Thursday, January 07, 2010


Leading Spiritually

Justin Taylor links to a John Piper essay on what it mean to be a spiritual leader. It opens:
I define spiritual leadership as knowing where God wants people to be and taking the initiative to use God's methods to get them there in reliance on God's power. The answer to where God wants people to be is in a spiritual condition and in a lifestyle that display his glory and honor his name. Therefore, the goal of spiritual leadership is that people come to know God and to glorify him in all that they do. Spiritual leadership is aimed not so much at directing people as it is at changing people. If we would be the kind of leaders we ought to be, we must make it our aim to develop persons rather than dictate plans. You can get people to do what you want, but if they don't change in their heart you have not led them spiritually. You have not taken them to where God wants them to be.

Everyone has the responsibility of leadership in some relationships.
You have to love that - and agree with it - real Christian leadership is about changing lives, not herding them into churches, or programs, or whatever.

Piper then goes on to list a number of characteristics of such a person, and he divides then into inner essentials and "outer" qualities that define leadership in general, not just spiritual leadership. His lists are good one, but there is one outer characteristic that I have a hard time with, at least with his word choice:
Colossians 3:17 says, "Do all in the name of the Lord Jesus." 1 Corinthians 2:16 speaks of the spiritual man as having the mind of Christ. A spiritual leader knows that all of life, down to its smallest detail, has to do with God. If we are to lead people to see and reflect God's glory, we must think theologically about everything. We must work toward a synthesis of all things. We must probe to see how things fit together. How do war and sports and pornography and birthday celebrations and literature and space travel and disease and enterprise all hang together? How do they relate to God and his purposes?

Leaders must have a theological standpoint that helps give coherence to all things. This will give the leader a stability that keeps him from being knocked off his feet by sudden changes in circumstances or new winds of doctrine. He knows enough about God and his ways that things generally fit into a pattern and make sense even when they are unpleasant. So the leader does not throw up his hands but points the way onward to God.
If these are characteristics of leaders of any stripe, then based on this I cannot except leadership in business or politics or any other realm of life that does not share my theological viewpoint. I would be most interested to examine where Piper draws the line here. As an ardent Calvinist does Piper therefore mean that I cannot accept leadership from an Arminian? Or does he mean that as a Presbyterian I cannot accept leadership from a Baptist? My current pastor is an annihilationist and does not believe in hell. Am I to therefore disregard his leadership?

I indeed want a leader that is thoughtful and consistent and philosophically guided, but theologically so is a tough call. There are so many areas of life to which theology simply does not speak, or alternately is too exclusive to allow real leadership to ever function since consensus can never be reached.

Now bear in mind, my objections here are not to this being a characteristic of a spiritual leader. I look for spiritual leaders that are theological consistent with me. But Piper places this as a characteristic of leadership generally - that's where I have a problem.

I'd be hard pressed to have clients, since clients are leaders in a sense, if I had to have theologically consistency with them. In terms of religious orientation, the majority of my clients at the moment are Hindu.

I think this one should have been part of the "inner circle."

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