Spiritual Leadership
(a Leaders' Nook interview with Miriam Phillips)

Miriam Phillips

Miriam, as you give spiritual leadership to a church in transition, the demands on you are huge. What strategies are helping you to keep from getting buried under all the demands?
Remembering who I work for helps. I work primarily for God and the best thing I can do as I give spiritual leadership to others is to keep in close contact with the One who's directing my steps.

I've learned that God's voice needs to be louder than any other voice in my life. This seems logical, but doesn't always happen without some intentionality. I've never had so many people think that my serving the church gives them the right to determine how I use my time or arrange my priorities. Sometimes I need to listen compassionately and then take the concerns of others as input to take to God, rather than as more that I should demand of myself.

I always have urgent things on my list that someone is waiting on to be able to move ahead. The voice of undone responsibilities can both drown out God's voice and douse the light of the joy of the Spirit in my heart. I remind myself regularly that I'm the one who needs to set limits for myself.

You have the gift of being a calm, non-anxious presence in stressful settings. What is your secret?
One of the most important things I can do to lead well and fruitfully is to not let my judgment be influenced by my inner anxieties or by the anxieties of others. Fears, insecurities, resentments and triggers of every kind--mine and those of others--flaw the discernment process. Whatever isn't of faith is sin, and I need to proactively deal with these lack-of-faith issues. This is especially important now that my sphere of influence is wider than ever before.

Separating my identity from my leadership role makes me less vulnerable to these triggers. This is crucial and is real spiritual work for me. Soaking in God's Word in a contemplative way, praying, journaling and reflecting are all ways that soak my soul free from the attachment to anything but Christ alone and my identity as his child. Detachment from the influences that pull me away from hearing God's voice enables me to freely use the gifts of spiritual leadership God has given me.

I know that I am leading well when I am given the grace to be one of the least anxious people in the room at any given time. This is a journey…one that I will be on for the rest of my life. The Leader's Journey outlines these thoughts better than I ever could.

What spiritual practices are helping you to maintain a healthy soul?
It is a part of the rhythm of my week to fast from working--Sabbath moments. Besides giving me needed rest and time with my family, it is a message to myself that fulfilling my responsibilities isn't only a matter of working harder and smarter. Spiritual leadership is a matter of relying on the power of God to do 'abundantly more than I could ask or think'. It is his work--even as he is working through me. Sabbathing is my statement to myself about this.

Also, when I have something that is really hard for me to do, I try to pray and tank up spiritually until the Lord gives me the grace to WANT to tackle it. Pushing ahead on a sense of obligation alone depletes my spiritual resources. When I'm really stuck, either due to own motivation or circumstances, fasting is often God's tool to "break every chain" and free me and the resources to accomplish God's purposes.

How has your devotional life developed recently?
I've been learning to make more space in my life to experience God's presence. I'm also more conscious of bringing the people and tasks I am responsible for into God's presence. This way of interceding is fruitful ground for God to show me what I need to know, and has become essential as my leadership responsibilities have increased.

I'm also learning to let go of unsolvable puzzles and to leave them in God's presence for him to carry and care for. This gift of contemplative spirituality is a discipline which I want to continue to cultivate.

Another area is learning to name my desires before God. It's a spiritual principle that our desires are what really drives us. Therefore its important to know what they are, to bring them to God, and to invite him to shape them.

Miriam Phillips is a few months into her role as Executive Pastor at Crossroads International Church in greater Amsterdam. Her life purpose is to encourage, equip and empower missional leaders and their teams. Her prayer has long been "Lord, bless me fully and increase my capacity and opportunity to bless others." Her pursuit of spiritual formation in recent years has deepened her 'rootedness', and the resulting inner life growth has led to greater fruitfulness in answer to this prayer.

Conversation Prompts:
How does Miriam's wisdom connect with your experience?
What practices or ways of thinking help you to provide spiritual leadership within your job, community or ministry?


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