Sunday, February 06, 2011

Five Requirements of Spiritual Leadership

You have read much about leadership because much has been written about it.  You have studied the known or common leadership styles and tried, if you thought you were a leader, to determine which type you operate as.  If we all agreed and wanted to keep the topic simple, we'd perhaps say that leadership is about influence and in particular, about influencing others.  And perhaps 'human leadership' is just that.  Although it can be argued if that's all it is -- it can be good and bad, for there are 'leaders' that influence for good and those that influence others to do evil.

But what would the definition look like if we were to change the adjective 'human' to read 'spiritual'?  That is, what is 'spiritual leadership'?  Henry Blackaby and his son, Richard, have co-authored a book the title of which gives us a great definition.  Here are the details: "Blackaby, Henry T., and Richard Blackaby. Spiritual Leadership: Moving People on to God’s Agenda. Nashville, Tenn: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2001."

And here is one detailed and very balanced book review that summarizes the book very well.  You can find it by clicking on this sentence.

Here's my own version on that definition: "Spiritual leadership is getting people onto, and moving them further along into, God's agenda, for both mankind in general, and, more explicitly, for them individually."

Charles Price, currently the Senior Pastor of The Peoples Church in Toronto asks us this question: "Is our prayer each day, 'Lord, move me further along on your agenda for me'?"  I don't know that there is any more meaningful question for the true believer in Jesus Christ to ask ahead of each day's encounters with life and again in review of the day prior to retiring for the night.

If getting people onto and along God's agenda is your most critical job as a spiritual leader, you need to make sure of a few things:

First, you need to know God's agenda for mankind and be able to express it clearly.  You likely won't know every aspect of God's desire for each 'item on the agenda' but you'll know pretty well where He is heading with mankind in general.  I believe you get that from reading your Scripture.  God teaches us His plans for mankind through two very special gifts He gave us as a Church.  He gave us Apostles and Prophets (Ephesians 4:11) and they are the foundation on which the Church is built (Ephesians 2:20).  They taught us many things.  We must remember that there were two main qualifications to be called an "apostle of Jesus Christ".  First, you must have been an "eye-witness, in the flesh, to Jesus" either before His death (see Mark 3:14 -- "they were appointed that they might be with Him) or after His resurrection (as Paul saw Christ) before His ascension.  Secondly, you must have performed many miraculous signs and wonders among the people (Acts 5:12).  For these two reasons, I find it difficult to accept the fact that today's Church has Apostles other than the ones given to us through the Scriptures.  Many desire to be called "apostles" (II Corinthians 11:12) but they don't qualify says Paul and he calls them "false apostles" (II Corinthians 11:13-15).  Why don't the qualify?  I believe it is because they had never been with Jesus and they were not able to give signs and perform miracles.

The next thing you need to be aware of before you can help people get on God's agenda for their lives is to make sure you know you are on, and progressing well along, the path of His agenda for your life.  You need to have heard the voice of His Spirit speak to you clearly about your call.  You need to have a passion for that call.  You need to be actively participating in that call.  Tied in with this is the idea of being at peace with yourself.  If you're on God's agenda for your life, you need not be struggling or striving to prove anything or to accomplish anything.  The only thing you are focused on is allowing Him to be fully in control of your life.  You also need to feel (because you are) fully secure positionally in your relationship with Jesus Christ.  That solid vertical relationship allows you to feel secure in all your horizontal relationships with others, no matter what others do or think or cause to bring about.  Finally, when you are on God's agenda willfully, you have access to the real joy He alone can give.

The third thing you and I need to be good spiritual leaders is the belief that God does have a unique and very important agenda for each individual as part of His plan for mankind.  There is no one that God cannot and does not want to use for His Kingdom and glory.  There is no one that is not created in God's image and able to accomplish much for God in His economy of what really matters.  Your job is to be sensitive to the strengths and God-given talents of the individual you are helping to "spiritually lead".  You must know their passions and to a certain extent their God-given talents.  You must be able to ask God to show you where and how these talents can be used for His glory.  Then you must pray to be used in bringing the need and the resource together; you must pray to be the catalyst of the arrangement, not the manager or the agent.  You must listen to the person being "spiritually led" by you and you must listen to God's coaching of you as to how then shall you lead, and then put the two together, giving God both all the private and public glory. 

The fourth thing you and I need to be good spiritual leaders helping people get on God's agenda for their lives is real-live interaction with others.  I don't necessarily mean face-to-face or in-person although admittedly that is one of the best ways to have such interaction.  But being involved with others today can take many forms -- telephone, email, social media, etc.  Yes, preachers, speakers, church consultants, etc. can and do touch groups of people and help them move towards God's agenda for their lives or groups.  But many of them will tell you that there's nothing like one-on-one attention when it comes to helping people find God, grow in Him, and serve others for Him.  And this personal interaction in whatever form it takes, requires both effort (your time, your resources, putting them first over your desires) and risk-taking (you must tell them the truth in love at all times).

Fifth, you, as an effective spiritual leader, must remain in touch with people long enough and in a way that they'll be able to turn to you when they're feeling like they're falling "off of God's agenda".  And I assure you there will be times when they'll feel like doing just that.  We need to stay in touch.  We cannot be "fly by night" leaders.  And that is true of those who lead groups as well as individuals.  Many times I have felt like throwing in the towel in my capacity as a mission president-- but God won't let me do it.  He gives me no emotional comfort in pursuing that move.  Not because there are no others who could easily replace me and likely do a better job for there are; but because He communicates to me the need for there being a constant source of guidance or authority or reference point for so many involved in the work with us.

It is also important that we realize that "spiritual leadership" as defined above is not just about leading those that have made a personal decision to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  It may well be helping unbelievers get on that part of God's agenda for them that involves just getting to know about Him and ultimately having a relationship with Him.  Recently I received a note in a card from one of my management consulting firm's clients for whom I had done some union negotiations representing the client on the management side.  I share it here with you because I believe it is a good example of how sometimes we ourselves are not even aware of our involvement in spiritual leadership.  Here is what it said:

"Dear Ken, I want to tell you that I have experienced you as one of the truest Christians I have been privileged to know.  I don't call myself one; there are too many of its teachings I can't accept.  This is often the case with missionaries' children.  We grow up living alongside non-believers who are very like ourselves, good, bad and everything between.  How could they be outside the mercy and love of God? Surely not the kids I played with in kindergarten? Later I was to learn of the atrocities committed by monotheists in the name of religion.  There have also been saints too, of course -- and martyrs.  I'm not cut out to be either.  I'm with all the other 'in-betweeners'.  M."

I and those that know me well may not agree with my client's assessment of my Christian testimony but that's not the point here.  What is the point is that even unbeknown to me, I was providing this person "spiritual leadership".  I have no option but to both encourage them to explore further this observation of theirs and to be there for them when they're ready to take the next step in their own spiritual quest.  (By the way, I prayed hard and then took a risk in sharing more of myself when I replied.)

Christian, if you're reading this, chances are God has given you the ability to be a "spiritual leader" -- in your marriage, your family, your business or work, your classroom, your circle of friends and acquaintances.  You can do it because as a true believer you have the greatest gift of all from God -- you have Jesus Christ in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, all the abilities and skills you will ever need (Colossians 2:3) and the One that God appointed as heir of all things and through whom God made the universe (Hebrews 1:2).  There is no further required "leadership equipment" that is available anywhere for purchase or acquiring that will prepare you better.  You have it all, leader.  Use it.

Ken B. Godevenos, President
Accord Consulting

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