24. Thoughts on Leadership

If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, you are a leader.
John Quincy Adams
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Leadership is something that many want and once they receive it, they find it to be very uncomfortable. It is one of those positions in life that leave one exposed and without a place to hide. It is accepting responsibility of things that went wrong, even if you did not actually participate in it. Therefore, leadership by its very nature is unsettling and problematic.
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A leader is someone who does not ran away from the difficult decisions. When difficult decisions arise, a leader recognizes the weight they bring and seeks counsel from those who have wrestle with a similar matter. A leader knows that after all advice has been given and the facts reviewed, he/she will have to render the final word on the matter.
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On the desk of President Truman was a sign that read, “The buck stops here.” There are many people who attempt to pass responsibilities on to someone else and when things go bad they attempt to pass the blame onto someone else. For a leader, this kind of irresponsibility and dodging is unacceptable. A leader must recognize that they are responsible for everything that happens in their domain, even if they did not do it or say it. Every leader is responsible for the actions of those who they lead and they are accountable for every success and failure within their domain.
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A leader does not have the option of staying out of the business of those whom they lead. A leader understands that we are indeed our brother’s keeper. While a leader is careful not to get into every detail of an individual’s life, they do have a responsibility to be aware of things that can directly affect an individual’s work performance and safety of others. This awareness does not give a leader the privilege of being a counselor or a doctor, but instead a leader should use this awareness to offer information on social services and professional assistance when needed.
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Leadership requires an individual to be aware of their strengths and weakness. Meaning, a leader does not have the skills to perform every job within their domain, but the skills to perform the jobs they were trained to do. Leaders always get in trouble when they attempt to perform tasks they have not been trained to do. Therefore, a leader needs to know what they can do and know who can perform the skills they cannot. By avoiding “being all things to all skills” a leader shows the strength of their character and a willingness to depend on the skills of others.
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Jesus of Nazareth, a Jewish Rabbi, denounced authoritarianism and micro-management when he said, “Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave.” What he is promoting is a servant based form of leadership, a form of leadership that is in the services of others. Jesus practiced what he preached, in addition to his responsibilities as a leader he washed feet, cook food, and took time to listen to the intimate concerns of strangers.
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William Arthur Ward said, “Leadership is based on inspiration, not domination. On cooperation, not intimidation.” Today, a wise leader should avoid micro-management of their domain and adopt a form of leadership that is free of authoritarianism and domination. Because when someone closely observes and controls the work of those under his/her leadership it creates a strong boss environment and not a leadership environment. Tight control over others and the work environment is generally unhealthy and does not allow for subordinates to develop a broader understanding of their skills, confidence in expressing their opinions, and a general understanding that mistakes are learning opportunities. It is always a better choice, to choose to be a leader and not a boss.
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The difference between a boss and a leader: A boss says, “Go!” A leader says, “Let’s go!”
E.M. Kelly

Written by Dave Pflueger August 15, 2016 (c) copyrighted by Pflueger

23. Reality of Washington Services for the Disabled (1998)

WashingtonStateSeal

Out of the institutions and into a neighborhood near you. The Community Mental Health Act evolved out of the administration of President John F. Kennedy and was passed by the U.S. Congress in 1963. Not long after this act had been approved by the President and Congress American deinstitutionalization began in earnest. The care and support for those who were diagnosed with psychological and developmental disorders was now shifted from hospitals and other institutions to community based programs and natural support networks. The new institution would not be a physical building, but instead would be a network of community services, neighborhood programs, professional services, the extended family, and faith communities. Some of these would be supported by federal and state funding.
A couple of years later, medical care and services was added to the network of support for the disabled. In 1965 Medicaid was created by the Social Security Administration, which added Title XIX to the Social Security Act. This was a highly optimistic era the history of the United States, they truly believed the medication that would contain the symptoms of psychological impairments and allow these individuals to successfully manage their lives was very near development. Therefore, it seemed only logical to dismantle the old institutional system and await the soon to be delivered medication.
A good picture of this new reality in care and support of disabled individuals would be the halfway houses that existed from the middle of the 1960’s through the early 1980’s. Throughout this country halfway houses provided a way for disable individuals who were shifted from institutions to community based programs to live independently while participating in professional programs and integrating into neighborhoods. These group homes also allowed disabled individuals to live separately from family members while retaining a supportive community. Some of these individuals eventually moved into apartments owned by Housing Authority agencies or received approval for the H.U.D. Section Eight program and rented privately owned apartment. As a means of filling their days with meaningful activities, many of these individuals spent many hours at a neighborhood day treatment center of some kind and a few found the mental health club houses. There were also options for work for these individuals, shelter workshops and other work-based programs understood the personal benefits that an individual receives from a sense of contributing in a meaningful way. Fountain House of New York is a good example of the benefits of a work oriented day. Also during this period, the poor and disable had very little trouble finding health care, counseling services, and other professional services and programs. In time, some of these individuals developed the ability to move on to volunteering at a variety of agencies and programs in the private sector and a few evolved into traditional employment. Simply put, this period in history may not have been perfect – but it did provide a means in which disable individuals could benefit and have a purpose in their lives.
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A Direct Hit
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In the early 1980’s, President Reagan began the first stage of federal welfare reform. The President convinced Congress to change the concept of block grants and how the federal government would support social and health programs. Through these new kind of block grants the federal government delegated the responsibility for financing and administering domestic assistance programs to the states. A federal block grant was given to a state and the services in the state had to compete for a piece of the grant. Once a state spent the grant it ceased to spend or paid for things from its own budget. It also meant that states lowered the amount they were willing to reimburse professionals, this was done to save money in the state budgets and preserve block grants for services. Because of the financial limitations of these block grants many state social and health programs were either eliminated or seriously reduced. During the 1990’s President Clinton also enacted welfare reform and many programs that survived the Reagan reforms could not continue with the additional reforms under Clinton. The era of great optimism had come to an end and the awaited medication never arrived.
Throughout the 1980’s and the 1990’s, the U.S. Congress continually affirmed that the private sector and faith communities were better suited to offer social and welfare services. This conviction was more of a dream than a reality and therefore these reductions in government supported services seriously affected the lives of those living with disabilities, their families, and those who cared for them.
It was no secret that American deinstitutionalization was heavily dependent upon government funding and assistance. However, the political tide had shifted and the government reduced the funding for welfare and social programs with little consideration of what the impact would be on deinstitutionalization. The Community Mental Health Act remains the rule, but the serious reduction in the funding of those services and programs it relies on, has left American deinstitutionalization in an unhealthy and unpleasant state.
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What Happened to Professional Services?
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One of the dark realities of the welfare reforms during the 1980’s and the 1990’s was the serious reduction in reimbursements by the federal government to those who provide professional services to individuals with established physical, developmental, and psychological disabilities. Many people have asked me from time to time why have so many medical professionals and counseling services have stop offering services to Medicaid clients? The answer is painfully simple, the government reimbursement for services offered to a recipient of the Medicaid programs is seriously below the market rate.
This comes into view when you look at our urban societies which have become very, very professionally oriented and referring individuals to professional services is a standard practice by many people, faith communities, and other professional individuals. The downside to this practice is the fact that many health care providers and counseling agencies do not accept individuals because their primary benefactors are the Medicaid program and other state programs.
Within the human services community this has left many providers wondering how they were going to serve the disable and individuals of poverty within their agency. They want the best possible professional services for those whom they serve, but if it cannot be attained for any reason they are faced with the reality of having individuals in their care who cannot receive these professional services. This often means they must create natural support networks and other alternative means of providing support and care for individuals and this can be very challenging.
Another hardship has been added to the difficulties of providing services, it comes from the insurance agencies that provide liability coverage. Premiums for liability policies that cover private social programs and health care programs have become very costly budget item for many of these programs and yet without a liability policy many are simply not allowed to operate. The result of this has either been the termination of operations for some programs or a serious reduction in services toward those with psychological or developmental disabilities.
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Dual Diagnoses Realities
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Another nightmare in the health care field comes from of the separation of the mental health community and the developmental disability community by the State of Washington. For those who live in poverty and qualify for Medicaid, they must face the fact that government policy has separated these two groups.
