In June 2012, the Center for Global Mission hosted their fifth Emerging Leaders Conference. The Emerging Leaders Conference is filled with all kinds of people; people who have been in ministry for a long time, people who are just getting their feet wet, people in foreign countries who face seemingly insurmountable odds–they’re all here. The Emerging Leaders Conference is small, personal and intense, despite the great diversity. The common thread, is that all the attendees love Jesus and want to see the world changed for Him. Here is a post from one of the attendees, Gus Hernandez. Be blessed.

The Importance of Being Before Doing

By Gus Hernandez, Jr.


The Emerging Leaders Conference (ELC) was a spiritual oasis after wrapping up a long and tiring year in ministry. I was deeply blessed by the emphasis on worship and prayer. I’ve attended many conferences, but none have even come close to cultivating the authentic and intimate worship environment of the ELC. I had a wonderful time meeting many godly leaders who are serving the Lord and advancing His kingdom all over the world. Throughout the week, new friendships were forged, and old friendships were rekindled. We all shared powerful moments of prayer, challenging devotions from the Word, and passionate multicultural worship.

The ELC was a refreshing time as well as a time of learning and growing. I’m sure many of the ELC attendees came out of the conference with an entire list of takeaways. I know I did. One of the takeaways that I want to focus on in this blog is the importance of “being before doing.” God cares more about who we “are” than what we do. Ultimately because who we are will affect what we do. Our identity is in Christ not in our leadership position. The more we encounter Christ in a fresh and real way, the more we will be shaped and conformed into His image. As ‘V’ shared in one of his sessions from the Word, “Transformation happens through direct experience of Jesus Christ.”

We desire transformation, and we want to lead people to be transformed. However, at some point in our ministry, we have all faced the reality of leading on empty. I’m not talking about running empty on energy (although that can be true for many of us). I’m referring to being empty spiritually. Many young leaders struggle to find the balance between “work” and “personal” spiritual development, between doing and being, and they eventually fall victim to myths concerning perception and productivity.

Have you ever struggled with feeling guilty for carving out time in your “work” schedule for prayer and reading the Bible? How about personal reflection? Have you ever wondered what your church members or ministry supporters would think if they knew you spent an hour or two of your “work” day praying and reading in your office? Maybe like me, you also have felt guilty for intentionally carving out time for personal spiritual development and nourishment. However, the truth is most people you lead will not balk at the idea of you intentionally pursuing spiritual development. Your spirituality as a leader affects your entire ministry. Most people you lead will understand that truth. I thought what T.J. Addington said about intentionally and routinely scheduling a “personal reflection day” (PRD) was helpful and challenging (hopefully you’ve already incorporated this practice into your schedule).

Struggling with perception can stem from a misunderstanding of productivity and success in ministry. This misconception derives from people thinking we can accomplish more by spending less time with God. It can also manifest itself in a leader being so busy doing “ministry” that their own spirituality gets neglected. If we are not careful, our schedules will become so crowded that our time with the Lord will be hindered. Sometimes we are dried up inside because we have not been drawing water from the everlasting spiritual well of Jesus Christ (cf. John 4:14; 7:37-38). In an effort to provide direction and counsel for others, we can neglect our own personal spiritual growth.

Leadership is best viewed in the context of influence (i.e. leaders have influence). A good leader in ministry desires to have positive influence for Jesus. Therefore, the most important quality of an effective leader is his or her relationship with Jesus. Anyone can lead, but not everyone has positive influence. As leaders in ministry, we strongly desire to see spiritual growth in the people we serve. When we are being genuinely transformed by Christ, our dynamic spirituality becomes a catalyst in our ministries. When a leader is suffering spiritually, the ministry tends to struggle. When asked what can pastors do to change the dynamic of lack of spiritual growth in the church, Dallas Willard replied:

Change their definition of success. They need to have a vision of success rooted in spiritual terms, determined by the vitality of a pastor’s own spiritual life and his capacity to pass that on to others. When pastors don’t have rich spiritual lives with Christ, they become victimized by other models of success—models conveyed to them by their training, by their experience in the church, or just by our culture. They begin to think their job is managing a set of ministry activities and success is about getting more people to engage those activities. Pastors, and those they lead, need to be set free from that belief.”[1]

In a nutshell, the ELC reinforced the idea that if you want to be an effective leader, you need to focus on continually developing your spirituality. Continue growing in the Lord becoming more and more like Christ. Then grace will abound and overflow into your ministry to others. The more you appreciate grace, the more you will extend and share grace. The more your life exhibits genuine, passionate worship of the Lord, the more others will be influenced for Christ. People are starving for leaders with authentic, living faith.

Is our individual relationship with Christ thriving? If it isn’t, let us remember leaders can’t lead on empty.