A Work of heart: Understanding How God Shapes Spiritual Leaders
This book was assigned reading for one of my Christian leadership courses in seminary. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and have continued to revisit it.
Who Should Read A Work of Heart:
Any person who leads, mentors, or influences others. This is also a good read for anyone who wants to become more self-aware and better understand how they can be used to fulfill God’s good purposes in the world.
What’s in Store for You:
This book is a resource of the Leadership Network and was written with the understanding that spiritual leaders are needed in every sphere of life. Spiritual leaders are those who have a heart for God and the people around them. Author, Reggie McNeal, has outlined the book into two parts. The Part 1 includes biblical reflection and practical understanding for how God shaped Moses, David, Paul, and Jesus for leadership.
Moses’ life and leadership shaping elements included a false start and a journey into the desert where his leadership was tested and spiritual gifts were cultivated.
David’s life reveals that a leader’s “heart is the most important qualification for service to God.” His leadership journey was shaped by the rise of a nation, a secret anointing, much conflict, and a cultivated community.
Paul’s leadership was first shaped as an elite Pharisee until he experienced divine intervention from God, and then entered a long interim period of shaping which turned into a movement and many intimate encounters with God. “Paul took the team approach very seriously…He came to understand that one’s relationship with Jesus Christ is lived out in the relationships with other believers.”
We observe through the gospels and in his relationship with the disciples that Jesus was definitely a servant leader. Like the other leaders, he experienced temptations, trials, conflicts, and challenges that tested his call.
Part 2 recognizes God’s shaping work in our own lives. This shaping work includes: culture, call, community, communion, conflict, and commonplace.
Culture – Culture is “the environmental influences that shape the leader’s life and ministry context. These include historical period, political situation, societal mores, and traditions.” Christian leaders are called to engage and connect with their culture for the purpose of fulfilling the Great Commission.
Call – “The call orders the leader’s efforts, affecting decisions in every area of life.” From beginning to end, the call is orchestrated by God. “Those who describe themselves as called mean that they have made a commitment of life into God’s service, to be at his disposal, to be in his employ for the efforts of accomplishing his agenda.”
Community – “Leaders do not develop in isolation. They merge within a community that plays a vital role in shaping them.” Community includes family of origin, friends, and faith-ministry communities.
Communion – Communion is “the leader’s conscious cultivation of a relationship with God.” Communion includes Sabbath rest and other spiritual disciplines that invite us to become God’s friend.
Conflict – Conflict produces the “central heart-shaping events and episodes” in a leader’s life. In addition to addressing the obvious presence of conflict in the life of a leader, this chapter offers helpful and practical strategies for addressing conflict.
Commonplace – Common place covers the day-to-day activities in the life of a leader. In includes the life-shaping stories and experiences that shapes a leader’s heart. This chapters identifies habits to help the leader intentionally focus on how God is using various experiences to shape them.
My personal take-aways?
I have so many nuggets from this book, and feel this one is worth reading annually. I particularly appreciated the “Call” chapter where McNeal talks about the “new apostolic leadership model” that is necessary today. As a leader, I always wonder what God is doing—where and how he is moving now. Being is tune to that spiritual reality helps me better discern my actions and next steps. This chapter in particular helps me think about the different levels of consideration and how my community and relationships are a part of the call and work.
“When God works through deficiencies, he frequently increases the leader’s awareness of dependency on him.” @reggiemcneal
“The capacity to see God at work in the common things of life is a hallmark of great spiritual leadership.” @reggiemcneal
“Too early promotion can mean too short a ministry.” @reggiemcneal
“Leaders who are gripped by a call from God do well to remember that they serve the call. The call is not given to serve them. The initiative and substance of the call belong to God. The leader is an instrument in the Lord’s hand to help others have the opportunity to live their lives with greater significance and in relationship with God.” – Reggie McNeal
“The leader’s sense of mission is not a matter of pride. It is a point of privilege and responsibility. If the leader’s heart remains in communion with God, then humility graces the leader’s life.” – Reggie McNeal
“The ultimate responsibility of the spiritual leader is to share the heart of God with the people of God. This cannot happen if the leader does not know the heart of God. This kind of intimacy comes from an intentional and frequent cultivation of a personal relationship that draws from every life experience.” – Reggie McNeal
“People enter the kingdom of God when their hearts are captured by the heart of God. Then, transformed from the inside out, they become salt and light to help the world taste and see that God is good.” – Reggie McNeal
Next Up on This Topic:
Journeys to Significance: Charting a Leadership Course from the Life of Paul by Neil Cole
How has God used any of these six elements to cultivate your leadership gifts, develop skills, and shape your vision and focus for the future?
© Natasha Sistrunk Robinson 2015