Quaker author Parker Palmer said, “A leader is a person who must take special responsibility for what’s going on inside of himself or herself… lest the act of leadership create more harm than good.”
Leaders often lead others better than they lead themselves! They give themselves away to people, to projects, to pursuits and in the process, they can lose their spiritual passion! There is something energizing and fulfilling in doing what we enjoy… exercising the gifts God has given us… serving, giving, organizing, leading, teaching, encouraging, or caring for and helping people. And God intends for us to use these gifts! We are called to serve others and make a difference. It’s all good except when we begin to let what we DO fill, fire and fuel us rather than pursuing Christ alone as our source of empowering and the center of our joy. Working hard for God will never be a substitute for the personal relationship God wants with us or the work God desires to do in us.
How does one lose that spiritual passion that once burned within? Rarely is it a sudden extinguishing blow but a gradual neglect of tending your own fire! We know that an untended fire is soon reduced to a pile of ashes. You cannot give what you do not have.
In many ways, we in church leadership, have bought into the world’s high-performance expectations. Leaders measure other leaders by accomplishments but who is asking, “Is it well with your soul?” Accountability for what we do is beneficial, but accountability for our soul’s well-being is crucial. When leaders do not regularly tend their spiritual fire, demands distract from devotion to God leading to depletion, disappointment, discouragement, and even indifference. We never intend to let the passion wane or the fire diminish but an untended spiritual life inevitably results in spiritual weakness and often disaster.
We learn personal leadership best from Jesus. While he was involved with people, he often got away from the crowds and occasionally even from his disciples to spend time alone with His Father. He prayed often. He replenished regularly. He could not afford to be distracted or depleted. He refused to compare himself to anyone nor did He concern himself with the Pharisees’ accusations or expectations. He neither rushed nor hurried. He was never too busy meeting the needs around him to the neglect of fellowship with His Father. Jesus was not driven to perform or succeed in the eyes of man. He simply and humbly obeyed God. He followed His Father’s lead and taught His disciples the necessity of tending their own soul. “What do you benefit if you gain the whole world but are lost or destroyed?” (Luke 9:25)
Personally, I have learned, leading ourselves spiritually is not so difficult, but it does require continual attention! Essentially, it is surrendering leadership to the Lord every day! One can read all the leadership books, attend the best conferences, be known for many accomplishments, but miss intimacy with God. That takes intentional time. Roger C. Palms in his book Enjoying the Closeness of God writes, “The riches of the Spirit-filled life don’t just drop from heaven. God meets us in the discipline of daily obedience.” Leading myself means I desire intimacy more than anything else… enough to respond when I hear the quiet whisper of the Spirit call, ‘come away, my love.’ It is only there, in the secret place, in His Presence, where I renew my strength and replenish my soul. Again, I hear His counsel…
“Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life… Look straight ahead, and fix your eyes on what lies before you. Mark out a straight path for your feet; stay on the safe path. Don’t get sidetracked; keep your feet from following evil.” (Prov. 4:25-27 NLT)
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God…. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Heb. 12:1-3)
Honestly answer the question… “Is it well with my soul?”