When I first considered this verse, my initial response was that Paul was being pretty egotistical: “Look at me! Do what I do!” I have come to realize that Paul was justified in exhorting his readers to follow his example. He was writing to people who had probably seen only one practicing Christian believer and that was Paul himself.
If we are going to grow spiritually, we need models and guides who will assist us along the way. When we seek such help, we are looking for spiritual direction. Spiritual direction has a long history in the Christian church. For centuries, men and women have sought out mature Christians who could help them to grow in Christ. In such a relationship, the one giving spiritual direction is providing both information and accountability.
Spiritual direction takes many forms today. It may be provided by a person who serves as a mentor or spiritual director, helping the believer to discover where he or she is on the Christian journey and providing the instruction or reflection to encourage growth in the life of faith. There individuals who have taken the time to be trained as spiritual directors and they make themselves available as spiritual guides to others.
Sometimes this person is called a “soul friend,” one with whom the disciple can be open and candid. In the Celtic tradition, the soul friend was not only a guide but a person to whom one might confess their sins and shortcomings. One approach similar to this that is used in modern times is peer coaching where two individuals meet regularly to encourage one another and hold each other accountable.
Various kinds of accountability groups can fill the same purpose, providing a place for the believer to practice faithfulness and to encourage others as well.
A leader must find a place where he or she can not only learn the practices of the faith but be held accountable for their practice as well. Whether this is done with another person or with a trusted group, finding spiritual direction is key to being an effective leader.
Consider these questions as you think about spiritual direction:
- Is there anyone in my life who knows the truth about me?
- Do I have sufficient relationships with spiritual mentors or soul friends to keep me accountable for my spiritual journey?
- Am I willing to submit myself to spiritual guidance?