“The unexamined life is not worth living.” ~Socrates
One of the greatest dangers facing us as church leaders is that we can so easily become way too busy or too bored, too proud or depressed, so the things we desire the most go unexamined. Our thoughts and actions go unexamined. Because we want something so much, we assume it’s right for us and we are doing it well.
In Norman Shawchuck and Roger Heuser’s book Leading the Congregation, the authors remind that to be the right kind of spiritual leaders God is calling us to be requires that we pay attention to ourselves. Self care. Self awareness.
First, they suggest a continual examination of the quality and character of your life when you’re not in the public eye. When I’m by myself, what kind of a person am I? What thoughts do I entertain? To what private and secret activities do I give myself?
Second, we should examine the quality and character of our work and our lives when we are in the public eye, when everybody is watching. What are my values and behaviours as a leader? To what do I give myself? What are the true results of my leadership?
Martin Luther made it a practice at the end of every day to examine his motives and actions of the previous 24 hours, give the day and those motives and actions to God in prayer, and then go to sleep. His reasoning was that while he was asleep, while he was out of the way during the hours of his temporary death, God may finish his work. God would do for him in his sleep what he could not accomplish while he was awake. In John Wesley’s early years, he planned time every day for self examination. Later, he began setting aside the first five minutes of every hour, every day, to examine the past hour. Now, that’s intentional. And, yeah, it helped keep him on track.
Our congregations expect competent leaders. But they also expect elders and ministers who possess inner character and integrity. Above all, there must be a congruency between what we profess and what we do. The number one expectation — and it’s the right one! — is that we walk our talk.
This kind of continual self examination is not a barrier to leadership freedom; it is the door to true freedom as a leader of God’s people. Our interior lives do work their ways into and through all the other aspects of our ministries. Continual self evaluation guards against our manipulation of others for our own desires, it keeps us from using others, and from abusing ourselves. It keeps our eyes on the process of being saved, on being transformed into his likeness with ever increasing glory.
“O Lord, give me beauty of my inner soul, and let the outward person and the inward person be the same.”
By the way, Rangers pitchers and catchers report tomorrow. Tomorrow.