Leadership That Changes Us, and Therefore The Church


Deut. 8:1-6

John 10:1-5,10b, 14-15

A.E. n. 730.31

A wilderness also signifies the state of those who are in temptations, because in them truths and goods are shut in by the falsities and evils that rise up and come before the mind, as is evident from the wandering of the sons of Israel in the wilderness forty years; for this represented every state of the temptations into which those come who are being regenerated, and of whom a church is about to be formed (in their inward self). Everyone is born natural, and so lives, until he becomes rational, and when a person has become rational, then he can be led by the Lord, and become spiritual; and this is effected by the implantation of the knowledges of truth from the Word, and, at the same time, by the opening of the spiritual mind, which receives the things of heaven, and by the calling forth and raising up of those knowledges out of the natural degree of the mind, and by the conjunction of them with the spiritual affection for truth.

This opening and conjunction is possible only through temptations, because in these man interiorly fights against the falsities and evils which are in the natural man; in a word, human beings are brought into the church, and become a church, by means of temptations. These things were represented by the wandering of the sons of Israel, and by their being led about in the wilderness.

Rev. Kit Billings

November 23, 2003

Yesterday in our program on leadership we talked a bit about the idea of SERVANT LEADERSHIP. We are all a leader in some capacity. Some of you are leaders at work, for example—perhaps a manager or director of some kind. Most of us are leaders within our own homes, and every one of you by being here this weekend in Chicago are a leader. Leadership is clearly something the Lord cares much about since He was the world's greatest leader and He bids us to follow in His footsteps.

Yet, even if we do not feel called to assume a significant leadership role within some organization, still we must assume a leadership role for Christ. I think of the Lord's final words to Peter in The Gospel of John: “Feed my lambs. Look after my sheep. Feed my sheep.” How can any one of us fulfill such commands from God if we try to be just a wallflower and unwilling to take on being a leader in the church? Servant leadership for Christ is, in one sense, why we're here, isn't it? Within the Christian spiritual path, we are called to embrace the joys of giving and assume responsibility for using the love and wisdom God gives us and discern ways of caring for others because this is what Divine Love calls for.

Beyond this, even, we're all called into leadership by CHOOSING TO PARTICIPATE in the great unfolding of life, occurring each moment in the universe. So let me ask you, are you comfortable being called a leader? The Lord calls you to be first among others, not in a sense of hierarchical “one-upsmanship” but through your desire to serve God's human family. In other words, we are all called to embrace EXCELLENCE IN SERVANTHOOD. Our theology has much to say about the inner dynamics of spiritual leadership, which I will address in part by sharing with you some parallel thoughts I've been reading lately in a wonderful book written by Joseph Jaworski called, Synchronicity: The Inner Path of Leadership. Jaworski had a great career in INTERNATIONAL LAW. He did well in this field but found himself continually being drawn into leadership training and idea-making. He could have been very successful as a lawyer, but eventually realized that his first love was in LEADERSHIP TRAINING. With the help of a number of very prominent people from around the United States, Joe Jaworski founded the American Leadership Foundation, also known affectionately as “A.L.F.”

Jaworski wrote that especially among business and corporate Americans (although this holds true for all of us according to our Lord Jesus Christ) the most important choice one makes is the choice to SERVE—without this one's ability to lead is severely limited. This fundamental choice in life creates a DEEP SHIFT within the human mind to become deeply aligned with the REALITY OF THE UNIVERSE—in New Church language this is becoming aligned with the Lord's Divine Providence. No wonder the Lord said, “…the Son of Man came to serve rather than be served, and give His life a ransom for many.”

Genuine leadership is more about one's STATE OF BEING rather than the correct leadership model. Jaworski conveys a principle of leadership that I feel enables people to move more smoothly through life's ups and downs—not to mention the huge financial CUT-BACKS happening in Convention right now. Whatever ebbs and flows occur within the external degree of life, we can still make a choice deep within to SERVE LIFE—that is, the ever-unfolding flow of Divine Goodness and Truth as you can best perceive and feel these in life.

This is what THE LORD DID.

Also Ghandi and M.L.K. Jr.

The Buddha did too.

And,…so can YOU!

Or as Peter Senge suggests, “…in a deep sense, my capacity as a leader comes from my choice to allow life to unfold through me.”

Mystical Christianity, such as that expressed by Swedenborg, reveals what ancient primal spirituality conveys—that we're all participants in the great WEB OF LIFE. We're in the great “WE OF EXISTENCE”…and not just the “I” of existence. We're each sharing in the Divine good and truth of existence Thus, what you have I need, and what I have you need. Given that life has been set up this way by our Creator, it is no wonder that our Lord Jesus touched upon the innate interdependence and mutual accountability when He said, “FEED MY LAMBS. FEED MY SHEEP.”

