Rest, relaxation and maintaining spiritual integrity

Last Saturday I published a set of questions asking about the condition of your walk with God. Saturday is for many a day of rest and relaxation within which we can sometimes take our eyes off God as we de-stress from the weeks activities. At just such times we can become more open to sinful activity, as we lower of our spiritual guard our discernment and obedience can fail. So, here is another simple set of questions to try and help you maintain your integrity as a disciple.

These are taken from the Highway Community in Palo Alto, California.

  1. Did I invest the proper quality/quantity of time in my most important relationships?
  2. Did my life reflect verbal integrity?
  3. Did I express a forgiving attitude toward others?
  4. Did I practice undisciplined or addictive behavior?
  5. Was I honorable in my financial dealings?
  6. Was I sexually pure?
  7. Did I spend time with the Lord this week, completing the Bible reading for the week?
  8. Did I pray for my pre-Christian friends? Did I talk with someone about Christ?

Leaders are people who…

Ron Edmondson writes a lot on leadership in the church. Recently he published his list of most admired qualities in leadership at this time (see below).

Servanthood – A willingness to do for others before (and if they never) do for you.

Responsiveness – Accessibility in a timely manner.

Humility – Not thinking too much of oneself.

Honesty – Telling the truth. All the time. Or not telling at all.

Transparency – Being real. Everyday. In every way.

Tenacity – Standing strong through the storms of life.

Visionary – Able to see beyond today.

Trustworthiness – Yes is yes. No is no.

Innovation – Finding new ways to do things. Doing things better than they’ve been previously done.

Compassion – Thinking much of others.


Not surprisingly the list comes out mainly on the side of character attributes. Some might argue that this is because people who lead are already expected to be able to do the job and leadership is a form of acknowledging / recognising that they can do “the job.”

When you read the primary biblical sources for the qualities of an elder (leader) in the church you find a similar theme (these are found in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9). God, it would appear, likes leaders who have a depth of character in their life that goes above and beyond what is normal or commonly accepted by believers.

There are many models of leadership to be considered, many styles that can be used by church leaders. However it seems clear that whether in the church or the world people want leaders whose character cries out that they can be trusted.

Narcissistic leadership

Below is the best article addressing the issue of leadership narcissism I have read in recent years. It was written by Doug Lawrence and was originally found here.

Leaders have an immensely challenging job in the church today – they are expected to be a mini-Jesus. Pastoral expectations are high whilst often the people leaders serve work on far lower standards for themselves.

As I read I was tempted to think of many leaders I have served over the years and ask about their behaviour, instead God reminded me to look at the plank in my own eye first. I lead my family, I lead students, I lead a football team… I have plenty of opportunity to seek and serve myself yet it was not, and still is not, the style of Jesus.

Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Here’s the article:

Narcissism, unlike egotism, is a very difficult kind of pathology to identify until you experience it for a prolonged period. Even then, it may take some time to realize that you have been the victim of it. Leaders who don’t recognize it in themselves put their coworkers at risk for burnout or worse.

You don’t need a degree in psychology to know when you have been subjected to abusive narcissism, and people often have to get professional help to overcome their feelings of the subtle mistreatment which usually accompanies it.

Here are four signs that you may be a narcissistic leader:

You rarely take responsibility for programatic failures. You may seem to, but you usually find a way to place the blame elsewhere.

Leaders who suffer from rampant narcissism will often phrase their questions to staff like this, “Where do you think WE went wrong?” What they really mean is YOU and they will prove it’s YOU over time by working behind the scenes to discover your failures and assess befitting blame. Taking such blame or even partial blame themselves is almost impossible.

You don’t show much emotion during conflict, particularly conflict which involves you personally in some way. You pride yourself on staying cool and objective. If anyone comes up against that posture you lash out and demean them—sometimes in front of others.

Most people would say that it is a virtue to appear unflappable in difficult discussions. A non-anxious presence is wonderful in the right situations. If, however, you find it impossible to “get into” the conversation with genuine human emotion, you might just be a narcissist.

Surprisingly, though, if someone questions your lack of passion in such circumstances, you may be tempted to “take them down” on the spot. How dare someone accuse you of not being ardent and truly sincere.

