As I anticipate our move into the great town of La Salle, Illinois, excited to begin working with the church, I think it is important to ask myself, “What does it mean to be a spiritual leader? There has been a lot of leadership commentary in and around the church over the last twenty years, but I think that we have to distinguish the difference between natural leadership and spiritual leadership. Even before we do that, we have to first ask ourselves, “what is leadership”? I’ve heard it said several times that Hitler was a terrible man but a great leader. I guess that depends on whether or not you believe that manipulation and emotional control is actually leadership. Is leadership merely getting people to do what you want them to do? Is someone who gets good grades a good student…even if she cheats? Is a father who has obedient kids a good parent…if he beats them? On both instances, without question, the answer is NO! So I ask you, is someone who gets people to do what they want them to do a good leader…if they are manipulative.
So what is true leadership? Let’s consider this question in the most literal scenario. Imagine you were going on a safari. What is the first thing you would want to know about your guide? For me, I would want to know that he had already been where we are going. I think that it would a pretty scary experience to be halfway through the jungle when it suddenly dawned on me that the book my guide kept glancing at was titled “Safari Guiding for Dummies”. He then tells me that he is actually from York City, but not to worry because he has watched a whole lot of YouTube videos on the African Jungle. The next thing I would like to know is that our guide was coming with us. Have you ever had an employer who was really good at giving orders but never actually did anything themselves. Every time you peeked in the door she was filing her nails or on Face Time with an old friend. That’s not leadership! A guide is going to be in the jungle with you. They are taking the steps before you do, explaining the dangers as they come and helping you in the muddy places. This is the definition of “leading”. In order to be a leader you must actually lead and not just tell people what to do. I would like for my guide do more than just give me a map and say “have fun, see ya in a couple weeks”!
So now what is a spiritual leader? Well, if we are going to be spiritual leader then the same considerations are in place. One, we better know where we are going. How are we as Christians going to lead people to the Kingdom of Heaven if we don’t really know where it is? The Bible tells us that the Kingdom of Heaven is righteousness peace and joy in the Holy Ghost. If you haven’t led anyone to Jesus lately or at least to a deeper relationship with Jesus maybe you should ask yourself if you have actually been living in the Kingdom of Heaven. Do you have righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost? Are these things increasing daily in your life? One thing that I figured out pretty quickly in parenting is that I can’t give Matthew anything I don’t have myself. If I eat a lot of junk food then I am not going to be able to give him healthy eating habits. If I am not able to put my phone and iPad up then I am not going to be encouraging him to go play outside. I can also not lead people into a relationship with Jesus that I don’t really have for myself.
The next thing to ask ourselves is, “Are we walking with people into the Kingdom of Heaven”? The best gift that I can give Matthew is to every day, put up my iPhone and go outside and play with him.There is a vulnerability to this kind of spiritual leadership because sooner or later we are going to stumble in the jungle, no matter how spiritual we are. But it is important for people to see us with them on the journey, to know that they are not alone. I think sometimes we feel that it is enough to hand people a Bible and say, “Good luck, see you in eternity”. True leadership is done the way Jesus did it and the way he taught his disciples to do it. Committing to being a spiritual leader is a commitment to journeying with others.
If you have been scanning the website lately then you will see that I have a whole lot of vision for the upcoming months and years in the church. I think that it is vitally important for spiritual leadership to remember that these goals should always be a means to an end and not the end itself. In light of what we have just defined as spiritual leadership, I think it is important to mention how easily a certain natural success of church programs can be perceived as being “the result of good spiritual leadership”. Now it may be the result of “good” leadership but it is not “spiritual” leadership unless it is leading people to a deeper walk into the Kingdom of Heaven. Many People coming to many programs in our church is one thing, many people coming closer to Jesus through many programs is another. What is our “end” determines what type of leader we are…natural or spiritual.
By Eddie Curry