Spiritual Formation: Spiritual Practices for Leaders: Attentiveness, Part 1 – Carolyn Carney

What would you do if you were on your way to get to class on time, to get to work, to make your train or to see that special someone in your life, and you noticed a strange, out- of-sync occurrence like the red hot glow of a fire in a mesh garbage can yet the stuff in the can was not being burned up?  Would you take the time to stop, or would you pass it by, maybe thinking about the phenomenon as you carried on?

Most of us would probably keep walking or driving by.  We’re busy people, with places to go, people to see, things to do.  But what if that occurrence was a calling card from God: God trying to get your attention to show you something?

flower rubble

Ok, so you’re on to me.  I guess that was a little obvious, but yes, I’m trying to talk about Moses and the burning bush here.

At this point in his life, Moses is living in Midian, married to the daughter of a Midianite priest.  The Midian religion was probably one in which many gods were worshipped.  But Moses was born a Hebrew and raised as a privileged Egyptian, until he fled as a wanted man to Midian.  He was a shepherd now, just minding his own business, tending his flock.  He had stuff to do.  But when confronted with this wonder he says,

I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up. (Ex 3: 3)

Unlike many of us, he stops what he’s doing. This is not some mere distraction or bunny trail or tangent taking him away from his responsibility.  There is a tug in his spirit.  This is where the Spirit of God intersects the human spirit and interjects inspiration.  I must turn aside.  I’ve got to see this thing.  There might be something in here for me.

This happened to me recently when I, on my usual walk to the train, passed by this construction site that has been going on for months: broken up concrete, rebar, bricks, rubble and a flimsy chain-link fence between all the mayhem and the sidewalk.  But on that day, I noticed the beautiful, volunteer clematis vine making what looked like it’s impossible weaving way up the fence!  No one planted this!  Against all odds, here was beauty and life amidst rubble and destruction.

Here’s my point: I’d been walking, my mind filled with concern and worry about the bad news I was waiting to hear about my husband’s health.  Against all odds here was my sign of beauty and hope and the impossible, right in plain sight of ugliness and destruction.  God was speaking to me about resurrection hope.

But, look what happens in the text after Moses chooses to turn aside:

When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him…(Ex. 3: 4).

God wants to make sure that he’s got your attention before he speaks a word to you.

Finally, think about this: Moses may have never become a leader if he hadn’t been attentive to God’s invitation.

Practice being more attentive.  Before large group begins take a look around the room. Really see people.  Be attentive to agitation, guilt, and energy at your leadership meetings. Give yourself more time to get to class.  Don’t be in such a rush to get places.  Take time in prayer to listen to God, just don’t talk at him. Keep your ears and eyes open.

Next time: A tried and true method to improve your attentiveness.


Start Leading: Intentionality – Carolyn Carney

Every week in this space I will offer some thoughts to aid you in your own spiritual formation as a leader.  You invest a lot of time and energy and money into your college education.  (And for that matter, you invest a lot of time and energy and money into gaming and caffeine consumption and staying in touch with your friends!)  Professors give careful thought and consideration regarding the components you will need in order to master the course content they are teaching.  Have you given careful thought to what components you need in order to be spiritually formed into the image of Christ or are you just making it up as you go along? 

Spiritual formation is not simply what happens at a conference like Basileia or Expedition or the Big Event.  Spiritual formation centers around the steps you intentionally take toward Christlikeness in between those conferences and all that time outside of Christian gatherings and worship services.  Leadership is a context for your spiritual formation.


Intentionality.  It is how leaders live.  In the first chapter of Mark, after a very long day of ministry where Jesus teaches with authority, casts out demons, calls disciples and heals an entire town, he retreats to a place of prayer.  Rising from that time of prayer—a consultation, if you will, with the One who leads him—Jesus emphatically says to Simon, “Let us go on….so thatfor that is what I came out to do.”  Let us, so that, for—small words, big impact.  Jesus comes out of this time with a clear intention, a decisive direction, a specific purpose.  He’s not making this up as he goes along or just doing what he feels like doing; he is always purposeful and intentional.

Part of being formed into the image of Christ, means that I endeavor to become more intentional and I ask God to help build this in me.  How can intentionality become a spiritual practice for us as leaders?

Here are some examples of intentionality a leader can take after a large group meeting:

  • Meet 3 new people.  Ask good, opening up questions, like, What happened for you when the speaker talked about ______________? Or What is your faith background?
  • Affirm and thank the speaker.  Ask what observations he or she has about the chapter.
  • Give verbal feedback to anyone who’s been upfront: one thing positive that they did, one thing they can improve.
  • Jot down some notes you want to bring up at the next leadership meeting.
  • Find one current member who seems to be “off”, not interacting, aloof.  Find out what’s up or delegate to someone else.  The key is to notice.
  • Ask if you can pray with someone who is in need or has responded to an invitation.

This week practice intentionality in your conversations, in your commitments, in your studying, in your leading others.  Notice what happens, both in you and in others when you are intentional.

Lord, Jesus we are sorry for handling so casually matters that are important to you and the building of your kingdom.  As we learn to practice intentionality in our leadership, will you grant to us a more purposeful mindset—to stay the course, until you lead us to the next thing? 

Question: Share the context in which you intend to act intentionally for the sake of mission his week in the comments.