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Most Christian leaders sense that there should be something different about our leadership than what is offered in the secular marketplace, but we're not always sure what that is.

Spiritual leadership emerges from the soul of us—that place where God's spirit and my spirit commune. This kind of leadership is not about roles and titles within organizational hierarchies; it has to do with our desire and ability to recognize and respond to the presence of God. It depends on our willingness to lead from a place of communion with him.

Spiritual leadership flows from the leader seeking after God through spiritual disciplines. Solitude and silence are two such disciplines that enable us to experience a place of authenticity and invite God to meet us. In them, we are rescued from relentless human striving so that we can experience the life of the Spirit. We give up control and allow God to be God in our lives rather than being a thought in our heads or an illustration in a sermon. We listen for the still, small voice of God telling us who we really are so that we are not enslaved by the demands and expectations of life in leadership.

There can be no compromise. Those who look to us for leadership need us to be spiritual seekers. They need us to keep searching for the bread of life that feeds our souls so that we can guide them to places of sustenance. Rather than offering the cold stone of past devotionals, regurgitated apologetics, or someone else's musings, we must offer bread that is warm from the oven of our own intimacy with God.

The choice to lead from the soul is a vulnerable approach. It means I am leading from a tender place where I do not have all the answers. It is radical because the wisdom of God is foolishness to this world and we must be ready to stand firm in the midst of skepticism and resistance.

The good news is that if I am willing to lead from here, I finally have something real to offer. The quality of my leadership is different.

Rather than leading from a place of frenetic, ego-driven activity, I am leading from a place of rest where I know what I am called to do and I am confident God will produce it. Rather than manufacturing ministry, I am leading from my own experience with God. Rather than being subject to inner compulsions of the self and outer demands of people's expectations, I am learning to respond to God's call upon my life.

While it may seem dangerous to lead from a part of myself that I am accustomed to keeping hidden, true spiritual leadership hinges upon the capacity to lead from my own transforming center. In the end, strengthening the soul of my own leadership is the best thing I can do to strengthen to the soul of the church.

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Ruth Haley Barton is founding president of The Transforming Center near Chicago.

From Issue:iChurch, Summer 2006 | Posted: July 1, 2006

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