SPIRITUAL LEADERS IN HARD TIMES

SPIRITUAL LEADERS IN HARD TIMES

SPIRITUAL LEADERS IN HARD TIMES: A PAPER PRESENTED BY REV. FR. DANIEL EVBOTOKHAI ON THE OCCASION OF THE 2021 COORDINATORS’ WORKSHOP OF THE NATIONAL VINCENTIAN YOUTHS OF NIGERIA AT THE PASTORAL CENTRE, AUCHI, EDO STATE, NIGERIA. 26/6/2021

INTRODUCTION

The progress, growth and development of any group or organization are largely dependent on their leaders. Where there is underdevelopment or stunted growth leaders are questioned and criticized. The frustrations and torture we go through in this country today is simply a reflection of the kind of leaders at the helm of affairs. Little wonder, the clamour for good leaders. We hear this cry everyday and everywhere in Nigeria. From time immemorial, News papers and analysis from media houses are not complete when they do not speak on leadership. Even the scripture recounts in Prov. 29:2 “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; but when the wicked rule, the people mourn”. Therefore, the way out from this national mourning is to have good leaders. Similarly, the way out from stunted spiritual growth in many churches and religious organization is to have a good spiritual leader.

Leadership is the ability of an individual or a group of individuals to influence and guide followers or other members of an organization. It is also the action of leading a group of people or an organization. It is the state or position of being a leader. Leadership involves making sound and sometimes difficult decisions, creating and articulating a clear vision, establishing goals and providing followers with the knowledge and skills necessary to achieve those goals. Chester I. Barnard defines leadership as the quality of behavior of individuals whereby they guide people or their activities in organizing efforts. Rather than talking about political leaders, and other secular leaders we shall focus more on spiritual leaders as the topic suggests.

A SPIRITUAL LEADER
A Spiritual leader applies spiritual values and principles to an organization or group which he or she leads. The spiritual leader understands the importance of followers finding meaning in their discharge of duties. A Spiritual leader addresses basic questions such as: Is our work worthy? What is our greater purpose? What are our values and ethical principles? What will be our legacy? Are we making impact? Are we still needed today? As members of the “National Vincentian Youths of Nigeria” are we still relevant?

For many, leadership connotes power, authority, honour, prestige or personal advantage; but for Christians, leadership is basically concerned with service. Matt.20:27 says “Whoever wishes to be first among you, shall be your servant, even as the son of man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” Jesus was teaching servant leadership. Therefore, a spiritual leader must be of service, rather than dominating. A spiritual leader doesn’t serve for gain. He or she does not wait for salary before giving the best at any point in time. A spiritual leader seeks to encourage and inspire followers; respects rather than exploits them. So, if we succumb to Christ’s theory as far as leadership is concerned we are going to experience in-depth changes within our various groups.

BRIEF BIBLICAL IMPORT
Jesus declared, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). It is within this verse that we see the perfect description for a spiritual leader. He is one who acts as a shepherd to the “sheep” in his care. When Jesus referred to us as “sheep,” He was not speaking in derogatory terms. In truth, sheep rank among the dumbest animals in creation. A strayed sheep, still within audible range of the herd, becomes disoriented, confused, frightened, and incapable of finding its way back to the flock. A strayed sheep is weak before hungry predators and it is the most helpless of all creatures. So, when Jesus called us His sheep, He was saying that without a shepherd, we are helpless. Without leaders, we are helpless, confused and the society will be in the state of nature.

The shepherd is one who has several roles in regard to his sheep. He leads, feeds, nurtures, comforts, corrects and protects. The shepherd of the Lord’s flock leads by modeling godliness and righteousness in his own life and encouraging others to do the same. St. Paul expressed this when he says “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). A spiritual leader is one who follows Christ and whose life inspires others to follow Him as well.

As the great Shepherd of Israel, the Lord Himself promised to “bind up the injured and strengthen the weak” (Ezekiel 34:16). A spiritual leader should be able to bind up and strengthen the weak. Followers are not equally gifted therefore; leaders should be able to manage their differences. Lastly, a spiritual leader should assure the safety and protection of his followers. The leader who is lax in his duty will lose his followers to hungry predators. Often times, we lose members due to poor or bad leadership. Today’s predators are false prophets and teachers.

