Strengthening the Soul (1)

Last week, I was in Chicago for a three-day class at Wheaton College with Ruth Haley Barton, author of Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership. busy.jpg

The class was great.

It was an opportunity not only to listen to Barton but to reflect on my life and relationship with God. There were wonderful times of silence, teaching, prayer and conversation. One of the blessings of the week was getting to be with the four wonderful people at my table.

Much of her material came from her book. What was incredibly helpful was the opportunity to spend time in another setting thinking my life and about my ministry.

The following are several statements that she made in class that were significant to me. (The quotes here are directly from the book.)

  • If Jesus were speaking to us today, he might also point out that when leaders lose their souls, so do the churches and organizations they lead. (p. 13)
  • These cries are gut-wrenching and consistent: there has to be more to life in leadership than many of us are experiencing. In all this listening to my own life and to the lives of others, I have become convinced that the more that we are looking for is the transformation of our souls in the presence of God. (p.14)
  • Truly, the best thing any of us have to bring to leadership is our own transforming selves. (p. 19)

I once knew a person in a church who routinely referred to the ministry of the church as “business as usual.” He spoke as if this were a good thing! Listen, business as usual is what is killing churches. In far, far too many churches, good, well meaning people are incredibly busy with church activity and yet experiencing no real life. They are simply doing what their leaders are doing. Their leaders are often good people who also are incredibly busy with church activity.

Barton is right. The best thing any of us have to bring to leadership is our own transforming selves. There is something powerful about a man or woman whose life is open before the Lord and who is experiencing real transformation into the image of Christ.

I came away from this class this week resolved to do several things:

1. I want to spend more time in solitude and silence tending to the needs of my own soul. I have just not been as attentive to these needs over the past year as I have been in previous years. I really became aware of this in this class.

2. I want to spend less time on things that just do not matter. I really enjoy this time of life. Yet, I want to spend my physical and emotional energy on things that matter. Yet, so much of the busyness of everyday life often involves doing things that just don’t matter. I find myself thinking: “Why am I doing this? How did I get in the middle of this?” So I am really giving some thought as to how I am spending my time.

(For the next few weeks, I will be posting a series each Monday entitled “Strengthening the Soul.”)


Do you sense that many people around you live with a parched soul?

What has busyness cost you?

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11 thoughts on “Strengthening the Soul (1)

  1. Good question Craig. For me, I try to start with what seems to really matter to God. For example, I might begin with loving God and loving people as two qualities in life that God really values. Then I try to think about the practical application of this.

    So, the things that matter are those behaviors which seem to reflect these two values. So as I think about loving people, I think about the people who are a part of my life: My family, my friends, people in our church, our community. I would hope that my life would be invested in some of these people because I believe that loving these people really does matter.

    There may be a better way to come at this Craig but this is where I begin.

  2. Great book! I’m reading it now. One of the best I’ve read this or any year. I’m pretty sure you recommended it here once and I got it then and didn’t start it until last month. Would have loved that class!

    • Clay, I am reading the book again. This time I am especially paying attention to the exercises and suggestions at the end. The class was great.

  3. how fun that you were able to attend this event. i just love her stuff. thanks for sharing your experience. ACU is using one of her books to offer a class this summer for the student life group of staff. daniel and i have both participated. it has been wonderful.

    • Cathie, I have found several of her books very useful and in particular the disciplines that she suggests. Glad you enjoy her work as well.

  4. Jim, I must confess I am jealous. Envious too. (That you took the class with her).

    I read two of her reflections today from the archives.

  5. This post has hit me where I live. I have wrestled with whether or not to continue serving in my leadership role and just when I decided not to, I became broken and wrestled with God for about 2 weeks. I’m going to give it one more year, but I find the task ahead daunting because I know what I’m facing. But if I focus more of my time and energy on feeding my soul then maybe I can let go of the fact that the church is not embracing some things. I know I’ve seen it in the past that when I let go I begin to hear people start saying things on their own that reflect what I’ve been trying to say all along. But what hard work when you know what the church could be and to have to hit the same old brick walls. I’m looking forward to your posts on this topic.

    • Pat, I suspect that many who read your words can identify with you. There are times in my ministry when I just could not see any hope with the congregation that I was working with at the time. To come to that place is quite discouraging.

      I commend you for giving it one more year. I think you are right on in regarding to focusing more of your time/energy in feeding your soul. There is something about such a commitment that is actually a great gift to the church. I think Ruth Haley Barton is right. The best thing that any of us have to give in our leadership is our own transforming selves.

      Please let me hear from you again as this next year gets underway. I look forward to hear how you are doing with this commitment to focus your energy on your own soul.