by César De León Ph.D LMFT, Ministerial Director for the North Pacific Union Conference
Our nation’s political landscape continues to rapidly morph. People are searching for leaders who will impact attract and speak to the masses. Leaders are looking for slogans, messages and political social platforms that will launch them into a successful career. This week, the New York Times reported that one of the winning primary candidates said after a big win in her State: “No one will be unseen, unheard and uninspired”. Her words echoed through various levels of the political arena and also they resonate in the church pews. People want to be seen, heard and most of all, they long to be inspired. Although self-actualization is an internal psychological process, the masses still yearn for a leader who will produce political and social homeostasis and foment their hope for a better future.
Toward the end of the four-hundred years of Israelite slavery in Egypt, God told Moses “I’ve taken a good, long look at the affliction of my people in Egypt. I’ve heard their cries for deliverance from their slave masters; I know all about their pain” (Exodus 3:7 MSG). Because God was seeing and hearing the suffering of His people, He decided to do something about it and went out and recruited Moses. Spiritual leaders need to be able to see, hear and be willing to inspire people, if they are going to be a catalytic force to bring about the necessary changes in the lives of those being led. The Israelites needed a Moses to take them to the Promised Land. Even Moses attempted to ensure that every one of the members of all twelve tribes were being seen, heard and inspired. Actually, he was so “successful” that when his father-in-law, Jethro, visited him, Moses was at the brink of severe leadership burn out.
During the time of the judges, Israel cried out for a King. They believed they would be better off if they had a visible leader to guide them. Saul began well. Actually, even before being crowned King, the Spirit of the Lord came upon him and he was given specific instructions regarding God’s will and laws. However, as Saul became distracted with battling his own demons, he stopped seeing and hearing the voice of God which eventually led him to cease to see, hear and inspire his own people. All he could see and hear was the cry of his self-focused needs for personal recognition and self-exaltation, which totally eclipsed the social, political and spiritual needs of the nation that had been entrusted to him.
During my years as Ministerial Director for Central California Conference, I had the privilege of making annual visits to our various Schools of Theology in the Pacific Union, including the Theological Seminary at Andrews, to interview potential candidates for pastoral ministry. One of my growing concerns was the fact that I was hearing a disproportionate expression of passion and energy for preaching. It was on rare occasions that I heard a candidate express a passion and interest to discover and listen to the needs of the congregation. Even less frequently, I heard a candidate express a desire to inspire people through servant-leadership.
In order to be authentic and relevant, a spiritual leader needs to go down to Egypt—so to speak, to see how the people live, how they are treated, hear the conversations going on in the market place, to become familiar with the outcries of the community and own their causes and challenges. Only then is a spiritual leader informed enough to make a decision to do something about it. In their book, “Spiritual Leadership” Henry and Richard Blackaby present the following leadership directives:
- The Spiritual Leader’s task is to move people
- Spiritual leaders use spiritual means
- Spiritual leaders are accountable to God
- Spiritual leaders focus on people
- Spiritual leaders influence all people not just God’s people
- Spiritual leaders work from God’s agenda
- Spiritual leaders hear from God
Under their heading: Leaders Focus on People, they write: “Leadership is fundamentally a people business! It is not merely about budget or visions or strategies. It is about people. Spiritual leaders never lose sight of this fact . . . True leaders enjoy people and make them better for having followed.” (p. 37). An anonymous quote says, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” Our churches, communities and even our homes, are crying out for leaders who will make people their business, leaders who will see the affliction and pain of their people, hear their cry and then, will do something about it. It’s not so much about how powerfully you preach, how savvy you are in the board room, or how much you know. It’s about showing the people in your circle of influence that you care. The Lord said, “‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me’” (Matt. 25:45).