Dr. Samuel Wells, noted author and minister in London, England, recently released his latest book, Incarnational Ministry: Being with the Church.  Wells explores various dimensions of ministerial leadership, using the reality of the Trinity to guide his helpful insights. One of those insights that particularly stands out to me (and something I’ve noted before), is the primal nature of discipleship for leaders.
Before I can speak or act as a leader, I must first reckon with my identity as a believer in Jesus Christ. My primary identity is found in discipleship; not my role as pastor, elder, preacher or educator. Discipleship – my relationship with God – is lived out daily as a relationship comprised of mystery and grace, hope and failure, repentance and renewal. Who I am as a disciple constructs and nurtures my being, while the various forms of leadership that I may take on or that may come to me are things, tasks or roles that I do. Being and doing are related but quite distinct. For me (and for many others, I think) we often can get these confused!
A sad inversion occurs when the things I do – leadership, preaching, shepherding and all the rest – become the center of my identity, and when who I am – living in the mystery and grace of a life with God – becomes something that I do. My soul wilts, and churches and communities suffer, because I am no longer attending to the primal reality that keeps me sane and whole.
I find Wells’s book so helpful because he encourages a deeper look at our being. What does it mean for us to be with God, with ourselves or with others? What happens when we recognize the vital and life-giving possibilities of simply attending to the presence of God as God is mediated to us through Scripture or silence or music or in the company of prayerful persons?
Rather than thinking that ministry or church leadership is diminished by taking time to pray, practice silence or read a good book, perhaps it is in being attentive to God’s presence that we truly learn how to be attentive to others in our work and ministry.
As this new year begins, I encourage you to be people grounded in being disciples, first and foremost! For the sake of your ministry and your leadership in the church, let your life with Christ shape all that you are and all that you do.
 Samuel Wells, Incarnational Ministry: Being with the Church (Eerdmans, 2017).