What does this mean? If you have a developmental disability you can only be treated for your developmental impairments and if you have a psychological disability you can only receive treatment for your psychological impairment. If you have a developmental disability that also causes mental illness you would only be treated for the developmental disability. If you want the psychological impairment of the developmental disability treated you must pay for that service from your own resources, which the poor cannot. It goes without saying, this has caused a lot of creative diagnoses from medical professionals and has been the source of heartburn for many social workers.
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Support Groups
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Throughout the late twentieth century, many support groups were developed to serve disable individuals and their families. Unfortunately, all too often these support groups meet at times and places that are not always convenient for disabled individuals who are dependent on public transportation or have domestic responsibilities.
Support groups also have tendencies to choose times and places that reflect those individuals who started the support group (or continue it) and the group can strongly reflect the demographics of these individuals as well.
Many support groups make every attempt to take additional steps to ensure sensitivity between social, cultural, and economic backgrounds. However, others are not so careful about these key elements. Whenever a person feels like they do not fit into the group because of their income or culture the group has failed to be inclusive.
The key to any successful support group is center in one simple word, inclusive. Once again, if the support group becomes a group of peers from the same income class or social status – it has failed.
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Crises Centers and Hotlines
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The cartoonist Gary Larson foresaw the current crises in social services many years ago by drawing a cartoon of a building with a sign on it that said, “Crises Center,” and this building was floating down a river and about to go over a large waterfall, while being consumed by fire.
The crises centers (and help lines) are supposed to play a frontline role for individuals who are in immediate personal need. However, many of the contact persons at the crises centers are not trained to handle the poor who have seriously compromised mental health and are without a natural support network. Unfortunately, clinical and state social workers are over worked and have more clients than they can reasonably manage, so it is often difficult for someone in crises to contact their assigned individual. This leads them to contact the crises centers and although the crises center answers the phone, it is not the appropriate place for them.
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Rural Life Coming Up Short
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In the State of Washington, it has always been difficult for rural areas and rural cities to recruit and keep qualified social and health workers and it is even more difficult to provide high quality services for those with developmental and psychological disabilities of all ages. Concerning rural school districts, regardless of the size of the community or town, rural special education programs of school districts also struggle to keep good special education teachers, psychologists, speech therapist, and occupational therapist.
There is a strong and positive side of living in rural communities, it is a slower pace of life, a stronger sense of community, a general tendency to help neighbors who are in need, and the lower cost of living (which can be far less than that of metro areas). All of which can be, without question, very beneficial for those living with psychological and developmental disabilities.
Unfortunately, with the major reduction in government social and health care programs many rural areas simply do not have the extended resources needed to provide the kind of privately funded professional services that are needed for disable individuals, especially for disable children. Another reality is the fact that many progressive treatment programs and many colleges and universities that focus on social and health studies and research are in the larger cities; therefore, there is more options for care and services in or near metropolitan areas.
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Domestic Violence Laws, a Great Idea Gone Bad
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Currently there is no greater example of the conflict between American deinstitutionalization and American society than that which is found in the current domestic violence laws. The advocates who are very passionate about domestic violence have created many laws to protect domestic partners and families from domestic abuse through someone’s need to use physical and psychological violence to control and dominate individuals. In their zeal to seek out justice and social reform, they created laws that do not allow for the consideration of an “established medical history” of developmental or psychological disabilities and the symptomatic aggression and violence that often comes with these disabilities. This lack of acknowledgement in the creation of law also creates conflicts between the basic concepts of the 1963 Community Mental Health Act and the anti-domestic violence community.
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Passing On
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Another hash reality for those who live with disabilities comes when their parents die. Often the siblings and cousins of the disabled individual often live in different cities, they are financially self-sufficient, and they have a strong sense of independence. Furthermore, these family members have no desire to participate in a natural support network. They want state social and health services to provide for their disable family member. However, as many of us know all too well the state has deinstitutionalized its programs, cut many social services, and therefore wants the families to care for their disable members through natural support networks. Sadly, this is yet another no-win circumstance for disable individuals.
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Back to the Future? Not Likely
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As it stands today, both the state and federal governments are not showing any desire to reinstate any of the former funding levels that once supported deinstitutionalization and provided appropriate social and health programs for disabled individuals living in poverty. Instead, the government believes that private business, non-profit organizations, and local faith communities should step forward and provide what the government once offered.
With the crippling reduction in so many public social and health services and the dysfunctional state of American deinstitutionalization – there is a real need to create natural support networks. If a disabled or impaired individual does not have a natural support network, they face serious difficulties and are often needlessly isolated. These often lead to a sense of disenfranchisement from society.
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Community
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In closing, considering the reductions in social services and the continuation of the Community Mental Health Act, I believe collective cultures that embrace recovery model concepts can give those who live with either a developmental or psychological disabilities a greater level of care, support, and enhanced lives. Through collectives cultures natural support networks can be developed for individuals so that they can have meaningful and productive lives.
People with disabilities and impairments truly desire to participate in life and want to be challenged by life (in a manner that they can handle). They want to feel like real people and enjoy the blessings that life can offer. But they will need a network that will provide on-going assistance and tolerance to achieve these goals and I believe that collective cultures is the best option for this.

