Spiritual Life of the Leader - Lesson 6

Reception, Response and Balance

God wants us to be faithful to the kingdom and his son and fruitful according to his metrics. What’s the goal and what condition do our hearts need to be in to understand the goal? The Mary in us needs to rest at the feet of Jesus in order for the Martha in us to do her work. Think about when you experienced renewal and think about when you were blessed. When you have received God’s blessing, how has that resulted in demonstrating his hand of mercy to someone else? How are your activities balanced?

Stephen Martyn
Spiritual Life of the Leader
Lesson 6
Watching Now
Reception, Response and Balance

Reception, Response and Balance

I. What does it mean to sit at the feet of Jesus and work for his kingdom?

II. Reception

III. Response

IV. Balance

All Lessons
Class Resources
  • Dr. Martyn has surveyed church leaders around the world to understand their responsibilities and pressures. He aims to use his experience to help them develop a model of ministry that encourages spiritual formation, discipleship, and worship in a healthy way. His class is comprehensive on topics such as spiritual formation, discipleship, leadership principles, and worship. Listening to this class could benefit anyone regardless of whether they have an official leadership position or not.
  • Christian activism is Christians seeking to be involved in the issues and needs of the day and time. Wesleyans in the 1700's in England sought to minister to people that others didn’t care about. To be called by Christ is to be called into the body of Christ. A biblical model is that every member is a full-fledged minister of the gospel without distinction between clergy and laity. 

  • Mysticism can be described as the direct communication of your spirit with the Divine Spirit as taught and illustrated in the New Testament as a fundamental part of Christian belief. Receptivity means that I am open to what the Lord is saying to me through the revelation of his word, the magnificence of his son and the voice of his Spirit which is consistent with the written word. The church was emphasizing what they were doing for God rather than on first listening to what God wants us to be and then acting. Union with our Lord must come before any type of donation or work (kenosis) for our Lord. (Download the complete text of the sermon by clicking on the link on this page or under the Downloads heading on the class page.)

  • Which do you love more, the Lord or the projects you are doing for him? Is your goal to exalt the Lord or build a personal kingdom? Essence of anxiety is whether or not you can trust God. The question to ask when you begin having feelings of self-pity is, “Is you life going to be defined by how you think it ought to go?”  The blame-shame mindset is that you are unhappy because there is something wrong with the people around you. When you experience these red flags in your ministry, you should recognize it as time that it’s possible that the Lord may be prompting you to make a change in your life.The Mary in you must rest at the feet of Jesus if the Martha in you is to do her work.

  • Essence is who the Lord has created you to be. Biblically, essence precedes existence as oppose to Sartre's teaching that man is no more than what he makes of himself. God has given us the capacity of reception, to be able to hear God’s voice and follow it. The spiritual life that God calls you to live is based on what you receive from God, not on what you do for God.

  • How do you determine if your motives are right in your efforts to serve God? The more gifts and talents we have, the more susceptible we are to self-deception regarding our motives. Resist the urge to make pleasing people your primary motivation. You will never please everyone and in the process you lose sight of focusing on pleasing God. When people have expectations of you that don’t match what God has called you to do, there are times when you must, “let Lazarus die.”

  • God wants us to be faithful to the kingdom and his son and fruitful according to his metrics. What’s the goal and what condition do our hearts need to be in to understand the goal? The Mary in us needs to rest at the feet of Jesus in order for the Martha in us to do her work. Think about when you experienced renewal and think about when you were blessed. When you have received God’s blessing, how has that resulted in demonstrating his hand of mercy to someone else? How are your activities balanced?

  • A canal simultaneously pours out what it receives. A reservoir waits till it’s filled then discharges water without loss to itself. Today, there are many in God’s church that act like canals. The reservoirs are far too rare. So urgent is the charity of those through whom heavenly doctrine flows that they want to pour it forth to us before they have been filled. They are more ready to speak than to listen, impatient to teach what they have not grasped, and full of presumption to govern others while they know not how to govern themselves. High mountain lakes have one stream out and water level relatively constant throughout the year. How is the water level staying constant in your life? Depletion results in erosion of presence, and results in just going through the motions. 

