Spiritual Leadership — Discerning the Times

I’m not so much into the “prophetic” in our American charismatic model. That has soured me to the point where I haven’t really put much stock in trying to figure out “what’s ahead.” It’s a fear of “looking wacky.” 

Yet, spiritual leadership needs discernment. There is a deep need to walk closely with the Lord and hear the voice of the Spirit. It’s not about predicting the future as much as it is guiding the Body of Christ through the turbulent waters ahead.

Paul could discern the times… and it’s not nearly as “predictive” as you would imagine. It’s simply how things are… but he states it so he can guide the Body of Christ through the turbulent waters with a steadiness that is needed.

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people. (2 Tim. 3:1-5, NIV)

There are times when I can clearly hear the Spirit and “see” what is ahead. It’s not that difficult. My difficulty has been in communicating those words. I don’t to seem like “wacky prophet guy.”

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Before 9/11, there was a sense in my spirit that the Body of Christ needed a deeper call to discipleship. We were too shallow and swallowed up by consumer Christianity. We were “shopping churches” instead of committing to following Christ in a serious manner.

It led to a period of calling out our church and walking through a serious spiritual formation group for a year with people. My problem was I wasn’t insistent enough. I wasn’t as measured in my response to the leading of the Spirit as I could have been.

Last fall I led our church through a series called “Living in Babylon” in an attempt to call attention to what I had been sensing since that time before 9/11. The culture was shifting hard and we, as Christians, were the minority voice. We needed to quit whining and crying about this shift and prepare. I wanted to follow the model of Joseph in Egypt, Daniel in Babylon, and Esther in Persia. It was an urgency in my spirit and I pressed forward.

While I truly believe I discerned the leading of the Spirit, what I did not discern was just how deeply entrenched evangelical Christianity was in cultural Christianity. What I’ve come to discover is I created my own echo chamber. I warned about echo chambers… then I inadvertently created my own. I had a lot of folks I was in conversation with who could see what was going on in the last election cycle and agreed with me. Others did not. But they weren’t as vocal.

(SIDE NOTE: I am currently reading Frances FitzGerald’s book called The Evangelicals: The Struggle to Shape AmericaThere is a phrase she uses I want to incorporate. She uses the term civic Christians. That is a good way to describe the Christianity of current American evangelicalism. There is now a wide chasm between “civic Christianity” and “social gospel Christianity.” It’s a new way to put terms to challenges I see ahead.)

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So, discernment is tricky. Spiritual leaders need it. We need it in a way that is gospel. I’m done with some “prophetic word” that sounds like the GOP platform… or the Democratic Platform. We need a gospel of Jesus that is prophetic and centered. That place is a lot smaller and more lonely than I imagined 8-9 months ago, to be honest. Yet, that is the place we need to occupy.

Spiritual leadership is tough. Discernment is tough. We have to be intentional in listening. We have to have our spiritual ears set to hear the voice of the Spirit. Spiritual disciplines are vital in this process.

We need a fresh push in our lives as spiritual leaders to hear. There is a way forward in our day as believers in America. We need to shed the shrill voices in our lives. We need to plunge ourselves into the depths of Christ and hear his voice once again.

Then, we need to bravely lead other believers in a way that is going to be different than any road we’ve known before in our lifetime. We need discerning spiritual leadership more than ever.

 

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