One of the greatest challenges faced by all believers is understanding and operating in the Kingdom of God while simultaneously living our earthly existence. This challenge is multiplied when we begin to engage the issues of organizing and leading from the place of dual citizenship.
Christianity is a belief system based on a worldview that most westerners do not naturally embrace. The entire Biblical narrative clearly unfolds against the backdrop of a visible, natural world and an invisible, supernatural world.
We see this interaction in the story of Elisha and his servant in 2 Kings 6:15-18. Elisha’s servant reports to the CEO that they are entirely surrounded by enemy armies. With a Jedi hand swipe, the servant’s eyes are opened to the greater, invisible reality, and he realizes that a larger angelic army surrounds the human army he sees.
An organizational or leadership decision, based on the first view of the battlefield, might be completely contrary to a decision based on the second view. As a result, to be an effective spiritual leader we must learn to lead in both realms simultaneously.
Secular leadership models can be helpful as long as we know when they do and do not apply to the context of Kingdom leadership. A leader who has developed their expertise in the natural realm only will not be able to recognize, much less operate in, the spiritual realm. Here are some of the dynamics that are critical to effective spiritual leadership:
- The Presence of God: Throughout the history of Israel, it became clear that if God was with them they could not be defeated— regardless of logic or odds. No city or army could withstand a human army that followed God’s Presence. As a leader, Moses learned the simple, yet crucial prayer: “If you will not go with me, I will not go.” Similarly, no spiritual leader today should ever consider an initiative, no matter how logical or statistically sound, until they know that God is with them.
- Prayer: Prayer is the tool by which we remain connected to the presence of God, and it is the primary strategy of any spiritual leader. Lead people to their knees. Be the first to listen for the Voice of God. Without meaningful conversation with God, it is impossible to lead in the Spiritual world. It would be like trying to lead people through the jungle while wearing a blindfold.
- Fasting: We should never forget fasting, the powerful cousin to prayer. The denial of our flesh, though never pleasant, is designed to make us more sensitive to the Spirit. However, a leader who only leads in the physical realm does not recognize the wisdom and power in fasting. In John 3:10, Jesus emphasized the importance of spiritual leaders knowing the difference between Spirit and flesh.
- Spiritual Warfare: Not all opposition faced by leaders and organizations can be handled through simple, rational problem solving. In fact, Paul lets us know that flesh and blood is never the real opposition we face. Without being spooky, we must recognize that if we operate in both realms, we will also face opposition in both realms.
I am convinced that it is possible to make decisions that are effective in one realm, yet destructive in another. To be truly effective spiritual leaders we must learn to lead with a foot in both kingdoms.
Can you think of a time when your best understanding of God’s direction didn’t make sense at first, yet produced surprising results?