  • The Lord desires that we live dispositionally. Important elements include loving God, living devotionally, relational strengthening, vocational serving (listening with the intent of following what I hear). Dallas Willard wrote, “If I am a disciple of Jesus, I am with him to learn from him, how to be like him." The primary calling of a pastor is to follow Jesus, within the calling of leading a church. 

  • The eight deadly sins are in the order that Satan uses to try to get us and in the order in which we need redemption. Gormandize means you are overdoing it and being a slave to flesh. Fornication refers to a wandering heart and seeking to devour others. Avarice is the love of money and sometimes is a fear of not having enough. Anger is a rancorous spirit. The spiritual cancer of depreciation is looking at the vast horizon of God’s goodness in his creation and my life and depreciating it, only seeing what’s wrong. Psalm 51:10-12, create in me a clean heart, O God and renew a right spirit within me.

  • When you experience a difficult situation, how do you begin to turn your focus away from the negative and on to what God is doing? How do you respond when you are working closely with people that don't like you? What do you do as a leader when there is a person that is angry with you and disagrees with how you are leading?

  • The sin of acedia is, “I don’t care anymore.” The sin of tristitia is sadness, wrongly processing suffering and loss, allowing the soul to close in on itself and refuse instruction from God. Tristitia is neither a result of other people or of our outward circumstances. Satan wants to get us off the track in stupid presumption or in sinful carelessnenss. God redeems the hurt that evil has done.

  • In the early church passion was seen as something that controlled you and out of control and leading you astray, not a positive motivation. John Cassion described vainglory as passion to take pleasure in our own qualities. The danger is that we take credit for what God is doing. In pursuit of being popular, we often sacrifice who we are at the core. Pride is the original vice from which all others spring. Pride can develop into functioning atheism. The cure for pride is to have the humility of Jesus in our heart. 

  • Is there a sin that's not deadly? To what extent can you worry about something before it becomes a sin? What does it take to overcome gluttony? The minute you make an exception for yourself, you either presume on the grace of God or break a known law of God. Admit what you are feeling and submit it to God to have faith in him in the situation, then do your part.

  • Instead of gluttony, we see temperance. Temperance means living a balanced life. Chaste love is extending love to others, not preying on them. Poverty of spirit rather than greed. Cultivate meekness to deal with anger. You have been forgiven much so you should be willing to forgive others much. Cultivate faith, hope and love to deal with hopelessness. Cultivate humility to deal with vainglory. Evangelism in the first 300 years a result of the quality of the lives of disciples as they lived in a hostile environment. 

  • A transcendent crisis is yearning for the “more than.” “Is life meaningful?” “Is God good?” Can I trust my life to God or have I been abandoned by God? An idolatry crisis happens when you run after a passion rather than pursue God. Each person in your sphere of influence is going through crises in their own lives. God can use a crisis to help something in us die so we can experience and share the light of Christ.

  • To feed the 5,000, the disciples had to rely on Jesus because they didn’t have the resources. Jesus walked out on the water to comfort the disciples with his presence. The disciples thought they were going to die a terrible death. If you choose to think your situation, the church and others are hopeless, it results in ego desperation, or hopelessness. You see what’s wrong, you think you have exhausted your resources and you see no way that it’s going to get fixed. If you allow the crisis to take you into the life of Christ and dependence on him, it will not destroy you. 

  • It's important for us to understand how our relationship with God is affected by being born at a certain period of time and in a certain society. The vital is the physical dimension of the human life. Vitalism is where your physical pleasures become the priority in your life.  Functional is the roles, tasks and responsibilities we take on. It’s a problem when we allow our roles and responsibilities to define us, which is functionalism. Transcendent is the longing for the “more than.” Pneumatic/Ecclesial level is the capacity the Lord has given each of us to hear and respond to the Holy Spirit, God’s voice. When ambition gets separated from the leading of the Spirit, it can become self-promotion. Functional Transcendence is you using the things of God for self-gain.

