Vol 4:10 Mission and Leading Christ’s Community – Part 6: Making Space for God’s Spirit

The thing about leading is that we tend to carve out a space for us to have influence in the lives of others.

Yes, the kind of influence we seek to have may involve cultivating consensus, be motivated by love, show hospitality, and be expressed in a climate of mutual submission, but the question still remains, for whom are we making space? Often, whether we admit it or not, we are making space for ourselves – somehow we indeed do believe we have the best handle on what is necessary for the community of Christ, which we serve, to grow and develop. That is why, after all, we are leaders.

But if we are to be engaged in the mission that God initiates and carries out, and we recognize that our gift in the community of Christ is to exercise the gift of leading, then we need to rethink for whom we are making space by the way that we lead – it is not making space for us. At the foundation of our exercising the gift of leading, is making space for the Spirit of God.

I have come to discover that the best exercise of the gift of leading does not exalt me, though I still get in the way of that at times – I love being exalted, rather it exalts Christ Jesus, it points to God, it points to the purposes of God, of God’s reign being manifested in the world. Leading is not about me, but all about pointing people to God, to attend to God, to focus their lives on what God is doing in them, around them, through them, and how God invites their participation in God’s mission and work of making all things new. It is to use the language of John the Baptist in John 3:30: “He must become greater; I must become less.”

Leading is never about making space for ourselves, or our ideas, or our influence, rather it is all about making space for the Spirit of God in people’s lives. This morning I was meeting with a group of guys I hang out with regularly and we got to talking about how to deal with anxiety in one of our lives. One of our group was looking for what he should do. We did not have much of an answer as to what he should do – “here are the 5 steps you should do,” but we responded saying that it might be best when he feels anxious to confess that anxiety and to cast it upon the Lord (cf. 1 Peter 5:7: “Cast all you anxiety on God because it matters to God about you”), and in so doing, make space for the Spirit of God to enter into his life for the Spirit to have free reign in the midst of his anxiety. His response was that this might be easier said than done.

Yet, for many of us it is difficult to make space for the Holy Spirit in our lives – we believe that a certain kind of action is required that might merit the Spirit’s entrée into our lives. However, that is to place ourselves ahead of the Spirit. Yes, an action is involved, but it is an action of acknowledging our inability, our weakness, our fallibility in taking care of our own lives, of fixing our problems, of doing whatever we need to do to make things right in our lives. Such actions are all about making space for us, our actions, our ableness. Instead, we need to come to the point of recognizing we cannot pull our lives together and hold them together, but rather, only as we confess our inability, do we open the door for the Spirit to enter into our lives to begin doing only what the Spirit is capable of doing – transforming us, re-creating us, making us new.

Leading requires the same kind of attitude. We lead, not to make space in people’s lives for us, but we are to lead in such a way that people are led to acknowledge their inability, their need for God, their need for God’s grace and mercy, so that in their confession they stop striving trying to show God they have what it takes to be a follower of Jesus, and simply open their lives so that the Spirit can be an artist in our lives – shaping us, transforming us, filling us with the life and presence of God. In this sense, the better we lead, the less visible we become, the more visible the Spirit appears in a person’s life, the more active the Spirit becomes in re-creating a human life. In contrast, the worst kind of leadership is the kind that increases a need for itself, a need for the leader, a kind of leading that makes the leader visible, up front and center. This making visible of our leadership is folly for we are incapable of shaping a person’s life or a people’s lives as the Spirit can. Indeed, “Jesus must increase, we must decrease.”

Practices for making space for the Spirit in our exercise of the gift of leading involve, not considering ourselves more highly than we ought, valuing others above ourselves, nor looking to our own interests but to the interests of others (cf. Phil. 2: 3-4). In our leading, we are to have the same attitude as that of Jesus:

“Who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used for his own advantage; rather he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant” (Phil. 2: 6-7).

Leading is not for our sake, not for our own reputations or credentials – we lead in order for people to make space for the Spirit of God in their lives so that God can create in them what God chooses to create in them as God makes them new, leads them to being in the new creation. May we always lead, so that people are open to making space for the Spirit in their lives.

  1. Linda Wiens says:

    To the point about the anxious person saying, “Easier said than done.” I agree from experience,but also: Since we feel anxiety, we can use that feeling as a reminder: “I need God’s help here.” That can prompt a prayer: “Lord, help me to see what I can do and leave the rest up to you.” Ideas will continue to form and some will be rejected; and whenever the anxiety feelings rise again, the prayer can be repeated to provide calm and eventual direction.

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