“Spiritual Leadership”

I recently finished thebook, Spiritual Leadership, for work and have been thinking about what leadership is in context of ministry.  I read it as part of a process of study/training for my work.  Reading it brought up some interesting questions about what a true leader is.  So what do you think?  I’d love to hear from some people what leadership means to them.

Does Spiritual leadership differ from “non-spiritual”?
Have you experienced good/bad leaders – what makes the difference?
In your mind what makes a good leader?
Is leadership something to be esteemed, or a burden to carry?

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Here’s my brief “book report”:

Henry and Richard Blackaby’s encouraging offering provides many and practical insights, Biblically backed guidelines, and numerous historical examples of true “Spiritual Leadership” for the current or future leader who is seeking the help of God to direct that which they have influence over.    My time marinating in this text was overwhelmingly uplifting and challenging, and even led me to wrestle with the concept of leadership as a whole.  As a Jr. High Director I was tremendously encouraged by the book’s broad application to all aspects of leadership.  Through my reading I was able to glean many lessons and immediately call to mind genuine experiences of what the authors were writing about.  As an excited learner of history, I loved the glimpses into the lives of political, corporate, and spiritual leaders that the authors used in order bring life to the principles being communicated.  I also appreciated the Biblical basis for leadership guidelines and direction that were discussed as a foundation for Biblical leadership.  What I struggled with, minimally as it may have been, was the very essence of a book a written on leadership and what the motives of those who read it (myself first and foremost) should be.  I questioned whether leadership should be something to be esteemed, looked up to, used as status, or reasons for feeling superior.  I wondered what my motives should be while reading a book on Leadership, to be a more respected or looked up to leader, to be a better servant, or to just help me direct the organizations I oversee.  More than anything I found this book hugely beneficial and sincerely encouraging.

I began leading Jr. High STUFF at the age of 20.  This meant directing a volunteer team of 10-20 adults, speaking to 40-100 students twice a week, conducting discipleship programs, balancing a budget, corresponding with parents, planning and developing trips, camps, and events, strengthening the Middle School ministry’s connection to the larger church, and a plethora of other often overlooked responsibilities all while balancing a full load at college and a passion for Myanmar.  Needless to say I was privileged to have a crash-course in leadership that proved to offer both crashes and success.  This experience provided me the depth to relate to the authors of this book on many levels.  Specifically, the chapters on Vision and Communication encouraged me to be clearer in my communication of the “big picture” to our volunteers.  I was also challenged to “Lead people on God’s agenda” even if it may not match up to my, or the church’s’ vision statement.  My ultimate allegiance lay with Jesus, not just with STUFF.  This reminder was both frightening and freeing.

I absolutely soaked up every story about Winston Churchill, Abe Lincoln, Mother Theresa, Charles Spurgeon, and others as they not only were fascinating but also allowed for common ground between myself and supposed “legends” of history.  In the beginning Henry and Richard wrote of leaders insecurities.  They described Abraham Lincoln’s disdain for his personal appearance, Churchill’s deficit of not quite making his father proud, and others.  These examples made huge history makers more relatable as I too struggle with feelings of inadequacy, self doubt, and fear.  It was convicting to be reminded that God is able and that he uses normal people to accomplish the impossible.

The struggle I found myself in early in my readings was how to approach a Christian book on leadership.  Personally, I’ve experienced men and women who seek roles of leadership because of pride, vanity, and desire to be respected, who see leadership as a role in which they are entitled to and qualified for.  To be honest I’ve seen this in my own heart as well.  It is with this in mind that as I began reading I found myself harboring resentment directed at the idea of a book on leadership. I imagined who might pick it up off a shelf; maybe some one who wants to be up-front, in-charge, and in-control.  While this is not what the book was about by any means, I wonder if our culture has misconstrued the gospel and its call to be humble servants (Phil 2), and instead provided offices and outposts of respectability and authority within the church as jobs to give those who have “arrived” in Christ.  Maybe we are asking the wrong question when we ask “how can I be a better leader?”.  Maybe we should be asking “how can I lose more of my self, strive for humility, and serve others more?”.  I once saw a poster about leadership hanging in the office of a well respected Christian leader; a picture of a lion roaring on top of a large rock.  Underneath the picture read some verse on leadership.  The image and the haughty-ness of the Lion caused within me a visceral reaction of being grossed out because it would seem to me like a Biblical leader would be striving to relinquish any and all self glory, instead, they would be doing all they could to hold the rock up so that others may pass over and experience the life they were meant to live.  Part of me thinks we have leadership backwards.  It should not be glamorous, it should not be respectable but instead should be filled with humble sacrifice and service.  C.S. Lewis described this as the Christian “Lower-archy”.

Once the dust settled in my mind I was left with the idea that leadership exists in tension between being both strong and gentle, and this both refined and grew my heart for people and the burden of leadership. Spiritual Leadership is a book I would strongly recommend to my fellow up-and-coming leaders as well as one I plan to re-read later on in my walk to see how God has grown me as a Christian, leader, man, and follower.

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