Develop specific spiritual disciplines.
Disciplines deepen our spiritual life and empower our leadership.
I hate discipline.
Now, I like the idea of being a disciplined person. I usually feel good when I act in a disciplined manner. I certainly see the tremendous benefit of being disciplined.
It’s the act of having to be disciplined that I find so unappealing. It’s not being able to do what I feel like doing at any given moment that seems so hard at times. Even with the best of intentions, I sometimes find myself running out of steam or getting distracted more often than I would like.
Nonetheless, to the extent that I have practiced them, spiritual disciplines have been transformative in my life and leadership. They have helped me to move from good intentions and vague aspirations to real experience with God and meaningful transformation. They also have changed the way that I relate to co-workers and approach issues and difficulties, because they change me, and my leadership can’t help but be affected. As leaders, we need disciplines to deepen us and to strengthen both our commitment and our ability to offer spiritual leadership through the daily challenges we face.
Something to Think About
What is God saying to you right now?
One helpful spiritual practice is to build enough margin into your life that when you sense God may be speaking to you, you can stop to capture the experience or thoughts in writing, or in a picture, or in some other physical way.
Take a moment to reflect. Record your thoughts in your journal or in the spaces provided below. In light of what you have just read on spiritual disciplines, what might God be communicating to you right now? Ask yourself:
- Is there a spiritual practice that God might be calling me to undertake? (If you don’t know, do as my spiritual director suggests: enter into a prayerful dialogue with Jesus, as blind Bartimaeus did. First, ask Jesus for help. Wait for a moment, and, in your mind, hear Jesus ask you what you want. Then express whatever seems most true about your need in response to his question [Mark 10:46-52]. See if a particular spiritual discipline might emerge as right for you in light of this conversation with Christ.)
- What are some concrete steps I will need to take to pursue that one thing that is emerging?
- What obstacles or challenges need to be overcome (e.g., lack of time, others’ demands, bad habits, distracting routines, need for resources, low energy)?
- What do I sense God is leading me to do next?
- Getting Started
- Start small—try one thing for one week. Step outside of your box—try one new thing this year. Get help and support—find a kindred spirit, a spiritual director, a fellow pastor, or a spiritually minded friend. Ask God for help—ask God to open your heart, open the way, and provide the resources needed.
When someone first suggested a week-long spiritual retreat, or joining a lectio divina group, or starting up spiritual direction, or fasting, or a silent weekend, or any other spiritual practice that was outside of my experience, I usually had the same reaction: “No way! It’s not for me. I don’t have time. I don’t know what to expect (read: ‘I’m terrified!’); my plate is already overfilled.” And so forth. I couldn’t imagine how I could fit them into my life and schedule.
Today, I can’t imagine not doing them.
A Praying Congregation: The Art of Teaching Spiritual Practice by Jane E. Vennard
Pastors and others who want to develop their skills as teachers of prayer and spiritual practices will find in this book not only wisdom for themselves but easily accessible lesson plans, so that they can share Vennard’s insights with others while infusing the activities with their own spirit and creative ideas. Through this book, readers’ hearts are made ready to explore the wonder of strengthening their relationship with God through prayer.
A New and Right Spirit: Creating an Authentic Church in a Consumer Culture by Rick Barger
Barger argues passionately for congregations to reexamine what it means to be an “authentic church” in a culture where authenticity is hard to come by. Recognizing the spiritual needs of a success-oriented society, he exhorts leaders to turn away from the story of our culture and to return to the story of the church, which is grounded in Christ and the resurrection. Driven by that authentic story, the church becomes a powerful witness to God’s love for all and an effective minister to the needs of the world.