Leading the church is no easy calling. You cannot do it on your own, no matter who you are. Personal Spirituality serves as the bedrock competency for senior pastors.
Although it’s important for all followers of Jesus, the challenges of life as a senior pastor make it even more essential that they remain rooted and grounded in Christ. If you are falling even a little behind in this area it is negatively impacting your church.
For the purposes of the Senior Pastor Profile, Personal Spirituality is prioritizing God in one’s life and the transforming work that stems from that relationship.
Jesus described personal spirituality as abiding in Christ in John 15 as he prepared to leave his disciples just before his crucifixion:
I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.
The image Jesus offers is powerful. All branches are pruned. You are either being cut back so you can experience greater growth or cut off because your presence is impeding the growth of others. That’s intense!
A senior pastor must remain firmly abiding in Christ, as the role requires a deep well of energy, faith, and wisdom.
7 Habits that Demonstrate Ongoing Personal Spirituality
What does it look like for someone to live out their personal spirituality? Although it’s a bit different for everyone, here are some of the features held in common:
1. Engages in regular spiritual practices
Any good pastor will have a habit of practices such as prayer and reading and reflection on scripture. An excellent senior pastor protects this time above all else and has curated trusted resources to go to when inspiration is needed.
2. Relies on and practices grace
The job of a senior pastor is a big one. Mistakes will be made. Personal understanding and reliance on grace is essential to keep moving forward. Grace is also a key component in developing others. Without it, the senior pastor may fail to see leadership potential in others and will struggle to help staff and parishioners live into their own callings.
3. Demonstrates ongoing character growth
Senior leadership requires ongoing growth. Leading a church is the continual translation of what is timeless for the times at hand. That cannot be done from a position of pride. It requires humility. How is God stretching you? How might your spouse answer that question on your behalf?
4. Engages in lifelong learning and self-reflection
If I were to make a list of what all fallen pastors have in common, “convinced they knew what they were doing” would be number one. Proverbs 2:10 describes the mark of having wisdom as a love of learning more. Earlier in the chapter it describes obtaining understanding as a search for hidden treasure (2:4). If you have it all figured out you’re in trouble—and so is your church.
5. Lives out of secure identity in Christ
Being secure in Christ, a leader can rejoice in their shortcomings as an opportunity to operate as the body of Christ is intended. This includes walking in their strengths and giftings while allowing others to shine as they live into the strengths and gifts God has given to them. If it’s a one-man show, that man is not secure in his identity in Christ.
6. Follows the leading of the Holy Spirit
Ever had a feeling that you should stop and help a stranger on the street but you walked away and regretted it later? A senior pastor is in the habit of acting on that feeling. It doesn’t mean they help every person—it means that they recognize the prompting of the Holy Spirit and are in the habit of obeying. This one habit is the difference between what people can accomplish and what God can accomplish through people.
7. Maintains intentional relationships for spiritual formation and direction
Accountability is escapable. Even if someone has all the appearances of being accountable, if they lack taking ownership or honesty, it’s just a sham. A great senior leader intentionally builds authentic relationships where they are vulnerable with people who are free to speak into key areas of his or her life.
How well are you engaging in your own personal spirituality?
Take some time to reflect on the following questions. Write out your answers for more complete processing, or talk them through with someone if you’re more of a verbal processor.
- How are you engaging in spiritual practices such as prayer and reflection on scripture?
- When is a time you have recently had to rely on or practice grace?
- How are you engaged in lifelong learning and self-reflection?
- In what ways are you living out of your secure identity in Christ? In what ways is that difficult?
- How are you listening for and following the leading of the Holy Spirit? Give some examples.
Personal Spirituality is one of twelve qualities that have been proven to be essential to successful and healthy senior church leadership. To learn more, read The BEST qualities in a Senior Pastor. Next week, look out for another crucial quality for senior pastors.
Are you serious about growing as a disciple of Christ? Do you want to see real transformation? The Guide for Discipling is a fresh way to take your spiritual growth to the next level. Covering 8 aspects of spiritual growth that Christ took his own disciples through, this study relevant for mature Christ followers and new believers alike!
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