  • It's important to keep Christ at the center of who you are. Interiority includes memory, intellect, will. Augustine says will is most important.In addition to our personal thoughts, we exist in community with others who are submitting their lives to the will of Christ. The Lord has placed us in a certain place and time and wants you to live a life of obedience in that context every day, not just one day a week. The Father is seeking to form your life into the image of Christ as you were meant to be. Through our experiences, God forms you into a unique person. On the relational side, this results in compassion for others because we love others with the same love we experienced. God gives us confidence that he has given us the gifts and resources we need to live out the calling he has given us. Competence that our ministry will be effective. Our courage comes from trusting in the strength of the Lord. Community, the work of God’s Church is a work done with others. Confirmation comes internally from God and externally from the community of faith. 

  • If you are following Jesus, you have a role as a leader. If a spiritual leader does not understand what their task is according to scripture, then their spiritual life is not going to have the focus the Lord wants them to have.  Worship is a response of the love that has been shown to us. Worship involves our all aspects of us and is enabled by God’s Spirit. We worship God because of who he is. By looking at Jesus, you see who God is.

  • The Church needs you to present what Scripture says, not your own ideas. Worship means to kneel before someone out of respect or honor. We owe it to God as an act of service to sit at his feet and worship him. Spiritual worship is to place our physical bodies at God’s disposal. Are we leading people to worship God, or just providing religious goods and services to them? Solid biblical teaching is important. Structure follows purpose. We are failing to dig down into the revelation of God and let the revelation of God set the compass. If you are not careful, your program sets your agenda.

  • Movements in worship: 1. kneeling in acts of loving worship. Kneeling in submission before God to acknowledge that you are dependent on him. 2. Exalting God by declaring his worthiness 3. Receiving God’s life symbolized by the sacrament of communion. 4. Empowers us and encourages us to go out and serve. We participate in the fellowship and life of the Trinity. We need to immerse ourselves in relationship to God and let that inform and empower what we do so that our worship service is more than creating an experience or transmitting information. Be explicit about your purpose in worship and include prayer.

  • The elders fall before the throne, they worship the Lord and they cast their crowns before him. Falling before the throne represents an acknowledging of God as absolute deity. What is going to happen in the future tells us what we should be doing now. When we fall down before the throne, our heart condition is inward humility and submission to the Lord. Then they raise up and exalt the Lord by proclaiming his worth. Inward love results in proclaiming what is right, good, just and holy. Taking of crowns is an outward expression of placing everything we have under the Lordship of Christ and an inward movement of total abandonment of everything we are to God.

  • The call of Jesus to, “follow me” is the call to redirect everything in our lives. A disciple is one who seeks to fulfill the will of the father by actively following Jesus the Son while continually depending on the Holy Spirit for guidance and strength. Faith is my trust in Jesus as well as the content of the Gospel. Practice is putting it into play. Catechism is the content of the faith, and catechesis is how you express it. Cheap grace is not biblical because it allows for justification without ensuing discipleship. Primary purposes of the church are to proclaim the Gospel, worship and make disciples. In addition to knowing the content, you must live it out. Clergy need to learn how to make and train disciples. Laity must be fully committed full-time ministers of the body of Christ.

  • Movements that are necessary for the church today to fulfill what God is calling them to do. For the clergy, 1. moving from pastor as the primary minister to each believer fulfilling their calling as full-time ministers in their spheres of influence; 2. Moving from preaching only to not only appropriate sermon preparation time but also discipling a core group; 3. Moving from a priority on numbers to staying with a process that results in mature disciples; 4. From solo leadership to team leadership. Discipleship should not be optional. Old Christendom model is breaking down but confusion on who and what we are called to be. “Is my first aim to make disciples, or do I just run an operation?” For the laity, 1. From going to church to being Church; 2. From expecting benefits from Christianity requiring no sustained effort to being intent on being disciples; 3. From being passive observers to full-time ministers. Primary purpose of leader is to equip the people of God to do the work of God.

  • The sermon is a critical part of the discipleship process. The “through” movement is the process of the “from-to” movement. Each of these steps must be contextualized to your situation. We are aiming for maturity in Christ. As a leader, you love the whole but you only disciple the few. Don’t neglect public proclamation but don’t see that as the end of your ministry. Daily pray, read scripture, weekly services, small groups acts of service, fasting, giving. Discipleship is helping people integrate the word of God into their lives.

