A Work of Heart: How God Shapes Spiritual Leaders

I’ve been reading a lot about the inner life of leaders recently. It is great to have the tools of how to cast vision, build teams and lead things, but if your character falls apart, if you aren’t able to handle conflict, criticisms, setbacks, etc. it can destroy your leadership. Recently I’ve been hearing about a number of leaders who have been falling out leadership because of sin, stress, burnout and I want to finish well. Reggie McNeal writes about this better than anyone I’ve seen. You can read my review of one of his other books Practicing Greatness here.

In A Work of Heart, he takes a similar track as Practicing Greatness. In this one though, he looks at Moses, David, Jesus and Paul to see how God shaped their hearts, their inner lives to make them the leaders they are.

According to McNeal, when a leader loses heart, he loses. When a leader does not lose heart, he becomes a champion, not a victim.

He looked at:

  • Family of origin and where they came from.
  • The call on their lives, why they are here.
  • Community, how they connected with others around them.
  • Communion, how they related to God.
  • Conflict, how they deal with criticism, those who difficult to lead.
  • And the commonplaces of their world, the ordinary things we often miss in terms of shaping our lives.
Here are a few things that jumped out:
  • Leaders are driven by causes and willing to personally risk involvement.
  • The leader is an instrument in the Lord’s hand to help others have the opportunity to live their lives with greater significance and in relationship with God.
  • The cauldron of conflict shapes the heart of the leader. Each instance forces a redefinition of the leader’s mission, values, and actions.
  • Leaders content that their life could not be understood apart from their call. The call provides them with their life direction. It informs their decisions by reorienting their priorities and establishing a new set of core values. The call provides a content that becomes their life message.They would not be who they are without it.
  • Leaders who give their best efforts to their current assignments from God are prepared for their next level of influence.
  • Leaders become leaders, in part, because they are willing to wrestle with who they are, who they want to become, how they can overcome some deficit in their own lives.
  • Leaders who create team figure out how to empower others, literally giving power away.

What I’m Preaching on This Spring

Thought I would give you a sneak peek as to what is coming up this spring as far as sermon series go at Revolution, that way if you want to read ahead what I’ll be preaching on, you can.

  • January:  30 Days to Live. We will explore the question, how would your life change if you found out you only had 30 days to live? Would you do anything differently? Would you keep doing the same things? We will explore things like legacy, making decisions, our purpose in life, God’s calling, why we are here and the fact that we need to get on with our lives and stop watching the parade go by.
  • February:  Deadliest Catch (Jonah). We will be walking through this short book looking at how to find faith, following God when he doesn’t make sense, why we get angry at God, and following God in the places he calls us.
  • March:  The Leader Within (Nehemiah).  We’re going to hit some highlights of Nehemiah and look at the idea of leadership. Nehemiah is one of the greatest books on leadership ever written. All of us are leaders, all of us leave an imprint on someone, we all influence someone. We’ll look at the heart of a leader, the vision of a leader, the struggle and pain of a leader, and the legacy of a leader.
  • March:  Remember. We’ll look at 2 spiritual practices that are a part of the journey of following Jesus:  Communion and Baptism. We’ll look at why God put them into place, what they mean for followers of Jesus and how to practice them.
  • April – June:  Death by Love. Starting Easter weekend we are going to start a 12 week series where we will look at what Jesus accomplished on the cross. Why he had to go to the cross, the point, the need, what it means for us. What he accomplished through his resurrection. This is going to be a can’t miss series for our church.

Links of the Week

  1. Scott Lindsey reviews The Shack
  2. I am Second (this is a great website)
  3. Craig Groeschel on Lukewarm leadership creates lukewarm followers
  4. Jason Mitchell on Thoughts on Aids & Advent & Giving the gift that sucks
  5. Dan Kimball on Missional misgivings
  6. Tim Keller interview
  7. John Piper on Why John Piper is on the planet (& you too)
  8. Tony Morgan on 10 reasons I don’t like Christians
  9. Shane Duffey on Advice for singles
  10. Wayne Daley on Communion (Wayne’s in our community, this is really in depth, great stuff)

The Lost Art of Community: The Table

Today was part 5 of our series The Lost Art of Community.  Today we talked about one of the most important things when it comes to community, but one of the things that is missed out on the most, the meal.  Eugene Peterson calls the meal “the center of God activity.”  Yet for many Americans, we don’t ever enjoy this gift. 