You “suck the air out of the room” with your presence alone. People look up to you, because there’s no other way to look—except up. 

Narcissists are usually “bigger than life.” They are frequently the brightest person in the room and they have either taken, or have been given, the ultimate authority. Many CEOs, pastors, etc., are highly evolved narcissistic personalities.

There are lots of ways this overwhelming presence figuratively empties the room of everyone but the “commander”—even if all the chairs are filled with bodies.

If a narcissist is self-aware and wants to avoid the pitfalls of this behavior, they will have to work extremely hard to do so.

For some, a good strategy is simply saying, “I struggle with believing that I’m usually right—that I know things that other people don’t—so don’t hesitate to help me listen better.”

Everyone is in a constant scramble to please you. This is really rough for those who work with you, because you never seem to be truly pleased with anythingthey do.

Note to narcissists: Why put people through this? If you have painfully discovered you are cursed with this horrible condition, be quick to affirm others. Mean it! Be honest about the deficits of those you work with (and your own), and in a productive way that suggests you are going to stand with them through whatever process is required to fix it—stay the course with them.

You are incredibly charming. Most folks in your organization think you walk on water, but your staff is constantly dancing gingerly around you, waiting to see if you like them. You are, as many writers on the subject have suggested, like Jekyll and Hyde.

This is probably the worst of the worst. Most think you are wonderful, your staff is scared to do anything that might upset you.

A possible solution is to build out your base of honest observers who are not afraid to confront you when you step out of line regarding human interaction. It’s not about “putting you in your place,” it’s about having a real place from which to lead.

In summary, some may feel this writing to be harsh or unfair. If you have ever worked for a narcissist, however, you will probably feel some sense of vindication for your hurt and abused feelings.

If you haven’t worked with someone like this, you probably stopped reading this piece early on.

If, however, you ARE a narcissist you probably think this is absolute nonsense! Narcissists rarely see themselves in negative descriptions. It’s called “cognitive dissonance.”

SFL Mid-Semester Exam 2013

Exam season is upon us at LTCi – this morning was the Spiritual Formation & Leadership paper. Here it is in glorious technicolour.

SFL Mid Semester Exam student 2013

  601 Spiritual Formation and Leadership: Mid-semester exam student version 2013 by richard

Fear God = worship God?

The Bible says (Psalm 111:10)

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practise it have a good understanding.

I wonder if it is also the foundation of true worship.

Consider Luke 7:11-16,

 Soon afterwards he went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a great crowd went with him. 12 As he drew near to the gate of the town, behold, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow, and a considerable crowd from the town was with her. 13 And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.” 14 Then he came up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” 15 And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. 16 Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has arisen among us!” and “God has visited his people!”

Consider verse 16 – the miracle took place – the immediate consequence was that fear seized them – and then they glorified (and recognised) God.

I am left asking two questions:

1. What should be the effect of miracles in terms of our relationship with God? It would appear to me that there is an increasing wave of Christians who take miracles and make them frivolous, they use them as a source of exalting themselves and their blessed status as children of God, rather than using them to stand in awe of the greatness of God.

2. Does a lack of accepting (and even of seeking) God in a miraculous, supernatural way lead to discounted worship? By that I mean worship which whilst undoubtedly sincere, lacks an intensity of experience and of standing in fear and trembling before the Mighty One, the Majesty? In discounted worship there is a lack of cost on behalf of the giver, after all they are getting a bargain – and they know it. After all, my personal experience would suggest that the more I pay for something the more I prize it.

Walking with Christ

I read these questions from Dave Guiles and thought you might find them useful as an aid to reflect on your walk with Christ over the last week.

How have you sensed God’s presence in your life during this past week?

Have you received a specific answer to your prayers? What was it?

Have you spoken with a non-believer about your faith in Jesus Christ? With whom?

To whom have you shown God’s love during this past week?

What have you learned about God in your personal Bible reading this past week?

As a result of your Bible reading this past week, how have you determined to better obey God?

Specifically, what area of your life do you feel that God most wants to change? Have you taken specific steps to make those changes?

What good habit do you feel God wants to form in your life?

Have you taken specific steps to develop that habit?

Dave Guiles is director of Grace Brethren International Missions