I’m just not a very strong leader, I recently told a mentor when discussing a new project I was embarking upon with a group of trusted friends. It feels more like we are walking together—leading each other. Do you know what I mean?
She nodded and cocked her head to one side.
You are a servant-leader, Laura, she said. You lead by giving. And thus, you lead others to desire to give also.
I had never thought of myself in these terms—had never considered serving as a form of leadership. But according to Mel Lawrenz in his book Spiritual Influence: The Hidden Power Behind Leadership, serving is a form of worship and one quality of an effective spiritual influencer.
Leader is a term I’ve always felt uncomfortable with, but as I read Lawrenz’s book, I found myself nodding my head on more than one occasion. He uses the term influence, which he points out is from the Latin word influentia, meaning—in a Christian sense—that hidden force of God at work in the world—invisible, but powerful.
People whose foundation is their faith in God have an extraordinary opportunity to do something more than influence people and organizations from their personal opinions, preferences, and goals. They can connect faith to their influence, whether their work is in the realm of business or the church or education or any other endeavor. They want to connect faith and influence because they know that is the way to effect enduring change, and believe God is the ultimate influencer.
God is the ultimate influencer. All spiritual leadership should always point back to this one point.
That said, I like the word influencer as opposed to leader because—isn’t that what we all aim to do as Christians? Influence this world for kingdom good? As I read Spiritual Influence, I found valuable insights into spiritual leadership, but I also found myself thinking that all Christians could benefit from reading this book. If each individual took his or her role as influencer seriously…just think how different the world might look. We need influencers, Lawrenz says. Armies of them.
Spiritual Influence is divided into four parts. In the first part, Getting Grounded, Lawrenz talks about the foundation of character and integrity from which a spiritual leader must start. He talks about the importance of the willingness to be a follower, of maintaining a close personal connection with God, of worship and service, and of being a person of integrity. The takeaway for me from this section is that my ability to influence is deeply rooted in my personal relationship with God. Ignore that and I am not likely to be effective in leading others to a place where God can do His transforming work.
The second part, Taking Initiative, discusses the effectiveness of exploring new horizons, streaming ideas, seizing opportunities, being creative, and speaking into crises. This section urges Christian leaders to be sensitive to the leading of the Spirit and offers specific tools to assist in doing so...tools such as reading scripture daily and recording a new insight each day, meeting new leaders outside one’s usual circle, entering into new places of ministry on a regular basis, and stretching oneself beyond the comfort zone. It is only when we step out of our comfort zone that we truly rely on God.
In the third part of Spiritual Influence, Going Deep, Lawrenz talks about developing discernment, pursuing wisdom, receiving power, accepting authority, and promoting truth. Do these sound like qualities that should be limited to those we typically think of as Christian leaders? These are the deeper things that all Christians should pursue.
The final part of the book deals with Facing Challenges—something all leaders need a bit of schooling in. Lawrenz deals with practical problems such as managing the expectations of others, dealing with criticism, and persevering after failure.
In the end, Spiritual Influence reminds us that God is the ultimate influencer, that the job of a Christian leader is to take people to that place where He can transform, and doing this skillfully takes much deliberation and careful effort. This book is a rich guide to arriving at the place of powerful spiritual influence.
*Thank you to Zondervan for the complimentary copy of this book used for this review.