Stop growing. Stop leading. It really is as simple as that.
Unfortunately too many leaders stop growing long before they stop leading. The tell-tale signs are predictable. Your study and your prayers follow the same pattern as always. You rarely, if ever, employ any new approach in your spiritual devotion. You read in the same places in the Bible. You use the same study helps. You do these things in the same location. Predictability breeds dormancy.
The growth I have in mind here is not primarily in your leadership but mostly in your walk with Christ. Agreed, there is overlap. Some of the key principles will apply in both environments.
The longer you are in a leadership position, the more likelihood that you have plateaued in your spiritual growth. Yesterday at church, we sang that old Southern gospel song, “The longer I serve Him, the sweeter He grows.” However, that isn’t always the case. According to the REVEAL study done by Willow Creek several years ago, tenure arrests spiritual growth more than it enhances it.
In light of that, what are you going to do to ensure on-going spiritual growth? Here are some thoughts about jumpstarting your spiritual growth:
Encourage people to tell you the truth. Many of the “growth spurts” in our walk with Christ are preceded by some shocking revelations about ourselves. These won’t come to us if those closest to us and in the best position to offer grace-filled assessments know that we react negatively to them. Ask people to give you honest assessments about what they see in your character and devotion. When they do, receive it with humility and appreciation.
Allow for the slow growth of character. Learning a new skill or technique takes less time than a change in one’s personal character. Yet over the long haul of ministry, who we are carries more impact than what we do. Eugene Peterson’s definition of discipleship is priceless: a long obedience in the same direction. Is that true of you?
Determine how you will measure your spiritual growth. Dallas Willard suggests that we use two basic questions to measure progress in our walk with Christ. They are: (1) Am I growing more or less easily irritated these days? (2) Am I growing more or less easily discouraged these days?
Take responsibility for your own growth. Be a self-feeder. Make sure you can feed yourself by a self-directed study of Scripture and time in prayer. Reading Christian authors is a needed discipline. However, don’t attempt to live off the fumes of other men and women’s love for Christ. Attune your own spiritual ears to the voice of the Spirit. Read the Bible before you read what someone else has said about it.
Make use of all the spiritual disciplines. As means to the grace that brings growth, prayer and Bible study are pretty obvious. Don’t neglect the others: fasting, Sabbath rest, meditation, private worship, silence, solitude, and service.
What God does in us through the sanctification of His Spirit is a priority in time what He does through us. Obviously the outcome—ministry, evangelism, discipleship—is eternally more important than the activity. The end is greater than the means.
But without the means of spiritual growth taking place in our lives, there will be no end, no outcome. Make sure that you are growing spiritually so that you can lead others effectively.
by Brett Selby