In “Are You a Leader at Risk?” we outlined some of the warning signs that can make leaders vulnerable.
Perhaps more importantly than even understanding the warning signs, leaders need a plan and strategy to avoid the pitfalls that leading others can bring.
The Scriptures admonish us to humility, poverty of spirit and open confession to God and others:
“In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, ‘God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble’” (1 Peter 5:5, New International Version).
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9, NIV).
Healthy spiritual leaders are humbly dependent and rigorously honest. They recognize their limits. Their expressed needs become the space for grace to flow.
“But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me” (2 Corinthians 12:9, NIV).
The Scriptures also outline a clear path to leader health:
Healthy spiritual leaders adopt practices that motivate them to examine what is under the surface of their lives. They expose the lies and the deadly combination of self-reliance and secrecy that can precipitate moral collapse.
I encourage leaders to regularly ask themselves these “under the surface” questions:
In my research, most leaders who fell did not have a concentric circle of healthy relationships around them.
Given the natural human tendency to drift toward self-reliance and secrecy, healthy leaders recognize that they must get into honest community! Secrecy and shame are broken by the power of confession in community. As one recovering leader noted, “As I told my secrets, they lost some of their power over me, and I wasn’t so afraid to be known.”
Community provides an environment to bring sin and false beliefs out of the dark and secret places so they can be mortified (exposed, confessed, dismantled and repented). Healthy community also provides a life-giving reminder of the gospel, that there is no condemnation in Christ and that God delights in us.
I encourage leaders to get into a “process” or “red dot” (like on the mall map “you are here” directory) accountability group that meets solely for the purpose of checking in, being honest and acknowledging how things really are. An authentic leader acknowledges reality without faking or hiding.
As my professor Jim Coffield says, “Jesus Christ died on the cross so you would not have to pretend.” Healthy leaders find places to bring the real person into the light without rejection. We have that in Christ and the cross, but we need to have it reinforced in the context of the body of Christ.
“So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:12,13, NIV).
Spiritual leaders do not assume health in their own lives. They are vigilant to identify and address red flags indicating a lack of spiritual health. They regularly hit the pause button on life, look under the surface, and expose their darkness to the light before Christ and in community.
They call themselves and others to live in light of God’s design, and encourage practices that avoid the dangerous lure of self-reliance and secrecy. Ultimately, they call both themselves and others back to Christ, who came to deal with the roots of sin and shame.
The gospel is for the lost, and that includes us as leaders. As spiritual leaders, we lead out of brokenness and powerlessness. We live like people in recovery.
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