Spirituality and Leadership (Part 3)

By: Diane Chandler
Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

Over the past few weeks, I’ve focused on spirituality and leadership by looking at David’s relationship with God.  Last week’s blog zeroed in on David’s automatic default in times of leadership crises, which was to throw himself on the hesed (love, loving kindness, mercy) of God. 

David’s spiritual rhythms of seeking God, worship, and prayer were released through his poetry and song writing.  How could someone with that amount of leadership stress and crises find time to write poetry?  Read 1 Samuel 19-22 for a snapshot of a few days in the life of God’s anointed on-the-run.  Then read 2 Samuel 8 for an overview of some of David’s military exploits after Saul’s death.  It’s difficult to imagine how someone so action-oriented could also be so reflective, as evidenced by the 150 Psalms in Scripture that are testimonials of David’s spiritual life in God. 

But what about contemporary Christian leaders?  How do we navigate the rigors of leadership, all the while growing in our spiritual communion with God?

According to C. Peter Wagner’s research, the average pastor in the U.S. prays less than 20 minutes each day. If as Hans von Staden affirms: “When man works, man works; when man prays, God works,” then why don’t spiritual leaders pray more?

Alan E. Nelson, in his book Spiritual & Leadership: Harnessing the Wisdom, Guidance, and Power of the Soul, suggests three reasons why spiritual leaders find it difficult to pray. First, leaders tend to be self-reliant and action-oriented. With many leaders being doers by nature, they become preoccupied with organizational noises. Nelson asserts that God rarely turns up the volume.  Therefore it is important to intentionally turn down these noises to hear His voice.

Second, Nelson asserts that leaders have more demands upon their time. The rigors of decision making, innovation, change, and troubleshooting can preoccupy even the best-intentioned leader. With bulging schedules, the tyranny of the urgent becomes a scheduling dictator.

Third, Nelsons suggests that leaders have the unique challenge of developing effective accountability, which could reinforce spiritual vitality. Many of us live as though ministry were an individual enterprise.

In his book, In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership, Henri Nouwen reminds us that this journey of intimate fellowship with Jesus is the very essence of Christian leadership. And there is no substitute.  He writes, “Christian leaders cannot simply be persons who have well-informed opinions about the burning issues of our time. Their leadership must be rooted in the permanent, intimate relationship with the incarnate Word, Jesus, and they need to find there the source for their words, advice, and guidance” (p. 31). He adds, “One thing is clear to me: the temptation of power is greatest when intimacy is a threat” (p. 60).

Recently in an email, a friend reminded me, “There is a gardening adage that goes like this: ‘Buy a $2 plant and put it in $20 soil.’  Nothing is more important to the success of a garden than rich soil.  The condition of the soil is everything, and rarely does excellent soil happen without lots of care and attention.  Soil can become hard and cracked, if it is taken for granted and neglected.  Soil needs to be tilled, and additional organic material may be needed in order to create the conditions for an optimum growing environment.

Is it time to till the soil of your soul?  Perhaps a day retreat, a time of silence/solitude and prayer, a walk on the beach with God?  How do you till and water the soil of your soul?

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Diane Chandler
This entry was posted by on Wednesday, May 26th, 2010 at 5:00 am and is filed under Christian Leadership, Church Ministry, Leadership, Spiritual Formation, Spiritual Health. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

11 Responses to “Spirituality and Leadership (Part 3)”

  1. Deb Vaughn says:

    Good morning, Dr. Chandler -

    I loved Nouwen’s book. It was very simple and honest in its diagnosis of our culture’s unhealthy attachment to busyness. As someone who is an extrovert, I have had to learn (the hard way) how necessary it is to stop and “reboot” my heart and mind with that of Christ’s. At the same time, I still have to absorb and learn the needs of the world I live in each day. Only being replenished by the Spirit of God can one stay joyfully and personally revitalized.

    One of the simplest “reboots” I use, either in the morning or in the middle of a busy day, is to listen to the podcasts from Pray-As-You-Go. While I sync them to my PDA, you can also listen to them on the web. It uses the Ignatian prayer model and takes about 20 minutes – an easy lunch hour devotional.

    The other midday pit stops I sometimes use are the writings of Oswald Chambers (“My Utmost for His Highest” is online here) and the Book of Common Prayer daily offices and scriptures (found here).

