Though it may sound strange to modern ears, the business world has witnessed a growing interest in spirituality in the workplace. Thus Marquardt and Berger list “Spirituality” as one of the qualities of a successful global leader. They write:
Many cutting-edge leaders are helping their companies set off on spiritual journeys that are attempts to create a sense of meaning and purpose at work and a connection between the company and its people (p. 26).
Many religious leaders and theologians will cringe at the shallowness of this definition of spirituality. Yet, the trend is real and may be an indicator that companies are seeing people as more than tools for their use.
There is an interior dimension to human nature that is the seat of our motivations, values, fears, and dreams. Employees who can find a connection between their job and their deepest spiritual aspirations will be happier and more productive employees.
So, where does Jesus stand as a global leader based on this criterion? I don’t think we will find many who would argue against the idea that Jesus was a supurb spiritual leader. That is one quality that is almost universally attributed to Jesus Christ.
From what we can tell from the written testimonies of those who knew him, spirituality and ethics were central to everything Jesus did and everything he taught. His teachings are filled with the conviction that the spirit dimension animates the physical world. He said to the Samaritan woman:
The time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth (John 4:23–24, NLT).
Jesus opposed all forms of mechanistic religion that sees spirituality as performing a set of routines and ceremonies. Spirituality for Jesus was what happens when the focus of one’s life becomes seeking the invisible God and working to bring to fruition His purposes.
He envisioned a community that would value the intangible dimensions of life. This is the central point of his interaction with the Samaritan woman and to every conversation recorded in the gospels (John 4:7-38).
Jesus helped his disciples find purpose and meaning in life through their inner connection with God. He knew the quality of the inner lives of his disciples would be crucial to their success. Much of his ministry was focused on teaching the skills necessary to develop this inner quality.
He preached against the materialistic perspective of the world whose only focus was what to wear and what to eat.
So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need (Matthew 6:31–33, NLT).
This is spirituality as Jesus defined it: not a feeling of euforia one achieves by emptying the mind, but a life aligned with the Spirit who governs the universe.
Yes, Jesus excelled as a spiritual leader. Again, we find he meets the standards for global leadership.
Marquardt, Michael J., and Nancy O. Berger. Global Leaders for the 21st Century. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2000.
Tyndale House Publishers. Holy Bible: New Living Translation. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2013.