The nature of leadership is the nature of servitude. Leaders respond to servitude in giving of themselves in many ways in a variety of circumstances, some easier than others. Without times of solitude to get alone with our inner selves and calling, we can become hardened to the real needs around us and turn into machines that keep running but are mainly unproductive. Jesus took time away from the crowds and His disciples to pray and to listen. We are far more apt to sentimentalize His habit than we are to emulate His pattern by applying it to our lives.
Leaders are like batteries with a constant draw depleting their energy. Without times of recharging the power dwindles. Many leaders do not realize when their spiritual batteries are low. A weary leader will often switch from Spirit power to soul power without even realizing it and carry on for a season. Their charisma, personality, and persistence can mimic Spiritual power. They may still flow in the gifts of the Spirit. But a depleted soul is no soil for growing the fruit of the Spirit the Father is so eager to see. Time alone to recharge, re-evaluate, and refocus is critical to spiritual growth and longevity in the ministry.
I hear from many international leaders with a vision of what they want to accomplish. I do not look at their goals as unattainable, but I often question if their ideas are based solely on the needs they see around them. I also sense a spirit of competition in some to outdo other ministries in their area. When I visited Kampala, Uganda, in 2008, I took in a beautiful outdoor fruit market. Under the tent was stall after stall of every type of fruit imaginable. But every booth had the same fruit beautifully displayed. There was no distinction or uniqueness between the vendors. Buildings, sound systems, social programs, and the caring and feeding of orphans and widows are all exceptional in their place, but to have these things to best the pastor down the road is not worthy of God’s favor. It takes a leader willing to get alone with God to discern God’s particular vision for them and their ministry. Too many leaders have the “Messiah Complex,” putting pressure on themselves to be the savior of their world. No leader can be everything to everybody, and God never intended it to be so.
If a leader is too busy to get away, they are too busy. As a young leader many years ago, my spiritual father recommended Charles E. Hummel’s 1967 essay “Tyranny of the Urgent.” Hummel begins with a poignant observation: “Have you ever wished for a thirty-hour day? Surely this extra time would relieve the tremendous pressure under which we live. Our lives leave a trail of unfinished tasks. Unanswered letters, unvisited friends, unwritten articles, and unread books haunt quiet moments when we stop to evaluate. We desperately need relief.
“But would a thirty-hour day really solve the problem? Wouldn’t we soon be just as frustrated as we are now with our twenty-four allotment? A mother’s work is never finished, and neither is that of any student, teacher, minister, or anyone else we know. Nor will the passage of time help us catch up. Children grow in number and age to require more of our time. Greater experience in profession and church brings more exacting assignments. So we find ourselves working more and enjoying it less.” After describing a busy day in the life of Jesus, Hummel interjects, “What was the secret of Jesus’ work? We find a clue following Mark’s account of Jesus’ busy day. Mark observes that ‘…in the morning, a great while before day, He rose and went out to a lonely place, and there He prayed’ (Mark 1:35). Here is the secret of Jesus’ life and work for God: He prayerfully waited for His Father’s instructions and for the strength to follow them. Jesus had no divinely-drawn blueprint; He discerned the Father’s will day by day in a life of prayer. By this means He warded off the urgent and accomplished the important.”
We, as leaders, seem to gravitate to the urgent in others’ lives only to find out their urgent was not so urgent after all. Many persons’ urgencies can wait. If someone is asking for prayer, ask them if they’ve prayed about the situation themselves. Don’t let their uncomfortable need always take you away from what is essential. And you will only know the true nature of a request when you have asked God and waited for His answer.
Social media has also become a trap that captures many hours without us being aware of it. Here is my advice. Unless social media is your only ministry, limit your time online, and secondly, don’t let social media become your primary ministry.
The urgency of the next post or prophetic word or comment on someone else’s timeline may not be the critical thing you need to be concerned with at the time. Social media, in all too many cases, is a tool that has become the master. The world will not end if you don’t post or respond for a day or two. Maybe when you come back to it, the time away will have given you something worth others reading.
What is another practical way to free you up? Learn to say no. People need to see you put up some healthy boundaries in your life. Make time away to recharge a regular part of your schedule. If you don’t schedule it in, others will schedule it out. Lead by example. I hope you are inspired to look out for your spiritual growth and strength. No one can do it for you. Your times of solitude will make a more strategic and effective leader.