“God told me to do it.” Those have to be some of the most dangerous and abused words in the English language. Some of the cruelest acts of humanity hide under the banner of those six words. God is blamed for incomprehensible evil by those six words. Just hearing those words make our spirits recoil, and so most of us excise those words from our vocabulary. But should we? Are we throwing the baby out with the bathwater?
What do you believe about God and how he speaks to humanity? What’s your theology of God’s interaction with mankind? The answer to this question will speak volumes about how you lead the church. Let me explain.
If your theology is such that it leaves no room for God to speak to the spirit of man, then you will not look for the direction of the Spirit when you lead. However, if you fully expect God to speak to you, then desperation will drive you to sit at his feet and listen to his voice. Your theology determines your leadership style.
I know what some of you are thinking. It’s not quite that simple. Sure, I believe the Spirit speaks, but only to bring to remembrance what the Bible has already said. It’s when we move beyond this that all the heinous abuses happen that you mentioned at the start.
Now, I need you to know that I mostly agree with you. According to John 14:26, the Spirit’s role is to bring to remembrance what Jesus said to his disciples. But there is an additional part to this verse that we must not overlook. It says, “He will teach you all things.” In other words, there is an instructive role of the Holy Spirit. There is a directive side to his personhood. And if you really believe that, you cannot lead without his direction.
The moment you realize that the Spirit of God can teach you how to lead is the moment you’ll stop depending on your best guesses, or church conferences, or the latest leadership techniques to lead your church. You will, instead, start listening to what the Spirit has to say. Now, I’m not saying that leadership books and conferences can’t be helpful. They can. I’m just saying that given the choice between man’s wisdom and God’s, who in their right mind wouldn’t choose God’s?
A rich theology of the Spirit will compel you to pursue the Spirit as you lead. It will drive you to pray as if everything depended on prayer. When you realize the depth of the leadership fountain to which you have access, you will instinctively begin to fast and pray when a decision comes. You will invite the other staff and leaders to fast and pray with you, desperate to hear what the Lord is calling your church to do. And when you do, something amazing will take place. Not only will you see the power of God, but your people will actually begin to follow you.
If your church members really know Christ and have the Spirit (something we can’t always assume), they will respect your tendency to pray. People can argue with your knowledge base or your decision making, but they can’t argue with someone who has humbly been at the feet of Jesus seeking direction. And whether they like your decisions or not, they are exponentially more likely to follow a person they believe prays hard.
Does your theology lead you to be a praying leader? I’m not just talking about flare-prayers when times get hard and when there’s a deacon-uprising against you. I’m talking about desperate prayer in every and all seasons? Do you have a rhythm of prayer? Do you fast regularly? Does it define your leadership? If not, something just might be off.
Again, I know what some of you are thinking. I’ve seen these kinds of people before. They are so heavenly-minded that they are of no earthly good. They never get anything done. Who wants to be a leader like that? Again, let me say, I mostly agree with you here.
The word of God does say in James 1:22 that we must “be doers of the word and not hearers only.” And though that is referring to putting into action what the Bible says, I think it applies beautifully to what the Spirit prompts us to do when we’ve been seeking him. There is a moment when we need to shift from praying like everything depends on praying and start planning like everything depends on planning.
I know this sounds at odds with what I said so far, but let me assure you, it is not. And here’s the reason why. Now, instead of striving for the best-laid plans on men, your plans are coming from the teaching and instruction of the Spirit. You now have the freedom to fully pursue these plans diligently and systematically, knowing to the best of your ability, that you’re enacting what the Spirit has led you to attempt.
So, here’s what this looks like in its most practical form. Every year, your calendar should have a rhythm of fasting and a rhythm of planning. The fasting must always precede the planning, but both should be present each year. I highly encourage every pastor to calendar two retreats a year for their leadership team, about six months apart. Start with the fasting retreat which has as its goal no other purpose than knowing Christ more and hearing from the Spirit. Six months later, take a planning retreat to think through strategic implementation of what the Spirit is calling you to do.
With these two necessary pillars in place, you will discover that you can pray like everything depends on prayer and plan like everything depends on planning at the same time. And in this sweet spot, your leadership will come alive. My prayer for you is that your theology gives room for such beautiful balance.
Jason Paredes is the Lead Pastor of Fielder Church in Arlington, Texas.