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Written by Dave Pflueger in January of 1998 (c) copyrighted by Pflueger. Dave is state certified for peer counseling and a past member of the Rehabilitation Counsel (DSHS-DVR).

17. A Reflection on Holy Friday (2012)

Today is the day when Christians take time to reflect upon the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth. Recently while I was doing just this, and I began to think about all the Christians who have been killed because of their unconditional embrace of Christ. They, like Christ, prove that Christianity is all about sacrifices and the intentional distancing of ones self from safe harbors and comfort zones. In his large catechism Martin Luther made it clear that we are to shun the treasures and comforts of this life and place our confidence in our relationship with the living and true God. Like the blood of Christ which enlivens our souls, the blood of the martyrs enlivens the convictions of the faithful. Therefore, through the sacrifices of Christ and his martyrs we are given an example on how uncompromising our faith should be.

As we journey through this day, let us make note of anything in our personal lives that prevents us from sacrificing ourselves, which is our reasonable service, and commit our strengths to removing it from our lives. In closing, I offer this reflection by Oswald Chambers, “Sanctification means to be intensely focused on God’s point of view. It means to secure and keep all the strength of our body, soul, and spirit for God’s purpose alone.”

Written by Dave Pflueger April 6, 2012 © copyrighted by Pflueger

9. Ministry of Spiritual Leadership

9. Ministry of Spiritual Leadership

Who Are Spiritual Leaders?

First, spiritual leaders are both professional and lay professional individuals who serve the Church of Christ through the following categories: Minister of Word and Sacrament (priest/elder/presbyter), Minister of Word and Service (deacon), or as a licensed/certified lay minister. Second, the principle duties and responsibilities of either a Pastor or Assistant/Associate Pastor – are those associated with Pastoral Care. Individuals performing the Ministry of Pastoral Care belong to one of the following categories: Minister of Word and Sacrament, Minister of Word and Service, or Lay Minister as defined by a church.

Before Birth

The Spirit of the Sovereign YHWH is upon me, for YHWH has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to comfort the broken hearted and to proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed. 1

Spiritual leaders have been chosen for their vocation before they were born, this is evident when Isaiah, a prophet and spiritual leader, reflected and wrote, Before I was born YHWH called me; from my mother’s womb he has spoken my name. 2  While everyone of the Church of God has been created and brought forth to serve God and humanity through their talents and experiences, there are those who come forth from the womb to serve as spiritual leaders, especially those created to be clergy. Jeremiah, another prophet and spiritual leader, meditated and wrote about this when he penned, Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations. 3  It has become clear, that God creates these individuals for this service before they are born and therefore they serve God and humanity in a very special way. Because their ministries have a unique relationship with God, they are not vocations that someone decides on their own to do. At some point in the life of the individual the reality of this vocation is awaken by the Spirit deep with their soul, and once waken both the vocation and Spirit gently calls out from the depth of their soul through the heart of one’s compassion, this is especially true for those who have been created to be clergy.  Therefore, once awakened it yearns to grow and become a fulfilled gift that always offers back to God and humanity.

Set Apart

Like the prophets and sages of old, St. Paul also reflected on being set apart for service to God before his birth when he wrote,  God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased. 4  While the Church uses the word “called,” it goes much deeper than an ecclesiastical invitation for service in the Church of Christ, it goes right to the created center of the individual. Every human being has been created by God and endowed with talents that are uniquely their own, and those who have been created with the sacred grace of being set apart for the work of spiritual leadership, have been set aside for this service in the vineyard of God. From the days of the Mosaic Covenant to our present age, God has sanctified the vocation that requires one to have a life totally committed to God. These individuals must place God and humanity before their own lives and realities, and focus on their complete commitment to being disciples of the Gospel of Christ.  Beginning with the creation of this universe, through the covenant with the Hebrew people (Numbers 3:1-13), and continued with the manifestation of the Word, Jesus of Nazareth (Matthew 10:1) God has been constantly clear on this matter, those who have been created for the special vocation of spiritual leadership have been sanctified by God to perform it.  The individuals whom God creates for this vocation come from every background imaginable and from every occupation known to humanity. Therefore, we need to remind ourselves that God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable. 5  by human standards.

