Reflections on Chapter 21 of Spiritual Leadership by Oswald Sanders.

As I sit here contemplating the title of this chapter, I’ve just read of a megachurch in a major metropolitan area of the USA that has had to dismiss its lead pastor. Just a few days ago another prominent pastor was in the news being accused of impropriety during a commercial flight. The ongoing uncovering of the saga of abusive actions within the largest Christian denomination has led to revelations just as scandalous in several other organizations. 

The world makes crude remarks. Too often they are based on actual events. Those are the ones that that do the most damage. 

Leadership in any realm is always accompanied with peril. Yet, people from all walks aspire to lead. Probably because it just needs to be done. Humans simply need someone to help them get from where they are to where they need/want to be. But those who lead do so at tangible risk.

In the vocation of Christian leadership, the perils are ever present and numerous. At times a minister may feel impervious to any and all the dangers. That “feeling” runs counter to admonitions found in Scripture. Jesus spoke to The Twelve concerning the hazards; sometimes plainly, sometimes in parables. His comments still resonate today. Christ did not advocate shrinking from the task, but He did set cautionary signs along the path. 

Dr. Sanders has adroitly elaborated several pitfalls in this chapter – pride, egotism, jealousy, popularity, infallibility, indispensability, elation and depression, prophet or leader… They are seemingly so apparent that they could easily be avoided. Yet, the statistics of failure are glaring.

What happens to leaders? How is it that these aberrant behaviors, behaviors that are properly and openly preached against, overtake and devastate? 

In some cases, there is a lack of healthy, holy, peer to peer accountability. There are only a few phrases that describe their bond, yet we know it to be remarkable. “Then Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul. And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was upon him, and gave it to David, and his garments, even to his sword, and to his bow, and to his girdle.” (1 Samuel 18:3-4) Jonathan was the prince apparent, David was a shepherd boy among royalty. Their “covenant” was made to benefit each other. Jonathan offers David his “robe” and “garments”, items that undoubtedly conveyed position in society. These were gestures of raising David to a new level.

In addition, he freely gave David his weapons. One would think this was done that David could help defend Jonathan from enemies. Few would argue the point. 

But there may be more to the incident. Is Jonathan saying, “I am giving you the ability and right to attack me”? Perhaps he is humbling himself before his friend saying, “If you see something in me that needs to be cut out, do so”. Is he exposing himself, being transparent, being vulnerable with a holy longing to be better? 

Wisdom shines in the Proverbs, 

“Better is an open reprimand [of loving correction]

Than love that is hidden. 

Faithful are the wounds of a friend [who corrects out of love and concern],” … (AMP 27:5-6)

Do you have a peer to peer covenant so vital that you have given them a sword that will both hurt and heal?