Standing 6 feet, 5 inches tall, Mike Cather is easily located in a crowd. The former college basketball player is a full-time farmer, father, husband and long-time lay leader at Anthony United Methodist Church, in Harper County, Kansas. Mike has been involved with United Methodist ministry his whole life growing up United Methodist as a child and a youth. He accepted Christ at the age of fifteen while surrounded by his parents, the church community and the pastor of the church at that time. As an adult he serves as a Certified Lay Speaker/Servant, a lay leader in his own congregation and for years served the youth ministry at Anthony United Methodist Church. He has taught Sunday school and led small groups of some kind for almost 30 years in the local church.
Cather defines spiritual leadership as, “A willingness to serve and to be authentic by taking time with people.” He says, “I can be authentic with someone I meet that I’ll never cross paths with again. Authentic spiritual leadership will stand the test of time. You’ve got to be able to listen and not just tell someone how to do it.”
He defines time as one of the biggest factors in effectively being a spiritual leader. It takes time to become a spiritual leader. He states that, “Spiritual leadership can’t be developed in one course over a semester. It takes time to understand the Word and Christian principles and how to incorporate and use it in everyday life.”
One challenge he notes for those in leadership is that we tend to, “cultivate everything except an understanding of the Word and a deep enough understanding of it to apply it in real life.” Without this cultivation, he asks, “How do you deal with the issues of real life – greed, lust and other issues? How do you take those issues and deal with them in your everyday life?”
When asked why spiritual leadership is important to the local church, Cather asks another question, “What sets the church apart from any civic organization? It is natural for us to support one another in these civic organizations but they are unlike the church because they are without spiritual formation and spiritual leadership.”
The importance of the church in people’s lives and their development builds them up and it rearranges their normal priorities and way of life. Cather uses himself as one living example of how important Christ, church, spiritual development and spiritual leadership works in people’s lives. “Why do I get up at 6 o’clock in the morning every Sunday to get the chores done on the farm so I can get to church?”
When asked what three things someone might think of doing if they want to start the journey toward being a spiritual leader, Cather offered these tips:
Find a way to study the Word of God and figure out how it applies to your life. Always remember, trial, error and failures are part of your personal process.
Look and find a group of somebodies who are already doing and being what you aspire to be. Look for a group who gets together regularly who are reading and studying books on Christianity or spirituality. Find someone in your community to follow and learn from. Share with them your interest in following them closely because that’s what Christians do.
Persevere and don’t give up! It’s not whether you’re going to experience loss, you will. It is about how you handle loss. It’s how you bounce back and keep going. It is hard to bounce back after a loss, particularly when it involves the loss of loved ones, friendships and jobs, but, perseverance is a key to continuing your spiritual development.
For spiritual leaders to remain strong and growing, Cather offers these three tips:
Christ has got to be the center of thoughts and how you make decisions. You can’t do it on your own.
Remain in community. Spiritual leadership cannot remain strong unless you yourself remain connected in worship and in a small group.
Cultivate both a passion and willingness to continue to pass on to others the application of what the Word has given to you.
Cather believes spiritual leadership is important because, “It trains and educates the next generation.” He believes, “Some place along the way, we’ve dropped the ball.” Spiritual leadership, “is a way to affirm multiple generations and their spiritual needs.”
He says, “Like the people who took an interest in me and my spiritual development, it’s important for everyone to understand they have a unique role in other people’s lives. It doesn’t matter whether they’re a grandparent or a neighbor; they have a role in spiritual development that can be passed on to others.”
The Rev. Nathan Stanton is coordinator of New Church Development for the Great Plains Conference. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.