Because of human rebellion towards God and all things good and proper, the Church may have to defend humankind and hinder the sacred vocation. When the leaders of the Church must do this, they do so only after mediation and council, which only focuses on facts and evidence of wickedness.  “You must not convict anyone of a crime on the testimony of only one witness. The facts of the case must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. 6  In addition to the testimony of individuals, physical and psychological evidence shall be means to establish the fact that an offense has taken place.

A Review of the Ministry  

Now that we have established the basic nature of this ministry, let us look at the daily practices and responsibilities of this special vocation with a review of spiritual leadership (which is also known as pastoral leadership). It is a form of leadership that is unique to the ecclesiastical domain because this expression of leadership is foremost a servant-based form of leadership that is centered in the life style of Jesus of Nazareth.  At the core of servant based leadership is the principle of placing the needs and concerns of others above your own personal needs. It is a form of leadership that requires one to present themselves as a living sacrifice and walk in love as an offering and sacrifice to God. From the Gospel of Mark we find an example of this style of leadership, Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” 7  Jesus practiced what he taught, for [he] shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them. 8  Therefore, spiritual leadership is very different from corporate leadership, military leadership, and even civic leadership. These are secular forms of leadership; and are subject to a certain amount of authoritarianism and egotistic natures. However, the core of Christian leadership is humility, the heart of a servant.

Servants of God – Not All the Same 

“You will always feel ill equipped for the causes of God. You will always feel as though you have made too many mistakes for God to use you as a spiritual leader.” 9 This statement rings so true, because the devil does not want individuals to fulfill their spiritual gifts and talents, because if they do he loses; therefore, evil will do whatever it takes, to get us to a point where we doubt ourselves (who we are and our spiritual gifts).

With this in mind, when studying the subject of Christian spiritual leadership in the light of Scriptures, I generally avoid the third chapter of 1st Timothy and the first chapter of Titus, mostly because I find the Pauline school of discipline more restrictive then the concepts found in the Torah. Therefore, I prefer to focus on the spiritual leaders found in the Hebrew Scriptures.  Here we find spiritual leadership being practiced by a wide variety of individuals, some more saintly than others; we are also introduced to some of them when they are very young, so we are able to read stories that generally cover an entire life span of an individual.  As an example of some being more saintly than others, I cannot think of a better example than Samuel and King David, in these two spiritual leaders we clearly see that God calls those who are morally very strong and those who have moral set-backs from time to time to be spiritual leaders of the people of God.  While Samuel kept to the spiritual moral course that was set before him when he was very young, David was not as consistent in his spiritual journey; therefore, David is a good example that God does indeed tolerate moral flaws in spiritual leaders. Regardless of their strengths and weaknesses, both men loved God and served God according to both their calling and abilities.  Joseph and Moses are another example of this; again, these are two great examples of spirituals leaders with very different personal characteristics.  Joseph had a very strong moral spirituality and Moses had a strong personality, but had his flaws.  Christians can do well in reading the stories of the lives of these great spiritual leaders and the lessons that they offer us.  God chose these individuals to be spiritual leaders of the Hebrew people and one, Joseph, to be a leader and moral example for the Egyptians.

Spiritual Leadership – Hallmarks

In light of both Hebrew and Christian Scriptures, we clearly see here that humility is the hallmark of Christian leadership and whenever possible these leaders are to avoid strong authoritarianism.  Therefore, Christian spiritual leadership shall be a religious discipline. As a religious discipline it is to be practiced in the context of a life style that is centered in the wonderful examples that Christ gave us to follow; He did not think twice about washing feet (John 13:1-4-5), ensuring that His disciples were fed (Matthew 12:1), and other common everyday tasks. In this way, Jesus teaches us that the duties and responsibilities of spiritual leaders are not only those most closely associated with leadership and administration, but also the common everyday tasks are also the domain of a Christian leader.  In this light, a spiritual leader and Christian parenthood are two responsibilities that are closely associated with each other, because in both of these duties humility and placing the needs of others before one’s own needs are the principle qualities of these vocations. I have always enjoyed the simplicity of this statement that describes the ministry of a spiritual leader, “Spiritual leadership is the development of relationships with the people of a Christian institution or body in such a way that individuals and the group are enabled and achieve biblically compatible goals and meet real needs.  Through their influence, spiritual leaders serve to motivate and enable others to achieve what otherwise would never be achieved.” 10

Responsibilities – A Review

Now let us address what are the basic duties and responsibilities of both professional and lay professional spiritual leadership. Simply put, they are about relationships, relationships between humanity and relationships between God and humanity. These relationships cover the entire span of human emotions and life experiences; they are about intercommunion between that which we can experience and understand and that which we cannot.  Therefore, at its very core it is a ministry of Sacred Love, a Mystery that is between the loving Creator and the created. It is also the relationships and interactions between those whom God has created.  With this in mind, let us now further explore the responsibilities and duties.

