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Thursday, July 3, 2014

How To Be A Spiritual Leader – Only One Outcome Matters


   “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God.” (Ezekiel 36:26–28, ESV)

            When news broke about the gunman entering the Seattle Pacific University (SPU) campus in Seattle, WA and indiscriminately firing a shotgun at students, it touched home for me.  My nephew is a recent graduate of SPU.  A young woman from our church who just graduated from High School will be attending there this Fall.  One of the former pastors at Cold Springs Church has a daughter who has taught there for years.  I anxiously scanned articles, looking for names I might recognize.
            The result of this attack was one young man dead, another student seriously wounded and a myriad of memories of horror that will last a lifetime.  Unfortunately, the story is not uncommon these days, of someone mentally ill and also, I firmly believe, spiritually oppressed taking out their rage in acts of mass violence against innocents.  The stories are always heart-wrenching if we allow our hearts to be touched by them.
Students and faculty pray together following a shooting on the campus of Seattle Pacific University Thursday. 
(Photo: Elaine Thompson, AP)
            But as I followed this story, a difference emerged.  The difference was so pronounced the Seattle Times wrote an article entitled “At faith-based Seattle Pacific University, grief without despair.”  You see, SPU is a Christ-centered university that takes following Jesus seriously and sees itself as not just a place of higher education but one who also has the responsibility of deepening their students spiritual education.  And when tragedy randomly came knocking on their door, they were ready.  In the article, Bob Zurinsky, SPU’s assistant director of university ministries said this:  What we’ve witnessed at SPU,” he said, “has been not so much a reactive burst of energy, but rather a deep response that reflects many years of immersion in the practice of grace, worship and life together.”  What he was referring to was the almost peaceful reactions from students and staff – starting with the 911 calls and following through to the prayer vigils where prayers were lifted up for the shooter as well as the victims.
            What would make someone react that way?  What would cause someone to have grace and peace in the face of crisis, pain and evil?  Again, the reaction of the people at SPU was so different it captured the attention of the major newspaper in a decidedly secular and often-times antagonistic culture toward the Christian faith.
            Fifteen times the Apostle Paul greets and encourages the people he wrote to with a form of the phrase “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”  The difference the Seattle Times observed was the overflow of lives immersed in the grace and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  It was the result of people who practiced walking with Jesus.  The people who walked with Jesus experienced transformed hearts that empowered them to see life through a different lens and live life through a divine power.
            Spiritual leadership is influencing people toward Jesus so they can be transformed by his love.  Spiritual leadership is continuing to influence people toward Jesus so they walk with Jesus daily.  In this daily journey with Jesus there becomes a growing awareness of God’s grace and the peace that passes all understanding.
            So, how is your heart?  What do the grace and peace gauges on the dashboard of your soul read?  Walk close to Jesus and they will read full.  People will notice.
Peace and grace,
David