Throughout the Old Testament, specifically in Leviticus 23, God lays what he calls “His feasts.”  This continues through the scriptures, this idea of the meal.  Food becomes a part of worship and community life.  Randy Frazee said, “The table is the centerpiece and heart of community.  This is an ancient belief – a tradition that has stood the test of time.  The vision of community is an invitation to come to the table, to share a meal and conversation with a circle of family and friends each evening.  When we wake up each day to face the wonderful work that is before us, whether it takes place at school, the office, the factory, the farm, or the home, we do so with a longing – a genuine passion to gather at the table at dusk to partake of a meal that sustains us and to listen to another page in the novel of the people God has graciously brought into our lives.  When this event takes place, our souls send a signal to our minds that this is right.  Something in us tells us that this is a major demonstration of the connection requirement we were designed to reach.  It is no mistake that Jesus chose the meal as the place where the community remembers his saving work on the cross in communion.”

Most of us though, do not live lives at a pace that is conducive to sitting down for a meal.  Eric Schlosser in his book Fast food nation:  The dark side of the all American meal gives some startling facts: 

  • In 1970, Americans spent about $6 billion on fast food; in 2001, they spent more than $110 billion
  • Americans now spend more money on fast food than on higher education, personal computers, computer software, or new cars.  They spend more on fast food than on movies, books, magazines, newspapers, videos, and recorded music – combined.
  • On any given day in the United States about one quarter of the adult population visits a fast food restaurant
  • An estimated 1 in 3 workers in the United States has at some point been employed by McDonalds
  • What we eat has changed more in the last 40 years than in the previous 40,000
  • The golden arches are now more widely recognized than the Christian cross

While some fast food is tasty, it is rarely good for you, and it is rarely eaten at home around a table.  When was the last time you stopped to get a big mac or a burrito at taco bell, went home and got out a nice place to eat it off of?  We would look at people like they were nuts if they said, let me get out my nice china for this quarter pounder with cheese.  Many of us though spend most of our meals either eating in the car or in front of the TV and we miss out on so much.

For us to experience this gift of the meal, it might require changing our work habits so that we have time to get home and sit down together as a family, and with friends.  You can read some more about that here & here.  Katie and I have decided to work our schedules so that we can sit down and eat together.  It used to be that our living room was the dirtiest because we ate in front of the TV, but it in the dining room now, and that feels right to me.

One of the things we are doing at Beginnings to make this happen is that all of our small groups instead of meeting in a circle in someone’s living room will meet around a table and do community over a meal.  Won’t that be a little uncomfortable with all those people in one spot with kids?  Yes, probably.  But that is what community is supposed to be. 

As we talk about the art of the meal, the topic of communion comes up.  We celebrate the Lord’s supper every week at Beginnings.  I have never understood the quarterly or monthly thing, especially since Jesus and the early church seem to talk about it and do it with such regularity.  Stanley Grenz said this about communion, “In this way, we symbolically enter into the story of God.  We vividly remember Jesus’ significant life.  We sit with the disciples in the upper room and recall Jesus’ teaching about the pathway to life and about his death as the provision for spiritual vitality.  We call to mind the table fellowship he shared with publicans and sinners, which stood as a sign of the kingdom and of the new community he was inaugurating…As we eat and drink at the table, communion becomes an enactment of our participation in Christ himself.  Eating and drinking form appropriate symbols of this participation.  The acts of ingestion represent the central dimension of personal faith, namely, that faith is the reception of God’s gracious provision in Christ.  Just as the act of ingesting bread and wine is merely the means of taking food to ourselves for physical vitality, so also faith is essentially the appropriation of Christ’s completed work on our behalf for our spiritual vitality.”

Here is the bottom line for me as we have gone through this series.  I believe that many of us are living lives that do not allow for community.  Because I believe we are designed for community, we are living out of balance.  If you feel that you are living in a way that is not sustainable and not the way you were designed, why not change the way you are living. 

Some books to check out on the topic:
Making Room for Life: Trading Chaotic Lifestyles for Authentic Relationships (Randy Frazee)
The Feasts of the Lord (Kevin Howard & Marvin Rosenthal)

If you missed today, you can listen to the message here and you can join the conversation on our discussion blog.