The Ministry of the Word:  Through the ministry of the Word spiritual leaders continue the redeeming work of Christ, that is bringing humanity into relationship with God; for through Christ God and sinner are reconciled; For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 11  Therefore, when Christ offered Himself as the ultimate sacrifice for our redemption the curtain that separated God and humanity was torn open, allowing humankind to enter the very presence of the living God. Like the sun, which enlightens the day, Christ is the Light that allows us to see our way through this life and find our way to the loving embrace of God.  Christ is also our Advocate in the courtroom of the King of Kings; when accused of committing a sinful act, He proclaims on our behalf that someone else has already pled guilty and received punishment for the act. With this in mind, the ministry of the Word has the responsibility to remind all of us that through the Word of God we come to understand redemption and the role it plays in our lives. Furthermore, through the ministry of the Word spiritual leaders can find the assistance needed to help individuals to understand the undisciplined nature of our Free Will and the trouble that it can bring upon our lives, and how we can discipline it and bring order into our lives through an honest relationship with God. Therefore, it is through the Ministry of the Word that spiritual leaders can awaken us to the knowledge that that we have a reconciled relationship with God and therefore we can stand in a correct relationship with God.  Through this Ministry of the Word, we know that God truly loves us and through the Gospels, we learn and understand that Christ has forgiven our sins; he has wash us thoroughly from our iniquity, and cleansed us from our sin. 12

EvangelismInvitation: Through spiritual guidance and Christian Scriptures individuals can enter into a personal relationship with Christ, this is called Evangelism. Evangelism is a important component of the work of a spiritual leader and it has two basic forms. The first is introduction and presenting Christ and the second is sharing through expressing the teachings of Christ I ones own activities.

The invitation either introduces a person to Christ for the first time or it may reintroduce a person to Christ. Either way, they are invited to know Christ. Therefore, it is a ministry that also can be time consuming and requires patience, wisdom, and most of all prayer. When a spiritual leader invites a person to explore a relationship with Christ (or deepen their current one) they serving as ministers of the Word and are offering that person the instructions of wisdom, justice, judgment, and fairness 13 that is found throughout the Bible. The very same instructions that can sustain their soul for not only a lifetime, but for eternity.  It is a very compassionate act for a spiritual leader to offer someone something that will bless and sustain the life of the individual, and even more so when the wisdom that is offered is the Word of God – Jesus of Nazareth. This can only begin when the spiritual leader takes the first step by offering a warm and friendly invitation to all individuals to meet their elder brother – Jesus, who is also their best friend. By offering an individual an invitation to meet Jesus, the spiritual leader is inviting them to experience for themselves that He is trustworthy and will stand by them in good times and in bad times. This moves us to the next level; for once a person has been introduced to Christ they become a candidate for membership in a local Christian community.  This means that the spiritual leader needs too gently allow the person to grow in their relationship Christ and even more gently encourage participation in a Christian community.  When guiding a person to a local community, spiritual leaders should always avoid high-pressure sales tactics that are common in the secular business world and stay far away from trying to make a person feel bad because they are not in church on Sunday.  Pressure tactics and guilt trips are for the secular world, compassion and gentle persuasion are the tactics of Christian evangelism.

