Yes, there's another angle.
Yes, there's another angle to the influence thing. Over the last few years I've been personally convicted about the influence of spiritual leaders. Whether in a family setting, a local congregation, or out there on the mean streets of America these leaders are entrusted with the care and growth of the individuals in the circle of their leadership. In a Christian setting this development is our commission from Christ, that is, making disciples of all nations (see Matthew 28:20). How spiritual leaders actually influence the people around them is a critical metric in a world of diminishing Christian impact. Surely Scripture portrays spiritual leadership as influence---light and salt in a dark and bitter world.
Upfront, let me define my concept of spiritual leadership. Henry and Richard Blackaby, in their classic book Spiritual Leadership, Moving People on to God's Agenda (B and H Books, 2001), define spiritual leaders in the books title, those who move people on to God's agenda. In my understanding this definition recognizes the assignment of spiritual leaders in two very broad categories---
1. Those who lead in Christ's church.
The most common view is that spiritual leaders are the pastors, church staff members, deacons, teachers, organizational leaders, and servants who guide a congregations vision, mission, values, disciple making, Bible teaching, evangelism, worship, prayer, fellowship, and service. It is spiritual leadership in it's most exacting and specific definition, those who provide leadership in the Body of Christ.
2. Those who set the spiritual climate in human organizations.
In a broader sense, spiritual leaders are those Kingdom people who influence life around them, whether in the family, the neighborhood, the workplace, the classroom, the daily commute, or a social setting. This would include parents, believers on the job, and the rest of us strategically positioned to live our Christian example publicly. It is the primary and most effective witness of faith, that which is lived on the most profound mission field of life, the everyday.
Who's influencing these spiritual leaders is the flip side! And, that's an important biblical topic as well, the people and circumstances that have instructive access to our hearts and minds. Disciples are learners and we'll all certainly agree that none of us fully masters this imitation of Christ while occupying our human form. As a result, our own personal growth and development is subject to those people, circumstances, and events that teach, advise, and counsel us. The flip side of influence is the answer to the basic question: who's whispering in your ear?
That's a complex question in the information age. Most of us are bombarded with ideas and ideals throughout every single day. There are headlines and editorial opinion about them in every tick of the clock. Today's information super-highway is cluttered with news, fake news, breaking news, sounds bytes, social media, live pronouncements, web sites, pod casts, text messages, and post-it notes. Unless you've taken up residence in a closet, it's an influence-rich world, unsolicited telephone calls from Ware Shoals, SC included. In the main much of this attention is about where we spend our dollars and cents, good old marketing influence. There's also plenty of subtle worldview and political positioning. Often these outside influences are the loudest and most persistent voices whispering in the ears of spiritual leaders. Learning to distance themselves from them is one of the most important spiritual disciplines in the education system for leaders.
Still, this cultural download of information is more random and occasional, usually unintentional. What is happening around us certainly leaves marks and impressions. That's why who's whispering in our ears is such a significant consideration. And, the answer to that question may be one of the more disheartening truths about spiritual leadership at every level. Sadly, the answer today is often "no one". Studies indicate that loneliness is among the tragic realities in just about every spiritual leader category. This happens because many spiritual leaders live in isolation. One recent study indicates that very few pastors have anyone they can trust for conversations about the rigors of ministry. It's true across the wide-range spectrum of those whose spiritual leadership is needed, and expected. Life on an island is most often uninformed.
Scripture is clear about the necessity of counsel in a spiritual leaders life. Solomon's Proverbs are interlaced with biblical truth about our need for advisers, that is, someone to whisper in our ears as we fulfill the immense leadership assignments entrusted to us.
Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is
Proverbs 11:14, ESV
The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.
Proverbs 12: 15, ESV
Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future. Many
are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.
Proverbs 19: 20-21, ESV
And, there are many, many more. At the same time, there's also the example of the noted biblical leaders like the Apostle Paul. His dynamic two way relationships with Timothy. Titus, Epaphroditus, Luke, Philemon and others are models of giving and receiving Godly counsel. They are reminders of a common need in spiritual leaders lives, the need for someone to be whispering in their ears!
That's the topic this week and we'll explore Scripture for truth about who should be whispering in my ears?
Let me offer deepest gratitude to those who have grieved with us in the death of our dad, Chester H. Holmes, Jr. on January 25. Our family has been blessed by your many acts of kindness and support. Thank you!