Spiritual Influence {Thoughts on Leadership from Mel Lawrenz, Part I}

One benefit of taking a long (as in 17.5 hours long) road trip is that there is plenty of time to knock out some books you’ve been wanting to read. In so doing, I ran across some real treasures tucked inside the pages of a few books. I thought I would share highlights with you…maybe they will spark good thoughts or make you want to pick up the book for yourself.

First up: Spiritual Influence by Mel Lawrenz. I will take this week to share about this book because I found some amazing insight in this book. It’s been a while since I read a book that resonated as much as this one did.

Quick Summary: Spiritual Influence at first glance may appear to be just another leadership book from a church/business culture obsessed with defining who is {or describing how to be} “in charge.” But hold the ponies, this book offers a fresh, challenging, and inspiring vision of what it looks like for anyone to influence someone else for their spiritual good. In point of fact: we are all influencers; some good, others wretched. Lawrenz writes solidly from a distinctive biblical worldview, articulating well the unique virtues of true spiritual leadership.

If you, like me, are burned out on the rhetoric of “leadership” that somehow has subverted the church’s mission of everyday people helping others walk as disciples in extraordinary ways then you will find the Jesus-way described in this book to recalibrate your purpose…no matter where you live out your discipleship. Lawrenz’s clear thinking prompted reflection on my role as mom, friend, counselor/discipler, blogger, and teacher. If you “lead” anyone, this book will shape your perspective in necessary ways that will strip away all comfortability with the secular model of power, “one-upmanship,” and control; it will mess with your insides, especially if you have gained and guarded your position of leadership with the art of style over substance.

Lawrenz divides the book into four sections:

  1. Getting Grounded–What’s so unique about spiritual influence?
  2. Taking initiative–What actions are characteristic of an influencer?
  3. Going Deep–What is at the heart of good, constructive leadership?
  4. Facing Challenges–How do we navigate the hard places?

I want to refrain from summarizing the whole book for you…or you might be apt to skip discovering it for yourself. Rather, to whet your appetite I will share some of my favorite quotes. Here goes…My favorite quotes from Section One.

  • “When leadership works well, it is a marvelous thing. And when it doesn’t, people are damaged.”
  • God is the leader, we are subleaders, and the dividing line between us is not just one step of rank.”
  • “If we’re wise we’ll realize the necessity for and the limits of pragmatism, because we know what it’s like to drive the machine, we’ve been in the ditch, we’ve fixed the engine many times over–but we are refreshed when someone reminds us of the Great Place over the horizon, and that the purpose of driving is greater than drivenness.”
  • “Some spiritual leaders have guided people to summits, and others, off cliffs…Poor leaders will not look for the compass. They don’t care about right or wrong, good or bad. They have never looked for the compass, because their forward motion is just a matter of gut and drive and force of will. Leadership that is entirely self-directed will always be pathological. The only thing worse than worshiping idols is to act like an idol.”
  • “Influencing people toward the restoration of the image of God leads to groups that have more character and organizations that have something like souls, not just objectives.” 
  • “Busyness and stress are two problem areas that we turn into merit. So here is a possibility of a double blessing: when leaders take time management seriously in their own lives, they not only help themselves, they are also have something to offer the people they are leading. Chaos is never a virtue.”
  • “Influence is unavoidable. Everyone leaves a mark.”
  • “The best leaders are the best followers…Some of the most dangerous leaders are those who think they know better than anyone else, who are interested only in their own inventions, and who relish the isolation of being out ahead everyone else.”
  • “Every audience has a baseline of people expecting congruence and authenticity in their leaders. But there are also masses of naive people who can be swayed…In this sick, symbiotic relationship, the “leader” offers happiness or health, large numbers of people “follow,” and the following feeds the ego of the “leader.” Some will authenticate their own message and influence on the basis that a crowd is following them, but the only reason they have a following is that they offered vague promises of contentment or prosperity…Some claim authority based on numeric results…But history shows that not everyone who draws a crowd leads the crowd toward life.”
  • “Eventually, people will lose their leaders because no human leader is steadfast like God. Teaching people to follow Jesus puts people in the one place in the universe where they will never be left alone.” {Amen!}
  • “Ultimately, the best way influencers can teach people how to be lifetime followers (and then, perhaps leaders in their own right) is to model dynamic followership. When a leader models collaboration on a project, with energy and commitment and joy, others watching will see the power of people banding together for the common cause.”
  • “The horizontal dimension of spiritual influence is when a manager leads by adding to people’s identity rather than taking away.” {I found this section so beautiful!}
  • “A life rhythm of worship and prayer reinforces the submission of the self, putting us in a posture where God can use us…An attitude of bowing helps to ground us as leaders, equipping us to manage some things because God is the master of all things.”
  • “Servanthood is a response to a true sense of calling to give more than get.”
  • Spiritual influence is for this day–and God uses millions of no-names influencers every day in the simplest selfless acts of service. They are teachers whose names will never be in the newspaper, pastors who never author a book, managers who will never be profiled in a magazine, artists whose work is buried in layers of collaboration, writers whose sphere of influence is a few dozen people who read their blogs” {well, that’s a relief to hear!}.
  • “Use every means possible to be grounded in God, because the only enduring influence we have to offer others is the influence God has in our lives.”
  • People who exercise good spiritual influence begin with the assumption that they have no inherent right to demand or expect trust from anybody.”
  • Integrity begins with the conviction that we have none.” {Think about it. Wait for it. This is a powerful statement if we let it rattle around in our heart long enough.}
  • Integrity is both a quality of life and a process of living. It is a commitment to a whole-life process of constructing and reconstructing character all with a background of humility in which the leader acknowledges just how far he or she falls short. Integrity is a process that is never finished.”
  • And then there is this pathology: competition. People of influence have always compared themselves to each other…To be out ahead of others gives us a sense of power and status…With our enhanced communications we can track almost everything, and so many leaders have chosen to define spiritual success in the language of statistics, a principle that is hard to reconcile with Jesus’ theology of the kingdom of God, which defies all measurement.”
  • It would be a good thing if people rose up and demanded integrity in their leaders. This is the power of ordinary people: they can reinforce the principle of integrity by following leaders who value it; and they can choose to reject leaders who flaunt power and mock integrity.
  • A longing for integrity [must] surpass a longing for influence.

Good stuff, huh? A lot to chew on. When you think about the current state of spiritual leadership, do you see a crisis? Which of the quotes do you think is the most helpful for provoking us to be the people God has called us to be?

Tomorrow I’ll share some highlights from Section Two. Stay tuned.

3 thoughts on “Spiritual Influence {Thoughts on Leadership from Mel Lawrenz, Part I}

    • Mel, These are very important issues! I have been greatly encouraged by your work and its potential to help us to better be the Church. Thank you for sharing your insight and passion to see others be devoted to Christ. I hope these blog posts will inspire others to read the book…I learned a lot from you. {Thanks for dropping in here too and reading.} Blessings to you!

  1. Pingback: An Open Invitation to Grow {Free opportunity to deepen leadership ‘skills’} | Once Upon a Truth

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