The older I get the more frustrated I am with my own spiritual immaturity. It is this immaturity which has been the cause of many mistakes in my ministries as a pastor, and much grief in my personal and family life. This immaturity grasps and strives for the things I want—to have it my way. God has been patiently revealing this weakness to me, and for a few years now He has been faithfully leading me to address the things that keep me from growing and maturing. But over the past few days, thanks to a now-retired, seasoned and mature Christian leader by the name of John Piper, I’m able to see more clearly than ever how to overcome my own spiritual immaturity and grow in the spiritual leadership I believe God has called me to exercise.
Last week, just before my family and I headed off for a week in the sun at Greenbay Bible Camp, I downloaded a new e-book by John Piper titled, The Marks of a Spiritual Leader, and sent it to my Kindle to read by the lake. This is a wonderful little book! The first part of the book was very helpful to me especially because of the way Piper so clearly identifies “that sequence of events in the human soul that must happen if anyone is to take the first step in spiritual leadership.” He starts with the goal of spiritual leadership: that others will glorify God. Then he works backward from the goal to show how the spiritual leader becomes the kind of person through whom others come to glorify God.
I found it helped me take hold of these ideas by putting them in the reverse order: four steps, if you will, to becoming a person who helps others glorify God. In other words, and not to be too simplistic, “Four Steps to Spiritual Leadership”. (I recognize that a great deal more can and must be said about spiritual leadership. But as Piper puts it, these things are essentials that must be true of every spiritual leader, and should be true to some degree of every Christian.) So here are my “four steps”, taken from Piper. I hope you find these helpful as I do. If these are helpful to you, follow the link at the end to go and download Piper’s e-book for yourself and see what else he has to say about the outer qualities of a spiritual leader.
- Acknowledge your helplessness
A spiritual leader, by acknowledging his helplessness and desperation, becomes motivated to spend time with and be open to the Word of God. “Once we are humbled to the point of desperation, we will be open to reading the doctor’s prescription.”
- Meditate on and pray over God’s Word
A spiritual leader, by meditating on God’s Word, “especially the preaching of the person and work of Jesus, in whom all the promises of God have their yes,” is moved to trust God. As we experience God, through meditating on the Scripture, nourished in our souls by the insights He gives us into the Word, and led to respond in prayer, we are moved to put our confidence in Him through Jesus, and to repent of self-confidence and self-reliance.
- Love both friend and foe by trusting in God and hoping in His promises
A spiritual leader has faith that leads to love. He has “strong confidence in the sovereign goodness of God to work everything together for his good. Otherwise he will inevitably fall into the trap of manipulating circumstances and exploiting people in order to secure for himself a happy future which he is not certain God will provide.” This person is then enabled to begin to love others in a genuine way. Not self-serving, but looking to the interests and needs of others.
- That others will glorify God
A spiritual leader “brings other people to glorify God by being a person who loves both friend and foe.” When we are gripped by the reality of God’s promises to work everything together for our good, our hearts are protected from vulnerability to fear, greed, or pride and freed to show supernatural contentment and love. Spiritual leaders like this will be powerfully transformed in how they live their lives in service and love to others, and that transformation will be visible to people around them. “…Then the world will have to admit that the one who gives us hope and freedom must be real and glorious.”
Adapted from “The Marks of a Spiritual Leader“, by John Piper. (Desiring God, 2014.)