My last Core Competency for pastors is being Spirit Centered. You can call it Christ Centered, God Centered, Kingdom Driven, Spiritually –what you call it may depend on your background and on what connects with you. But whatever you call it, it is core to pastoral competency.
Faith and trust in God is a lifestyle for pastors. Much of what we are entrusted to do (preach, teach, lead, care for people, etc.) had to be grounded in God or it becomes ego driven, false and exhausting. Even the best pastors fall into this trap.
It has probably always been an issue, but today too many pastors have become the “professional Christian” busy with the work of the church – and because of the scope of that work, pastors can find themselves estranged from their own spiritual life. Instead of leading the life of a spiritual leader we settle for CEO of a small business that peddles religious goods and services.
Being Spirit Centered is not only about making one’s spiritual deepening a priority in life and ministry; it is about how having that priority shapes and forms ministry.
For pastors a profound spiritual life shapes ministry in several ways but, I want to focus on three:
First, it decreases the burden and burn out of ministry. It is no secret that too many clergy are depressed, critical, complainers. I believe the incredible scope of ministry pushes pastors into unhealthy life choices and relational patterns. Clergy can feel the weight of the world and the fate of the church on their backs and it is overwhelming. A deep spiritual life grounds a pastor in a helpful truth: You are not in charge, You are not God.
Second, it enables pastors to hear God’s voice in ministry choices. Ministry in today’s world is complicated. Our culture is more disconnected from what church has traditionally offered and pastors face more choices with more consequences for the wrong choice. A deep spirituality enables a pastor to hear God’s leading in the midst of complicate choices. A deep connection to God also enables pastors to risk, to be bold and to do the right thing even when it is costly.
Third, it awakens pastors to what the Spirit is doing now. As the shape of church changes I believe the Spirit doesn’t leave us here to figure it out on our own but is leading us forward. What will church look like? The Spirit will guide our steps as we listen. I believe a Spirit Centered pastor learns to walk in that unfolding.
Being Spirit Centered is a hard competence to live in to. I say this because most pastors have done well relying on their own strengths, experience and wisdom. It has often felt like these were enough to guide the church and ministry. But we fool ourselves. It is not enough.
I left this as the last Core Competency because it is the most important but also, for many seminary trained clergy, the hardest. It calls us to live a different daily pattern, one where the ancient ways of prayer, retreat, fasting, scripture study and more aren’t what we do but who we are. The work of the clergy continues to be essential for the future of our faith. The question is will clergy take their call seriously enough?
Over these weeks, I have spent time sharing my Core Competencies (Professionalism, Focus, Communication, Connectionalism, Developer) with the hope that it would push other clergy leaders to wrestle with what they believe are their own.
Our calling is a high calling and we are called to nothing less than giving it our all, and out of that surrender and that giving, I believe God’s Spirit will work.