Leading can be awfully lonely and terribly frustrating. I haven’t always believed that. The fact is, when I was a starry-eyed seminary student getting started back in 1959 (can it really have been more than fifty-five years ago?), I had this crazy idea that a leader lived a charmed life.
Especially a spiritual leader.
My fantasy included contented people everywhere smiling and grateful, plenty of time to think, study, and do relaxed research, few interruptions, quick ‘n’ simple building projects, no financial woes, short counseling sessions with folks who were eager and happy to adjust their lives according to Scripture, untold energy, few committees, sermons that virtually jumped out of the text and into my notes, unchallenged respect, loud applause, and unending harmony. No conflicts. No confrontations . . . no kidding!
You’re smiling. I told you it was a fantasy.
Thinking about Spiritual Leadership? Think Again.
It’s amazing what more than five decades can do to a wastebasket full of theories. Today I would tell anyone thinking about becoming a spiritual leader to think again. It’s not that they’re not needed; goodness knows, this old ornery planet of depraved humanity can always use a few more leaders who are Christian to the core. The problem is, it’s a lonelier task than it used to be.
Part of that is expected.
Nobody who speaks for God can spend all his or her time being with people. Furthermore, solitude is a healthy and needed discipline. But there are some things you have to decide on and deal with that take a lot of the fun out of leading. And no matter on which side you land, there’s always the other side.
And the frustrations can be downright maddening.
Return to Your Call
It helps me to return regularly to my “call”—to that time when I first understood that God was calling me into Christian ministry. Thousands of miles away from home, riveted on a tiny island in the South Pacific for well over a year, I distinctly remember this inner surge of assurance that I would be neither fulfilled nor happy doing anything other than ministry.
- It meant changing careers and going on to graduate school. No matter.
- It meant retooling my mental machinery for a lifetime of study. No matter.
- It meant living my life under the always curious and sometimes demanding scrutiny of the public eye, and if necessary, being willing to go to the wall for the sake of the gospel. No matter.
God had spoken to my heart, and there was no turning back. It was a matter of obedience.
I will spend the rest of my years overwhelmed at His grace in calling me—me, of all unlikely people—to work in His vineyard. The loneliness and the frustrations notwithstanding, I absolutely love it. To tell the truth, I’m having the time of my life!
But that doesn’t mean I don’t take Him seriously. I’ll share that part with you next time.