Discerning Spiritual Challenges

Discerning and Addressing Spiritual Challenges, Part 1

You can’t solve a leadership problem simply by praying more
You can’t solve a spiritual challenge with leadership savvy or charisma alone.

We know that every challenge is a “spiritual” issue in the sense that there is a spiritual interface or component to everything. For example, money is a spiritual issue.

But I find it helpful, in the intensity of life and ministry to identify if an issue or some component of the issue is primarily a technical issue or a spiritual issue.

For example, let’s say the worship/music in church one Sunday is “not good.” Is that a technical issue or spiritual issue?

Well, if the worship team or tech crew is incompetent, ungifted, that’s a technical problem. The fix is a technical fix.

But if the worship team does not consist of worshippers, you have primarily a spiritual issue and the solution, while it may include leadership action, is a spiritual solution: Your team needs to be transformed into worshippers, starting with Romans 12.1-2, offering themselves completely to the Lord.

Every ministry, and most ministry challenges are a mix of both spiritual and technical. But if “our only (or best) tool is a hammer” (for example leadership skills, organization skills, teaching ability) we will see every problem as primarily a nail, that is, as needing the solution we best offer.

One of my mentors in transitional ministry discovered that one of the long term elders in the church wasn’t a believer, and may in fact have been demonized. Yes, this is both a leadership/technical AND spiritual issue, but it was primarily a spiritual one requiring a spiritual solution.

So, how do you discern when something is primarily a spiritual challenge?

In most transitional assignments I’ve taken, I’ve developed unique physical symptoms from loss of sight, to extreme tinnitus, to choking at night to digestive problems. You should recognize these as all being possibly stress related, but they can also, and in some places did have a significant spiritual component.

Here’s a suggestion: Recognize that in addition to the universal governance, leadership, relational and organizational challenges every church and ministry faces, there will be a strong spiritual component.

My basic prayer in a transitional ministry is “Lord, help me to see what I need to see to do what I’m called to do. Please bring to the surface what needs to surface.” And I’ve found that he answer this prayer in specific and surprising ways.

The history of the church you are serving in is a significant discernment tool. Often there are patterns, both events and people that keep showing up.

There is also a spiritual gift which we often refer to as “discernment” but which is in fact discerning of spirits. It’s often useful to have people you know with that unique gifting that you can call on.

On the personal level, if you are finding unusual pressure in your areas of personal weakness, deepening discouragement, confusion, fear, relational breakdowns, illogical “blind side” conflicts you may well be facing a spiritual challenge.

On the church or organizational level, if you see many of those same things in the Body, or identify long term sin patterns, notice a high incidence of physical ailments in leadership, or an overall deadness and lifelessness, you may well be facing a spiritual challenge.

How do we address these challenges? See Part 2, coming soon.

Also see episodes 82 and 83 in the podcast.

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