And it only seems right that this 500th post would be inspired by the home of the first car race I was familiar with – the Indy 500. But I will make every attempt not to go round and round 500 times.
One of the things that has come to the fore in so many conversations leading into, during and coming out of the Big Tent conference is what the church might look like if we were calling, ordaining, building and equipping healthy spiritual leaders. Which begs the question: what IS a spiritually healthy leader?
To be honest, spiritually healthy leaders are – first and foremost- followers. They are disciples who are learning as they go, counting on others who have come before as well as their peers. They are listening for direction of the Holy Spirit and taking the risks needed to go wherever God calls them. But they realize that even as they follow, they are responsible for those who come behind.
Spiritually healthy leaders are those who seek shalom in their lives- peace and wellness in each realm. This means seeking balance between personal, professional, and public needs and expectations. Physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual needs must be assessed and met regularly.
Spiritually healthy leadership requires paying attention to relationships, especially between the leader and God. And it requires a deepening understanding of how to function within that triad of self-God-community to discern direction for both personal and communal ministry.
While not a direct cause-effect relationship, leaders who are intentional about the spiritual health of leaders in their community are often more open-handed with resources and opportunities. They have confidence and instill confidence in others; they model and form authentic relationships; they see the strengths of others as gifts rather than threats. And God is glorified.
Imagine a church where every ordained officer were challenged to assess and strengthen their own health as leaders, in part by investing in a relationship with a resting elder (to be their mentor) and in part by investing in a relationship with an emerging leader (as a mentor themselves). Ages, genders and other demographic factors are less important than the experience and the commitment to growing as disciples together.
I can’t help but think that in time, the whole community would dream dreams and see visions for their faith community and its work in the world. And they would have the human resources- the energy, imagination, and love- to discern and pursue them.
I met a lot of folks at Big Tent that I can imagine in settings like that. And I met many who are frightened by the larger story in which their congregation and/or the PCUSA finds itself today. They are grieving the loss of the known even as we walk into the unknown.
As a future-oriented pragmatic visionary, I look at today as the starting point, not 20, 40, 100 years ago. Let’s start today- taking a look at the people and relationships around us. What can we do today to encourage, edify and develop the members we have to become the spiritually healthy leaders we need? What resources do we have as presbyteries and sister churches that will support one another in this work? What prayers can we earnestly lift for one another? What can I do -with God’s help- in my own life and ministry?
Dunno about you, but I’ve got some praying and pondering to do.