How Can Leaders Pursue an Integral Life?

In July 2016, Tom Nelson gave a lecture entitled “The Pastor’s Integral Life and Leadership.” While Nelson was specifically addressing pastors, this talk is certainly applicable to leaders, for the sake of their flourishing. Below are selected excerpts from his talk.

In The Beginning

At creation, “God is presented and reveals himself not only as a worker in bara, he creates; but he is integral, fully integral. And he has a sense of an integral creation that is seamlessly connected and beautifully whole. And this integral idea is woven into Genesis 1 and 2.” However, on the heels of Genesis 1-2, is the Fall of Man. Nelson describes our post-Genesis 3 reality this way,

We live in a Humpty Dumpty world. If we look across all the world we see the brokenness of God’s good world. But we not only have a Humpty Dumpty world, we have Humpty Dumpty lives. All of us are deeply broken.

We all acutely experience massive disintegration and brokenness every day. Our lives are far from being integral or whole as God originally designed it at creation.

Where is Hope Found?

Hope is found in God’s description of Noah in Genesis 6:9, “Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God (italics added).” This word, blameless, is often translated, whole. Nelson prefers the term, integral-ness. The dogged pursuit of an integral life is a precursor to flourishing leadership because “leadership is an overflow of our [integral] life.”

What does this pursuit look like?

This pursuit of an integral life begins with accepting God’s invitation to intimacy with him. God utters two imperatives to Abraham in Genesis 17:1, “walk before me, and be blameless.” “Walk before me” is God’s invitation to Abraham for intimacy with him. Flowing directly from this face-to face-intimacy with God is his command to Abraham to “be blameless” (or be integral). God is going to make Abraham an integral human being. “The life we long to live, the life you and I were designed to live as people, as image bearers, the pattern of that life is laid out profoundly in Torah, and it centers in this integral life.”

Following this invitation for intimacy and restoration of integral-ness is Father Abraham’s meaning and purpose, “I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you” (Genesis 17:5-6). Notice the progression: intimacy to integral-ness to meaning and purpose.

Integral People

This necessity of integral-ness is why “At Made To Flourish, we begin with a foundation that God created us to be integral people. To flourish in intimacy, wholeness, and productivity, and fruitfulness as God designed it. And it is in our own flourishing in Christ and the glorious transformation of the gospel that we too can flourish.”

Flourishing leaders have as their starting point: intimacy with God. Intimacy with God means apprenticing ourselves to Jesus as a pathway to becoming integral persons as our “leadership flows from our own integral growth as a human being.”

Join us at cg2017 October 13 to learn more about how your church can seek the flourishing of all people in your community. Find your city’s simulcast location, or join us in Kansas City, Missouri, for the live event.

Topics: Leadership

About the Author

Luke Bobo serves as director of resource and curriculum development at Made to Flourish. He worked for 15 years in the marketplace as an engineer before earning his M.Div. and Ph.D., eventually serving as the executive director of the Francis Schaeffer Institute at Covenant Seminary.