Making Introductions

[This article is part of the “spiritual leadership today” study/discussion going on this year. For all articles in the series, click the Spiritual Leadership tab at the top of the page. To have them delivered, subscribe to The Brook Letter]

As we begin a weekly study and discussion of “spiritual leadership today” for leaders from all walks of life, I think it’s best to start with some introductions. You deserve to know who is leading this online study and discussion, so I’ll begin, and you can “introduce” yourself in the Comments section. I really hope you will.

My name is Mel Lawrenz and I’ve been a leader in one context or another since I was eighteen years old. It’s not that I wanted to be a leader, but enough people told me I was one, so I figured I didn’t really have a choice in the matter.

I think it may have begun years earlier after the death of my father. He was just twenty-seven years old when he died of sudden pneumonia. I was four. Had to grow up fast. Had to bear a lot of responsibility. My mother, my younger sister and I lived on meager means, but made the best of it.

I came to a conscious personal faith in Jesus when I was seventeen years old. I plunged into the activities of a church youth group, and found myself preaching in churches later that same year. I still wonder how that happened. Leadership and ministry were wonderfully simple in my mind then. You explore the Word of God, you discover truth and insights that open your mind like someone turning on a light at midnight, and you tell other people about it all. And you don’t hold back the enthusiasm.

I entered a pre-med program in college because, ever since I was five years old, I dreamed of being a surgeon. But early on God was working on my heart (no pun intended), and gave me a strong sense of calling to the pastoral ministry. So after graduating from Carroll College in Waukesha, Wisconsin, I went on to Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, where I did an M.Div. degree. Ingrid and I got married when we were in college. As my high school sweetheart, she was a model to me of conviction and biblical insight. To this day she is one of the wisest people I know. Eva is our 24-year-old daughter; and Chris is our 22-year old son. I had always wanted to name a son Adam. But I realized when Chris was born that we couldn’t really use that name. Adam and Eva–nope, wouldn’t work.

When I was twenty-five years old I accepted an invitation to do my internship in pastoral ministry at Elmbrook Church, in Brookfield, Wisconsin, and that led to ten years of being an associate pastor, then ten years as a senior associate pastor, and then almost ten years as senior pastor. During that time I learned so much from Stuart Briscoe, who was senior pastor from 1970 until 2000, and from so many fellow leaders. I learned over those years about budgets and organizations, worship and community outreach, congregational unity and struggle. We learned together through crises and losses. That’s something I don’t like, but have to accept–we learn the most important lessons through hard times when we throw ourselves at the mercy of God because we don’t know what else to do.

Along the way I did doctoral studies in the history of Christian thought at Marquette University, and came to appreciate the wisdom of the ages. Dead people can be our smartest friends.

I enjoy writing, and have had the privilege of writing a few books over the years which some people have read. I like writing The Brook Letter every week that goes out to thousands of subscribers in about thirty different countries–all at the touch of the RETURN key!

I’m glad to have accomplished some things over the years, but I’m aware of many mistakes and shortcomings. I don’t like that either. If you’re like me, you’d like to pile one achievement on top of another and rather not have to learn through miscalculation, misperception, and misunderstanding. When I was in my twenties I decided I didn’t want to burn out in leadership, but burn on. I thought a lot about balance and equilibrium, even-mindedness and even-handedness. But these things are much easier in theory than in practice. One thing I heard from Stuart that I came back to dozens of times over the years, is that you take things one day at a time, try to do the right thing, and say to God at the end of the day, “I hope I made the right decisions today, but only you know for sure. Help me tomorrow.”

Leadership is a mystery in many ways. We’re in trouble if we ever think we’ve figured it out. It has to be a mystery, because in spiritual leadership we believe that we are instruments of a leadership that is far above and beyond us.

Virtually every Christian leader I’ve talked to in the last year–whether church leader, business leader, community leader, educator–has told me that they would welcome a fresh look at the special dynamics of being a leader who is a committed follower of Christ.

We all know the importance of leadership today. Just look at the tensions here in the U.S. where I live, or consider the chaos that has been unleashed in Egypt. Look at people working in offices where the atmosphere is glum, tense, and suspicious. Look at churches where there is a desperate need for leadership that is founded on an authentic engagement with God.

We’re going to start this year-long study and discussion on “spiritual leadership today.” I’ll tell you right now that what drives me in this is conviction and curiosity. I share a conviction with many other leaders I’ve talked to that this is a time for us to recommit ourselves to spiritual leadership. This classic theme described by J. Oswald Sanders and others has been a baseline for decades. But today’s world has changed so much. It’s time to reset the baseline. And I am curious about what we will discover. The best leaders I know are intensely curious about other people and keep discovering new things from others. They aren’t trapped in the cul-de-sac of their own lives.

Would you take a minute right now and tell us something about yourself? A sentence or two will do. Longer is fine.

