Soul Leadership = Living faithfully – Remembering truly – Speaking proficiently
Seminar One - Vocational Holiness
Saint Cuthbert, Holy Island of Lindisfarne
This seminar was designed as a day of reflection for clergy in active leadership roles.
Vocation Holiness is a term coined by Eugene Peterson in his book Under the Unpredictable Plant where he uses the Biblical story of Jonah to examine the spiritual dimensions of the pastoral vocation in our relentlessly secularizing age. Peterson doesn’t offer a concise definition of the term as the whole book is concerned with its examination so the following is a reader’s attempt:
Vocational holiness is a response to the call of the Trinitarian God. It is a mature Christian life in which conscious and intentional obedience to God, participation in the Holy Spirit, and witness to Christ is expressed in an energizing wholeness of relationships and living. Such a life communicates of itself love, beauty, grace, and holiness.
The key aspects of vocational holiness can be tabulated as follows -
Vocational holiness is
- vocational because it comes from God’s call rather than individualistic self-determination
- a response because it is an answering action rather than a self-decided and self-motivated initiative
- about holy living because it seeks to acknowledge God’s purposes in all things
- relational because it is born of the relationship that is the Holy Trinity
- particular because it is about the specifics of human existence as created by a good and loving God
- creative and energizing because it is born of God’s life
- communicable because its origin is in the God whose Word was spoken
- mature and maturing because it rests in the end that God intends
'Against all leadership counsel we have to set Jesus, and not so much figure out how to be leaders from what he said and did but enter into the world that he lived in, the relationships that he cultivated, and assimilate his style. This leadership is not techniques and strategies culled from a superficial reading of the Gospels that knows little of Jesus himself, but a
Jesus-leadership spirit, mind, sensitivity. It is a leadership that is conspicuously lacking in the exercise of power and the attraction of followers.'
(Dawn and Peterson, The Unnecessary Pastor, 2000: 190)
Principles of living faithfully as a soul leader.
The ten A structure:
Alert - authentic - addressing - accountable - alive - attuned - ardent - attentive - alongside - aware.
God, self and others
Alert to what I am
'I am a pastor. My work has to do with God and souls - immense mysteries that no one has ever seen at any time.'
Eugene Peterson, The Pastor: A Memoir. New York: HarperOne (2011).
'What a being is precedes what it does; our actions are consequences of what we are .... It will follow from this that the Christian should be defined not in terms of what he himself does, but of what God has made him to be. Being a Christian is an ontological fact, resulting from an act of God.'
Martin Thornton, Christian Proficiency. London: SPCK (1964).
'The pastor's real work is what Ivan Illich calls "shadow work" - the work nobody gets paid for and few notice but what makes a world of salvation: meaning and value and purpose, a world of love and hope and faith - in short, the kingdom of God.
'Eugene Peterson, The Contemplative Pastor. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans (1989).
'I am deeply convinced that the Christian leader of the future is called to be completely irrelevant and to stand in this world with nothing to offer but his or her own vulnerable self. That is the way Jesus came to reveal God's love. The great message that we have to carry, as ministers of God's word and followers of Jesus, is that God loves is not because of what we do or
accomplish, but because God has created and redeemed us in love and has chosen us to proclaim that love as the true source of all human life.
'Henri Nouwen, In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership, New York: Crossroad Publishing (1989).
Address God - often
Pastors must understand themselves primarily as pray-ers. Peterson (p 111)
If vocational holiness is to be anything more than a pious wish, pastors must dive into the ocean depths of prayer Peterson (p 112)
If you’re not praying, you’re not doing your job! If you’re not praying, you’re less than what you need to be for others. They’re depending on you. Prayer helps you be at your best. Prayer isn’t pulling away from your work;
it’s part of your work. Nelson (p 86)
I must distinguish carefully between two aspects of the role the Lord has given me, a role that demands a rigorous accountability, a role based on the Lord’s greatness rather than on my own merit. The first aspect is that I am a Christian; the second, that I am a leader. I am a Christian for my own sake, whereas I am a leader for your sake; the fact that I am a Christian is to my own advantage, but I am a leader for your advantage.
Many persons come to God as Christians but not as leaders. Perhaps they travel by an easier road and are less hindered since they bear a lighter burden. In addition to the fact that I am a Christian and must give God an account of my life, I as a leader must give him an account of my stewardship as well.
Saint Augustine, On Pastors, sermon 46.
God, place and time
Alive to this time and place
'I carry out this work in conditions - place and time - that I see and measure wherever I find myself, whatever time it is. There is no avoiding the conditions. I want to be mindful of the conditions. I want to be as mindful of the conditions as I am of the holy mysteries.
Place. Not just any place, not just a location marked on a road map, but a topo, a topographic map - with named mountains and rivers, identified wildflowers and forests, elevation above sea level and annual rainfall. I do all my work on this ground. I do not levitate. "Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it." Get to know this place.
Time. But not just time in general, abstracted to a geometric grid on a calendar or numbers on a clock face, but what the Greeks named kairos, pregnancy time, being present to the Presence. I never know what is coming next; "Watch therefore."
Eugene Peterson, The Pastor: A Memoir. New York: HarperOne (2011).
Attuned to today
Pay attention to the day in hand. You can never have it back once it’s passed. There is not one single day that we can ever relive. If you could be happy to live today with no hankering after yesterday (it’s out of your reach now), with no yearning for
tomorrow (you don’t even know if it will come), you would fill your present with all your heart and energy and life.
And you would truly live! Michel Quoist, With Open Heart, entry 408
If I were to wish for anything I should not wish for wealth and power, but for the passionate sense of what can be, for the eye, which, ever young and ardent, sees the possible. Pleasure disappoints, possibility never. And what wine is so sparkling, what so fragrant, what so intoxicating as possibility?
Søren Kierkegaard, Either/Or
Others, God and self
Attentive to others' voices
I was just looking for someone with whom to share the pain. This is our profound need – to call out to another and share the burden. Shared suffering always brings a little relief. Again I told myself: help others to talk. Listen to them quietly; don’t worry about saying the right things or saying anything at all. Jest be welcoming, people need your support in carrying their
Quoist, entry 206.
Alongside - being the accompanist
When there is nothing left to use against pain, love is the only answer – love in the form of total presence of body, mind and spirit, wide open and supportive. The pain is still there but the victim no longer has to bear it alone.
At the foot of the cross, Mary carried her son’s pain in the same way.
Quoist, entry 310.
Aware of self
Pay attention to your invironment: ‘one-minute devotionals can be great snack foods. But spiritual junk food, while
getting you by, will never empower you for the workload of leading.’
Nelson, (p 101).
The most effective leaders invest significant time and energy making sure that the ‘axe is sharp’ – that they are
well read and that their mind, body, and soul are at their best. When the inner leader becomes depleted, it adversely affects everything the leader touches. When the inner leader is nourished, the entire organization benefits.
Nelson, (p 83).