Photo by Louis Moncouyoux on Unsplash
A couple of days ago, I wrote a post discussing OKRs for disciples and potential disciples. (here’s the link to that post: https://www.patheos.com/blogs/myjourney/2023/05/spiritual-okrs-for-disciples-and-potential-disciples/). Today, I want to consider the application of OKR methodology to spiritual leadership. Are there principles for spiritual leaders beyond those for all disciples which I mentioned in the earlier article? If so, what additional Objectives and Key Results are appropriate for spiritual leaders? (Note: my comments are directed to Christian spiritual leaders. Given the biblical foundation of the suggestions I make, leaders from other spiritual traditions would probably not find them of interest.)
What Did Jesus Say About Spiritual Leadership?
When the ten heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers. Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:24-28, NIV).
When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” (John 13:12-17, NIV)
Our Leadership Model: “I Have Set You an Example”
The first objective of spiritual leadership (as for all disciples of Jesus) is to become more like him. His comment to the disciples after washing their feet makes this clear: I have set you an example. What is the example? To be a servant.
The phrase “servant leadership” is a popular one, both in religious and secular circles. However, my sense is that examples are much more scarce than the phrase’s popularity would indicate. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen someone in spiritual leadership washing feet. In fact, I can remember the last time I saw it. There was a Pastors’ Promise Keepers gathering in Atlanta in 1997, and Tony Evans washed the feet of another spiritual leader at that conference. I don’t remember who it was, but I remember him doing it. Given the fact that happened over 25 years ago, I’m not sure how many leaders are following the example Jesus set. (Full disclosure: I haven’t done it either.)
“Love Each Other as I Have Loved You”
Foot-washing is just one example. Let’s start with something more basic: My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you (John 15:12). That sounds simple, right? Well, at least until Jesus goes on to say, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (15:13). That, as they say, takes things to a whole different level.
Now, Jesus was not saying that we should all die for each other; his sacrifice for us was a once-for-all-time event (see Hebrews 10:12). But at the very least spiritual leadership should help us to follow Jesus’ call to “love our neighbors as ourselves.” We may not be expected to emulate Jesus’ death on the cross (although he does call us to take up our cross daily), but we can copy his attitude.
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used for his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:5-8)
The Mindset of Christ
Three things stand out from Paul’s great discussion of “the mind of Christ.” First, Jesus did not take advantage of every privilege to which he was entitled: he did not consider equality with God something to be used for his own advantage. He certainly was entitled to claim equality with God; he is in very nature God. But leaders do not demand every privilege that they’re entitled to, because they are seeking to serve, not be served.
Second, Jesus took the very nature of a servant. He didn’t just “act” like a servant; he became a servant. There is a big difference. It is easy to act like a servant occasionally. In another passage (Luke 22:25) Jesus says that those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. Anyone can play the part of a servant, particularly if there is a benefit to doing it. But spiritual leaders, like Jesus, become servants.
Third, Jesus humbled himself by become obedient to death – even death on a cross! Again, I don’t believe that we’re called to die on a cross (although some of the early Christians did). The key is humble obedience. That might seem to be contrary to the idea of “leadership”; leaders lead, they don’t follow! But that’s where spiritual leadership is different. No matter how important we might think we are, or how important someone else tells us we are, spiritual leaders are still followers of Jesus.
OKRs for Spiritual Leaders
Okay, so humility and service are objectives for us as we seek to model Christ and lead others to grow in their relationships with him. But what are the key results? How can we measure whether we’re actually doing this?
First, a note of caution: we cannot always trust the response of people to determine “success” in our spiritual leadership. Paul told Timothy that in the last days people would reject sound teaching and gather teachers who would tell them what they wanted to hear (2 Timothy 4:3).
Here are some key results that I believe can help us to recognize whether we are leading others effectively:
- Seeing people come to faith in Christ
- Helping them to grow and mature in Christlikeness
- Calling them to spend time reading and reflecting on Scripture
- Encouraging them to lead lives of prayer and service
And the most important key result is whether we are modeling those things instead of just telling them to do them! If we model these key results, we can trust God with our own spiritual health and maturity. If we’re growing and flourishing in our spiritual journey, God will help those whom he has called us to lead to see and follow our example.