3 questions every leader should be asking

The future of the church in Britain is utterly dependent on how much the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ can be appropriated into our personal, communal and working lives.

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There is no technique, strategy, scheme, money pile, mini-messiah or brilliant idea that will help us if this does not happen. There is no plan ‘B’ if this does not work. Christian leaders are naked with nothing to offer unless what Jesus Christ has done and is doing sustains us with His life poured into our hearts by the work of the Holy Spirit. So we better ask ourselves some pretty searching questions to see if that’s what our leadership is based on or not.

Christian author and retreat guide Phileena Heuertz talks of three ‘purifying’ questions that help us get to the core of what is going on in our lives, and I want to suggest that those are actually vital questions for us as leaders to ask ourselves. So let’s allow these to rumble through our minds and conversations, listening to the voice of the Spirit as we go…

Leadership question one: WHO ARE YOU?

This is the identity question. It is not always easy to answer this but important in your spiritual growth over the long term. It may take a while to answer and the answer may change over time. God has given us bodies, placed us in communities and distributed gifts. So who are you in the middle of this? What words or images constantly repeat themselves in your mind, signalling your own sense of who you are? What do you say to yourself about yourself? Is your heart focused on giving God as much glory as possible or could it be you are overwhelmed by negative experiences that have developed, cynical speech, or a hard heart? If your identity is not being rooted in the love of Father, Son and Spirit there is a confusing leadership road ahead. So who are you and how would you identify yourself? If someone who you knew well asked you ‘who are you?’ what would you say’?

Leadership question two: WHAT PATH(S) ARE YOU ON?

We are all on different and multiple paths towards the future. I could be on a path towards a new job, out of sickness, towards middle age, out of a particular location, into a relationship, out of a cold heart, into a porn addiction or feeling like I am on a path to nowhere. Some paths we choose, others we walk because we have to. It is worth asking: what will be the outcome of walking the paths I have chosen? As a leader can you identify what paths you are on, what they may mean for your life and if you still want to take them?

Leadership question three: HOW DO YOU CONNECT WITH GOD?

Where and when do you and God meet? What is the nature of your relationship with Him? What does he feel about you and how do you know? This often changes over time too: how you connect with God now might be different than how you connected in the past, and may change again in the future, in fact it surely will change as your situation and relationships shift and alter. Corporate worship, solitude, scripture meditation, having a spiritual director/mentor, silence, service and great conversation all work for me, but what about you?

I’ll end with a warning. There are other questions we can ask, and rather than purify or clarify they will lead us into trouble if as leaders we build their identity around them. ‘What do I have?’, ‘What do I do?’ and ‘What is my reputation?’ are Henri Nouwen’s three potential lies. These potential lies can be the silent killers of your spiritual life. If you identify yourself through these questions alone – and many do – be ready for self-deception, disappointment with God and a defensive and hard heart. Along with your leadership being characterised by pride, isolation and confusion you also discover you are incapable of being creative and fresh. If in our hearts we just ask these ‘potential lie’ questions we draw people into our personal agenda, frustrating and even blocking their spiritual flourishing.

So – are we free and courageous enough to be attentive to the best questions?


Revd Dr Viv Thomas

Viv is the Associate International Director of OM International and Hon. Teaching Pastor at St. Paul’s Hammersmith. He is a mentor, author, spiritual director and organisational consultant, and his PhD research at King’s College, London, focussed on Christian leadership in relation to the Trinity. You can find out more about him and his ministry at www.formation.org.uk

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