QUALITIES OF A SPIRITUAL LEADER
A spiritual leader is a good time manager.
Time in the organization is constant and irreversible. Nothing can be substituted for time. Worse, once wasted, it can never be regained. Leaders have numerous demands on their limited time. Time keeps getting away and they have trouble controlling it. No matter what their position or role is, they cannot stop time, they cannot slow it down, nor can they speed it up. Thus, time needs to be effectively managed to be effective. Everyone is guilty of wasting time. To some extent, some of us have bad time-wasting habits which we may not even be conscious of. Therefore there seven things you must understand in order to mange time.
Procrastination – the biggest enemy.
Spending a lot of time in meetings which are ineffective and unproductive.
Poor prioritizing – focusing on the wrong tasks first.
Being unrealistic in time estimates.
Poor planning and lack of unforeseen event plans.
Having to deal with too many interruptions or distractions.
Not learning to delegate.

A spiritual leader seeks God’s direction.
Is there anything more important in a leader than he or she seeking God’s direction? Proverbs 16:1 says “The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord.” Verse 3 adds, “Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.” And verse 9, “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” A spiritual leader seeks the Lord, commits his way to the Lord, and the Lord establishes the next steps.

A spiritual leader is modest, not arrogant.
Somehow, we’ve all encountered the know-it-all leader, the “submit-or-else” type of leader. Proverbs 16:5 says, “Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the Lord; be assured, he will not go unpunished.” Therefore, a spiritual leader should not be arrogant.

A spiritual leader is a peacemaker.
A spiritual leader must be peacemaker and bridge builder. He or she should have a mindset that is able to absorb misunderstanding and accommodates opposing viewpoints. Where there is rancor a spiritual leader should be a peacemaker and he or she should be objective in views rather than taking sides.

A spiritual leader is fair and just.
“Better is a little with righteousness than great revenues with injustice” (Prov.16:8). A spiritual leader should be just and fair in the discharge of his or her duties.

A spiritual leader is a good learner.
Proverbs 16:16 says, “How much better to get wisdom than gold! To get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver.” A good leader should always be learning, growing and improving. The day you feel there is nothing left to learn is the day that pride and arrogance have taken root. A good spiritual leader is a good reader. So go for knowledge.

A spiritual leader is slow to anger.
Some of us know the experience of angry bosses. Often times; they yell for no reason, order, criticize and demoralize the members of staff. The Bible says in Prov.16:32 that “Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.” We must learn to control our temperament. Ps. 145:8 says God is slow to anger and rich in mercy. If God is slow to anger it will be dangerous for us to be quick to anger. Anger is a letter from danger. It spoils things.

ROLES OF A SPIRITUAL LEADER
The Motivator: Motivation can vary from person to person. What motivates you? Is it money, time off or recognition?  The motivator influences others to act in an advantageous manner. This could take place in form of recognition for excellent work or certain privileges.

The Mentor: A mentor provides the mentee with the foundation to be successful. This type of leader is the perfect asset to have when reaching new heights in any area of life.

The Learner: A spiritual leader should always seek to be better person daily. The learner is someone who constantly develops their knowledge, skills and abilities to help the group achieve its strategic goals. Lifelong learning is important to sustainability. John Quincy Adams says; “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” For John F. Kennedy, “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” Leaders are readers and if want to be correct you must be current.

The Communicator: Being a good communicator is an important skill set to have in all areas of life. The communicator is the type of leader that listens to incoming messages effectively and articulates what is being stated to others in an understandable and concise manner.

The Navigator: This leader creates the vision for the organization to advance toward its mission.

SPIRITUAL LEADERS IN HARD TIMES
With the continued increase in prices of goods and services across Nigeria occasioned by the slump of the naira against the dollar, life has become so difficult. The foremost agenda for many Nigerians is survival. Hard times refer to the hike in the price of goods and services, insecurity, bad road, poor power supply, and more.

