Praise be to the LORD my Rock, who trains my hands for war, my fingers for battle. He is my loving God and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer… (Ps. 144:1-2)
If you’re reading this, you are likely a leader in your diocese, your local church, your ministry, your workplace or your family. As leaders, you and I need to know how to lead “from the inside-out,” from that deep place in the heart which is the source of everything (see Proverbs 4:23), from that deep and secure relationship and identity we find in Christ alone. (Eph. 1:3-14). In my experience, such leadership from the inside out enables us to be pro-active rather than reactive leaders. Leading from the inside out often makes the difference between leading under the tyranny of the urgent and leading under spirit-enabled creativity, under anxiety or under security, under impulsiveness or under prayer.
In my own life, I’ve discovered two disciplines or “habits of the heart” that have helped me to lead more from the inside out. The first is the practice of the Daily Office, specifically Morning Prayer. I promised in my ordination vows as a priest “to be diligent in the reading and study of the Holy Scriptures,” (BCP 1979) and in all such knowledge as will make me a more able minister of Jesus Christ. There’s hardly a better way to do that in our own Anglican tradition than through the Daily Office of Morning and Evening Prayer, where we read through almost all of the Bible on a regular basis every day. Just today, I was immersed in 2 Samuel 17, in the saga of David fleeing for his life from Absalom, and the importance of good and godly counsel. You and I learn more about leadership from the saga of David than we will ever learn from any movie or soap opera on TV. From Paul’s Letter to Philemon I was reminded that the spiritual relationship in Christ between Philemon and his escaped slave Onesimus as “dear brothers in Christ,” trumped all secular realities of their relationship as master and slave. It drove home for me the very point I preached about last Sunday in Hebrews 12: that as followers of Jesus Christ, we define reality as the unshakable kingdom of God through Jesus Christ—rather than the thin, material and self-centered definitions of reality offered by our secular culture (you can find the notes here).
I have learned from spiritual friends and mentors to journal as I go along. Sometimes it’s a whole scripture that I’ve underlined from the Psalms or the lessons. Sometimes it’s a thought that such scripture has inspired. Sometimes it’s a place of conviction of sin, habits and hang ups for which I need to repent. Sometimes it’s a picture, a word from the LORD. I write it all down in my journal. It leads to prayer—and prayer leads to new ideas and creativity that is shaped by the Scriptures themselves, like the new video series we are beginning this week on “Questions for Global Anglicans in the 21st Century.” As a result, I gain a conviction and a peace that I’m following the Lord’s leading rather than my own ideas.
After Morning Prayer, I go for a walk. In the cool of the morning I reconnect with God’s creation: the sunlight touching the tops of the tall pines in our neighborhood and its reflection off rooftops and windows. I notice the deep blue sky and the clouds. I greet familiar faces of fellow walkers in our neighborhood, kids and their parents waiting for the school bus, and even the police officer waiting at the neighborhood speed trap! Who knows how these encounters and greetings might lead someday to a conversation about Jesus and an eternal turning point?
But more than that, I find in walking that I am open to hear from God in ways that I am not otherwise. I am less guarded, not preoccupied with phone calls, conversations and memos. That walk is a time for prayer, meditation, and “spiritual songs” (scriptures put to song and memorized) that create new pathways in my brain and enable the very truth that Paul proclaims in Romans 12:2, that you and I will be transformed by “the renewing of our mind” in Christ so that we may “test and approve” God’s good, pleasing and perfect will. And isn’t that the kind of Godly leadership we want to offer others wherever and however He has called us to lead?
I’m not an athlete and I have not appreciated exercise. But I have come to appreciate physical fitness and health as a gift and an imperative from God himself. As Dallas Willard once reminded me, our bodies are the “power pack” God has given us and the first place of dominion in which He has called us to exercise His Kingdom. “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God,” says Paul, “You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” (I Cor. 6:19-20)
At first it was difficult and slow going. But God is gracious and encouraging always! It has been for several years now a daily discipline, at least three to five days a week. I’m not legalistic about it; rather, I’m eager to do it and choose to do it because it pleases God and it feels great. As I’ve become more fit, I’ve been able to pick up the pace a bit too. All told, I find that starting the day with the study of the Scriptures in Morning Prayer, and this prayerful walk, I am well prepared for the staff call (or other calls) I have at 0900.
Your schedule or circumstance may not lend itself to what I’m doing. That’s ok. But what can you do to spend time away with God daily, in word and in his world, to lead from the deep place in your heart where He wishes to make his home?
Leading from the inside out is the focus of our next Clergy Leadership Training Institute, “Foundations in Leadership,” October 22-24, 2019 at Trinity Anglican Church in Thomasville, GA. If you are in the ordination process or in years 1-5 of your ministry as a deacon, priest, church planter, Curate, Associate or Rector, please join Archbishop emeritus Robert Duncan, Canon Mark Eldredge, the Rev Jay Haug (Living without Lust Ministries) and myself as we share about some of these “habits of the heart” that will enable you to lead “from the inside out.” You can register here and find out more about our AAC leadership development resources here.
The Rev. Canon Phil Ashey is President & CEO of the American Anglican Council.