  • Tozer says we don’t have the right of choosing Jesus as Savior and postponing our obedience. Dispositions are something that’s part of your daily life. Christian disciplines help us to love God and love our neighbor. Encourage people to seek God’s direction for where he wants them to serve. The biblical model is that mature Christians will live as disciplined followers. Make it a goal for pure love to fill your heart and govern your words and actions.

What do you think the priorities should be for a leader in the Church? How do you cultivate your personal spiritual life in a way that keeps you emotionally healthy and helps you avoid choosing sin? What is your measure of success for your church? How does that compare with a biblical measure of success? What is a disciple? What should the process of discipleship look like? What principles can you learn from the way Jesus interacted with his followers that will help you to encourage spiritual formation of the people in your sphere of influence? What are sins that people in leadership have commonly struggled with over the past 2,000 years? How do you recognize them in your own life and what are some practical ways to avoid them or repent and recover from them? What is the essence of worship? How do you live your life so you are worshipping God authentically in everything you do? How do you lead worship in a group setting in a way that encourages others to worship authentically? 

These are a few of the questions that Dr. Martyn poses to begin a conversation regarding the subject of the spiritual life of the leader. As a pastor for more than 20 years, Dr. Martyn asked and answered these questions in the context of loving and serving people personally. As part of his current position of teaching future pastors at Asbury seminary, he and some of his colleagues have conducted extensive surveys of church leaders throughout the North America and the world to get a better understanding of the responsibilities and pressures that church leaders face every day. His goal is to be able to understand biblical principles and use his experience to help leaders develop a model of ministry that helps them develop their personal spiritual life and give them a model to disciple and encourage the people they work with in a way that is healthy and encourages their faith and practice. 

Whether you have an official leadership position or not, you will benefit from listening to this class. It is one of the most comprehensive classes on spiritual formation, discipleship, leadership principles and worship that you will ever hear. If you listen and reflect on each of the lectures from beginning to end, you will be glad you did. 

Dr. Stephen Martyn

Spiritual Life of a Leader


Reception, Response and Balance

Lesson Transcript


[00:00:00] Well, welcome back. We want to continue drilling into the agenda for our course. And this is going to kind of be like an onion. We're going to peel away layer after layer, look at it from different angles. Always asking the Lord to help us with this and to seek his guidance and to know that he wants us to be faithful to his kingdom. Faithful to the sun. Following the sun. I think he also wants us to be fruitful. Fruitful in the sense not with not in the sense of of massive metrics, but really understanding what are the metrics. And so let's let that tease you a little bit for what will come. I mean, when it's all said and done, what are we after? Well, better put. What does the Lord water us to be after in pastoral ministry, in any kind of ministry for him? What's the goal and what's the condition of our hearts that we have to that needs to be in place for us to understand the goal? So that's coming that that that will be part of it. But for now, I want us to springboard continue to springboard over the start of this started to marry in us has to rest at the feet of Jesus if the Martha in us is to do her work. All right, so you're getting the idea now. It's a both. And it's not just Martha's world of activism. It would not just be Mary's world of just sitting at his feet. It's a both and but interesting. You see the hierarchy in it. I'm always a little leery when the church starts talking about hierarchy. This from personal, personally having to live under a hierarchy. Yeah, our hierarchy is the Lord Christ and his word for us.


[00:02:22] And so we're getting a real sense here of how he wants us to order our our, our world. And so I want you to see this and feel it. And we're going to draw some of it out. But let's let's look at this business now of, well, what does it mean to both sit and stand and to work for his kingdom? So if you've got a blank piece of paper you could draw, just draw a line down it. You see a line down the middle of it. And I want I want to invite you at home or in your small groups, wherever you are working on this. I want to invite you to really enter into some self-reflection here. And I want you to think about if last week was a normal week. I just want you to think about last week. Only if it was a normal week. I we'll use last week. Or if you were doing something extraordinary last week, it wasn't a normal week. Then go wherever the last normal week was. All right. So the first thing I'd like for you to do. Is work on this business of reception. Now, if you can imagine how the Lord created you and the image of God that you most deeply are the the your greatest dignity, how the fact that you were love before the beginning of time, that you will always be loved. So think about. Think about how he created you. And if you just think this big, beautiful hearts that he's giving you. I just drew a lopsided heart. But anyway, so on the one on this one side, I want you to think in terms of reception and. Think about the Times last week where you saw yourself as being revived in any way.


