Reading. You either love it or you hate it. And if you love it, you never seem to have enough time to do it. When I met my wife, we both discovered that the other one enjoyed reading. Her idea of enjoyable reading is a good Christian fiction novel; mine is a non-fiction pastoral book or even a commentary. Yes, I know that is weird.
The older we get and the more we’ve been a part of leading small groups, the more we discover that we don’t know all there is to know. The gap between what we know and what we need to know widens—unless we are diligent to read all we can. Odds are the questions you have could be answered in a book. Odds are the discussion you have in your next small group gathering could be addressed in a book. Odds are the conflict you sense between two small group members could be written about in a book.
Don’t hear me wrong. Books do not hold all the answers, nor does reading and gathering some answers guarantee a better leader. There are all sorts of smart people who have no practical wisdom and cannot apply what they know. Plus, there are some situations that only the Holy Spirit can minister in. BUT…hear me. You are what you read.
So read voraciously. I have a goal to read 25-30 books a year. What’s your goal? It doesn’t have to be strictly “Christian” reading. Start somewhere. Maybe it’s one book a month. You’ll be amazed at the way God uses the books you read to grow you as a leader.
- What books are you reading right now?
- If you’re not a “reader,” what are some creative ways you can soak in the wisdom of others? Blogs? Websites? Magazines? Books on CD?
- What one topic relating to small group leadership do you need advice on? What book might help?
This year, we’re going to focus on J. Oswald Sanders’ book, Spiritual Leadership, as the main topic for Teleios Training. For the majority of readers who don’t know what this refers to, at our church, I try to send an email to our small group leaders twice a month or so with tips, training, encouragement, or devotional thoughts. I’m making this blog the spot for all of them.
Sanders opens his book by saying, “Most Christians have reservations about aspiring to leadership. They are unsure about whether it is truly right for a person to want to be a leader.” Ambition has led to the downfall of many, and is a potential stumbling block for others. 1 Timothy 3:1 says, “To aspire to leadership is an honorable ambition.” In Paul’s day, a love for God and others was the driving force behind aspiring to leadership, for Paul and others faced persecution and death. No fool decided to lead in the church.
Today’s leaders need to have three characteristics, says Sanders.
1. Authoritative. People desire “reliable leaders who know where they are going and are confident of getting there.”
2. Spiritual. Those would lead people to God must know God first. God anoints men and women with His Holy Spirit to do His work through them.
3. Sacrificial. Our Lord Jesus Christ was sacrificial, so we should model this trait too.
Sanders’ biggest insight from this chapter is this: “Spiritual leaders are not elected, appointed, or created by synods or church assemblies. God alone makes them.” He then adds that if we do not lead this way to a higher kind of life, a life with God, then surely the lowly path will be well-traveled. We cannot believe the myth that our own spiritual formation does not have direct impact on those we befriend and do life together with in small groups.
Implications for Small Group Leaders
1. You’ve been appointed to leadership, but this alone does not make you a “spiritual leader.”
2. Your aspiration to lead must be balanced with both the cost of leadership and a changed heart.
3. Small groups are only one context for our spiritual growth. Because of their size, and your immediate influence over those in your group, your walk with God matters all the more.