When I was sixteen my parents went to a conference with John Wimber. During the course of the conference my dad went forward to get prayed over by Wimber. By all accounts it was an amazing experience for him. My dad was a mistake, or at least that is what his mother repeatedly told him as he grew up. He was born ten years after his only sibling at a time when his mother thought she was done with kids. Shortly after he was born his parents got a divorce, his father moved to the other side of the state and his mother married a man that was physically and emotionally abusive to both him and his mother. She would stay with that man until my dad was big enough to stand up for the both of them. Needless to say, my dad did not have a great father figure to look up to, so when he became a father he emulated the father he knew. He was not physically abusive, but he was (and is) a harsh man. When my dad went up for prayer that day, he says that he finally experienced fatherly love and was cleansed of the shame he felt all those years. He came home a changed man and I knew it because he hugged me, something he had never done in the sixteen short years of my life. There was an expectation that he was now a new person, but he was not, he would return to old patterns after a couple weeks except now he was considered more spiritual by the people that went to the conference with him.
Simon P. Walker is a researcher at Bristol University. He established the research field of Cognitive Steering. Walker’s Undefended Leader Trilogy explores what it means to be a leader that is not constrained by their steering biases – those unconscious forces that cause us to act in particular ways. He explores the ability of people to lead freely and how that makes them better leaders. In the first book “Leading Out of Who You Are” he explores the biases that hold leaders back from being undefended.
In the church we often lift up those people who have had spiritual experiences as if the experience makes that person laudable without regard to anything else. I saw this first hand with my dad. The problem is that all too often the experience comes and goes without any follow up. Walker would likely agree with me that there is a problem with having an experience of the Father and then expecting the experience to suffice. With every experience there is a call to the deep work of solidifying the results of that experience.
In providing us these experiences God’s hospitality is inviting us into a deeper relationship with her. God is saying, I have made space for you to dig deeper — come and dwell with me. We miss a tremendous opportunity in not taking God up on this offer. It is in this time that God allows is providing space for us to work on the forces that have caused us to be who we have become and refine what was provided in the experience.
As people of God we need to provide that space for those experiencing God to dwell in what God is calling them to rather than simply lifting them up for having an experience. Leadership often means knowing when a person is ready to be lifted up and when they are not. Inviting those we lead into the space provided by God will help us to see more fully realized followers of Christ.