Colossians 3:17 says, “Do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus.” First Corinthians 2:16 speaks of the spiritual man as having “the mind of Christ.” A spiritual leader knows that all of life, down to its smallest detail, has to do with God. If we are to lead people to see and reflect God’s glory, we must think theologically about everything. We must work toward a synthesis of all things. We must probe to see how things fit together. How do war and sports and pornography and birthday celebrations and literature and space travel and disease and enterprise all hang together? How do they relate to God and his purposes?
“A spiritual leader knows that all of life, down to its smallest detail, has to do with God.” According to Joel 2:28, in the last days (in which we now live), “Your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions.” This is the positive counterpart to restlessness. We must not only be discontent with the present, but also dreaming dreams of what could be in the future. In 2 Kings 6:15–17, Elisha and his servant were surrounded by Assyrians in the city of Dothan. When the servant sees this and cries out with dismay, “Elisha prayed and said, ‘O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.’ So the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.
Leaders can see the power of God overshadowing the problems of the future. This is a rare gift: to see the sovereign power of God in the midst of seemingly overwhelming opposition. Most people are experts at seeing all the problems and reasons not to move forward in a venture. Many pastors are ruined by boards who think that they have done their duty when they throw up every obstacle and problem to an idea that he brings. That’s cheap. Hope and solutions are expensive. The spirit of venturesomeness is at a premium today.
Oh, how we need people who will devote just five minutes a week to dream of what might possibly be. The text says that “old men shall dream dreams.” How sad it is, then, to see so many old people assuming that their age means that now they can coast and turn over the creativity to the young. It is tragic when age makes a man jaded instead of increasingly creative. Every new church, every agency, every new ministry, every institution, every endeavor, is the result of someone having a vision and laying hold on it like a snapping turtle.
Organized and Efficient
A leader does not like clutter. He likes to know where and when things are for quick access and use. His favorite shape is the straight line, not the circle. He groans in meetings that do not move from premises to conclusions, but rather go in irrelevant circles. When something must be done, he sees a three-step plan for getting it done and lays it out.
He sees the links between a board decision and its implementation. He sees ways to use time to the full and shapes his schedule to maximize his usefulness. He saves himself large blocks of time for his major productive activities. He uses little pieces of time lest they go to waste. (For example, what do you do while you are brushing your teeth? Could you set a magazine on the towel rack and read an article?)
A leader takes time to plan his days and weeks and months and years. Even though it is God who ultimately directs the steps of the leader, he should plan his path (Proverbs 16:9). A leader is not a jellyfish that gets tossed around by the waves, nor is he an oyster that is immovable. The leader is the dolphin of the sea and can swim against the stream or with the stream as he plans.
In 1 Kings 18:21 Elijah cries out, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” A leader cannot be paralyzed by indecisiveness. He will take risks rather than do nothing. He will soak himself in prayer and in the word and then rest himself in God’s sovereignty as he makes decisions, knowing that he will very likely make some mistakes.
Jesus said in Matthew 24:13, “The one who endures to the end will be saved.” Paul said in Galatians 6:9, “Let us not grow weary of doing good.” We live in a day when immediate gratification is usually demanded. That means that very few people excel in the virtue of perseverance. Very few people keep on and keep on in the same ministry when there is significant difficulty.
Vision without perseverance, however, results in fairy tales not fruitful ministry. My dad once told me that the reason he thinks many pastors fail to see revival in their churches is that they leave just before it is about to happen. The long haul is hard, but it pays. The big tree is felled by many, many little chops. The criticisms that come your way will be long forgotten if you keep on doing the Lord’s will.
Here I am speaking directly to men who are husbands and leaders. Paul said in Ephesians 5:25, “Husbands, love your wives.” Love her! Love her! What does it profit a man if he gains a great following and loses his wife? What have we led people to if they see that it leads us to divorce? What we need today are leaders who are great lovers: husbands who write poems for their wives and sing songs to their wives and buy flowers for their wives for no reason at all, except that they love them.
“What does it profit a man if he gains a great following and loses his wife?” We began with the quality of restlessness and we end with the quality of restful. “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep” (Psalm 127:1–2).
The spiritual leader knows that ultimately the productivity of his labors rests in God, and that God can do more while he is asleep than he could do while awake without God. He knows that Jesus said to his busy disciples, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while” (Mark 6:31). He knows that one of the Ten Commandments was, “Six days shall you labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God” (Exodus 20:9–10).
He is not so addicted to work that he is unable to rest. He is a good steward of his life and health. He maximizes the totality of his labor by measuring the possible strains under which he can work without diminishing his efficiency of unduly shortening his life.
There are no doubt many other qualities which could be mentioned which, if a person has, would make him an even more successful leader. These are simply the ones that came to my mind as I was pondering this subject. One need not excel in every one of them. But the more fully each one is developed in a person, the more powerful and fruitful he will be as a leader.
Let me emphasize again that it is the inner circle that makes the leadership spiritual. All genuine leadership begins in a sense of desperation — knowledge that we are helpless sinners in need of a great Savior. That moves us to listen to God in his word and to cry out to him for help and for insight in prayer. That leads us to trust in God and to hope in his great and precious promises. That frees us for a life of love and service which, in the end, causes people to see and give glory to our Father in heaven.