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Why Have the Mighty Fallen?

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. God loves us, not because of what we do or accomplish, but because God has created and redeemed us in love.”  Henri Nouwen 

“A life without a lonely place, that is, without a quiet center, becomes destructive.” Henri Nouwen

The recent confessions of several well-known pastors pointing to their past moral transgressions, affirms what I am discovering in the second half of life and ministry:  Hurt leaders hurt people.

I certainly do not have all of the answers, however what I observe is that the current hurried church and ministry culture is catching up with leaders’ hurting inner lives. In my experience as a church leader, I found very few safe spaces to unpack my hurting inner world. Every person alive has some sort of injustice, relational pain, physical or emotional abuse, or unmet need from childhood that sooner or later, catches up with them.  

I have found that leaders need this space even more.  Space to let healing and God’s love go deep. I felt pressure from the “Evangelical American Way” which is to rush men and women into outward ministry, before they have developed healthy rhythms of owning God’s personal love for them. Places to pay attention and be honest about to how the hurts of life have affected our well-being and ultimately our leadership.

As I look upon the landscape of the ministry culture in America, I do have compassion for leaders who get caught in the vortex of platform driven ministry. Perhaps this is all they know. Perhaps we need to go back to our roots, and look at people of faith who lived more authentically and were content to live peaceful lives away from the limelight as

1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 exhort us to. Jesus is the prime example here! He lived 90 percent of his life in and around Nazareth, in obscurity.

Another observation I see is that few people are trained to or are willing to lovingly listen to the inner world of a leader, guiding them to a more balanced, unhurried approach. (Which is why I am grateful for Spiritual Direction and Silent Retreats.) Instead, we are drawn to the potential intoxication of helping people, writing books, speaking, and receiving applause for doing so, being slow to realize when our inner life is unable to bear the weight and demands of leadership. So we numb and pretend…. until that does not work anymore. 


I am sure that every leader reading this wants to finish strong. I do, too, yet desperately need grace and help to do so!  Spiritual formation retreats has been part of that grace for me.   My inner life has been healed, softened and loved dramatically in the past few years because of getting honest as I make space for silence and solitude.

My soul needs unhurried time to name the hurt and doubt which life tends to inflict on me.  I feel the welcome of Jesus, his empathy and healing touch.  I hear him say “me too.” 

Our friends at  Soul Shepherding go on to describe Spiritual Formation Retreats:

Spiritual formation retreats help many Christians overcome stress and hurt in Jesus’ rhythms of grace. Sadly, the normal Christian approach of doing more isn’t working. Trying harder doesn’t make us love Jesus more or look more like him. 

Even many Christian retreats are busy and loud. They combine meetings that are like church services with fun games and activities. They’re good, but they’re not designed as spiritual formation retreats. 

Times of intentional spiritual formation retreat with Christ help you slow down, engage his presence, pray in solitude and silence, be emotionally honest with God and safe people, and learn new ways of training to grow spiritually.

Spiritual retreats are not a new concept—their roots date back to the early centuries of the church. Monastic communities, in particular, have long used retreats to withdraw from busyness and distraction and seek Jesus. 

Plus, our Savior held retreats in high esteem. He practiced intimacy with God and sought to grow spiritually by…

·        Following the Spirit into the wilderness for deeper formation and testing before starting his ministry (Matthew 4:1-2).

·        Often withdrawing to lonely places to rest, pray, and be strengthened by Abba (Luke 5:16). 

·        Inviting his disciples to come to a quiet place with him and rest after a long time of ministry (Mark 6:31-32).

Jesus also invites you to get away with him (or retreat), take a real rest, and learn his unforced rhythms of grace (Matthew 11:28-30 MSG). 


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