Saturday, February 13, 2010


I guess in some ways it would be easier to just have a title and no content to sum this up. The title would be: there are no shortcuts.

Leading is a tricky thing. A charismatic leader can get people to follow them. I suppose it would be possible for a fairly gifted leader to read some books on leadership and be really successful in getting others to follow them. The problem with that, of course, is the question of "where?". Where are they going? I mean, you know, Hitler was a leader...and you can think of many, many more along the lines of Hitler.

Most leaders, however, aren't Hitler. They're people who are doing their best to lead in the place they find themselves. They want to lead well and be a truly good leader. But the question of "where?" is still crucial.

In the last year or so, I've been seeking to be a better leader. One book that has been very helpful to me is Ruth Haley Barton's Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership. The question of "where?" becomes a little clearer when leading is connected with your soul. Let's face it, there are tons of "ideas," "how to's" and "techniques" out there one can follow in whatever area of life they find themselves leading in. But where is God wanting to take me as a leader? Where is God wanting me to lead those that I've been called to care for and lead? You can't find those answers in a google search or a book...not even, dare I say it, in the Bible. That's not to suggest that books and tools can't be helpful, but it is to say that they can't be first. No, the sense of call must be first and then the tools can help clarify. Chief among those "tools" is the Bible...does our direction and call fit with God's grand narrative?

Some thoughts from Barton:
At the heart of spiritual leadership and spiritual journeying is discernment- the capacity to recognize and respond to the presence and activity of God both personally and in community...

Discernment presents unique challenges in contemporary Western culture, because it requires us to move beyond our reliance on cognition and intellectual hard work to a place of deep listening and response to the Spirit of God within us and among us...

The spiritual leader is distinguished by his or her commitment and ability to guide the discernment process so the community can affirm a shared sense of God's desire for them and move forward on that basis...

And here's the clincher:

The ability to discern the will of God is a natural byproduct of spiritual transformation in community... Our ability to discern what we should do flows from our commitment to be together in life-transforming ways.

A friend of mine in seminary stated that very idea this way: "Yeah, Sinatra had it backwards... it's not 'do-be, do-be, do,' but rather, 'be-do, be-do, be.'" Being (still, perhaps) in order to become and do that which we are called to be and do.


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