“The most dynamic spiritual leaders know they are both saint and sinner.”
These opening words from one of Steve Macchia’s latest books, Broken and Whole: A Leader’s Path to Spiritual Transformation, might be another way to say, “Warning: brokenness, belovedness and blessing ahead.”
Spoiler alert: Coming to terms with these three godly realities might well take you to a place inside still under construction. Trust me, Steve delivers some of the weightiest truths you’d never want to trade away. It all has to do with the importance of spiritual friendships and how they have a way of transforming your leadership, your culture, and most of all, your relationship with God.
As Founder and President of Leadership Transformations, Steve Macchia is constantly focused on the spiritual transformation of leaders and their teams. As he likes to say it, “A transformed leader means a transformed organization.”
For Steve, spiritual transformation is intricately linked to a leader’s need for spiritual friendships.
“Unfortunately, today most of the leaders I work with individually and in groups confess they’re lonely. They may have relationships or perceived friendships that, in reality, are acquaintances.
They’re not places where a leader can confidentially confess the good, the bad, and the ugly of their lives. I have great friends who have helped me through the darkest of times in my life.
We all need that kind of friend, otherwise, we live among our secrets. A person once told me, “You are as sick as your secrets.”
When our secrets are revealed, the question is, “Are our secrets greeted with grace, or are they greeted with judgment?”
Unfortunately, many of our church and ministry settings, today, are filled more with judgment than grace. We’re ready to pounce upon the sinner, rather than put our arms around the person and say, “I’m so sorry you’re in the condition you’re in. How can we help you grow back into wholeness by the grace, mercy and kindness of God?”
Which of us is prepared to do this? What does it take for busy leaders to start, cultivate and grow meaningful spiritual friendships?
People willing to be broken and to celebrate the redemptive work of God, are the kind of leaders the church needs.”
For Steve, the starting place is humility, the first of three Godly qualities that encompass spiritual friendship.
“Humility is likened to humus, the dirt that we walk upon, prepare to plant seed, water, and nourish to multiply growth in mysterious and marvelous ways. Jesus encourages us to be good soil so that the seed that’s planted by the sower multiplies.
“Humility is so different than what we first think of a leader. We’re quick to think of the externals of leadership, such as fruitfulness and vitality.
“I’m convinced, however, that Jesus’ preferences for viewing us as leaders is to look at what’s going on internally in our heart, which needs to be like humus. A leader’s heart needs to be like dirt, open and pliable and willing to be walked upon.
“Humility is the baseline for all healthy relationships. Who among us likes to be around a prideful person, in which it’s all about them? Pride wants to overpower and manipulate others. Conversely, humility means we can laugh at our brokenness when we mess up. We can cry over sinfulness knowing we are desperate for God. That’s humility.”
The second quality of spiritual friendship is intimately tied to the first.
“Friendship, like all of life, is based on trust. When trust goes awry, the friendship goes with it. We need to know what it means to forgive, to practice grace, to listen, to empathize with each other’s story, to stop being defensive and become receptive.
“In the parable of the good seed and the sower, the other soils—the hard, the rocky and the thorny–were resistant for the seed to grow. Some of our relationships are like that. In humility and trust, we can come alongside one another and love each other toward God. That’s what a spiritual friendship is. It’s not just a friend we’re talking about, but rather a friend who helps bring me to God.”
I became so taken by Steve’s observations, I actually identified the third characteristic of spiritual friendship when I asked, “Why is love the compelling threat in your invitation to leaders to continually discover strength in weakness?” I wasn’t ready for his response.
“Paul was all about unity in the body, love for one another, and fruitfulness in the Kingdom of God. The centerpiece of all of his teaching and writings was love. Even when Paul says, ‘When I am weak, then I am strong,’ he’s embracing his suffering, his heartache, his sinfulness, his imperfection, his weakness. He’s saying this in the context of a broken Church, which is to be a place of love.
“Over and over he’s calling the Church in Corinth back to the truth. It’s important to note the apex of his letters is chapter 12, which is all about the church body, and he makes it clear that the greatest way I want you to relate to one another is love.
“Interestingly, Chapter 13 of I Corinthians was not written for wedding ceremonies; it’s a call to leaders to be patient and be kind. That’s how we are to live our lives and be Christ’s love to one another and be united as Christ’s body, for the good of relationships. That’s love that never, ever fails.
“When I wrote the book, I made it a point to confess my own brokenness, insecurities, impatience and misguided unkindnesses. If I’m going to be committed to genuine spiritual friendships, I need to be willing to come clean and draw near to God, befriending others, embracing brokenness, inviting redemption and reordering the loves in my life.”
“Say more,” I said.
“The reordering of loves is an Augustinian concept. Sixteen hundred years later, it remains an issue to this day. We love so many other things than God: We love success and beautiful things. In essence, we have a problem with idolatry. As leaders, as Jesus followers, we have to own this and come clean, so we can get to the place, the place of reordering our loves, so God can do his redemptive work in us.
“The Japanese art form called kintsugi takes broken pieces of pottery and re-joins them with gold filaments creating a stronger piece of pottery.
“We are more beautiful, stronger and whole as persons when we watch God redeem his brokenness for his glory. When we reorder his love in us, it’s no longer important for me to be successful in someone else’s eyes. Instead, we can approach God and say, ‘I want to be faithful in your eyes.’
“People humble of heart, willing to be broken and to celebrate the redemptive work of God. This is the kind of leaders the church desperately needs today.”
When I asked Steve for one final thought he’d like to leave with leaders, here’s what he said:
“God desires that each of us in leadership come forward as a broken, imperfect person. Are you willing to unmask your persona and your blessed belovedness into the hands of God who loves you unconditionally? If so, you will be free to experience, and be delighted by, the communion you have with God and those around you–because you will have chosen the better way, the way of love.”
It’s Your Turn!
What part of Steve’s message really got your attention? Imagine looking in a mirror and sharing your thoughts with the person looking back at you. What does that person say in return?
Broken and Whole: A Leader’s Path to Spiritual Transformation (InterVarsity Press), by Stephen A. Macchia
During our interview I asked Steve, “What is your new book all about? Here is his reply.
“I’m inspired by the example of our Lord, who, when he was baptized, a voice from Heaven said, ‘You are my beloved son in whom I am well pleased.’
“On the heels of his baptism, Jesus goes out in to the wilderness and empathized with our brokenness. He was tested and challenged by the enemy of our souls. He never gave in, like we do. But he experienced brokenness on our behalf. Then, he comes out of that experience, enters the synagogue and proclaims once more that he is to fulfill the Messianic promises that God had pledged for generations, loving and serving others in God’s name.
“When I look at this example, I can’t help but embrace three words: “I am beloved, I am broken, and yet I am blessed.” In the book I’m inviting leaders to embrace the fulness of who they are: broken, yet dearly loved and richly blessed.
“Leaders who embrace their brokenness and submit to it authentically into the hands of God, marvel at God’s redemptive work–and they serve others with renewed passion. Their spiritual eyesight is likened to St. Augustine who once said, ‘In my deepest wound, I saw your glory, and it dazzled me.’”
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