Evangelism – Sharing: The ministry of sharing is something spiritual leaders should do through their interactions with others. Through their interactions they are able to share their spiritual journey with others and listen to the journeys that others have. Regardless of who we are, through our interactions with others we present Christ in very tangible ways. Christ repeatedly shared his life with others and through sharing his life taught not only with words, but also with actions. The Gospels teach us, I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me. 14  Here Jesus is not only teaching spiritual leaders to care for others, but he is directing them to be the kind of agents who offer something with the personal touch; in other words, sharing something in a way that also requires the spiritual leader to interact with the recipients. Therefore, if we offer someone a shirt, a can of soup, a ride to church events, or a home visit we are sharing our faith. Christ wants spiritual leaders to share their faith with others in very meaningful ways and through doing as Christ wants us to do – we present Christ to humanity in very useful ways through our interaction with humanity. When spiritual leaders share their talents and life experiences in the context of the Gospels they once again give back to the Holy what God has first given them; therefore, when they share in the Spirit of Christ it is an interactive form of evangelism. Throughout the four Gospels, we find Jesus sharing his life and ministry with others, especially in intimate moments like evening meals and in upper rooms. Jesus lived among the people and shared his life with all those who encountered him. Sharing can open the doors of opportunities in ways that impersonal ways simply cannot, largely because we are engaged on a personal level. The apostle Paul wrote about sharing our faith when he penned, Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. 15  What Paul was saying is a simple truth, that is faith that is alive is a faith filled with action, a living faith, one that is fully engaged in living out the Gospel; therefore sharing our faith through our lives is a great way of ensuring that our faith is alive and serving God and humanity. Some final reflections on evangelism, we must always remember that spiritual leaders have the following responsibilities: (a) To serve as a resource person for all individuals who are developing a relationship with Christ; (b) To walk with those whose faith is evolving; and (c) To encourage individuals to share their faith through words and actions. This means praying for those who seek Christ and share Christ, so that they may receive wisdom and courage to follow the directions that the Spirit is leading them; and it also means that spiritual leaders should support and encourage individuals to share their faith through their lives and talents. In this light, two of the greatest hindrances to Evangelism and other forms of Christian outreach are statements like, “I must first focus on the members of my parish” and the “status quo.” These are parochial concepts that might work in a university or a monastery, but have no place in a local Christian community. Because a Christian community is too be interwoven with both the people and realties of the neighborhood that surrounds the church building and the real spiritual membership of the parish are all those who are created in the image of God and not just those who committed themselves to a membership agreement.

Sage and Teacher:  One of the biggest responsibilities of all professional and lay professional spiritual leaders is to guide and instruct both individuals and congregations in ways that promote positive spiritual growth and a general knowledge of the Christian religion. This begins by proclaiming Christ through lives of compassion, instructing the faithful in both the pulpit and in the classroom; and equipping individuals so that they are spiritually fulfilled and able to serve the Church of Christ. If the spiritual leaders fail to do this, then how can [the faithful] call on [Christ] to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in [Christ] if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about [Christ] unless someone tells them? 21  Simply put, the faithful cannot and these spiritual leaders have become blind guides. Therefore, every spiritual leader who tends a flock of Christ has the responsibility of ensuring that every individual member of the flock receives the amount of spiritual milk that will allow their faith to grow and mature, and receive instruction on the Word of God and the basic beliefs of Christianity.  The Bible provides us with these guides, [Jesus] is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. 22

I believe that teaching is one of the greatest responsibilities that spiritual leaders have. They teach in classes, they teach at seminars, they teach individuals, and they teach through their sermons. Without question, they are indeed the principle teachers of in the local Christian community, and the spiritual lives of the faithful depend upon them to strengthen both their minds and souls. For the lips of a priest ought to preserve knowledge, because he is the messenger of YHWH Almighty and people seek instruction from his mouth. 23  Among Christians, Jesus is the example of a teacher par excellent; in the manner of Jewish religious teacher, he taught his apostles and the people whenever he had an opportunity to do so.  When he taught adults, Jesus never softened his punches or his message, but instead he taught clearly and boldly, as one with authority.  From time to time Jesus did simplify his message, but never to the point of compromise.  Like their Master before them, spiritual leaders are to stand firm, teach the faith, and proclaim the glorious Gospel of Christ.  Luther summarized this when he said, “A preacher must be both soldier and shepherd. He must nourish, defend, and teach. He must have teeth in his mouth and able to bite, and fight!” 24

Opportunities for Service     

When a stranger enters a church building on a Sunday morning, the members should make every attempt to make the individual feel that they are welcomed and respected without overwhelming them.  The members should receive any questions that the visitor has with grace and wisdom, and the answers should be both simple and clear.  It should always be remembered that Sunday mornings are a very, very busy time for clergy, so the laity plays a critical and leading role in both welcoming and hosting new faces through the door.  Also, listen closely to the words of the new comers. If you do, you just might hear current or on-going needs that they have; and this opens other doors of opportunity for caring for our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Spiritual Development 

Through the compassionate work of spiritual leaders, individuals are perfected and built up in Christ; however, what does it mean to “be perfected in Christ?” This is a good question and Chambers offers a good answer, “Christian perfection is the perfection of a relationship with God that shows itself to be true … God’s purpose is not to perfect us to make us trophies in His showcase; but instead to get us to the place where He can use us.” 16

God is patience when it comes to our spiritual development. God will take all time needed to get us to the place where we can serve him, God will not interfere with our growth nor will God hinder it. God is a patience Father and will allow his children to grow and learn in the way that will benefit them the most. God knows all too well that everyone grows and develops their spirituality at their own pace and in their own way; therefore spiritual leaders need to have the patience and wisdom of a farmer.  If a spiritual leader properly tends to the field and allows the crop to grow and mature at its own pace, then everyone will enjoy the fruits that the Spirit will bestow.

