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Do You Have the Only Quality that Matters for Healthy Leadership?

Categories Ministry

The Emotionally Healthy Leader by Peter Scazzero

In recent months evangelicalism has witnessed a surprising number of resignations by “successful” pastors who appeared to be spiritual He-Men, yet experienced moral and ministry collapse from affairs and toxic leadership.

While we can’t discern why these collapses happened, Peter Scazzero reminds us of the danger of leading in a way that can lead to such failures. As he argues in his new book The Emotionally Healthy Leader, “it has become part of our default thinking that external markers of success are an indication that all must certainly be well at the leadership level.” (116)
He explains what we know to be true, but often forget: We can rely on our talents and experience, and have all the marks of a vibrant, growing ministry, yet neglect the only fruit that matters: a loving union with God.

Scazzero makes plain that the “consequences of failing to lead out of loving union are so far-reaching.” (119) So what is loving union, how does it affect ministry leadership, and how can you cultivate it?

Continue reading to discover why this quality is what matters for emotionally healthy leadership.

What Is Loving Union?

First, let’s make clear what it’s not: devotions and quiet time; a list of spiritual practices; emotionally intense experiences with God; a sustainable pace of life.

Scazzero quotes Hans Urs von Balthasar’s description of Jesus to explain loving union: “Here is a man, sinless, because he has lovingly allowed the Father’s will full scope in his life.”
Loving union, then, is about “allowing the will of God to have full access to every area of our lives, including every aspect of our leadership — from difficult conversations and decision-making to managing our emotional triggers.” (120)
He urges leaders to ask themselves this question daily:

In what ways does my current pace of life and leadership enhance or diminish my ability to allow God’s will and presence full scope in my life?

Asking this question will ensure we remain in loving union with Christ, with fruit to follow.

How Loving/Non-Loving Union Impacts Your Leadership

What does it mean to pursue loving union with God in the midst of the very real demands of leadership?
Scazzero helpfully poses several scenarios to discern how it looks to envelope our day with non-loving union versus loving union with God. Here is one:

  • Non-loving Union: An executive director of a ministry reads a page from a free devotional pamphlet during her commute to satisfy her God-time; doesn’t think much more about God during the day unless there’s a problem; spends her waking thoughts about work since the needs are never-ending; has the attitude: If I don’t put my whole life into this, I am not giving my best for God’s work.
  • Loving Union: An executive director of a ministry spends time praying and reflecting on Scripture during her commute; maintains a connection to God throughout the day; listens to God and invites him into her efforts to build his ministry, not her own; has the attitude: Lord, What is the best way to maximize our impact with our limited time and resources?

Scazzero notes this isn't "a leadership strategy, not a more effective way of doing. Instead they are the natural outgrowth of loving union with God, a different way of being.” The result is a “God-given freedom and joy in their roles despite the pressures they face.” (126)

How to Develop Loving Union with God


OK, so cultivating a loving union with God is essential for emotionally healthy leadership. But how do you do it? Scazzero gives a few ideas.

First, he encourages leaders to find their “desert” with God, that space where they can be alone with God. He likens such experiences to the periods of spiritual preparation, purification, and transformation of Moses, John, and Jesus.
In solitary, undistracted places “we position ourselves to open the door of our hearts as best we can so that Jesus’ presence and his will have full access to every area of our life. We slow down to make this kind of loving surrender possible.” (134)

Second, he invites leaders to develop a so-called “Rule of Life,” a support structure for cultivating our union with God. Such a structure combines the spiritual disciples of silence, Scripture meditation, fixed-hour prayer, and Sabbath-keeping.
“A formal Rule of Life organizes our unique combination of spiritual practices into a structure that enables us to pay attention to God in everything we do.” (136)

Rather than slamming on the breaks by slowing down to develop such a union, Scazzero encourages leaders to take the long view. Get started by taking the survey to the right (click the image to print), then dive deep into Scazzero’s crucial leadership development resource to become the emotionally healthy leader God desires you to be.

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