes on seven unique traits of spiritual leaders:

It’s not uncommon to hear a phrase like, “He’s not a very spiritual leader”. Or, “she’s a strong spiritual leader.”

What does it mean to be a spiritual leader? Does it suggest piousness and purity?

Does it hint at potential pretentiousness? Of course, these can’t be the goal.

For a clear context, we need to add Christian to the equation. For example, I have friends who consider themselves to be very spiritual but acknowledge that they are New Age by belief and practice.

A spiritual leader is more like this: an authentic human being who genuinely seeks to live their life by Jesus’ example, filled by the Spirit and leading in alignment with God’s will, purpose and plan.

So, what are the unique distinctiveness of a Christian spiritual leader?

Let’s start with some traits that are not unique to Christian leaders but are often considered to be.

Here are a few examples:

  • Loving and kind
  • Serving others/putting them first
  • Generous and helpful
  • Moral and of good character

These are practised by spiritual leaders but also by many secular leaders.

The potential for spiritual leadership is established in the transformation to a new life in Christ. The process of spiritual maturity, in combination with spiritual gifting, leads, over time, to the influence of an eternal nature.

Spiritual leadership isn’t something better than, or above others. It’s a humble recognition that all of our efforts and outcomes are based on the favour, power and authority of Christ, not our own.

 

  1. They submit their will to the will of God

Jesus modelled submission to the Father’s will in His prayer on the Mount of Olives. “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42).

Jesus' submission was greater than anything we’ll be asked to do, but the example is still clear.

Can you think of a time when God wanted you to do a certain thing, like leave a church and move to another state, and you didn’t want to, but you did anyway?

When it comes to the major decisions in life, it’s not always easy. In fact, it’s easier to rationalise why we don’t need to or shouldn’t.

Submitting our will to God’s will has three parts:

  • Hearing God’s will (Are we listening?)
  • Agreeing with God’s will (Are we aligned?)
  • Obeying God’s will (Will we do it?)

At any point in this process, submission can easily be abandoned in the absence of deep resolve.

If our hearts and minds have not pre-decided to submit to God’s will before He asks, the likelihood of a yes is greatly diminished.

  1. They establish their values directly from scripture

As our values are consistently challenged, our resilience to stand firm can get worn down. As spiritual leaders, we don’t like to admit that, but it’s true.

After enough time and pressure, it’s not uncommon to experience a softening in our resolve from a culture muddies perspective. We shouldn’t make excuses or blame culture, but we can be honest about the effect.

It is scripture that keeps our true north clear, strengthens our resolve and helps us establish our true values.

As spiritual leaders, it’s difficult, if not impossible, to consistently live one set of values and lead from another. Our lives must maintain the integrity of values worth living and the same values worth leading.

  1. They consistently seek guidance from the Holy Spirit

We can ask and receive wise counsel from trusted advisors, and we should. However, nothing replaces the voice and value of the Holy Spirit.

Similar to seeking and submitting to the Will of God, spiritual leaders listen for and follow the prompts of the Holy Spirit. They are often subtle, but when we are in tune, they are very clear.

In addition to our prayer life, we can pause throughout the day to ask and listen. For example, during a meeting, while you are writing a talk, or working on solving a problem, the Holy Spirit’s wisdom is available.

Don’t let the hustle of your daily pressures rob you of Heaven’s wisdom. Slow down and ask the Holy Spirit for guidance.

  1. They make decisions based on biblical principles

I’ve made decisions based on pressure, time limitations, financial burdens and personal preference. Yes, a good bit of this is natural. But that’s the point. We have a supernatural option, a source to guide our leadership and decision-making.

Not every decision we need to make has direct biblical guidance, but there is always a guiding principle to help set the direction and tone for our decisions.

We can’t prevent making occasional mistakes in our decision-making, but we can avoid displeasing God by always acknowledging His Word as our guide to life principles.

Can you think of a recent and significant decision where your knowledge of Scripture and God’s heart influenced your decision?

  1. They experience personal communion with the resurrected Saviour

There is great joy in the simplicity, freedom and grace of a personal relationship with Jesus.

Our consistent communion with God is a great gift for us to enjoy and the conduit from which we lead from the overflow.

Without Him (vine and branches), we have little to offer other than the world. Prayer, in all situations, must be our first response rather than our last resort.

Are you happy with your prayer life? What might you change?

  1. They have the hope of eternal life and lead with that perspective

Spiritual leaders with a Christian worldview have the hope of eternal life and lead with that perspective in mind.

Over forty years in church leadership, I have often led in shortsighted ways. But wise spiritual leaders lead with a long view in mind. That is, how does our spiritual leadership fit within the values of eternity, rather than merely the pressures of the day?

Candidly, with an eternal perspective in mind, we will often have more peace amidst daily pressure because not everything we think is so big and important actually is in the light of eternity.

  1. They acknowledge and cultivate the gifts and fruit of the spirit

We know the fruit of the Spirit from Galatians 5:22-23 as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. This is a great aspirational representation of the character of a spiritual leader.

I don’t think I’ve ever lived a day with all nine solidly in action, but I continue to pursue them all with passion. What one or two are you intentionally pursuing in this season?

God’s Spirit also gives us gifts; for example, serving, teaching, leadership, encouraging, hospitality, prophesy, wisdom, knowledge, healing and discernment (See Romans 12:4-8; 1 Corinthians 12:4-11; and Ephesians 4:11-12).

It is extremely essential for us as spiritual leaders to exhibit the fruit of the Holy Spirit, demonstrating Christ-like character; and grow in showing the fruit of the Spirit.

 

(The author is a consultant in authentic Christian Spirituality and Discipleship and former CEO of Scripture Union)

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