Leaders Come to Peace with the Pruning
Leaders Come to Peace with the Pruning
By Les Hollon
Nine years ago, the Spirit whispered to me, “Trust me. I am calling you to Trinity. And I will prune you.” Pain, not pleasure, seemed to control the pruning metaphor of John 15:12. Because it was a Jesus teaching, I said “yes” to the pruning by moving to San Antonio.
This is a good calling, and I’ve come to peace with the pruning. The two are inseparable. Pruning is the ongoing work of being a called leader. We must grow to help others grow.
Which is why Jesus included the second half of the 15:2 dictum. He prunes the branch so that is will be even more fruitful. Producing more of God’s promise in our world and in people means that more of God must be at work in the leader.
Our false sense of self must be uprooted. Our ego must be strong and healthy by the awareness that life includes us but is not just about us. God’s pruning ways include:
- LISTENING through prayer. Sometimes I’ll pray for minutes on end without any sense of connecting to God. Then the Spirit seems to prune with, “Okay, now that you’ve prayed out your agenda, are you ready just to be with me?” Early Christians called this kenosis, the emptying of oneself before God. This detaches us from our personal agendas long enough to be refined by spiritual examination.
- TALKING with, not just to, people. Receive affirmation and criticism with equal humility. The good is not to puff up the ego but to encourage you to stay true. The criticism is food for thought. Stand in the shoes of the critic to grasp the truth of their message and to let go of the sting. Be pruned by applying the truth and discarding the “noise.”
- CREATING Q & A sessions. At the end of your presentations in meeting, don’t walk away until you’ve asked for responses. Your willingness conveys transparency that in turn builds trust. Some people will sharpen your perspective and be a needed reality check. Others will feel heard and therefore included. Those bent on being troublemakers will expose themselves. Be pruned by conversation.
- MEDITATING on Scripture. The apostle Paul’s admonition to Timothy connects us to a needed practice: seeing that Scripture is God’s inspired pruning message for “profit, correction, and instruction in righteousness.” Spend time in the Word so your words will be worthy.
- SMILING when you hear your predecessor’s name. My three predecessors at Trinity were strong personalities and very gifted. Be encouraged that you are included in the conversation. Be pruned by letting others be praised. Celebrate in the part of their work that still helps the church today. Remember that one day you will be a predecessor.
- FEELING the needs of people. Ultimately leadership and ministry are about relationships. Be available for people to connect to you. Visit in their homes, workplaces, or over coffee or by texting, phone, and emails. We must prune our schedules for solitude and community. By crying and laughing with people, we are pruned by their hurts and hopes.
- STUDYING best practices and discerning transferable principles. We build on the best of what we know by learning what we need to know but don’t yet comprehend. Be pruned of ignorance. Let a child teach you technology. Let an older person teach you wisdom. Read to listen. Listen to podcasts for growth. Ask your peers how they do what they do. Be the best version of yourself by learning from the best version of others.
- MENTORING the next generation. Be pruned of feeling irreplaceable. Build your legacy one day at a time by daily investigating in others. Help others surpass you. Be smart about it. Don’t give away what is yours to do from the uniqueness of who you are. But don’t cling to opportunities to be shared with others so they can thrive and the gospel can win. Be generous.
Pruning is yielding to God’s best so we can be out best. The pain is temporary. The pleasure is eternal.
This page appears as printed in the Nurturing Faith Journal, November-December 2018 issue.