“Our problem is a lack of leaders.”
I’m hearing iterations of this sentiment frequently. Local and global organizations of every kind are asking, “How do we create a leadership pipeline?” In Tanzania, we are ready to open a campus that will be able to house over 50 girls and some of their babies who have survived sex trafficking. We think we could raise the money, buy or rent the right properties, and, unfortunately, we would have plenty of survivors who could fill the homes. So why did our expansion timeline have to be slowed way down? We struggle to identify leaders who have character and who would dare to lead.
I have compiled nine commandments (I know I need one more) of leader-ship for our elders, staff, council, and others who serve in leadership. This month, I will continue to comment
on a few of these commandments. You can read my previous columns, available at sanpedrotoday.com.
Leadership Commandment 6: We will remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.
This one is stolen from God’s top ten list found in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5. This commandment is a struggle for me. Why do I feel guilty breaking the other nine commandments, but I feel guilty keeping this one? Because my identity is wrapped up in what I produce or accomplish. I don’t think I’m alone. How many of us are more human doing than human being? Sabbath rest is a gracious invitation to be instead of to do.
A wise mentor told me early on that leadership is a marathon and not a sprint. On the outside I nodded agreement, but on the inside, I thought I was the exception. Fifteen years of serial Sabbath commandment-break-ing almost broke me. Burn out was within reach, and yet the numbness that is symptomatic of work addiction anesthetized me from the painful flame of burnout. The tender leaders and understanding congregation at Trinity gifted me and my family with a sabbatical. I remember being worried that I wasn’t feeling anymore. My compassion was mechanical. Had I lost my affections? At the beginning of my sabbatical I worshipped at different churches. Plainclothes, I was attempting to be anonymous toward the back of the sanctuary at the LifeTeen Mass at Holy Trinity on a Sunday night, and the epistle reading was from 2 Corinthians. I heard the precious Word of God and lost it. Kind of an ugly cry, if you know what I mean. Trying to get my stuff together, I thanked God that there was still a soft heart in there somewhere. Like the Grinch, my heart grew three sizes that day.
Sabbath does that. Sabbath recalibrates you to Godspeed. God conveys identity, affection, and a calling at Godspeed. Limits are gifts. A limitless sea is a destructive flood. A limitless fire burns instead of warms. Limitless intimacy is adultery. Limitless work is the enemy of sustainable leadership. Be still and know that I am God [and that you are not] (Psalm 46.10).
Leadership Commandment 7: There is a difference between hard work and busy.
This commandment is related to the previous one. There is not an effective leader that doesn’t work hard. Certain seasons are more relentless than others. Being busy is a substitute but not a synonym for hard work. Busy is unintentional, reactive, and soil for growing resentment without regard for season. A diagnostic question related to this commandment is: When people ask you how you are, how often do you say, “busy?” Why is this answer so common? Recently deceased pastor and author, Eugene Peterson wrote in his book Subversive Spirituality, “Busyness is the enemy of spirituality.” A farmer doesn’t sustain planting season or harvest all year long. They plan, work hard, plant, and wait. They fertilize, weed, consult, harvest, and then rest. Hard work is seasonal, but not sustainable. It is impossible to work hard enough or be busy enough to gain the favor of God or others.
Thankfully, we work from favor, not for favor. From God we already have all the favor we could ever need. We are not waiting for his approval, we already have it! (Psalm 30.5).
May your celebrations of this season be filled with the light and love of God and precious connections with one another! Merry Christmas!
Nathan Hoff is the Pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church in San Pedro. Follow his blog at trinitypastor.blogspot.com.