Two Necessary Internal Shifts for Christian Leaders

Shift One:  Operating Out of the True-Self

A number of years ago, Richard Foster penned these words in his book The Celebration of Discipline:  “Superficiality is the curse of our age…The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people.”  The same can be said for Christian leaders.

So when it comes to leadership development a good corporate question might be, “How do we develop deep leaders who are true to the gospel call of Jesus Christ as we carry out the Great Commission in a Great Commandment way?  .

In his book The Gift of Being Yourself, author David G. Benner has coined the comparative phrases of the “true self” versus the “false self.”   Essentially, the false self is an identity we create that we believe will make us more presentable to others and it usually has lots of external trappings to buttress itself, but it is actually motivated by fear and anxiety and connected to performance validation.   Example: In the case of pastoral leadership, often when a church has hired a new pastor, unbeknownst to everyone, the church actually hired the false-self of the pastor because that is what he or she presented as a candidate to get the job and that is what the church thought it wanted.  A false-self was presented so that a “super-person” could be hired.  In time, the “real-self” of the pastor will be revealed to the surprise of all.

On the other hand, something beautiful and powerful emerges when a person has been willing to plumb the depths of their inner world to acknowledge who they really are before both God and others.  As the false-self is dismantled and discarded through repentance, release and inner healing, a new found freedom emerges which Benner describes as the “true-self”.  When the true-self has actually been embraced, a person starts believing they are fully accepted by God as an adopted son or daughter.  It is out of this true-self that we as leaders learn to relate and function in grace and truth.  It is through this true-self orientation that the best Christian leadership emerges in all of its personal dimensions as a leader stewards his or her gifts and accrued talents with authenticity and humility.  No more posturing for best impressions or position.  Instead, the fruit of the Spirit increases in our leadership as we live in the blessing and flow of who we are actually created to be in Christ. 


Shift Two: A New Leadership Platform

Leadership time-line studies illustrate a developmental reality that mentors need to pay attention to when walking alongside developing leaders and peers.  Generally speaking, around mid-life in a person’s developmental time-line, the Holy Spirit initiates deeper work in a person’s life and a shift becomes apparent that a leader is no longer operating out of a “doing” mindset.  The shift occurs in our inner orientation either subtly or abruptly and it moves our internal motivation away from “doing” to “being.”  Below are some descriptors of this shift in our inner orientation:

  • “Being” operates out of a visceral knowing that a person is first and foremost an adopted and loved child of God. (the true-self)
  • Knowing we are loved and accepted by God in Christ (“being”) IS NOW the platform from which we begin the “doing” of life and ministry. (platform switch)
  • Moving from “doing” to “being” is a process of growth and recognition over time as a person notices the work of the Holy Spirit in their life and cooperatives with Him in the process of their personal sanctification and deepening.  (who we are is more important that what we do)
  • When we operate out of “being” we understand that our identity in Christ, coupled with the fruit of the Holy Spirit is more powerful than the gifts of the Holy Spirit. (new view of spiritual authority where fruit is the foundation for gifts)
  • “Being” understands that the Fruit of the Holy Spirit are actually the very characteristics of the Triune God himself.  The gifts of the Holy Spirit are tools for doing ministry to convey the love of God to others.  (doing flows out of being)
  • Until “being” is valued over a “doing” form of Christian leadership, there will be limited spiritual impact because the gospel lacks the incarnational element where the maturing leader connects with others deeply as result of deep connection with the Trinity. (deep calls to deep)

  When a leader is operating on the platform of “being” first, the Lord often releases the leader to hear the critical things they are to do and to shed unnecessary activity.  The new driving reality is that who we are in Christ (being) informs what we will do.

When leaders operate out of their “true-self” the most effective ministry can flow from their lives because it is comfortably authentic and not false.  When leaders launch off of the platform of “being” their ministry trajectory is deep, powerful and focused as a direct result of an intimate relationship with Jesus as the starting place for doing ministry.  These are two necessary shifts in a leader’s development for powerful service in the Kingdom of God.

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