By Mike McVey, Trinity Baptist Church, Gunnison, CO
Soul—internal, private, invisible, “the me I want to be,” chaotic, untended, neglected, the “inner me.”
Why? Why do we engage in performance based ministry without caring for the soul? The bottom line is simple: we are more concerned with what we are doing than who we are.
To quote an ancient adage, we have “the cart before the horse!” No one would argue against the fact that healthy churches need healthy leaders. Perhaps another reason might be that we are engaged to the “cult of busyness.” Or yet another motivation might be that we are not developing key spiritual disciplines in our lives as ministry leaders.
Maybe before we begin our quest to plant, to build, and to revitalize churches the most urgent question should be, “is it well with my soul?” That part of you that no one sees and that most are fearful to inquire about. Imagine that the soul most in need of revitalizing is–your own.
Every person is a soul made by God (Gen. 2:7), for God, and to need God, which means you are not made to be self-sufficient. (Dallas Willard). Willard goes on to say, “The soul is that aspect of your whole being that correlates, integrates, and enlivens everything going on in the various dimensions of the self. The soul is the life center of human beings.”
We can ill-afford to endeavor any aspect of church ministry without first safeguarding that our “inner-being” our very “life-center,” our soul, is being revitalized. Ortberg in his book Soul Keeping states it well “the neglected soul doesn’t go away, it goes awry.” So how do you care for the most important part of you?
Let’s hone in on how we nourish and strengthen our own persona. “Strengthening the soul of your leadership is an invitation to enter more deeply into the process of spiritual transformation and to choose to lead from that place,” writes Ruth Haley Barton. So, what is required to find our way back home to a life of intimacy with God?
ASK THE RIGHT QUESTION(S).
Ask yourself am I Ieading from the presence of God? Do I desire to lead incarnationally (fleshing out Christ in my life) by listening to God’s voice, and by contemplatively reflecting on God’s Word? Don’t forget God’s power is not released from performance but through His presence.
PRACTICE SOLITUDE AND SILENCE.
Soul keeping best begins in the closet where we can find ourselves undistracted by the cares of the day. To be still and know God (Psalm 46:10) means that we remove ourselves from the noise that sidetracks us from listening intently to our heavenly Father. Being silent is not only a means of obedience but a source of strength as well as an incredible time of worship before the Almighty.
CULTIVATE SPIRITUAL FRIENDSHIPS
Most of us have friends. We have friends who are interested in the same things we are interested in. We have friends who share our faith perspectives. We have friends who help us. But in my mind, the best kind of friends are ‘soul friends.’ Those are people with whom I can be forthcoming and honest about my own soul. In return, they reflect God’s love for me in their words, their attitudes and their actions. These are friends who ‘enflesh’ God for me. God loves and nourishes my soul through these friends. –Alice Fryling in Seeking God Together
NAVIGATE FROM THE WILDERNESS
Like Moses, we will be better equipped to lead people out of their bondage into the place of spiritual freedom when we pilot from our own wilderness experiences. Wintley Phipps said, “It is in the quiet crucible of your personal, private sufferings that your noblest dreams are born and God’s greatest gifts are given in compensation for what you have been through.” Perhaps we are dreaming if we think we can lead someone out of wilderness without first having been there ourselves.
After you have asked the right question, taken time to be still, cultivated spiritual friendships, and navigated from the wilderness then you will be able to resonate with the song writer, “It is well, it is well with my soul.”