Christian Spirituality and Spiritual Leadership
One of the major developments in the last couple of decades has been an extraordinary interest in integrating faith and professional activity. Spirituality permeates one’s commitment to every aspect of life. This results from people realizing that all life including their family and working lives with their new focuses of call are always a reliving of the baptismal challenge to belong to Christ, to live and love for him. The service of others in professional life is a particularly splendid way of realizing this.
Spirituality includes a sense of humility, the humble awareness that Christians are not born as such, but struggle daily to become what they hear the Lord calling them to be. Always aware of their own human frailty, Christians will value a sense of humility, knowing that leadership brings its own brands of pride, arrogance, and abuse of the power that was given to‑serve others.
Spirituality is rooted in the life of Christ and can frequently be accessed through the formulations of belief and religion, so a leader who wishes to emphasize those core values of Christ must include ongoing knowledge of the message and skills to interpret it in professional life. It includes leadership training, communication skills, religious education methods, a knowledge of group processes, and ability to direct other disciples in their pursuit of encounter with God.
A spiritual leader’s spirituality stresses an appreciation of institutions with their awkwardness and graciousness. Sometimes the spiritual leader will have to denounce the negative in institutions, even in religious ones. In fact, an objective acceptance of the reality of religion is a sign of the maturity of the professional’s life and dedication.
Love for the values of faith manifests itself in one’s attitudes toward individuals, not only those who are like‑minded to ourselves but also toward those whose views differ from our own. Many contemporary leaders who suffered from former leaders who imposed their own will on their followers will be aware of the need to guard against the arrogance that imposes one’s own will as if it were God’s.
Contemporary Christians must be people who can collaborate with those with whom they work, whether team members, central leaders, or colleagues at all levels of the organization. Collaboration is an integral part of spirituality, since it is the administrative model that best portrays the nature of shared faith. Collaboration touches the core of a leader’s life, since it is not merely a way of doing things more efficiently but a way of being a faith-filled person more authentically.
The Christian is dedicated to proclaiming the truth and needs always to be open to search for that truth without ever absolutizing any channel or stage in the quest, but remaining ever open to the newness of God’s loving presence and vital revelation. The believer’s task is a prophetic one, to be a focus for honesty without counting the pain and persecution that this commitment now brings to anyone who challenges the increasing insecurity of the self‑assured.
Spirituality for a spiritual leader means being a listener to the world—its political and social events, the signs of the times, people’s hopes and joys, anguish and pain. All religious growth takes place in interaction with the world around us, amidst the trends and transitoriness of history.
For contemporary leaders spirituality is a balance between selflessness and self‑care—both go together and safeguard each other from unhealthy exaggerations. Each spiritual leader needs to know what is negotiable in the hardships and tensions of service of others. Any vocation or career can soon become a routine job, but nourishing self‑care can insure it does not degenerate into approaches spiritual leaders never thought would occur in them.
Along the lines of self‑care, spiritual leaders’ dedication can grow when strengthened by deep friendships, and for those who are married, by a deep relationship with their spouse—both relationships providing levels of intimacy needed for integral growth and a mature development of one’s sexuality. Contemporary spirituality of public life needs to be complemented by a spirituality of intimacy. Deep, intimate relationships enrich one’s ministry by providing a core experience that not only nourishes, but also models love, community building, concern and service of a significant other which is the basic attitude of a spiritual leader.
A dedicated believer’s spirituality includes an openness to the future and a readiness to move on. Like Paul each one can say “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me” (Phil 3:12).
Christian spirituality for leaders includes acceptance of his or her responsibility to correct institutional failures of the past or present, especially structured injustice such as the negative attitude toward women, unhealthy working environments, unjust salary scales, pollution, and all forms of social irresponsibility.
Spirituality for a Christian involved in leadership includes rejoicing in oneself—celebrating one’s gifts and accepting one’s weaknesses. Christian tradition has always valued self‑knowledge, and the spiritual leader’s realistic view of self clarifies what goals or tasks are possible for the minister and what are unreal expectations. Leaders need to be men and women of peace, joy and enthusiasm, for they are among the community as models of hope.