Do you often wonder how to be the kind of spiritual leader that others need you to be? Perhaps a simple shift of focus can help.
Instead of focusing on how we want others to act toward us, we should shift the focus on being that way toward them. In other words, "Therefore, everything you would like men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets" (Matt. 7:12).
These 9 Spiritual Leadership Beatitudes, "be" attitudes, can help us do just that with the result of being better spiritual leaders. Not only will the manifestation of these leadership beatitudes help those who seek our spiritual leadership, but they can also help us live successfully one day at a time.
- Blessed are the spiritual leaders who see the good in others over and above their faults, for such spirituality will expand their sphere of influence. Never give up on people, seek out opportunities to help them and realize that most problems are not as bad as they seem—these are the key concepts to perseverance and to success in the ministry. Maybe it would help us to remember the little train in the children's story—the one that continued to say "I think I can, I think I can," and then finally could say, "I know I can."
Spiritual leaders need to be patient with themselves and with others. The ability to deal with conflict and disagreement depends on a healthy respect for differences. Spiritual, as well as human, skills often need improvement. When leaders make judgments that are imperceptive or wrong, they must be able to admit the errors and allow others a chance to be human as well. Forgiveness is necessary from both sides, as is leniency to risk at times, and leniency even to fail, especially in areas where trial and error may be an essential part of growth and success.
- Blessed are the spiritual leaders who are slow to judge, for they will reap a harvest of disciples. The former Polish President, Lech Walesa, told Congress that there is a declining market for words. "The only thing the world believes," he said, "is behavior, because we all see it instantaneously." Leadership based on scriptural principles and attitudes attempts to overcome the superficial evaluation of people by actions and appearances only. Spiritual leaders will display integrity when they act and behave according to the biblical values and attitudes that bring honor and trust to God and to fellow members of the body of Christ.
Humor is integral to a judgment-free environment. It is as essential in working with one's ministry team and congregation as it is in families. When we cannot laugh at and with ourselves, we are preparing for a fall—physically, emotionally or spiritually. Humor can diffuse many potentially explosive situations. Not only is humor a great stress reliever, but it also helps all involved to take a deep breath and see the situation in a positive way. Positive thinking, though not enough to run a ministry by itself, often sets the standard by which successful ministries operate.
- Blessed are the spiritual leaders who make their environment a safe haven of trial and error, for their team members will become proficient in their giftings. When spiritual leaders deal with the issues of those who disagree with them, and when they expect others to do likewise, they are showing respect for the abilities and judgments of other people. They are showing that they trust others to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit in dealing with those issues fairly. They are also showing the value of open communication. Effective leaders will know how to treat people, will recognize needs and will accept human nature as human. They will be able to minister effectively while helping people feel their worth in Christ.
- Blessed are the spiritual leaders who adhere to biblical values, for their examples will be strong in the Lord and inspire others. Commitment to biblical values also requires consistency. Biblical values cannot rule through compromise. Inconsistent behavior sends mixed signals, thus increasing the insecurity of those to whom you minister. Such behavior will also make the leader appear to be manipulative and perhaps deceptive. Consistent spiritual behavior does not allow for misreading of the leaders' intentions. Values-driven leadership will motivate those working under that system to meet the needs of the people to whom they minister. The biblical values of a ministry must be clear—people cannot commit to vague or amorphous ministries that they cannot grasp.
Spiritual leadership is a daily pursuit for the mind of Christ. Leaders' behavior must be a consistent reflection of biblical values, and what they expect of their ministry team members. Integrity will help leaders develop their priorities and thus help guide them through difficulties and uncertainties.
- Blessed are the spiritual leaders who seek first to understand and then to be understood, for they will communicate well. Understanding with a spiritual focus leads to commitment. Spiritual leaders must reinforce everyone's understanding of biblical principles, values, practices and goals. Clear assumptions lead to clear understanding, which in turn leads to deeper commitment to Christ. The more spiritual leaders are able to understand the members of their ministry team and their congregation, the more empathic those leaders become and the less likely they will be to clash with them. Respect for others and honesty in dealing with others must remain constant. The consistency helps establish the sense of spiritual value that makes others worthy of respect.
