I am very ready to give credence to those who have great learning. For even if they have not themselves experienced these things, men of great learning have a certain instinct to prompt them. As God uses them to give light to His church, He reveals to them anything that is true so that it shall be accepted; and if they do not squander their talents, but are true servants of God, they will never be surprised at His greatness, for they know quite well that He is capable of working more and still more. (Teresa of Avila: Fifth Mansions: Chapter One)
A few years ago we visited Israel. Our tour guide and 60-year resident of Israel shared his perspective on Rabbis: “They’ve become too focused on raising money and running the synagogue”. When he was young, the Rabbi was a wise person that provided valuable insight on nearly any subject. Some Christians also feel church leaders have left their role as wise guides. While they believe good management skills are important, they reject the tunnel vision of numerical growth and programming at the expense of spiritual guidance. They correctly understand a quality spiritual leader is essential to individual and community growth.
Here are some attributes to look for in a quality spiritual leader:
- They have a large vision of God’s power to renew and restore.
- They’ve been transformed through their own suffering.
- They possess wisdom and insight applicable to nearly any area of life.
- They have a strong sense of self: confidence, humility, and self-knowledge.
- They esteem human dignity and “ordinary” life.
Fortunately, we can still find wise spiritual leaders. And they play an important role in authenticating our mystical experiences. Teresa says God uses them “to give light to His church”. They may not have the same mystical experiences as we do — or any at all. But a quality spiritual leader sees God at work and is “never surprised by His greatness”.