Such an interdependent framework of spirituality transforms the organized church. It changes it from the classical “clergy centered” model to instead a model of shared leadership and responsibility, while still honoring unique talents, roles and skills of those involved. The core question of leadership changes from, “How can my minister shape the church” to rather, “how can WE shape the church?” Or perhaps a more active form of the question is best, “How are we shaping the church?” Regarding church leadership then, if these leadership principles shine as true, then it's VITAL that board and committee leaders reflect often about our calling by God to be SERVANT LEADERS.

The story is told in Jaworski's book about a rather unique aboriginal east Asian travel guide named Leo. Once there was a businessman in search of enlightenment. He heard about this special temple whose guru was helpful in achieving enlightenment. So, the businessman found Leo and off they went. They traveled together for months through the thick jungles. As they did, Leo tried to share with the businessman about how rewarding it is to serve others as he does. Then for some reason Leo had to leave the man and his hired helpers, even though the man hadn't found this famous temple and the great guru who led it. The businessman continued his search for many more months, and then one day happened upon a beautiful temple deep inside the jungle. It took him a long time to find it, and much determination.

What astonished the businessman immensely was who he discovered to be the spiritual leader of the sacred temple, none other than Leo his past travel guide! It turned out that the man who best was really the leader of the tribe. And this was Leo's first lesson in how to discover enlightenment.

Becoming a great leader, and becoming deeply involved in spiritual love and wisdom however, opens the inner doorway within our minds to some of life's most grievous SPIRITUAL TEMPTATIONS. Swedenborg learned that human evil inclinations become excited within us by thoughts of achievement and recognition. The human unregenerated ego loves the thought of somehow BECOMING GREAT in the eyes of the world. This is why our Lord Jesus was tempted so fiercely, in part, in the desert after being baptized in the Jordan River by John.

An illustration of this spiritual principle may be found in Joe Jaworski's journey into great leadership achievement and recognition. Once his American Leadership Foundation began to take off and reach great success, that's when he found himself being DEEPLY TEMPTED to worry and feel tremendous anxiety about the many details of his organization. He had a lot of trouble sleeping at night, and started working only 14-18 hour days, six or seven days a week. Thankfully Joe began to perceive the dangerous snakes and scorpions trying to bite and sting him within.

Deuteronomy 8:15-16
“He led you through the vast and dreadful desert, that thirsty and waterless land, with its venomous snakes and scorpions. He brought you water out of hard rock. 16 He gave you manna to eat in the desert, something your fathers had never known, to humble and to test you so that in the end it might go well with you.”

Apocalypse Explained 730.32

“Jehovah found Jacob in a land of wilderness, in emptiness, in howling, in a desert; He led him about, He instructed him, He guarded him as the pupil of His eye" (Deut. 32:10).

All these particulars, and all the details related in the Book of Exodus concerning the wanderings of the sons of Israel in the wilderness, from their going forth from Egypt to their entrance into the Land of Canaan, depict the temptations in which the faithful are, before they become spiritual--that is, before the goods of love and of charity and their truths, constituting the church in man, are implanted and blossom.

The good news is that these kinds of deep and painful temptations serve an ENORMOUS USE by helping us to learn without a doubt that part of what it means to be a genuine leader in the church is to inwardly want the Lord to be my highest leader…the One in whom my heart, soul and mind depend. And this is why true spiritual leaders depend upon the Lord's holy Word as water we might need while wandering through the desert.

“We do not live by bread alone, but on

every Word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.”

The Word of God is more than the awesome words we find in the Holy Bible, it is also the Divine Truth or Sunlight from Heaven which the Lord uses to ENLIGHTEN OUR MINDS! And if we were conscious of the spiritual world our spirits now inhabit, we would experience firsthand how a sincere and prayerful and humble approach to being led by the Lord through His Word would allow God to shine a beautiful spiritual light upon the path of life you're experiencing. This spiritual light enables us to find the sweet and sustaining SPIRITUAL MANNA, the bread from heaven, that God will send as we journey. It's actually a vital piece of spiritual growth to be able to experience the Lord's SPIRITUAL MANNA from Heaven.

Heavenly Doctrine

70. Besides, so far as any one is in heavenly love, which consists in loving uses and goods, and in being affected with the delight of the heart in doing them, in so far he is led by the Lord; for this is the love in which the Lord Himself is, and which is from Him.

It turns out that the Lord is able to lead you best of all when you're in a state of being of love and concern for others guided by His enlightenment within your mind. This sort of spirituality is what Jesus meant by being open to hearing His voice as our Good Shepherd. The Lord said, “I know my own and my own know me.” “The sheep follow because they know His voice.”

Great spiritual leadership, therefore, depends upon these three things: 1) A sincere desire to serve. 2) Love for God and an openness to receive Divine enlightenment. 3) A willingness to persevere through deep temptation struggles with faith that God will provide manna for you through the wildernesses of your inner life. With such courage the church will continue to change and evolve. May your own path of spiritual leadership, based within your openness to being led by the Lord, be one of growth and deepening trust in the One who always guides from what is good and true. Amen.