Monday, December 31, 2012

"Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership" by Ruth Haley Barton (Top 20)

I was actually supposed to read this book over a year ago as part of my learning community in Chicago. Ironically, the busyness of summer ministry pulled me away from it, and it ended up on the shelf. This past summer (2012) I carved out time in the mornings to read through this book, and I am grateful that I did. This is a leadership book that I will often refer back to because of its emphasis on "life giving rhythms" for leaders, primarily seeking God's presence in the crucible of leadership. This was a timely and relevant book for me (a doer/achiever type). I would recommend it to all ministry leaders. Here are some "power quotes" from the book...

“Behind my heroic image of myself I saw my tiresome perfectionism, my resentment of those who did not try as hard as I did, and my huge appetite for approval…Drawn to care for hurt things I had ended up with compassion fatigue. Drawn to a life of servanthood, I had ended up a service provider.” (pg. 23)

“What would it look like for me to lead more consistently from my soul – the place of my own encounter with God – rather than leading primarily from my head, my unbridled activism, or my performance-oriented drivenness? What would it look like to find God in the context of my leadership rather than miss God in the context of my leadership?” (pg. 25)

“(Leadership tensions) There is the tension of being and doing, community and cause, truth-telling and putting the right spin on things. There is the tension between the time it takes to love people and the need for expediency. There is the tension between the need for measurable goals and the difficulty of measuring that which is ultimately immeasurable by anyone but God himself….There is the tension between the need for an easy discipleship process through which we can efficiently herd lots of people and the patient, plodding, and ultimately mysterious nature of the spiritual transformation process…The temptation to compromise basic Christian values – love, community, truth-telling, confession, and reconciliation, silent listening and waiting on God for discernment – for the sake of expedience is very great.” (pg. 27)

“But one of the things I know for sure is that those who are looking to us for spiritual sustenance need us first and foremost to be spiritual seekers ourselves. They need us to keep searching for the bread of life that feeds our own souls so that we can guide them to places of sustenance for their own souls. Then, rather than offering the cold stone of past devotionals, regurgitated apologetics or someone else’s musings about the spiritual life, we will have bread to offer that is warm from the oven of our intimacy with God.” (pg. 29)

“…he allowed his leadership challenges to catalyze and draw him into a level of reliance on God that he might not have pursued had it not been for his great need for God which he experienced most profoundly in the crucible of leadership…The discipline of solitude is a key discipline for all those who seek after God. It is the primary place where the leader’s soul is nourished.” (pg. 30-31)

“But at the heart of spiritual leadership is the capacity to notice the activity of God so we can join him in it. Amid the welter of possible distractions, an essential discipline for leaders to craft times of quiet in which we allow God to show us those things that we might otherwise miss. We need time for the chaos in our soul to settle so that we can turn aside to look at the great sights in our own life and seek understanding about what they mean.” (pg. 68)
“(On God’s calling on our life) It is to say yes to his summons to serve him in a particular way at a particular point in history. To say yes to our calling is one more step in the journey of faith which involves a glad, joyful self-surrender. It is living in the awareness that the most wonderful thing in the world is to be completely given over to a loving God.” (pg.79)

“What is God saying to me these days about my calling? …Is there any place where I am resisting who I am or have lost touch with who I am? Where am I still wrestling with God and needing assurance of His presence with me? Am I willing to say yes again?” (pg. 85)

“…the place of waiting is a unique spiritual position where human beings hate to be but where the biblical God is always leading them. It is when you have left the tried and true, but have not yet been able to replace it with anything else. It is when you are finally out of the way. It is when you are between your old comfort zone and any possible new answer. If you are not trained in how to hold anxiety, how to live with ambiguity, how to entrust and wait, you will run…anything to flee this terrible cloud of unknowing…In solitude we learn to wait on God for our own life.” (pg. 98)

“God help us live within the limits of what you have called us to do. Help us live within the limits of who we are – both as individuals and as an organization. Help us give our very best in the field that we have been given to work and to trust you to enlarge our sphere of action if and when you know we are ready. Help us to know the difference between being driven by grandiose visions and responding faithfully to the expansion of your work in and through us.” (pg. 110)

“It is impossible to overstate how dangerous we can become as leaders if we are not routinely inviting God to search us and know us and lead us in a new way. It is impossible to overstate how needy we ourselves can become if we do not have times for allowing the healing love of God to touch our brokenness in ways that can restore us to health and wholeness.” (pg. 127)

“(when faced with decisions such as adding services, building a new building, and adding new ministry initiatives) When making decisions spiritual leaders ask, “How will this decision affect our quality of life, the quality of our relationships in community, our families, our attention to prayer and spiritual journeying, our ability to maintain sane rhythms of work and rest?” Spiritual leaders think these thoughts, ask these questions, and initiate conversations and forums for addressing these issues in a proactive way, rather than assuming that people can figure such things out by themselves.” (pg. 130)

“(leadership as intercession)Who would we be if the practice of intercessory prayer shaped our leadership? How might it change the dynamic between us and those we are leading if they knew that we are regularly and routinely entering into God’s presence with the intent to speak and lead from what transpires there?” (pg. 151)

“(your greatest freedom) freedom from being so driven by visions of future possibilities that you are distracted from seeking God in the here and now…the nearness of God is your ultimate good and you are not willing to go on without it.” (pg. 166)

“We affirm tat we are in our very essence a spiritual community gathered around the presence of Christ. What we do flows out of who we are in Christ. Learning to come together and stay together in unity is our first and most enduring task as we pattern our relationships after Christ’s relationships with his disciples. ‘He loved his own to the end (John 13:1; John 15 and 17).’ To compromise community would be to compromise our essence and then we would not have much that is of value to offer to others.” (pg. 176)

“(Rather than’s) I am leading from a self that is being transformed by my encounters with God in solitude and silence…I am discovering rhythms of work and rest, silence and word, stillness and action that God built into the universe for our well-being…I am operating out of a deep sense of God’s call upon my life…I am regularly and routinely carrying the people that I am leading into God’s presence and interceding on their behalf.” (pg. 211)

“Is it possible for a leader to have encountered God so richly that no matter what we are working toward here on this earth, we know we already have what we most deeply want – the presence of God, that which can never be taken way from us? Is it possible to get to a place where we are so given over to God that physical death is just one more step towards the intimacy and union we seek? - …”For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” – He was willing to stay faithful as long as that was needed, but he had come to a place of such union with Christ that everything else paled in significance.” (pg. 215)

If you are interested in buying this book, you can get it here.

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