Some advice to aspiring (and existing) leaders
If your baptism in the Holy Spirit was anything like mine [see The Return of the Prodigal], not only would your life have been transformed, you would have found yourself suffused with the irresistible urge to go out and proclaim the Good News to the world. While this is a very worthy goal - and indeed one I recommend every Christian target - there are some things that you need to keep in mind before you set out accomplishing it. These are what they are:
May the Spirit be with you.
- Learn the Word of God
A Christian leader has to know the Word of God. This is not optional. And to know the Word of God you have to study the Word of God. Not only does this require time, it also requires constant prayer, because you can't understand what God wants to say to you unless he reveals it to you, and this he does only with prayer. I do not think that anybody would get very far in learning scripture without spending at least an hour each day in intense prayer, and an equal amount of time reading the Word of God. If you can't devote that much time in a day to scripture and prayer, forget about being a leader.
- Learn what the Catholic Church teaches
You also need to learn the teachings of the Catholic Church. I know of several "new" Charismatic leaders, some of whom have been Catholics all their lives, suddenly begin to think that the Church has got it all wrong. Please remind yourself that the Catholic Church has been in existence for nearly 2000 years and has done more to spread the Good News than any other organization - or person - in history. They also have some very good reasons for doing what they do, and believing what they believe. Find out what they are, especially if they are in conflict with your own views, and you might be in for a surprise. The Catechism of the Catholic Church is the book to study.
- Learn to love
I have seen leaders who spend hours in prayer, reading the Bible, counselling, preaching and serving God in every way imaginable. They seem very anointed, yet they appear to lack the one quality that God says is the most important of them all: love. The beginning of Chapter 13 of Paul's letter to the Corinthians is addressed directly to them. I paraphrase it here: 'You might have all the gifts of the Holy Spirit - the gift of prophecy, the gift of performing miracles, the gift of healing, etc. - but if you don't have love, you have nothing!' If you do not have a deep seated love for your brother, expressed in caring and warmth and affection and a genuine desire to see him grow in Christ - even if his growth will make you seem small in comparison, then you have no business being in ministry.
- Put yourself under authority
Another very common failing with Charismatic leaders is a reluctance to subject themselves to any authority, believing that taking their orders from the Holy Spirit is sufficient. Unfortunately, they fail to realize that the Holy Spirit might not be the only one talking to them. The evil spirit can do a pretty good impersonation at times, and if you are arrogant enough to believe you don't need to listen to anyone, he'll soon have you spinning round and round so fast, you won't know which way is straight anymore. So make sure you get yourself a spiritual director (just one will suffice; more than one and you might still end up chasing your tail), and put yourself under his authority. An ideal spiritual director would be a priest, mature in age and wisdom, preferably one you make your confession to. He would live near enough to you so that you could spent some time with him each week in counselling and contact immediately in case of any emergency. While he need not be a Charismatic himself, he would be sensitive to - and understand the workings of - the Holy Spirit. Above all, he would be supportive.
- Be sober and alert at all times
This advice from 1 Peter 5:8 should be the constant watchword for all leaders. I cannot stress this enough! As a Christian leader you will be an enormous threat to Satan's empire, and he will not stand on the sidelines waiting for you to attack first. The better the leader you are (or likely to be), the greater the threat, and consequently the harder he is going to come down on you. He will use any means at his disposal to end your career, preferably even before it gets started. His favorite method is generating rumors questioning your character, while simultaneously cutting off your support bases, in effect isolating you. Mistrusted by your friends, and under censure by your spiritual leaders, you will have nobody to turn to and this can be devastating. If your faith is not strong, this could very well spell the end of your career as a leader. And quite possibly as a Christian too.
- Always remember that you are part of the body of Christ
"Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be MY name, MY kingdom come, MY will be done ....." Fr. James Thamburaj, evangelical leader and dear friend, suggested that this was the manner in which most leaders might say Our Lord's Prayer, and he is right. Leaders of various groups guard their "turfs" with the same intensity that gangs in New York might guard theirs, jealously refusing to give or take an inch, for fear that they might lose position or power. They forget - or choose to ignore - the fact that they are part of this great body of Christ and if they are to grow in him, they cannot do it in isolation. A body might survive without an eye; an eye cannot survive without the body. So cooperate with others who are in Christ and see if together you don't grow much beyond what you could possibly grow on your own.
Also by Aneel Aranha: The Bible and the Art of Jigsaw Puzzles
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