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  • Writer's pictureTom Mohr

Rising Leader Series: Week 6 - Leadership and the Holy Spirit

Updated: Feb 25, 2023


Thank You, Holy Spirit, for salvation

In You I cast off all of my reserve

You are my courage, strength, determination

I’m ready to be called; prepared to serve

This day will surely offer its surprises

Its twists and turns will be beyond control

But still, above them all Your Spirit rises

For You are now the captain of my soul

I fly on the wings of Your renewal

When I am down and troubled, You are there

You fill me with a holy fiery fuel

That lights in me an “I can do this” prayer

Boldly, bravely I will enter this day

Ready to conquer what e’er comes my way

Rising Leader,

If you ever visit San Francisco, try to make time for Coit Tower, at the top of Telegraph Hill. It offers a stunning view of the city, with the Golden Gate Bridge, the Bay Bridge and Alcatraz as backdrop. But a special visual gem hides within the tower itself. As you stroll around the inside hallway that encircles the building, you will find its walls adorned with expansive murals, painted in the thirties in primitive style by the artist Diego Rivera. These masterpieces evoke the beauty and struggle of daily life.

Here at the beginning of February, Coit Tower comes to mind as I ponder how to introduce the next few weeks’ letters.

I feel what I’ve shared with you so far is much like Rivera’s murals: big, expansive, not too detailed. The world is in crisis. There’s an urgent need for capable, ethical leaders to rise up. Science offers great power, but it is ethically neutral-- it can be leveraged for good or ill. Which is why the ethical state of humanity’s leaders is now so vital to our future. How to cultivate leader goodness? Goodness emerges from soul work. A centered soul will naturally rise to the seven “disciplines of goodness” that can save us: piety, decency, civility, charity, democracy, diplomacy and sustainability. It all starts with piety-- our relationship with God. As Christians, we conceive of God in three persons-- God the Father, God the Spirit, and God the Son. In the first four letters, we explored God the Father. This is the mural we’ve painted so far.

Yes, goodness emerges from piety. It is here we now need to go deeper-- to paint a more detailed picture. In the series introduction letter a few weeks ago, I promised to organize this series of letters broadly into four quarterly themes: “Who is God?”, “Who am I?”, “Where’s the Need?” and “What’s my Call?”. All four of these themes touch on piety.

Over the past few weeks, I painted a Sistine Chapel picture of God the Father: God as supreme moral force, God as Creator, God as immanent (a luminous love energy humming within us and all things), God as transcendent (Alpha and Omega; beyond space and time). Today, and for the next three weeks, we will walk the next stage of our trinitarian journey. We'll journey with the Holy Spirit, as revealed in the symbols of fire, wind, water and oil. These are the four Biblical manifestations of the Holy Spirit.

Let's start with fire. Allow me to share a story.

A couple of years ago I joined a Christian ministry team on a weekend retreat inside a maximum-security prison. I was on the music team. Inside that prison, my job was to play music for twenty-two prisoners seeking healing for their souls. On the morning of day one, my teammates and I were led by guards past the gates, across Yard C and into the gym at the far end. As the retreatants began to stream in, I was ashamed to find both fear and prejudice rising in my throat. My stilted “hello” convicted me. I wasn’t seeing these men. I was seeing “prisoner”.

It left me troubled. As I picked up my guitar for the first song, the words pierced: “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me…” I realized it was I who was wretched: I needed that grace.

And then I began again. I really met, in the encountering sense, JoVon. Big. Darion. Harold. Blix. Pepe. Ron. Davide. I heard their stories. I felt their brokenness, their regrets, their yearning for forgiveness-- their yearning for God’s love. I saw and shed tears. Come Sunday morning, as the sun played through a window high above me, the light displayed a cross-shadow on the wall. I felt the fire of the Holy Spirit surrounding it and me.

Yes, Spirit God came roaring in that weekend-- like a holy fire. As one retreatant shared on that last day, “My soul was parched like a dying plant, shriveled on the ground. But it’s watered now. I’m growing in the sun again.”

Right now, right in front of me as I write to you, I have on my desk the white baseball cap I wore on that retreat. Short notes are scribbled on it, in various magic marker colors: “Thank you for this life changing event in my life-- Big.” “May God be with u 4ever-- Davide.” “God is good all the time-- Blix.” “May YOU stay 4eva Blessed!-- Pepe.” “God bless you brother-- Ron.” “Remember! If you inspire just one person to come to God, it’s worth it.-- JoVon.” “Thank you for giving us your love!-- Harold.”

It changed me. COVID came knocking the week after our retreat. The prisons were shut down. Within our ministry team I offered to initiate a monthly letter, written to all the retreatants-- my small continuing contribution to the work. I, a self-described leader, realized I was really just another sinner who needed grace-- just like the guys all around me. That insight freed me to become a leader again, a servant leader, in my own small way.

Rising leader, I mention this simply as one example of how, in our piety-- in our budding relationship with God-- we might discover Him in Spirit form, shining firelight so we can see our true selves. Imperfect though we are, he whispers to us: “You are loved. Just the way you are.” And that changes us. As we welcome the fire of His love into our hearts, Spirit leads soul back to original goodness. The kind of goodness that can save humanity. When Spirit fire touches ours hearts, our goodness rises like a flame.

Leadership is expressed in a set of daily, practical actions. There is a right way to mobilize and optimize change. But change towards what end? For whom? With whom? The kind of leadership our world needs is servant leadership. It all comes down to your soul– to your goodness. That’s the beginning of everything. And so, good leader, you are called to make a candle of your heart. Let Spirit God, by the fire of His love, set you alight from the inside out.

Next week, we will seek out the Holy Spirit in wind-- blowing change into our souls.

“If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,’ yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? In the same way, faith also, if it has no works, is dead” -- James 2:15-17

In Spirit and fire, your pen pal...


(For past letters and songs go to: To add people to the mailing list, click here.)

Previous Weeks' Letters:

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