Part Two: Spiritual Intelligence – Organic Discipleship, Jesus Style

By Clarence Bradbury, Leadership Development Coordinator

In his 1995 book Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman wrote,  “The rhythm and pace of modern life give us too little time to assimilate, reflect, and react . . . We need time to be introspective, but we don’t get it – or don’t take it.”  This is a story I hear repeatedly in conversations with Salvation Army officers and other leaders.  They find themselves caught on a treadmill that keeps them busy, buried and behind. Regarding the subject of his book, Work of Heart, Reggie McNeal said in an interview, I am more convinced than ever that leaders must pay attention to their interior lives in order to be effective spiritual leaders . . . Turning people into leaders is an easy thing for God to do. Turning leaders into people is much more challenging . . . This requires that we understand how we co-conspire with God in our own heart-shaping.

These observations from vastly diverse voices help shape my perspective on leadership.  The findings of Goleman, McNeal and other catalysts of our day accentuate the need for a revolution of the soul, a transformation from within.  It takes courage to venture on this inward journey because we instinctively feel that the encounter with our true selves will only elevate our stress, introduce uncertainty, dislodge our facades and leave us naked and vulnerable.  Just about everyone I meet is quick to acknowledge with Goleman that there’s too little time to assimilate, reflect and react.  And as a result, we rob God of the opportunity to turn leaders into people.  Thankfully, we now have more resources than ever to help us embrace a leadership paradigm that liberates the self and blesses everyone who enjoys the good fortune of working with and for us!

My previous article focused on Emotional Intelligence.  Accessing and enhancing our EQ is one approach to raising our overall Leadership Quotient.  Self-awareness, awareness of others, self-management and social/relational skills are all aspects of emotional intelligence.  A high EQ makes life and work more rewarding by making us easier to live with and work with.  A boss who takes time to really listen to people enjoys a dual advantage – having a clearer understanding of reality, plus the loyalty, respect and energies of grateful employees/followers.  The capacity to make others feel valued and important has enormous worth in relationships and measurable outcomes.  A strictly task-oriented focus on reaching a destination, while forgetting the real people who share the bus with you, is destined to be disappointing for all concerned.  Knowing and utilizing EQ may not always be essential for positional advancement in the organization.  There are bullies at every level of the command chain.  Upper echelon leaders sometimes find it convenient to delegate the bullying to mid-management who turn up the heat on the front line.  Such behavior is painfully obvious and it stands in the way to authentic leadership that blesses people and pleases God.  A better approach is to strive for excellence in relationships as well as success with the so-called bottom line.

In a recent “Leader Spotlight” interview with Colonel Brad Bailey, newly appointed Chief Secretary for The Salvation Army USA southern Territory, I was delighted when his responses turned to Jesus as the exemplar of emotional intelligence and authentic leadership.  Leaders in the Christian Church are called to lead like Jesus.  Our friends and partners at Arrow Leadership (www.arrowleadership.org) have as their operational focus Developing Christian leaders worldwide to be led more by Jesus, to lead more like Jesus and to lead more to Jesus. Arrow’s website contains exceptional material on leadership, as well as numerous photos of Salvation Army leaders who have been enriched by their transformational programs.  Looking to Jesus as the source of our inspiration and empowerment is the secret of what may be called our Spiritual Intelligence (SQ).  Dana Zohar, a quantum physicist, wrote her book called SQ in 2001 (see her at http://dzohar.com/?p=798).  While Zohar does not take a specific Judaeo-Christian approach (it may be called new age-y), her efforts stimulated further study in the fields of business and education. It also drew attention in faith communities around the world.  One of her quotes identifies what is intended by Spiritual Intelligence (SQ).  It comes from Rabbi Heschel who epitomizes the spiritual reality with which we all seek to be connected: There is a loneliness in us that hears. When the soul parts from the company of the ego and its retinue of petty conceits; when we cease to exploit all things but instead pray the world’s cry, the world’s sigh, our loneliness may hear the living grace beyond all power.

I consider it safe to assume that Spiritual Intelligence is the ultimate intelligence.  Zohar herself affirms this.  But more importantly, Jesus affirmed it in the most singularly significant statement ever uttered regarding the meaning of human existence.  He declared in St. John 17:3,  This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.  This statement comes in the middle of Jesus’ extended prayer for His disciples and all who would succeed them in the faith.  In essence, He said the purpose and significance of human life on earth is found in knowing God, the creator of all good, the author of wisdom, and in knowing the Son who was sent to make God knowable.  What then does Spiritual Intelligence look like in the daily life of Christian leaders?

Many Christian resources are available to those who desire to improve their spirituality quotient.  One is written by Mark Buchannan who is a skilled pastor and writer.  His exceptional book is called Spirit Rhythm: Being With Jesus Every Season of Your Soul (Zondervan, 2010).  Buchannan outlines how we grow through the four seasons of the soul.  A second book I want to explore in more detail is Alan E. nelson’s Spiritual intelligence: Discover Your SQ. Deepen Your Faith (Baker Books, 2010).  This book offers insights into the fine art of growing souls and expanding our capacity for God.  A free on-line excerpt from the book is available at http://alanenelson.com/files/PDF%20Files/SI%20Excerpt.pdf . Nelson commences by asking some probing questions:

  • Why does the faith of so many people resemble a journey from Pampers to Depends?
  • What’s your SIQ? How can you raise it?
  • Do you have a personal soul growth plan?
  • How can people attend church and not experience spiritual maturity?
  • Why isn’t “more effort, better preaching, better programs” the answer?
  • How can we get more spiritual fruit from sermons, Bible studies, and endless activity?