[00:04:53] And I want you to just ride them down. Where were you? Revived. What did the Lord use to revive you? And it'd be really important to be honest here, particularly if you are in a small group. And, you know, a lot of times we'll want to say our little religious religiously things, but. And those are good and right. But the truth is, you may have been revived through hearing the song. You may have been revived through walking, you may have been revived through an interaction you had with someone else. You know, just think of where even be specific, you know, I was tired at this point and then such and such unfolded. Sometimes you may go to a movie, sometimes you might be reading a book. I want you to just get that get that image in your mind. What is it that brings a sense of renewal into your life? Then think about where you were blessed. You know, a little joy came into your life. I've got to be honest with you. When I am when I'm in this kind of a climate, it's a refreshing. It's a clean. The air is not stifling. The air is clean. I love this climate scene, the the wildflowers and then the planted flowers that are around us. You know, that's a blessing to me being able to interact with other saints in Christ. That's that's a blessing. You know, the Lord, there's 10,000 blessings in 10,000 ways throughout the day. We can we can harken back to a one of the great spiritual writers who would talk about the activity of God is everywhere and always present, but open only to the eyes of those who have the faith to see it. And so you get what he's trying to say.


[00:07:27] And a thousand people tried to say it is that Grace is always present. Well, what did the Lord use to speak his grace into your life this last week? Who knows what all it could be. Think about ways in which you felt cared for. And nurtured in the faith. One of the great joys I have now is that even when I invest in students, I'll have any number of those students who will grow into maturity in Christ, and I'll receive some of their ministry from them and I'm blown away, you know. So suddenly the one who mentored is now being mentored and the one who taught and led is now being taught and led. So I had I've had an instance like that take place this past week. And then specifically, where did God speak to you? How did he speak to you in his word? Where did he where did he bless you this last week? Do you see what I'm doing here on this reception side? What is it that the Lord used? Or what were the circumstances that the Lord brought about for you to have an influx of His love and his grace in your life? Now, it's important to to look at things like this so that you can begin to see whether Mary's dominating or Martha's dominating, whether there's any Mary at all, or whether Martha has it all her own way or in some cases, there's actually the other way where there's too much of resting and too much of receiving without actually donating forth the word of the Lord. So take a moment. And even if you need to pause the the teaching time for a while, do that. Fill these things out. Right now. Let's look at the look at the other side.


[00:10:04] So the other side remember the human heart. So we've got the receiving side of the human heart, but we also have the responding or responsible. Side of the human heart where I can. The Lord gives me the possibility of saying yes to His directives. The directives that come from the Word of the Lord gives me the possibility of actually implementing what He wants me to do. Now, as we'll see later on this, this oftentimes takes a great amount of courage. But it's there. That capacity is there for us to not only receive God's good blessings, but to be his hand of mercy, for others to put into play what we receive. I know that in one instance, in my own pastoral ministry, we found ourselves a little bit tight financially in the local church, and I found myself very frustrated with the way in which funds were being raised in that local church, mainly through doing a pledge in the fall and then counting on everybody living up to their pledges later. And to be honest, at that point, I heard a teaching from none other than John Maxwell. And basically I came away from that thinking, you know, just do away with this whole pledge thing. Start pressing the people to to tithe on their income and trust God, you know, not to not to do a pledge campaign for at least a regular annual budget. And I took it to those who helped me govern the church and lead the church. And some of them were absolutely adamant. Now, don't press pledge and don't do that. That'll be offensive. And and I just heard the word and I actually need to attribute this to John Maxwell. And that is why should somebody who's robbing God of his ties and offerings, why should somebody be allowed to govern the church? You know, and I just heard the word no, be courageous.


