Exercise, vacation, true days off, processing pain in prayer, godly friends with whom we can process life and ministry, de-cluttering, simplifying life, eating healthy-nutritious food, deep breathing, drinking enough water—all of these things contribute to healthy living and healthy outlets for those in spiritual leadership. We need to come back to them often, and continually review where our soul and emotions are at.
There are times when we simply need to “endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.” We can’t control everything, and life and people sometimes bring great pain. But we need God’s help and healthy outlets to endure hardship, process pain and forgive people who hurt us.
6. ADMIT YOUR WEAKNESSES
Most people who follow you for a given period of time already know some of your flaws and weaknesses, but it pays big dividends for a leader to admit where they fail, where they went wrong and where they are weak.
I knew a leader in the past who was amazingly gifted, but was never willing to admit their weaknesses. They always wanted to cover up weaknesses, and wouldn’t let people in. If this leader would’ve simply admitted their flaws, and know they were loved in spite of them, they would’ve been able to build a powerful and lasting team.
When spiritual leaders apologize, or admit their weaknesses, they gain incredible amounts of credibility with their team.
I’m a very trusting person by nature. Over the years, I’ve come to realize that just about everybody talks a big game, but spiritual leaders who want to make an impact must be people who “watch their life and doctrine carefully” and “don’t think more highly of themselves than they ought, but rather with sober judgement.”
Spiritual leadership is less about how spiritual you sound, and more about keeping your word when it hurts, doing things for people who can do nothing for you, and watching for how subtly you undermine your leadership by saying one thing and doing another. Guard yourself, and grow in Christ to become more and more a spiritual leader with true character worth following.
7. EMBODY WHAT YOU WANT PEOPLE TO DO
As a leader, you don’t coach people to go where you have not gone. You need to call people to where you are.
Dave Ferguson recently stated in the 5 Leadership Questions podcast: “If everyone else lived the way I’m living, would we accomplish the mission?” That questions burns. This means, stop just talking big, and start living big—living to the full obedience potential God has called you to as a spiritual leader.
Don’t just tell people to pray. You seek God with a new vigor.
Don’t just tell people to love their family. You grow in graciousness to yours.
Don’t just tell people to reach the world. You show hospitality to a neighbor and live out the gospel.
Don’t just tell people to give. You sacrifice something important to you, and help the poor.
Our effectiveness as spiritual leaders is intrinsically linked to embodying what we want our people to do, and then sharing our successes and failures with them. We go together or we go nowhere at all.
8. TAKE PEOPLE WITH YOU
It should go without saying, but if you are a spiritual leader, your number one priority is to take people with you, not go on a walk all by yourself.
This means you need to constantly be meeting people where they are, and doing your best to communicate with clarity the next steps to take.
You can’t be 10 steps ahead, pointing people in unrealistic directions. You need to meet people where they are, and discover the next step together. This also means people need to have buy-in. When they help write the script, they become part of the story.
Stop telling people to reach the whole world, and begin dreaming about how God could use each of you to reach one person with the gospel.
Stop telling people to pray all day, and start casting the vision to dedicate time each week to personal prayer. (After all, prayer is addicting).
Stop telling people to be missionaries on the other end of the world, and start looking across the street.
Big vision is fine, but small steps are needed. You can see your effectiveness as a spiritual leader by whether or not people are actually tracking with you. If you sense a gap here, do your best to come back and meet people where they are and help them take the next step.