The Art of Leading Spiritually – Where are We Heading?

by Christine Sine
Edward Hicks - Peaceable Kingdom

Edward Hicks - Peaceable Kingdom

This post is part of series on Leading Spiritually. Before reading it you may want to check out the first two posts in the series:

The Art of Leading Spiritually – An Invitation to a Journey

The Art of Leading Spiritually – Why Are We Leading?

Where are We Leading?

Dysfunctional images of God and of God’s purposes for us have created dysfunctional view of spiritual leadership. In my last post I said: The central purpose of spiritual leadership is to become co-creators with God in bringing into being a community that is at one with God and with each other. Together we can shine with the presence of Jesus and model the love of God in such a way that others are drawn to believe in God. If we truly believe that at the heart of the universe there is a loving, caring Creator whose deepest longing is to draw us into into intimacy with himself our leadership will reflect that. If we really believe that God’s central passion is the restoration of all creation into a restored community of love and mutual care, that will become our central passion too.

About five years ago the MSA team started a journey into this type of leadership model. We began in a time of retreat asking a question we continue to ask and discern that I think is at the core of all spiritual leadership is: What is God’s vision for the future and what part of this vision does God want our community to grab hold of and live out together?

We started by reflecting on God’s vision for the future. The rich imagery of the creation story introduces us to a world where God, human beings and the creation live in harmony and mutual concern. Theologian Howard Snyder equates this beautiful, mutually dependent world with shalom. He explains: “On the seventh day God created shalom – the crown and goal of all his work.”

The crown and goal of all God’s work was a community of people living and working together in harmony and mutual trust, caring for creation and relating personally to their God who walked in the garden with them.  And God looked at all that had been created with complete satisfaction. (Gen 1:27,28,31)

Shalom is a corporate vision embracing the entire world community.  The segregation into small ethnocentric cultural groups that occurred at Babel is reversed and all people are reconciled and again walk in harmony and understanding together.  As we walk together toward God’s mountain, the instruments of war become the instruments of peace (Is 2:2-5, Mic 4:1-4) the lame are healed (Is 35: 4-7), the oppressed set free and justice comes for the poor.  Shalom even encompasses and our rediscovery of God’s call to be stewards of creation.  God did not create us to live as isolated individuals but as men and women together, in a harmonious interdependent community, caring for each other and for the entire created order.

From the time humanity was excluded from the Garden, the object of all of God’s work has been the recovery of shalom in creation and the restoration and renewal of all that was ruptured at the Fall. Amazingly, God asks us to be a part of that restoration. All Christ followers have a new job to do, to join with God in restoring, renewing and healing all that was distorted and broken by sin. We are heading towards a world of shalom. Our shared journey can show people how to live in shalom, how to share God’s shalom, and how to bring God’s shalom to the world.

What would the shalom of God look like if it was fully realized in our midst and how does God want us to live and operate to bring that into reality?


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michajazz January 11, 2012 - 11:40 am

I am the first to speak up for community – mutual relationships of practical care, commitment and facilitation. I have always loved Sider’s phrase of ‘total availability, unlimited liability’, however find few want to embrace mutuality to that extent. Fine for God to commit to that level but a little to all embracing for each of us in our humanity. Some even see it as a confusion of socialism with christian community in such a phrase.

Sadly as the years have passed I have on increasing numbers of occasions sunk into a relatively deep depression at the inability of me or those with whom I have connected to develop such a set if interdependent relationships.

However, I am currently in South Beach Miami. There is a wonderful museum of Judaism on 3rd street. here the scandalous story of the Jewish arrival to Florida is told – initially the community was restricted by state statute to live south of 5th street. This is a compelling story for another time. However, today as I ate lunch in Roosters and Toasters I observed a Jewish community that reflected from a superficial gaze all that we express as our yearning as a Christian community. Indeed the story of that community’s struggle in Miami over the years is an inspirational tale of inter-communal love, support and endeavour.

If we are to lead Spiritually to any great effect, we as the Christian community, must ask ourselves some difficult questions. These concern control over flows of income, since we find ourselves so often competing with smiles on our faces for limited funds to sustain our own important ‘community based initiatives’. A love of platform and profile for individuals and their specific projects rather than the welfare and success of the Christian community writ large.

I have needed to take a number of years detoxing from many formative years spent in service of the Evangelical framework, in which I know I initially sought my identity and security at the expense of receiving these from Christ. Withdrawal led to anonymity, which for a while felt like liquid poison to my soul. However, after quite a number of painful, confused and bruising years in the literal wilderness, I have come to find my rest in Christ. I long for Christian Community, but only at the price of death to self – the fractured ego that naturally runs our life if not starved of oxygen – and a willingness to participate with Christ as he invites and not for any form of ministry dividend.

I am a recovering church leader – only one platform away from moral collapse! Friar Micha

Christine Sine January 11, 2012 - 2:03 pm

Micha you say it very well – finding our rest in Christ, not seeking platform or profile – hard stuff for Christian leaders who are molded in the image of culture and not of Christ but so necessary to hear. I think that so called Christian leaders are often the ones who destroy rather than create community because they are so steeped in the wrong values. And getting our heads around jesus way of looking at these things – death to self, going to the cross rather than for a bigger and better healing ministry – hard stuff to take in but very necessary if we are to be the authentic Christian community God wants us to be

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