A Work of Heart is all about how God shapes His spiritual leaders. It looks at the lives of Moses, David, Paul and Jesus. McNeal examines how culture, call, community, communion, conflict and commonplace all play into God shaping some of the greatest spiritual leaders of all time. McNeal uses both Biblical insight and life experience to bring all these elements together in a very practical book with lots of application.
The focus on Biblical characters was a great start to the book because you could see how God used all these elements in these men’s lives to create them into the leader He needed them to be. Growing in spiritual leadership is a process and didn’t happen overnight for these men. Even though stories of their leadership may seem common when told over and over again – it was a good reminder to me that no one showed up on the scene ready for their call because they had it all together. Jesus while being perfect, still had to grow and let God shape him so he could accomplish his call. Sometimes I crave to that final “arrival” where I am the perfect spiritual leader and I’m fully ready for all God has for me. I’m learning that this might never be the case. I might be flawed, I might be scared, I might be overwhelmed and unequipped. This doesn’t matter when I can see how God has prepared those before me and I know He will prepare me for whatever He calls me to do.
The second section of the books focused on the elements that shape us as spiritual leaders. Reading through it, I could see how God had done this for those before me and how He is doing that work in my life now. The art of examination and looking deeply into whom we are and what made us that way is so important to the success of a spiritual leader. McNeal works with many ministers and has seen real life examples of the good and bad in leadership. We must know what has brought us to this point and take a hard look at both the positive and the negative. Once such assessment has been made, the spiritual leader is free of the baggage that might be holding them back from all the potential God sees in them.
The two elements that stood out to me the most were communion and commonplace. The chapter on communion really challenged the spiritual leader in spending time with the Lord and letting Him shape their life through His constant presences and influence. In a world full of noise and activity, it is easy to drown out of the voice of God. I struggle with this myself. So many commitments fill my time and steal away that private encounter with God. Cell phones, laptops, email, text messaging make us constantly available to others, but are making ourselves available to God? The practice of communion with God is the strongest element in my opinion to sustain a leader in ministry. Without that influence and presence, I am working in my own strength which won’t get me all that far in life.
The second element of commonplace is another one that I have more recently discovered. God grows us in the commonplace activities of life. There is a lot to be said of being faithful in the small things. I know that even in the ordinary and every day, God has a plan for me. I have an opportunity with each new day and each new moment to serve my Maker and glorify Him. This could be as simple as a kind word or what seems like a small sacrifice. God grows character in those moments and prepares us for the bigger things that lay ahead. Ministry is not glitz and glamour, but it is being faithful with what the Lord has given to you.
I would recommend A Work of Heart to any leader. It was so good to evaluate where you are and see how God is shaping you. For a young leader, this book could help you set out on a balanced path and avoid the pitfalls of those who have come before you. For a seasoned leader, this book can give you the direction to get back on track and reclaim lost ground. No time or season is wasted if God’s glory can be seen in growth and life change. McNeal will walk you through the many elements that shape spiritual leaders and you will find that God has been shaping you for a very unique purpose.