24 June 2010

Leading From a Still Soul

Leadership is often viewed by the masses as an opportunity to move people in a certain direction or to accomplish a certain task with a group. The end goal is often about being productive. Within the church that productivity translates into equipping people to do the work of the ministry. As a leader inside the organized church for the last decade there is a sly temptation upon my soul. You see, being a visionary and a strategist I want to see us climb mountains, grow stuff, step over blockades and mission new frontiers but the temptation to lead and respond from a dark place in my soul is always there.

With people comes opposition, negative feedback, vision confusion, obstinate attitudes, slowness in retention and straight up personal critique. These often feel like arrows at our identity, our mission, our calling and our leadership proficiency. So the natural tendency is to steamroll over people who voice concern or to demonize them in our mind as “against us”. It’s easy to see people who slow us down or call our methods into question as obstacles in the way of the mission.

That’s why I’m slightly (emphasis on slightly) uncomfortable with using the war motif in association with doing ministry. There is a lot of pontificating going on in literature that frames ministry in battle terms. If we are honest this approach appeals to baseline impulses in us to defend ourselves and respond out of anxiety and anger.

Leadership challenges offer souls sessions or clear opportunities to face our real selves and to navigate why we are triggered by opposition, feedback, confusion, questions, and critique. It is convenient to blame, shame, get defensive, become argumentative and squash the reasoning and case presented to us by a brother or sister in Christ. The dark place in our soul screams “they are rejecting you,” “your incompetent,” “your useless,” “your better than them,” “no one understands you,” and “they’re not with you”. These emotions, thoughts and knee jerk reactions then become part of the self-concept and the “lens” through which we lead others. It leads to all kinds of gross misinterpretations and assumptions. Inconsequentially it becomes very hard to hold onto high caliber leaders and to woo people to follow you into unknown kingdom territories.

Leading out of stillness is a spiritual discipline and a probably the most important homework for a pastor/leader to press into.

1 comment:

  1. Dan,

    This post could not have hit closer to the center of a lot of what I'm dealing with/growing into this summer so far. I've been learning a lot about what it means to be a strong leader, and it's often not what we think.

    Just today, I felt my spirit become hostile toward someone who I gave what I believed to be unwarranted push back on me as a leader. I caught myself though, and realized that I was at the point of marginalizing this person. After letting my emotions balance for a moment, I strangely found that I was interested in being around this person more.

    In that split second of offense and reaction, I felt that I gained a deep perspective on myself.

    Thanks for the word.