Leadership Principles and Prayer

When the people cried out to Moses, he prayed to the LORD… Numbers 11:2 (NIV)

Why is prayer often the great omission when it comes to discussion of spiritual leadership? In my humble estimation the topic of leadership is the most frequent focus of conferences, seminars, podcasts, magazine articles and books in the church world today! It is understandable because church leaders are looking for keys to making their ministries more effective and fruitful. As I scan the plethora of spiritual leadership resources however, I find very little if any devoted to or directed at the role of prayer.

It is a curiosity and makes me wonder “Why?” It could go without saying but all the great leaders in the Bible were first and foremost men and women of prayer. Their leadership calling, equipping and effectiveness were directly dependent upon their relationship and communication with God. Moses is an excellent case in point. His leadership task was one of the most challenging ever given a man. His assignment was to deliver millions of people out of oppressive captivity, transform them into a God-centered culture and position them as a mighty army to conquer a foreign land.

Moses secret to success was not based upon his knowledge and application of leadership principles. It was based upon his knowledge of God found in the secret place. Prayer was the integral, defining characteristic of Moses leadership from the burning bush to Mount Nebo. His confrontations with Pharaoh were punctuated with prayer and every ensuing crisis throughout the Exodus was resolved through prayer. Moses frequently fell on his face before God to cast his burdens, seek God’s directive wisdom and/or intercede on behalf of Israel’s wayward and rebellious ways. (Numbers 14:5, 16:4) Among other things the defeat of Amalek was directly attributable to his prayers as was the Israel’s salvation from God’s annihilation as a result of their worship of the golden calf. (Exodus 17, 32-34)

All of Moses’ leadership decisions came out of the place of prayer. Let me say it again. All of Moses’ leadership decisions came in prayer! Prayer was also the basis upon which David, Nehemiah, Daniel, the apostles and most notably Jesus all made their key leadership decisions.

In summary then it could be said that the basis or foundation of spiritual leadership is prayer, nothing less, nothing more.

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Church services and the element of surprise

What are some of the most memorable church services you have ever experienced? Matt, our worship pastor, asked all of us that question yesterday during our biweekly creative planning meeting for upcoming Sunday services. It was an instructive question because in stirring up great memories it revealed essential ingredients that make for impacting church services.

As we paused silently to consider the question each of us began to search through our own respective archives of years of doing church. For me it was like pulling out old family albums and paging through them looking for photos that sparked favorite memories from years gone by. In a matter of minutes I came up with a list of over ten very vivid pictures in my mind of services that had a major impact upon me.

These most memorable church services fell into one of four categories. They were times when 1) God’s presence was sudden, unmistakable and so powerful that it overwhelmed everyone simultaneously; 2) I was so convicted by the speaker’s message that I was drawn uncontrollably forward to the altar area to do business with God; 3) A creative or spontaneous element in the service deeply touched me both emotionally and spiritually; 4) Something bizarre happened that was unexpected, unredemptive but unforgettable.

In retrospect, as I think about it now, the one common ingredient that made those church services so memorable was the element of surprise. And in most of the cases the surprise was a function of what happened, being unplanned and spontaneous. Not surprisingly, that is typically how God works. When it comes to the way God does things the maxim “expect the unexpected” is more the rule than the exception. This modus operandi is demonstrated repeatedly throughout both the Old and New Testaments in the way God’s initiated life changing encounters with people. From Abraham to David to Mary to Paul we see God again and again surprising people through His divine intervention.

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No Exaggeration

Sad to say, exaggeration in religious circles is the order of the day. It is jokingly referred to as speaking “evangelastically.” That is why Billy Graham at the start of his ministry made a covenant with his team not to exaggerate his crusade attendance figures.
In my years of ministry I’ve seen many forms of religious exaggeration. And truth be told, at times I have fallen prey to it myself.

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