God gave us our gifts and talents so that he can use us for his purpose. These gifts are not to be dormant and they are not be used only for ourselves. In addition to the daily offering of our talents, we should always include that which the Sovereign first gave us, the ability to pray. Because our spiritual lives are perfected not only though our personal sacrifices, but also through daily prayer.

Our relationship with God is a natural progression that begins at our birth and completed when our soul begins its life in the presences of Christ.  Through a life of spiritual growth a person gains religious wisdom and is sanctified through drawing closer to Christ.  Hallmarks of our journey through life will be our life experiences (and our responses to them) and our personal relationship the Holy (or lack thereof).  According to Chambers, “sanctification means to be intensely focused on God’s point of view.  It means to secure and to keep all the strength of our mind, body, and soul, for God’s purpose alone.” 17  This follows what Luther said, “How does sanctification take place? Sanctification takes place when we occupy ourselves with the Word of God and focus on spiritual exercises.” 18

Therefore perfecting our spiritual lives is the “movement” or “exercises” that develops into sanctification; standing still does not perfect us, but a spiritual life in motion does.  Here is another quote that I like to reflect upon when I am thinking about spiritual development and becoming perfected in the image of God, “We become pure on the inside – as Christ renews our minds and transforms us into his image.” 19 Therefore, throughout our mortal lives God continues to do what God first did for humanity, when God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness. 20  In this light, our spiritual life is one that that keeps evolving throughout our entire life. The best response to this continual growth is to secure and keep all the strength of our body, soul, and spirit for God’s purpose alone. Therefore, interwoven into our spiritual growth is our sanctification and the more we spiritually grow as individuals the more profound our sanctification becomes.

Ministry of Sacred Acts

For those spiritual leaders, who have been bestowed with the honor of serving God and humanity as Ministers of Word and Sacrament, there are the additional duties and responsibilities of the Ministry of Sacred Acts (sacraments).

The Ministry of Sacred Acts is a great honor and one carefully bestowed. It requires the recipient to not only defend the assembly of Christ; but also what the assembly considers sacred. This goes well beyond ensuring that rites are performed an appropriate manner and the objects that are used in the ceremonies are respectfully cared for; it goes right to the core of being a shepherd.  In that, the shepherd not only cares and defends the flock, but also defends and cares for the sacred activities that the community treasures most dearly and the Church affirms.

Final Reflection

In closing there are many more thing I could say about spiritual leaders, but that would be yet another great volume on the subject and I would like to offer here a short presentation of the subject in this document, covering only the basics. I hope you enjoyed reading my reflection on the subject and remember there are many books on this subject that cover it on a far more in-depth manner; and I would encourage you to find one (or more) and read.  I will leave you with this reflection from the Bible, Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. 25

Footnotes:

1 Isaiah 61:1 New Living Translation  2 Isaiah 49:1 New International Version  3 Jeremiah 1:5 New International Version  4 Galatians 1:15 New International Version  5 Romans 11:29 New International Version  6 Deuteronomy 19:15 New Living Translation  7 Mark 10:42-45 New International Version  8 Psalm 78:72 New International Version  9 Mark Becton  10  J.E. Means  11 John 3:16 New International Version  12 Psalm 51:12 New King James Version  13 Proverbs 1:3 King James Version  14 Matthew 25:35-36 New Living Translation  15 James 2:17 New International Version  16 Oswald Chambers (1874-1917) was a Baptist preacher and a prominent early twentieth century Scottish Christian minister and teacher.  17 Oswald Chambers  18 Martin Luther  19 One Year With Jesus devotional – June 11 (Mark 7:14-1920 Genesis 1:26 New King James Version  21 Romans 10:14-15 New Living Translation  22 Colossians 1:28  23 Malachi 2:7  24 Martin Luther  25 Acts 20:28 New International Version

Written by Dave Pflueger August 12, 2004 © copyrighted by Pflueger