- Leading from the Inside Out
Deepening the Inner Life of a Leader (or Metaphor Mayhem)
Out of a deep inner life, streams of abundance can flow to others we lead. If we try to keep pouring water out of an empty bucket, we will soon see the bottom and run dry, but if we are continually filling our buckets then we will overflow onto others.
There are three areas of our life that need constant attention: our devotional life, our domestic life, and our developmental life.
- Fill up your soul.
We always need more coming in that is going out to our core groups, our church duties, our families and our work. Before we can even begin to think about pouring into others’ lives, we need to make sure we ourselves are filled. What are some ways we can do this?
Devotional time-NOT Bible study just time
Memorizing scripture-chunks of scripture
Study Christian books by great authors
Listening to good preaching and teaching
Loving service to others
Leaders should devote time to developing their inner life weekly. Sermon or Bible study preparations don’t count.
When we talk about the importance of inner life, we need to remember that leadership is about life, and not so much about the influence we have. Just as we see how much a baby grows and develops on a few scoops of formula plus water a day, so we see that it is not so much the quantity of care and feeding as the consistency of it that counts in our lives.
We should concentrate on the importance of the roots and not so much the fruits. The fruits are the natural outpouring of having our roots properly placed and cared for.
- Cultivate your Development
My grandmother taught me this song. It had no meaning or purpose, it was just a fun song, but for some reason it came to my mind:
I’m a little prairie flow-er
Growing wilder every ho-ur
Nobody wants to cultivate me
For I’m as wild as I can be
If we don’t cultivate our spiritual and intellectual lives we will be little wild flowers that spring up like crocuses and then die in a few days. Roses require care and feeding to stay healthy, but they reward us with long lasting blooms all summer long.
We need to develop physically, at least I do, but more than that we need to develop ourselves as people. If we are constantly at church and Bible study we can begin to smell like a stale church basement! While we strive to keep ourselves from being overly influenced by the culture and the world that is in rebellion with God, sometimes we get lopsided in our thinking. We certainly become weird. We need a lot of balance and some intellectual and spiritual muscle to be effective with real people.
This is a fun endeavor, but it requires careful balance and sometimes, a lot of application. Developing ourselves takes work, but in the long term it staves off that deep weariness and burnout that we get doing the same things over and over. It gives us more depth as people, and ultimately more passion for God and for the work He has for us to do.
Save margin in your life for divine appointments. Cultivate your artistic or intellectual interests. Go to plays, shows, and movies. Read fiction, autobiographies, and books relating to your career or the career you might want.
Go back to school. Sign up for conferences, Christian and other. Always abiding in Christ, wherever you are, with one eye on the chalkboard and the other one on Jesus. As a teacher, I’m constantly looking for illustrations and metaphors and trying to sharpen my tools.
- Soften your Domestic Side
One of the downsides of Christianity is that sometimes we get so wrapped up in our ministry and focused on the Bible and Christian things that we frankly become difficult to live with. Our families will appreciate it if we do some “water softening” before we start gushing all over them about how to be a better Christian.
I have often been so wrapped up in heavenly ministry that I was of no earthly good. In fact worse, I can be tired and mean. Growing up, my dad always wanted to watch Christian television and preaching. My mom had to do other things or watch television by herself in the bedroom. I have seen so many super-Christian spouses (and I mean that in the worst way) act judgmentally and unkindly to their poor spouses. If you are trying to encourage your spouse spiritually, being judgmental is not the way to do it.
I’ve seen other highly effective leaders in large ministries whose families and marriages suffered. In exactly the same way that we can be workaholics in our careers, we can be workaholics in ministry. Our spouses may become soured on the faith and our children resentful and distant.
If we keep working on pouring water into our spiritual buckets, the minerals build up on the sides. I have noticed that those who are always studying their Bibles and listening to preaching can get kind of hard to live with. Too many minerals in your water cause your pipes to clog; you become caustic, and after a while your water doesn’t clean as well as it did. Soap just doesn’t work in hard water.
Are you getting a bit scaly; are there corroded bits in your spirit? Does it seem like even after several hours spent on your Bible study, the word of God just couldn’t clean you like He used to?
When the well water is too hard in my house, I have to recharge the water softener with salt. The water has to go through a process where it gives up some of its “hard” minerals and picks up some sodium or potassium to soften it. Soft water cleans better and it won’t eat my sink or clog my pipes. It’s also just a lot nicer to have around.
What are some ways that we can soften our spiritual water? What process might we use that will exchange some of the minerals for some salt? For one, we can have a broader focus of service and ministry to others and not save all of it for our families. Another way of obtaining salt for softening purposes is to attend worship and conferences regularly where we are reminded of our own needs and downfalls so we aren’t so focused on our own.
What can we do to develop our domestic side and be salt and light at home with our spouses and kids? Ways we can do this include keeping the Sabbath as a day to spend with family. We can also make sure we have frequent date nights with our spouse. How do our spouse and our children see us?
When your spouse sees you as transformed to be a bit more like Jesus, then Jesus can use you to lead others. We must help our children to love, not just know about, the God we love. Again, I know from the opposite experience that though I taught my kids about God, I didn’t teach them very well to love and cherish Him.
Seek to live within your means and if you must splurge, splurge on others. No, that doesn’t mean buying your wife a new large screen television because you secretly want to watch the playoffs. Do extravagant things while living the simple life.
What might some extravagant but inexpensive things we be that we can do with our spouse or families?
Don’t let ministry draw you apart from your family. Listen to your husband or wife.
Talking to your spouse about something is a fantastic way of finding God’s will. Giving your spouse a listening ear is the most romantic thing a wife can do for her husband and vice versa.
Learn to say you’re sorry convincingly and often. (Am I going to let my husband see this? Hmmmm) Find joy in something every day. All of your laughs should not come in front of the TV, but if they do, try to have someone sitting next to you.
We can only really be leaders from the inside out.
Technically no one else can develop us into leaders. God is concerned about how we live, not just at church, but at work and at home, AND on vacation (which is a tough one for me).
I struggle with being rested, but as I keep telling others, “take care of yourself, because no one else will!” (I’m very good at telling others things!!!) We have to be resting both in Christ and in sleep in order to be composed and walking in the way of the Father. Keep the Sabbath, not because you are legally bound to the law, but because God gave you a good gift and you should take it!
Lead from the inside out.
The call of the kingdom is to abide in the king first and foremost. The quality of our ministry is predicated on the quality of our life. If you take care of the depth of our life, then God will take care of the expanse of our ministry. The size of the ministry God gives us does not define the size of the man or woman. In fact, at some points in our lives, the size of our ministry may fit right inside of our little house.
Live a life of integrity as much as it depends on you. Or is it, be at peace with everyone, as much as it depends on you. I think both are true.