By Michael Lewis, Executive Director for Pastoral Care and Development, North American Mission Board
King Solomon wisely exhorts his son to care for himself as a leader by saying,
“Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life” (Proverbs 4:23).
As a spiritual leader, there are important relational areas to which only you can give careful attention. Think of these relationships, which require your careful cultivation of personal and spiritual growth, as ever expanding concentric circles. These circles of leader care are outlined based on our Lord’s Great Commission and Great Commandment, for Great Commission living is empowered by Great Commandment love.
- The center circle of leader care, which should be at the core of a leader’s heart, is Love the Lord. The leader who knows the truth to “love the Lord with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind” is to experience it daily by being in the Lord’s presence with a grateful and listening heart. This is what the one leper among ten did by falling at Jesus’ feet to give Jesus thanks.
- The next circle of leader care is Love Your Spouse. This means literally “loving your ‘near one’ as yourself.” In order to love your spouse, you must know your spouse. This is why 1 Peter 3:7 encourages husbands to “dwell with our wives with understanding.” Take time to know your spouse by attending marriage retreats, such as Galatians 6:6 Retreats, and also by going on frequent dates. It is important to daily respond emotionally to your spouse’s needs by experiencing the Scripture and thus mourning and rejoicing together.
- The third circle of leader care is Love Your Children. Your children are a gift from the Lord who are to be valued as your most important church members. Give time to “enter your children’s worlds” by participating in their likes and interests. Plan your ministry schedule around your children’s schedules. Take time off to prioritize your relationships with them.
- The fourth concentric circle of leader care is Love Expressed in the Community of Faith. This means loving the church, which is expressed out of the depth of the inner three circles. A healthy pastor with a healthy marriage and family is able to effectively serve the local church as a servant leader. Lead the local church as Jesus did by developing disciples who make disciples through spiritual leadership. Lead and feed the local church as a shepherd after God’s own heart.
- The outermost circle of leader care is Imparting Your Very Life and the Gospel. The apostle Paul modeled this in 1 Thessalonians 2:8 by saying, “We were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives.” As missional leaders empowered by the love of Christ, we can effectively lead the church to declare and demonstrate the gospel in the communities around us.
Take special note: Only you as a leader can care for the vital relationships outlined in these concentric circles. Other church leaders or members cannot give personal care for these areas of your life. This is why King Solomon’s words are so important as a spiritual leader: “Watch over your heart with all diligence.” You are the “keeper of the springs” of your heart-relationships.
Reflect: Prayerfully reflect on the Concentric Circles of Leader Care and ask the Lord to which of these relationships He would have you give attention. Simply pray, “Speak, Lord, for Your servant listens.”
Abba Father, thank You for calling my attention to relationships which You have ordained in my life. Speak to me on the relationships which You would have me to experience Your transforming love. Change me, Lord. May I live out Your Great Commandment by growing in a deeper love for You, my wife, my children, Your church, and the community around me. I humbly pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen!