On this journey of leading ourselves, we have discussed two Kingdom realities that should create a great sense of spiritual apprehension in the heart of any potential leader (see Part 1 here and Part 2 here).
The troubling fact that my lowest point of character is my highest point of capacity should drive us to a place of analysis and deep introspection. Knowing that the way I do one thing is the way I do everything should eradicate any semblance of self-reliance and move us to a place of desperate dependence. The fallacy of ‘sin management’ only extends the rope which eventually hangs us.
But where do we bring the fruit of this authentic introspection?
Evangelical Christianity in the West has become a largely individualistic pursuit. We make much of a personal relationship with God, the priesthood of the believer, and discovering God’s will for our lives.
We worship corporately; yet often it is little more than group isolation as we listen to one speaker, make individualistic applications in our personalized study Bibles, and take our leave until next week.
In this contemporary understanding of the body of Christ, it is left to the individual believer to get his or her house in order through sheer intrinsic motivation. There is no place for accountability and support because there is no place for self-revelation. We are all on our own.
As a result, those in the church of Jesus Christ experience about the same level of social dysfunction as those outside its community. The salt, light, and yeast we are commissioned to be are impossible because our character reflects no radical differences that are captivating to the lost. Practicing this over time, our differences are now only distinguished by our socio-political preferences. Probably not what Jesus had in mind.
So how does a Kingdom citizen break away from this culture of isolationism and experience something more transformative? Something more Acts-like?
The humility of community becomes the key. It is imperative that church leaders experience and model a different type of faith, one far less individualistic and far more transparent. When James said, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed” (James 5:16), he was taking for granted that his audience understood the humility of a Kingdom community.
The notion of corporate isolationism was as foreign to the New Testament audience as the prosperity gospel was to Jesus’ apostles – cultural synchronistic aberrations designed to comfortably ensconced sinners in their preferred addictions.
The gospel call was to go deeper in community and to honestly admit sins of character in an environment of support and accountability. Transformation. “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy” (Prov. 28:13).
Because of the ecclesiological culture we have inherited through a semi-reformed reformation, most church leaders have rarely experienced a New Testament-esque version of spiritual community and therefore have little insight on how to reproduce it. If that is the case for you, let me suggest four ideas.
1. Make It Personal
Considering much of any leadership culture reflects the strengths and weaknesses of its leadership, it becomes essential to begin the assignment of enlarging my personal character capacity. Gather into a peer-mentoring group with other planters/pastors that are geographically close and make a priority of meeting weekly. Read together, learn together, pray together, and grow together.
Don’t let this become a “shop talk” gathering, but instead its purpose is to grow together as Kingdom servants mutually walking in the humility of transparency. Allow the Holy Spirit to speak powerfully to your weaknesses through the gift of others as a part of your character transformation.
2. Model It Publicly
Let the people of your church know that you are a part of such a community. Share openly about the ways you have changed and what you have learned through the agency of transparency within community. It is probably not wise to publicly share struggles you are currently working through, but it is a powerful testimony to honestly share victories that God has given you through community. Model transparency.
3. Mark a Path
The Kingdom power you have experienced through the honesty and humility of community needs to be made available to all within the body of Christ. Carefully think through how you will introduce this principle as a central platform in your strategy for making Jesus’ disciples out of both faithful churchmen and the irreligious alike.
Imagine the transformational power the church you lead will have in your city just because it is comprised of a membership that itself is experiencing radical personal transformation. This becomes an unstoppable force.
4. Mentor a Few
The authenticity of community which you have personally experienced can best be transmitted through your direct leadership. Trace Jesus’ steps and select three or four people who have both a heart for God and great Kingdom potential and build intimate community with them.
Let them see you in ways others will never see. Speak frankly, deeply, and affectionately to them. Create a culture of bold challenge and tender encouragement. And then, after a season, set them loose to reproduce in others what they have experienced in you.
Just like every other kind of sincere change, when it comes to character transformation, leading myself is the first and foundational step to becoming a Kingdom leader of great capacity.
If church is supposed to be a spiritual community, why not let it be. There may be more than you who are craving it. Many of whom are outside the walls.