The last two years have been both a challenging and confusing time to lead a church.
But here we are, at the beginning of a new year. So, what will your church need from you in 2022?
The answer to that question is this: The same thing that the church has always needed—spiritual leadership.
What is spiritual leadership? What does it look like?
The Apostle Paul gave us a clear picture of what spiritual leadership is in his final meeting with the elders of the church in Ephesus, in Acts 20.
He’s passing the torch of leadership and pleading with them to take on the mantle of spiritual leaders of their congregation. It’s an incredible passage for leaders.
I think Paul’s words are exactly the challenge we need as we step into another year of ministry.
Here are five challenges that Paul gives us as spiritual leaders.
Multiple times in his speech, Paul tells the Ephesian elders, “You know how I lived…”
They were fully aware. It was obvious.
Specifically, he talks about how he worked with his own hands and provided for his own needs rather than taking handouts from the believers.
The point is this: The kind of leadership and lifestyle that Paul was calling these leaders into was fully understood and obvious because they had watched him live it out for almost three years.
Spiritual leadership is about modeling. To the church in Corinth, Paul said, “You should imitate just as I imitate Christ.”
The most important spiritual leadership you can offer your congregation or ministry this year is your life and how you live it.
Speak God’s Truth
Paul tells the Ephesian elder, “You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful but have taught you publicly and from house to house.”
Paul knew the scriptures and he knew what the Ephesians needed. He spoke God’s truth into their needs.
What do your people need to hear this year? What Scriptural truth do they need to be encouraged with? Unsettled with? Challenged by?
Paul taught house to house. I wonder if his message changed slightly for each home he was in.
A good leader knows what his or her people need.
Spiritual leadership is about understanding what your people need and sharing God’s truth in that need.
Paul challenges the leaders, “Keep watch over yourselves.”
It seems to me that he challenges them to take care of themselves before he asks them to take care of their church.
As you lead this year, only you can own your spiritual health.
What your church needs from you is a healthy version of you. The best thing you can offer is a heart alive to God.
If you want to be an effective spiritual leader in 2022, you need to establish and maintain healthy boundaries.
This means, you need consistent time with your Creator and accountability and support.
“Keep watch over yourselves.” This is one of the highest priorities of great spiritual leaders.
I used to think being a pastor was complicated. Now, I think it’s pretty simple…just really hard.
Spiritual leadership is about journeying with people. Being present with them in their triumphs and pain.
Encouraging people to trust God when everything is going right and when everything is falling apart.
If you want to be an effective spiritual leader in 2022, move toward your people relationally.
Walk with them. Listen to them. Show up in their lives, especially in the difficult moments. Shepherd them.
Be On Your Guard
Paul issues a startling warning to the Ephesian elders.
I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard! Acts 20:29-31
He challenges them to be on their guard. Why? Because of wolves.
Wolves that will arise, even from their own group!
And what do wolves do? They distort and twist the truth of scripture in order to gain followers.
Does this sound familiar? People who are more concerned about their preferences than the community? People who are more focused on their political views than the mission of the church?
We’re talking about people who care more about themselves than Christ and are not concerned about twisting the truth to get what they want.
Unfortunately, spiritual leadership in 2022 will require carefully confronting people whose motives are not pure.
Unfortunately, spiritual leadership in 2022 will require you to say, “No, that’s actually not what the Scriptures teach.”
Be on your guard. Protect your church and speak the truth of Scripture.
This is what spiritual leadership often looks like.
These are challenging words from the Apostle Paul 2000+ years ago.
I believe their relevance and challenges are exactly what we need as we step into another challenging year of leadership.
As we start this new year, know that we’re praying for you and your church.