- Blessed are the spiritual leaders who honestly handle feedback, for they will gain insight and give it to others. Trust and confidence are required for feedback in ministry, if such feedback is to result in the intended church growth or the spiritual growth of those you are helping. Feedback is going to occur, so leaders need to know how to give it and receive it. Feedback in ministry is supposed to keep all of us on target, but feedback cannot be helpful or useful unless it is taken well and given with the proper motives. Trust is the key element—we must be able to trust the one giving the feedback so we know it is intended to help and not to hurt. In the same way, we must be trustworthy when we give feedback to others. We must give it honestly to help someone else rather than to satisfy some hidden motivation of our own. Spiritual leaders learn from correcting errors, as does everyone else. Our entire lives are filled with learning experiences. Leaders are optimists and instill hope in Christ in others. Without that hope, there would be no reason to continue correcting errors and growing from ministerial mistakes.
- Blessed are spiritual leaders who show faith, for their faith will bring many rewards. Good leaders will make it possible for others to be prudent risk-takers. This requires faith. Responsible risks result in potential rewards. Spiritual leaders who recognize this are willing to experience failure so that they can experience success. Having confidence in themselves makes it easier for leaders to have confidence in their people—they will be quick to praise and encourage others in their ministry. Because spiritual leaders have faith, they believe in what they do. Their faith in Christ gives them meaning and causes them to search, explore and think creatively about the future, both for their personal lives and for their ministries. They have the Holy Spirit strengthening them to make necessary decisions. The Holy Spirit gives them the assurance that things could be better. And that assurance is part of the faith they have in their ministry team, in those they minister to and in themselves as leaders.
- Blessed are the spiritual leaders who trust the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives and in others, for they will find rest. Trust in the Holy Spirit is foundational to the survival of any ministry. Spiritual leaders are responsible not only to trust the leading of the Holy Spirit personally, but also to trust the Holy Spirit to lead others. When spiritual leaders truly value people, the trust between those people and the leaders will develop and stay strong. Spiritual leaders trust those they help and are trusted by those they help. Trust empowers information to flow in ministry, helping spiritual leaders to deal with bad news effectively. Trust holds any ministry together.
Trust not only strengthens relationships, but trust influences evangelism, discipleship and spiritual growth. Trust also empowers effective decision-making, because good decisions do not result from suspicion and distrust.
- Blessed are the spiritual leaders who know how to communicate, for they will both give and receive understanding. Consistent communication with others—influencing, encouraging, critiquing and listening—will keep spiritual leaders in a position to understand and to be non-judgmental, and to see others from the Father's perspective rather than from a negative perspective. Communication between spiritual leaders and their ministry teams will make them feel secure in situations of trial and error and in circumstances requiring forgiveness.
Spiritual leaders will be effective when they treat everyone with respect, kindness and honesty—in the same way they would want to be treated. Spiritual leaders must preserve the dignity of those they shepherd through leadership attitudes, leadership judgment, leadership humor and leadership communication skills. Spiritual leaders will always pay attention to the needs of others. That same consideration and honesty must apply to all dealings with the congregation, their families, friends, the public, the government, the media, donors, workers, colleagues—anyone and everyone with whom they are connected.
Spiritual leaders take into consideration the myriad of skills and attributes of their teams and congregations so that they can effectively lead. Effective leaders know how to minister to people, how to recognize and fulfill spiritual needs and how to accept human nature as it is. They know how to convey the love of God and help people feel ministered to through the 9 Spiritual Leadership Beatitudes.
James F. Linzey, M.Div., studied church growth under C. Peter Wagner and signs and wonders under John Wimber at Fuller Theological Seminary. He studied leadership formally in the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Army. He is the chief editor of the Modern English Version Bible and is ordained as a Southern Baptist Convention minister.
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