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More than a whisper!


There are times when I need more than a whisper to recognize the fault-lines in my spiritual leadership. They are occasions when stubborn, selfish ways, negligence, habits, busyness, or whatever become obstacles to fulfilling the assignment of moving people on to God's agenda (see Spiritual Leadership: Moving People on to God's Agenda, Henry and Richard Blackaby, B & H Books, 2001). The flip side of influence is that in certain circumstances a stronger voice is needed to get my attention, redirect my thoughts, and help me gain the correct perspective in my role as a spiritual leader. That's one of the reasons the profile of those in that "pay attention" circle is such a significant element of Christian influence.

So, yes, you can Google terms like advisor, counselor, coach, mentor, mediator, bartender, and any number of trendy terms to identify the character traits of the people you will allow access to your inner self. The people in the Psychology Department can make a few suggestions along with professionals in the other disciplines of personal wellness. You may already have a checklist of preferences for people who will be in your closest circle of friends. Over the years I've been a little choosy about those who would be accountability or support partners. At the same time, my preferences have changed on occasion because of unique circumstances or a special need that isn't usually a life norm. In the main, the people I've trusted most have exhibited the following attributes---

1. Someone with strong spiritual moorings.

Being out of sorts as a leader usually means that something has gone awry in the processes that define us. As a result, the need at that hour may be a combination of items---Biblical direction, understanding, information, challenge, encouragement, pep talk, or pity party. In spiritual leadership, however, wisdom may be greatest corrective counsel. And, we all know the basis for wisdom: "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight" (Proverbs 9:10, ESV). A person of wisdom will be able to process the circumstances and provide spiritual advice for addressing them.

2. Someone who can go beyond the obvious.

Most of us are a little reluctant to admit the root causes that may limit our leadership or detour us around our most effective influence. During these times we are blessed by people who can look past those emotions we're wearing on our shoulders to assist us in recognizing and dealing with those lapses. 2 Corinthians 4:18, ESV mentions this kind of sight---"...as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal". Going beyond the obvious can keep us from losing heart.

3. Someone who can speak the truth in love.

As mentioned in the intro, on occasion we need more than a gentle whisper. Truth always penetrates deeper than momentary circumstances and comforting words. The Apostle Paul wrote this as well---"so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ" (Ephesians 4: 14-15, ESV). That truth may at times seem like a scream or shout. Sometimes we need more than a whisper.

4. Someone who can keep a confidence.

Spiritual leaders are often on public display. In times of crisis, however, there are private matters that should be discussed in a trusting, closed atmosphere. Solomon wrote much about our need for counselors and advisors. He also wrote many Proverbs about confidentiality. Proverbs 11:13 (ESV) is one milestone: "Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered."

Trustworthy friends are necessary for genuine support, accountability, encouragement, correction, and continued influence.

5. Someone who will be back.

Yes, advice and counsel can be given, the problem of the moment can be solved, and situations can be corrected. But, there will be others. That's one reason that regular and repeated times with those in our "pay attention" circle are so necessary and important. It may be out of context to some degree, but this kind of small group experience hits the mark of Hebrews 10:25 (ESV) for me: "...not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near." Most of us will benefit from close, repeated meetings with people that can whisper in our ear, or even more when needed.

It's the flip side of influence. Spiritual leaders at every station in life are expected to shine brightly and consistently on those entrusted to their spiritual care. But, someone needs to be salt and light to them too, even when it is more than a whisper.

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