[00:12:56] Go ahead and press the people of God on the fact that everything belongs to the Lord. Do it. Just step out of faith and cut out your pledge campaign. That seems to me at the time, in my setting, it seemed to promote lack of faith. Just press the biblical standards of giving. It all belongs to the Lord, and we give a starting point of 10% back to the Lord. So anyway, that was the way in which I could hear from the Lord, hear from others, because other most of the leadership said, Yes, let's do this, let's trust this, let's trust in be bold here in the Lord. And we had testimonies and all of that. So it was another way to try and change the culture. But it was done by hiring first and then by moving forward. So think about ways now in which you are donating the energy that the Lord gives you. Think about specific ways in which you are giving back. So go over your normal week. This might take a while. List out all of your roles, functions and tasks. What all did you do this past week in pastoral ministry? I used to require those who worked for me to keep a log of how many pastoral contacts they made every week, how many phone calls, how many committee meetings, how many hospital visits, everything. I did not to see if they were doing their job. I did it to give to allow them to see how much they were over functioning in their job. And also to say, now, look, this is this is a record before the Lord of what we're trying to do. But you can clearly see here you're watching yourself out by doing this much and by keeping their hours so, so aware where what all what all of you done for the Lord this past week.


[00:15:12] And this is a positive thing. Now, we I don't want to be negative in my illustrations, but how are you giving of yourself? To help others and to seek to mold others into the image of Christ that they most deeply are. And how are you pouring any kind of love? Look, anytime you type an email or today, it's usually takes time. You text in time, you do teaching moments, sermons. You're any time you're doing articles, any time you're getting in the car, going to visit people, this takes energy from you. This takes a lot, or it can take a lot of energy. The more people you see, the more of a new energy of your own life that that's going to involved. So list it out. I mean, have your list side by side. You've got the reception side of one. On this side, you've got the donation side on the other. Any place, any place in which you are ministering to the needs of others. Now, after you do this, I think what's going to be important in looking at all of this, what's going to be really important is how are these things balancing out? Now think about it. Think about it. I grew up in a part of the world. I grew up farming and ranching in a part of the world called West Texas. This is a semi-arid, rather desolate part of the world. It has its own beauty and I love it and I'm thankful for it. I wouldn't trade for where the Lord grew me up. One of the things we had to do in West Texas in terms of farming is what's called contour farming. And contour farming meant that if there was any kind of grade in the land where it sloped any, you wanted to plow contours into that so that when the occasional and I do stress occasional rain came.


[00:17:51] This is not like Washington state. When the occasional rain came, it wouldn't wash it all out and create gullies or or even worse, wash off the topsoil, which could very quickly happen. And so we're very we're very careful about that. Now, here's the deal. Here's what we're going to see in pastoral ministry, in any ministry for the Lord, whether as a pastor, a missionary behind the scenes, whatever you do, and it can be it can readily devolve, in other words, go downhill fairly quickly in terms of all the nutrients in your life. All the soil of your life can be washed away through overexertion, through doing more than what the Lord himself is asking you to do, and through failing to balance this whole business, get this whole business of reception in place. In other words, let me show you. So you're if you're you're if you're book if your notes come back. Where is full moon bom bom bom bom bom bom bom, bom, bom, bom, bom. All the way down here on the giving side, the donating side. Here's what I'm doing in terms of donating energy. And on the reception side, there's only a little bit going on. Then sooner or later I can fairly well guarantee that that you're only going to want one thing from the church and that's out of the church. You're only going to want one thing. Now, it could be that you actually have a little bit more reception side than you do on the giving side. I don't know. But I do know hopefully you're going to come across in a balanced way. You'll also see that sometimes you'll have a one activity. They'll show up on both sides. For instance, you go to visit someone in the hospital and lo and behold, they end up being a tremendous blessing to you and you receive more than you ever give.


[00:20:30] I mean, is that is that not a part of ministering in the name of Christ that you receive so much more than what you give? So this is not something to be stressed out about unless this side is severely, severely crippled and unless this is set into a disposition where you put yourself in a in a way of living, a manner of being, and in which the doing side just totally, completely outweighs any kind of reception side, We're actually going to look at this further.