Spiritual Intelligence is the ability to integrate our faith into our daily living, to translate into reality the Christ-likeness that we hear about at church.  Just as we witness in Emotional intelligence, that many social problems are due to a low EI, so in the spiritual realm, lack of spiritual maturity reflects a deficit in Spiritual Intelligence.

Nelson demonstrated that the approach Jesus took to spiritual intelligence is organic in nature.  The author observes, In contrast to today’s church, Jesus implemented significantly different methods in the way He grew souls. Because Jesus was God and knew His time was limited, certainly He would have employed methods most apt to produce results. It was a conscious stewardship decision. We would be wise to analyze and replicate His means.

Nelson further outlines the differences between the approach of Jesus and today’s church in this way:

~ We have buildings . . . He didn’t

~ We are centralized . . . He stayed on the move

~ We seek large numbers . . . He often fled them

~ We seek programs . . . He sought relationships

~ We use curriculum . . . He created experiences

~ We seek warm bodies . . . He hand selected a team

~ We do ministry . . . He equipped ministers

The path to growth that Jesus implemented with His original disciples followed this organic four-fold pattern.

1. He led the disciples as a `travel team’, a band of brothers united in mutual covenant to embrace the challenge of discipleship. Jesus invested a majority of His time with a few who eventually would multiply His work.  Simple addition would not accomplish the gigantic Kingdom enterprise Jesus had in mind.  By going deep with the few, Jesus practiced the art of multiplication in order to build capacity for a great harvest.  They learned to love one another and hold one another accountable for growth in spiritual productivity.  This demonstrated a lifestyle consistent with the faith they professed.  Unless we also intentionally create a culture in which people are connected for intentional spiritual growth, maturity will rarely happen. People fail to grow up in Christ due to lack of a covanental relationship in which there is positive support and shared permission to confront one another in order to grow through the rough places of life.  Without this, people rarely push through the predictable pain barriers that are an aspect of spiritual growth. This is why churches are filled with people who possess a high biblical IQ without a correspondingly high SQ demonstrated in abundant fruit bearing.  Unlike a 40 day program that gets everyone excited for a month or so, SI emphasizes that the methods of Jesus apply to our entire lifetime, from “pampers to depends”.

 2. Jesus gave directions by interacting with His Travel Team.  As He went about doing ministry, He also used his miracles and parables as vehicles to teach His disciples.  He practiced the art of multi-usage by performing a certain act, then interpreting it to His disciples. The team of 12 would wrestle with it. Then Jesus would teach some more, drawing from the bewilderment and questions of the team. Quite often Jesus used questions rather than answers to make His point.

 3. Jesus led the disciples on an experience-based Journey.  They lived and learned outside the classroom.  As Nelson affirms, experiential learning is a powerful method because it works on the heart more than the intellect.  I remember as a child being bored to mischief as we sat through a missionary slide show presented by a sincere couple who had obviously done great things for God.  However, when opportunity came later in life to participate in team missions to Barbados and Guyana, and to serve for a while with the Hurricane Katrina relief effort in New Orleans, my learning took a vertical leap.  In the same way, participative learning is also essential in the school of discipleship. Imagine the heightened value of a mission service team when it is undertaken as part of a covenental relationship for spiritual growth.  Social service can produce SI when there is the added dimension of soul-to-soul connection that leads to spiritual growth in the context of a developmental debriefing of shared memories.

 4. Jesus served as the Path Finder for His Travel Team and then – at the end of three years – charged them to do the same.  Nelson describes a Path Finder as part mentor, teacher and guide, but different from each. The typical sequence is: find a Path Finder, become someone else’s Path Finder while you have your own, then serve as a Path Finder to keep growing spiritually. While no specialized skills are required, path finding is facilitated with a Travel Team sharing life together around scriptures, life experience and a deep commitment to each other.  In many of my conversations with corps officers/pastors I hear a repeated lament over the number of believers who are content to be pew-sitters.  Maybe the reason for some is that they have heard the same thing from so many people so many times before that they either screen out what we say, join another church in search of something new or remain entrenched as tenured resident critics of every leader who walks through their revolving door.

 Nelson’s proposed pattern for building SI in the church is sobering, yet attainable.  After all, who can fault the methods of Jesus?  Nelson claims that growing SI is a matter of wings, not weights.  Exploring new experiences with God in the company of our Travel Team, hungering for God to enlarge our spiritual territory and embracing brokenness as part of God’s plan to bless everything for our ultimate good – all these contribute to the growth of supple souls.

A value-added feature of Alan Nelson’s work is a complimentary self-assessment tool called The Journey, at the end of his book. And the good news for internet users is that The Journey is available free at:
http://spiritualintelligence.org/files/PDF%20Files/The%20Journey2009.pdf
I heartily recommend this Spiritual Intelligence assessment and related journey exercises as a worthy investment for a new spiritual adventure with God.

 

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