Just use the “Comment” section below. You don’t need to give your full name if you don’t want to. And your email address is completely private.

This Thursday you’ll get the first weekly email in our study of spiritual leadership today, if you are subscribed to The Brook Letter. I hope you’ll join in the discussion.

It would be great if you shared this opportunity with others. But do it today, please. (Use the SHARE/SAVE button below.) Thanks!

P.S. Maybe you don’t consider yourself a “leader,” but if you have responsibility to influence anyone at any time, you are one!

11 thoughts on “Making Introductions”

  1. Originally from the midwest, I moved to Los Angeles to pursue an MDiv which I finished a year and a half ago. I am now a bi-vocational pastor at a small missional urban church in a neighborhood of northern Los Angeles. I have found that the spiritual nature of leading is too often overlooked, so I am looking forward to this conversation

  2. Evereyone, and I really mean everyone, is a leader in some respect. Our circle of influence made vary in size and impact but everyone is a leader. Even children display qualities of leadership. I’ve read that in foreign countries where orphans are so numerous that their caretakers do not have time to give the children any personal attention, the children fail to flourish; they don’t laugh, they don’t cry, they only survive in abject loneliness. In a spiritual sense, this is where the world is. I came from a large family that survived an emotional, and sometime physically, abusive father. He himself endured much the same. The church, and we as individual Christians, must do all that is in our power to break this cycle. If we want the world to know the love of Jesus, WE must share that love in tangible ways, noy just talk about it. That is where my ministry has taken me. I hope others will follow that path.

  3. I’m a young guy that has mixed feelings about my leadership abilities. Sometimes I’m so confident in my abilities that I forget how much I’m in need. Sometimes I want to be a leader, but realize the responsibility that entails. Sometimes I catch myself wanting to be a leader for my sake, instead of for the sake of others. I’m excited to see what you have to say about leadership, and look forward to following along.

    1. Looks like you have your eyes open, Joshua. A pre-requisite for being a servant leader. One of the great things about spiritual leadership is that the criteria for “success” is faithfulness to God rather than our own accomplishments. I hope you’ll engage with this discussion in the weeks to come because we need to hear the questions younger leaders are asking.

  4. Mel, you used the term ‘servant leader’ , in your reply to Joshua, that is my favourite term which I constantly need reminded of. I understand the word in Greek ‘pais’ is used both as ‘child’ of God and ‘servant’ of God – we cannot escape it, if we are a child we are a servant!
    Look forward to learning. I also read Oswald’s book way back when it was published and several times since!

  5. Thanks for the word from Ireland, Ronnie. It really is amazing how Sanders’ book formed a baseline for so many people from so many parts of the world. That gives me confidence that pursuing these themes now is the right thing to do. And yes, we’ll have to unpack exactly what “servant leadership” means.

  6. I am currently identified as the Lay Leader for my church – a “volunteer” position with an official/ formal title, but also a position to which I feel called and a commitment I am prepared to shoulder. I have been a spiritual leader here for some time and now have a pastor who is recognizing and using those of us who are ready to step more clearly into positions that can help change happen according to God’s plans. I have spent years in my career life learning about and practicing principles of effective leadership and am still sometimes surprised at the number of people who don’t understand such things as (a) the difference between leaders and administrators or (b) most leaders are not “born” leaders, and (c) leadership principles and professional behaviour applies in our faith lives as well as in our work lives. Thanks to my maturing faith, I have come to understand that God prepares each of us to be a leader for Him – but we have to be sure we are following Him first and staying aligned with Him – not every believer sees themselves in this role or with the potential to grow into it. I am hoping to gain some insight, some knowledge, and some spiritual support from this study series – we need to develop/enable/embolden/equip more spiritual leaders so I need all help I can get to do my part.

  7. i am the leader of an urban ministry that uses transitional housing as our vessel of God’s grace to minister to men and women recovering from addiction. I have zero qualifications to lead this organization (not a pastor, lay leader, teacher, former addict, social worker, or anything else remotely related to the field). I am a carpenter. been one all my life. the only qualification i bring to the table is obedience. I am reasonably sure that i was called to be here. i am not sure if leaders are born, hatched, or beamed up, but the stories of the leaders in the book do have a common thread of saying yes not no to the call.

  8. I am in the older category and have found the comment true, that we are all leaders. Just have more or less visible roles as one. I loved the comments that Perry made, that he was not at all qualified in his estimation, but was obedient. So many of the stories of the Bible have that in common. I also was glad to read about a younger leader. That is encouraging to me. The statement about spiritual leaderships embodies and includes servanthood is an encouraging statement,and involes all of life not just church ‘ministry.’

    I am currently unemployed , and when have taken careers test have scored counsellor,pastor as highest catagories. Will be intersesting to see what God has for me next. Spent 25 yrs as a peds nurse.

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