The question we are discussing today is how can we stay fresh and focused as spiritual leaders. This is a subject I’ve been studying on a lot lately because I’ll be teaching on this very thing at a leadership workshop I’m leading in Fort Wayne, Indiana at Sweetwater Sound later this week. It’s an important topic for any leader in the church, including worship leaders.
Read & Rest
To stay fresh and focused, I think it’s important to read good books and to read broadly–not just books on worship, but other books as well. For instance, I just finished a book on Abraham Lincoln titled Lessons on Spiritual Leadership by Elton Trueblood. I try to read one or two books per month. I am not a voracious reader, and I don’t try to read everything that comes out. However, I think it’s important to stay fresh by keeping our minds in tune with what we can learn from books. Even if I don’t always agree with what I’m reading, it helps keep me fresh and sharp.
Something else that’s really important for spiritual leaders is rest–good old-fashioned sleep. Turn off your phone. Turn off your TV, and get to sleep earlier tonight. Be sure you allow your body the amount of rest it needs. For me, I need an average of seven and a half to eight hours of sleep each night. I don’t always get that, but I try to prioritize that much because it helps me be more focused and more effective throughout my day. Hebrews says God gives his children rest. I believe that could include physical rest in the form of sleep for our tired bodies.
The third way that I believe it’s important to maintain and refuel our freshness and our focus each day as leaders is to do what I call the “Leader’s Daily Takes.” There are three takes, to be exact, that I want to encourage you to build into your daily habit each morning.
Take a bath
The first daily take is to take a bath. Everybody will appreciate if you take a bath. We were visiting a church recently and the lady in front of us had apparently not had a bath in a few days. I don’t have to tell you how we knew that. The aroma around her was foul. I’m sure she is a sweet lady and maybe she couldn’t help it, but honestly she smelled bad. We honestly didn’t want to sit there anymore.
The reality is leaders need to take baths too. Spiritual leaders need to take a cleansing spiritual bath every day. Jesus said in John chapter 15:3, “You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you” (NIV). David prayed in Psalm 51 that God would cleanse him with hyssop. 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” The idea of being clean in our souls is throughout the Bible. In the first chapter of his book, Isaiah wrote, “Wash and make yourselves clean…Though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow” (Isaiah 1:16, 18a NIV).
The idea of being washed in the blood of Jesus is a powerful reality that we take for granted. On a daily basis, as we walk through this world, we get dirty. Not only on the outside, but we also allow sins sometimes to happen and we don’t confess them immediately. Every day, like Paul, we need to die to ourselves, to die daily.
If you go to our blog post for this podcast episode, you can download a process I put together for taking a cleansing bath of confession. (Download it here.) It could become one of the most powerful exercises you’ve ever done, where you just sit before the Lord or kneel before God and allow him to reveal to you anything you need to confess. Then, once you’ve written those things and confessed them, you tear up the sheet of paper, and you acknowledge and thank God that those sins are forgiven under his blood. You walk out of that bath time feeling renewed, clean, and ready to meet your day–and anything that might come your way.
Talk a walk
Once you’ve taken a bath, you then need to take a walk. Literally take a walk. Don’t just sit on your couch or lie down in your bed, but get up and walk, if you are physically able. Have a talk with God as you walk. This is not an original idea with us. Jesus would walk for long distances to get to a place where he could meet with his Father. I doubt he waited to praying once he got to his destination. Most likely he was praying even while he was walking to that place, and as he returned.
There was a godly man in the Old Testament named Enoch who walked faithfully with God, so much so that one day he apparently just walked right into glory (see Genesis 5:24). When God walked with Adam and Eve in the cool of the day, it wasn’t to do business with them. It was to commune with them. When you walk, be sure the purpose is not to see what needs to be done on your to-do list for that day. Your first priority is to commune with your Father, to get to know him, praise him, thank him, and then pour out your heart to him as you walk and talk. Stop sometimes and listen and look around. If you can, walk outside so you can observe nature, the nature he made.
Take good notes
The third “take” that I want to encourage you to build into your daily habits is to take good notes. Any spiritual leader that understands the power of God speaking to us will tell you it’s important to write down what you sense God may be saying. As you took your walk and as you took your spiritual bath, what scriptures came to your mind and how did God speak to you through those? Write it down. If you had a question or a concern or a burden that you still need help with, journal those also.
You may be thinking, “Dwayne, why would I do that? Why would I journal and take notes? I don’t like to write. I don’t have the time.” You need to learn to make time, even if it’s only a few minutes, just to journal something each day of what you feel like God said to you or impressed on you or something you said to him that you need help with.
If you’ll make it a habit in your life to do these daily takes and to get plenty of rest and read good books–starting, of course, with the most important book of all, the Bible–then these habits will help you stay fresh and focused as a spiritual leader in your church and with your family.