the shape of leadership

3 Life-Giving Biblical Experiences

Cling to these experiences with Christ to ensure your cup stays full

Over my years of pastoral ministry, I’ve found that the best antidote to the toxic tendencies of ministry leadership is to live within the life-giving constraints of three biblical experiences:

1. Being broken before God

Jesus warned us, “Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). What worries me most about that statement is the period at the end. He does not say, “Apart from me you can do nothing . . . unless you find the right worship leader or until you finish your degree.” It’s a humbling and unqualified assertion: “Apart from me you can do nothing.” This realization is where brokenness takes us.

2. Abiding with Christ in His Word and prayer

After establishing that nothing of eternal significance can be accomplished without Him (John 15:5), Jesus then paints a word picture inviting us to himself. “If you remain [or abide] in me and my words remain [or abide] in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (John 15:7). Experiences of brokenness come to us in seasons, but to “remain,” to “abide,” to stay connected to Jesus’ life is a vitality-charged relationship that transcends seasons and shapes the spiritual center of our lives. And it’s a two-way street. His words abide in us, and we abide in Him. This is an invitation to engage the Scriptures and embrace a life of prayer.

3. Living in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit

Because it’s easy to reduce our spiritual lives to a set of do’s, don’ts, and disciplines, we often miss the heart of what it is to be a Christian: having a personal, intimate relationship with Jesus. I often tell people, “Before trying to spend an hour a day with God, try spending twenty-four hours a day with God.” This is a lifestyle of “fellowship with the Holy Spirit” all day long, walking with Him, talking to Him, listening to Him, and living in His conscious presence (2 Cor. 13:14).

See James T. Bradford's article, Leading People to the Spirit's Life, for more on living a life of mentorship. Adapted with permission from James T. Bradford, Lead So Others Can Follow: 12 Practices and Principles for Ministry (Springfield, MO: Salubris Resources, 2015).

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