    Each of us need to find the best time and place to hear God’s voice. I know many people commune with God in the early morning hours. I personally don’t have the brain wattage to do a lot of study then. These simple “touchstones” help me stay connected to the Spirit throughout my day.

    Peace-
    Deb

    • Diane Chandler Diane Chandler says:

      Deb, I appreciate your sharing how you take needed daily refueling breaks to provide “touchstones” in your day with God (i.e., the Pray-As-You-Go podcast). For those among us who are extroverts, coming apart before we come apart can be quite a challenge. What are your thoughts related to taking retreats or spending a day in silence and solitude? Is that even possible in your current context?

      I have found that taking a Sabbath, with no work/work on Sundays, has been invaluable for living life in balance. Of course, we cannot be ritualistic or legalistic about this, but having a day where we allow for margin is so refreshing.

    • Diane Chandler Diane Chandler says:

      Deb, thank you for sharing how you provide times of being with God for “touchstone” moments during your day, including the pray-As-You-Go podcast. For those of us who are extroverts and action-oriented, I wonder how taking a Sabbath and ceasing from work/work, as well as spending time in silence and solitude as well as taking retreats, might become a greater part of our communion with God.

      For me, by taking a Sabbath on a weekly basis, I’m able to refresh and renew. And having retreats or get-aways (although not as frequent as I would like) have been markers for my relationship with God.

      Any thoughts on how extroverts can factor in this kind of margin in their spiritual rhythms?

      • Deb Vaughn says:

        Dr. Chandler
        I have made it a practice to go to monthly quiet retreats at a local retreat center. They go for 4 hours and are on a give-as-you-can basis. I missed May because of graduation and hope to get a day in before I start CPE at the hospital.

        I find that if I don’t get this time, I can get too caught up in that which seems urgent, but not necessarily important. I also have been trying to keep that “margin” in my life (Richard Swenson) because that in itself allows time for God to speak into my activities and re-direct me.

        But maybe being married to an introvert for 23+ years has helped, because Ken’s practice of centering prayer has become important for me as well.

  2. Enoch says:

    Dr. Chandler,

    Thank you for the reminder. It is so important not to neglect the tilling of the soul’s soil. It is so vital to turn down the other noises and tune in to hear God’s voice everyday! Otherwise, it is just impossible to be a Christian leader in this highly convoluted and complex world!

    A life of Christian discipleship rooted in an intimate friendship with Jesus is the only answer!

    Enoch

    • Diane Chandler Diane Chandler says:

      Enoch,

      Having just done some planting of shrubs and flowers in my yard this spring, I am all the more conscious of the quality of the soil. It’s one thing to acknowledge that we need to plan for time with God. Spending time with God seldoms happens without this kind of intentionality (and personal values to sustain it).

      Oh that we might model this kind of spiritual rhythm in our minsitry and leadership lives.

  3. Dr. Chandler,
    Very timely and thought provoking. I see this as an urgent need for a culture such as ours where extreme busyness is the norm. Our priority must be time in His presence from which flows strength, revelation, wisdom and genuine truth. The trials and struggles of this generation demand nothing less. Thanks for keeping this issue at the forefront!
    Brian

    • Diane Chandler Diane Chandler says:

      Brian,

      As a busy pastor, perhaps you could share how you avoid the busyness syndrome/trap and create God-space.

  4. Amy says:

    Dr. Chandler
    I have made it a practice to go to monthly quiet retreats at a local retreat center. They go for 4 hours and are on a give-as-you-can basis. I missed May because of graduation and hope to get a day in before I start CPE at the hospital.

    I find that if I don’t get this time, I can get too caught up in that which seems urgent, but not necessarily important. I also have been trying to keep that “margin” in my life (Richard Swenson) because that in itself allows time for God to speak into my activities and re-direct me.

    But maybe being married to an introvert for 23+ years has helped, because Ken’s practice of centering prayer has become important for me as well.

    • Diane Chandler Diane Chandler says:

      Amy,

      Your practice of planning for time a part for spiritual reflection and centering is a is a wonderful life rhythm. I just returned from being away this weekend with the same objective in mind. Your example is helpful to us all.