"Spiritual Leadership" in New Wine

I am a person who believes in being intentional. If you aim for nothing, you’re bound to hit it. Neither age nor gender has ever been an issue for me when it comes to leadership as I’ve never thought of those things as a hindrance or a free pass. I’ve always just felt that if God calls, then he will make a way. But within the call comes responsibility. If you want to lead, then you have a responsibility to learn. There is no such thing as healthy spiritual leadership without the ongoing training God needs to do in each of us. The importance of being intentional in allowing God to train us is vital if we want to be productive but also healthy in the way we lead. In fact, some of the best work God does in us is in the hidden places, when no one else is looking. All of what I am doing today is the result of ten thousand choices I’ve made in the private place. God always trains in private before he releases us in public.

There are many things I’ve learned throughout the years, and to be honest, that I am still learning when it comes to leading. Let me touch on some of the things I’ve found helpful along the way.

1. Character — who you are

True leadership always begins with the inner person. You have to think of everything you go through as a huge opportunity for God to do a work in you. Going through things is not what grows us up; it’s not a free pass to maturity. Spiritual maturity is very expensive — it is costly. In everything we face, we have to make the choice to yield to God and allow his Spirit to teach us. It’s about making the ongoing intentional decision to be taught. The Holy Spirit is our teacher. He is the paraclete, coming alongside to help us grow.

You see throughout the scriptures God entrusting much to men and women way before they were mature enough to handle it. The ones who chose to press into God and allowed themselves to be taught and led by God are the ones who made it. They are the ones who stewarded well, and ended up finishing well. The only thing we take with us to heaven is our character. The inside of who we are. God can always get someone else to lead what we’re leading, but there is only one you. Allowing God to do a work in you is an ongoing process and it is vital in order for God to do the deeper work through you. One of my personal prayers is: “Lord, help the insides of who I am be bigger than my outside reality.”

Ask God to fill you, strengthen you and lead you. “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove your heart of stone & give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees. You will be my people, and I will be your God.” (Eze 36:26)

2. Relationships — who you know

The people you have around you are vital. Our relationships mean way more than we realise. Our God is a relational God, and everything he does is about relationship — with him, as well as with each other. But spiritual leaders have to do relationship well. We’re teaching people how God is relational, which means we have to model relationship. I’ve had to learn what this looks like. My relationship with God is my strength, however my relationships in trusting others I’ve really had to work on. Its important to have a few people around you that you really trust enough to tell on yourself to — a mentor, or an older brother or sister in the faith who isn’t afraid to challenge you; people you will listen to, who tell you what you need to hear. At the same time you want people to cheer you on. I am very intentional with both of these areas. The people who really love me, over and above what I do, who also tell me the truth, I consider my closest friends.

Secondly, I don’t have people directly working with me who are naturally more pessimistic or are always seeing the battle side of things. Leadership means you’re on the front line — the battle is clear and near and it’s often frightening, especially if you’re really risking. You have to have some people who love you and cheer for you and most importantly remind you of the promises of God.

I’ve found having some models in my life of where I would like to be down the road has not only stretched me, but also saved me. Whether it be as a wife/ mother/ teacher/ preacher/ leader, what do I want to be, and how do I want to see myself in 10 years? I try to find those who model that and put myself in a position to learn.

3. Knowledge — what you know

Information is vital. Knowledge alone doesn’t make a leader, but without it you won’t make it. A leader is one who is listening, watching and always willing to learn. What are you listening to? Who are you hearing from? Put yourself in the boat where you’re always learning, but also in the place where you’re stepping out and walking on water. Knowledge is good, but you have to do something with it. Much of what we learn is in the doing. Take risks, allow yourself to fail and learn from your mistakes.

When you do things, always see how you can do it better the next time. Strive for excellence in learning. I don’t believe in perfectionism, but I do believe in being intentional with excellence. Perfection is never possible, excellence always is. God should always have our best.

4. Intuition — what you feel

Spiritual leaders learn how to hear God’s voice. John 10 tells us the shepherd goes ahead and calls out to the sheep. As the head sheep, you have to know where the Good Shepherd is leading. With this, the more you lead, the more others love to tell you how to lead. At the end of the day, God’s voice has to be the loudest. It’s important to listen to others, but it’s more important that you hear from God. For all leaders there are times when you have to stand alone. Being the leader means the buck stops with you. The choices and risks in what you’re leading and whether or not they work land on whether or not what you’re hearing is in fact the Lord. Practise learning to hear the voice of God. Your relationship with him is number one.

Spiritual leaders are those who place high importance on being led by the Spirit of God, rather than what people say, money, or opportunity. What people need is the presence of God not our performance.

The more you’re with God, the more you learn how he speaks to you. Spiritual leaders follow God’s ways, even where they’re hard, even when they don’t make sense and not everyone follows along. Intentionally practicing with the little things you hear, prepares you for the bigger things down the road.

“Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.” (1 Cor 2: 12)

5. Experience — where you’ve been

Learned experience is everything. Spiritual leaders can’t take people where they themselves haven’t been. At the same time, it’s one thing serving on a team but another thing altogether to be responsible for leading the team. I have led numerous things for years, but it wasn’t until I started leading a church 10 years ago that I learned about spiritual leadership in new and stretching ways. It’s all learned experience, and it’s necessary on the journey to take what you’ve learned and build on it.

I don’t really give my ear to people telling me how to do something they themselves have never done. Or to those who are just stealing someone else’s ideas. People will give advice and tell you what you should do, but if they have no experience in that area then it’s not learned experience. Learned experience is different from experience.

If you haven’t done it yourself, don’t tell other people how to do it. Leaders lead by example.

6. Past success — what you’ve done

Every leader has to start somewhere. In today’s world there is a lot of talk about position. People have mistaken position for success. Positional authority may get you somewhere, but it won’t keep you there. Just having the title doesn’t earn people’s votes, and people vote with their feet. With spiritual leadership, people don’t have to attend what you’re leading — they do so by choice. What is it that you’ve done that gets their attention?

What you build doesn’t define you, but it does reveal a bit of who you are. Do you have a good track record? Do you have equity with the people? Leaders are always building equity. Following through with what we say is vital to success as a trustworthy leader.

And here’s the thing about success. Its not what you say, it’s what others say about you. If you don’t have a good reputation for what you’re doing, or you can’t offer something people need, then they don’t stay. This is again why we need to keep growing.

Remember this: no matter where you’re at in your leadership journey, be honest about it. If you exaggerate or feel the pressure to say you’re more than what you are, it will catch up with you. Spiritual leaders are honest all the time, even if it costs them.

7. Ability — what you can do

Rarely are leaders born. Leaders are made. Don’t waste your time in an area you’re not gifted for. Find out where you have ability and anointing and start there. One of the ways you know you have anointing or ability in an area is if you take some risks and it just works. Leadership isn’t about picking something you want; spiritual leadership is saying yes to what God appoints. And where God appoints, he also anoints.

When God gives us ability and anoints us for something there is always responsibility tied to it. How you carry the authority God has entrusted to you is everything. We are first and foremost servants. Whether you’re preaching on a stage, leading worship or running a business, we are all at best ‘servants of Christ’. Leadership is servanthood — the higher you go, the lower you go.

The Kingdom of God is all about stewardship. If you want more, you have to be faithful with what you already have. Your faithfulness with what God gives to you will determine where you end up.

If you don’t like where you’re leading today, you can still make the choice to finish it well. If you can’t make it great where you are, you can’t make it great where you’re going. Serve wherever God has you with the best of your ability and God will bless it. If you don’t finish in a place well, you take that into your next adventure.

“If your place is not great enough to suit you, make it so. The minister who is unable to make a place great is too weak to hold a great one.” (L.R. Scarborough)

8. Keeping your heart clean

Leaders get pounded. When I think of leadership, I think of Moses. Moses was loved and hated. He was revered and he was rejected. Leaders have to be able to hear, “You’re amazing” and “We don’t like you” all in the same hour, and not let either one go to their head.

When you’re a leader you are constantly taking risks and putting yourself out there. Not everyone will like what you’re doing or how you’re leading, and more often than not, and there will be no shortage of opinions about you. Spiritual leaders have to be intentional with knowing how to deal with being hurt, rejected, blamed and betrayed, as well as being honoured.

You have to get really good at dealing with criticism in a healthy way. Keeping your heart clean is your responsibility, no one can do this for you. If you don’t keep your heart clean, it affects how you then minister. Healthy spiritual leaders are most powerful after they have first been ministered to, and you have to learn how to minister to yourself. Keep your heart clean so you keep your ministering clean.

This is ongoing. There’s an old quote that says, “There are three types of people: men, women and pastors.” I believe this, not just in ministry but in all types of leadership. People often see leaders as superhuman and infallible, which means they don’t think before they say things. And sometimes the things said can be extremely hurtful. Don’t get offended. Instead, be quick to forgive, quick to let go, and quick to move on.

At the same time spiritual leaders must be quick to deal with pride. No one is above pride. You cannot be led by the praises of man or you’ll fall because of them. Proverbs 27:21 says,A man is tested by the praise he receives.”

If you remember to care for your soul and make it an ongoing discipline to be intentional, you’re giving yourself — as well as those you lead — a great gift.

Christy Wimber

Christy has been part of the Vineyard Movement since it began. She is an author, speaker and television host. For 22 years Christy has travelled around the world, teaching on the Kingdom of God. Christy says the church is called to recognise what God is doing and move with him through salvation, healing and deliverance. She calls for Christians to be ‘naturally supernatural’ both inside and outside the church.


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