To be a leader in a time like this is very difficult. Let alone being a leader in the Church . These are days we need to do more financially, but we are limited in resources. These are days we need to travel more for outreach but the level of insecurity prevails so hard that generosity is compromised. Rather than giving or sharing a lot of people are thinking of saving while others want to hoard. Where there are limitations, visions and goals are sacrificed for mere function. That is, people just retain their usual function and forgo any vision for innovation and creativity.

Again, these days are hard especially with the advent of quick money or pleasurable zones and youth wealth – called yahoo. Everyone seem to be interested in what is generating money not what is impacting the lives of the lonely, aged, dejected and the poor. Many youths today find it difficult to engage in labour with patience. They are instant people who want wealth instantly in order for them to go colourful for their generation. This is a time that youths have become too busy for God. It is a time that spirituality and worship is reserved for the old and the poor. Most children of the rich are no longer passionate about the things of God. Most of the pious societies in the Church, their active participant are usually from humble backgrounds or average families. How many wealthy people are still good participants in the things of God? In these hard days ‘how can a leader therefore succeed in such an atmosphere?’

WAYS A LEADER CAN SURVIVE HARD TIMES
Prayer: Prayer is the key to many doors. It is the principle of success for most leaders. As a leader you are not just a figure head but the spiritual director of your group. A leader goes ahead and sees ahead. Without spiritual connection in prayer you cannot see ahead. He or she acts based on inspiration. In these days of distractions, if a leader must succeed he or she needs to pray. If leaders must continue to have increase in members and active participation prayer is necessary. Not just collective prayer but individual prayer.

Find new Incomes: During this period of dark economic clouds, multiple sources of incomes are wonderful things to have. As most Nigerians live up to one source of income, money from occasional work and opportunities act as extra fund to meet our needs. Beyond levies and charity donations we must engage in investment: Whether it’s selling stuff online or providing services or owning an enterprise. Leaders who want to grow their group must think about new ways of income.

Control your expenditure: Presently it has become very important for leaders to manage their expenditure. We have to cut down on expenses. We have journeys to make but because of little recourses we can reduce the number of participants; we can try other social means of interaction that can help to manage our recourses.

Evangelization and Outreach: If your group must grow you must constantly galvanize for members. The larger the group the lesser the financial burden and we can’t accommodate more members if we don’t reach out to people. We can’t accommodate more members if we don’t show good examples. Therefore, every leader must ensure that the formation of his members promotes Christian virtues.

Stay positive: There are some persons who are richer in the days of hardship. Therefore, it is important to stay positive. When we are positive we see more opportunities in the midst of adversities. Do not be discouraged, no condition is permanent. Leaders instill in their people a hope for success and a belief in themselves. Positive leaders empower people to accomplish their goals. Tough times don’t last but tough people do. Napoleon Bonaparte once noted that “A leader is a dealer in hope”. So, a leader must learn to build hope and sustain it.

Be Visionary: Spiritual leaders must learn to be visionary. If the country is this hard now a good leader should prepare for the worst. This preparation prevents failure. Proverbs 29:18 says “Where there is no vision, the people perish.”

CONCLUSION
I want to thank you for giving me this opportunity to share the little I can. I urge you not to relent in your effort. Man can only give you award for a job well done; only God can reward you. The time you spend working for God is never wasted. It is an investment in eternity. Therefore, I pray for you that the reward of good service will not elude you. Again, by following this exposition, simple steps and useful words, ensure you put into practice the letters contained in this write up. What is the essence of this venture if actions don’t speak louder? After now, let there be leaders with a difference and societies with drastic and far-reaching excellence.

REFERENCES
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Brent Rinehar “Qualities of a Good Leader” www.apparenstuff.com 2021
Chaze Patrick, O Roles of a leader https://www.usi.edu/outreach/engage/2017-archives/five-roles-of-a-leader/ 2021

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Fr. Daniel Evbotokhai is a priest of the Catholic Diocese of Auchi, Edo State, Nigeria. He was ordained October 20th, 2018. He offers his daily homilies, talks and articles that bother on, faith, theology, morals and many other burning issues in religion and politics. Fr. Daniel writes poems, inspirational quotes and clips.

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