How to make leadership meetings spiritual again
Many leadership meetings are purely secular – they have no reference to God at all. You just hang your soul at the door and put it on again on your way out. – Ruth Haley Barton
Last month my wife and I drove through blizzard conditions to hear Josh Banner interview Ruth Haley Barton. It was worth it! The event was recorded for The Invitation podcast at the Dominican Center at Marywood in Grand Rapids, Michigan. (You can listen to it here). During the question and answer
How can our meetings become places where we meet God?
During the interview, Ruth talked about how leadership meetings can become places of spiritual transformation. What if every time we had a meeting we went away transformed into the image of Christ in some small way? Wouldn’t that be the type of meeting Christian leaders would want to join? You can read more of Ruth’s thoughts in Pursuing God’s Will Together. But here are some elements that I believe would help create such a meeting:
An awareness of God’s presence
Jesus was always aware of the Father’s presence with him. From the very beginning of his ministry, Jesus spent time with the Father. He was driven by the Spirit into the wilderness for forty days of fasting and prayer (Mark 1:12; Matthew 4:1-2). He would often withdraw to a desolate place to pray (Luke 5:16; Mark 1:35). Quiet times alone with God were at the heart of Jesus’ ministry – something he taught to his disciples (Mark 6:31). They saw how Jesus followed the Father’s lead and how he was driven to do the Father’s will (John 4:34; 5:19; 8:28).
When we enter into our leadership meetings are we aware of God’s presence? Are we seeking God’s will and following God’s lead?
Times of silence and meditation on the reality of God’s presence would change the whole direction of leadership meetings. We would recognize that God is leading and we are following him. Instead of offering our opinions, our primary question would be “What does God want us to do?” Do we believe we are actually in the presence of Almighty God as we begin our meetings? If not, we are not ready to start.
Reverence for Jesus as the head of the Church
Closely related to an awareness of God’s presence is an acknowledgment that Jesus is the leader of his church. Colossians 1:18 says, “And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.” Jesus should have first place in our leadership meetings. So often, leadership meetings get caught up in discussions on how to grow the organization. In Matthew 16:18, Jesus said, “I will build my church.” Are we living and leading in complete dependence on Jesus? In the way that we structure and run our meetings, are we seeking his will and his power? We should be able to say with confidence, “Jesus leads our meetings. We are following his lead.”
In Acts 6:4 the apostles said, “We will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” The word “devote” means “to give oneself continually.” Their leadership was marked by being continually in prayer and the ministry of the word. Daniel Henderson has built his ministry around this concept. His 6:4 Fellowship is dedicated to what he calls Transforming Prayer. In an article on the need to rediscover Acts 6:
Going around the room and sharing prayer requests or needs is nice, but what the church really needs are leaders who are shaped into the character of Christ through prayer. This kind of prayer is led by the Word. As we read scripture, we pray the very words we are reading – making them our own confession. Whether we are praying in the psalms, the gospels, or any other part of scripture, we are letting the truth work deep into our hearts and then responding back to God in love, worship, reverence, confession, and repentance. We are being transformed by the Word and by prayer. That’s the kind of leader the church needs.
Digging into God’s Word
The ministry of the word is service driven by what God’s Word says. Are we careful to shape the service of our church according to the Bible? Our teaching, church governance, programs, and connection with the community should all be led and shaped by scripture. This is the primary way the Holy Spirit speaks to his church. So, the leaders of the church should spend lots of time both privately and corporately searching the scriptures for direction from God.
The leaders of the church must be skilled in noticing God’s leading in their own lives first. If they can’t do this, how will they be able to see God’s leading in the church? This awareness starts by reading the Bible to learn how God leads in and through scripture. Personal devotion to God through meditation on his Word will lead to leadership teams meditating on the Word together. What shapes your leadership meetings – the Word or the bylaws?
Confidence in God’s call
A leadership team that has entered into God’s presence, submitted to the headship of Christ, been transformed into the character of Christ through prayer, and knows the will of God in scripture will have confidence that they are following the call of God. They will be able to say to the church with humble confidence “This is God’s leading.” They will be able to explain with clarity why they believe this is God’s leading. Their explanation will be rooted in scripture and they will have patience with people who ask questions (because they have put on the character of Christ). They will be able to lead with the confidence that we see in Jesus and his disciples – a confidence in God that is unshakable.
Deep love for one another
Finally, our leadership meetings must be marked by a deep love for one another. This is the very hallmark of a follower of Jesus. In John 13:34-35, Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
This love for one another will be seen in how leaders shepherd and care for the spiritual, physical, and emotional needs of one another. Often, the pastor’s needs are neglected in these meetings. This must not be.
Pastors need the same care and spiritual nurture we all do. Elders, who work closely with the pastor in the ministry of the church, are in a good position to provide that nurture. . . When elders are pastors to their pastor, good ministers grow to be even better preachers, teachers, shepherds, and leaders. The best caregivers are pastors who are cared for in their own inevitable moments of crisis and vulnerability.
When the leadership are united in love, purpose, and character the church will see Jesus as the head of the church and will know the presence of God. We will all be transformed!