Three-in-One Leadership: Creative, Sacrificial, and Transformative

Emman T. Chapman

Leading with love is modeled in the active presence and work of our creative, sacrificial, and transformative Three-in-One God.

Shalom!! That has been my heart’s cry for as long as I can remember, although I did not always have that Hebrew word for “peace” to describe it. At the age of three my parents divorced. My sister and I stayed with our mom. My biological father all but disappeared. Like any child, I loved my dad and missed him deeply. My mom told me of times in the first couple of years, when I looked longingly out the front window of our house, desperate for him to come see me. But he never did. I saw him only a handful of times after the divorce.

The most recent time was almost 20 years ago. I rode an emotional roller coaster of loving and wanting to see him to hating him and never wanting to see him again. My father’s rejection of me created a deep-seated shame within me. I blamed myself. I thought there was something wrong with me. I was not good enough for my own father. I was broken and unlovable. At the same time, I longed to be loved. I felt a huge void in my life and desperately needed to fill it. My mother poured as much as she could into me. But she could not replace my dad or heal the hurt that I felt in my heart because he abandoned me. His absence continued to mold and shape me throughout my childhood, adolescence and into early adulthood.

My life’s goal has been to find shalom, a peace that only exists in a deep sense of well-being and right relationship with self, others and God. I need to know and experience a love that offers a genuine self-worth that cannot be shaken or taken. Along life’s journey I have looked for shalom in a lot of places and people. All of those places and people resulted in more hurt for me as well as for others. Eventually, I found the love I was looking for in Jesus. And for the past 30 years I have been on a journey led by the love of God into my own worth and lovableness in Christ. Daily, the Holy Spirit leads me, in love, farther into peace.

As a husband, father, pastor, mentor, counsellor, and friend I have influence in a lot of people’s lives. I am seen as a leader and guide toward a vision of well-being and peace. I am responsible, and accountable, for the impact my leadership has on the people around me. I can honestly say that my deepest longing for all people is shalom. I want us all to experience, express, and expand God’s Kingdom of well-being and right relationships by being transformed through the love of God. I want only to lead people into that space of grace and peace. But how do I do that? How do I lead others as God leads?

In looking back over my life, I can see God’s presence throughout my journey. God was with me through my Mom. God was with me through my friends, teachers, family, and even pets. God was with me wherever I felt love, courage, comfort, encouragement, acceptance, strength and hope. Ultimately, I believe God’s presence is the key. God-With-Us reminds us that we are not alone, that we are deeply loved by the Creator of all things, and that we are worth God’s time, efforts, and sacrifice. To genuinely find rest in God-With-Us is to truly experience well-being and right relationship that fills us with a worth and love from which we cannot be separated.

As leaders, we are called to be with others in the particular way God is with us. God is not just sitting there and watching. But God is not controlling us either. We find God’s way of actively present love in the unique works of the Trinity, our Three-in-One God. God is actively present with a Three-in-One Love that is creative, sacrificial and transforming.

As we see in the Genesis creation stories, God the Father creates spaces of right relationships between all people, animals, plants and God. God creates space in which God enters to spend time with creation. And in these spaces, we are free to love and be loved. We are free to make choices. Even choices to reject God’s space and break our relationship with God. Throughout the Old Testament, we see that God continues to create space after space and opportunity after opportunity for all people to come back into right relationship with themselves, each other, and God. God never stops creating space for people. God never abandons us.

In the gospels, God the Son humbly pours out his status as God in order to be born and live among us in the space God the Father creates. God the Son is Jesus the Christ, Emmanuel, God-With-Us. Jesus embodies love because God is Love (1 John 4:7-21). Hebrews 1 and Colossians 1 tell us that Jesus is the exact revelation of God’s fullness and character. In his birth, life and death, we see God, who is love. A love that is present, sacrificial, honouring, compassionate, embracing, encouraging, and empowering. Jesus ultimately expresses the love of God in his willingness to be vulnerable to rejection and crucifixion at the very hands of those he came to love.

In the book of Acts and throughout the epistles of the New Testament, we see the active presence of God’s love in the work of the Holy Spirit. When people enter into the space created by God the Father and experience the sacrificial love of God the Son, they begin to open up their hearts, minds and bodies to the transforming work of God the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit renews willing minds and sanctifies willing hearts, transforming people into new creations compelled by Love, who is God. People begin the journey toward perfection in love as God the Father is perfect in love (Matthew 5:43-48).

I affectionately call my Uncle Dan, Superman. I was four years old, around a year after my father abandoned me, when my Uncle Dan took me to see the original Superman movie at the theatre. A couple of my earliest memories are of holding his hand as we walked into the theatre and the scene of baby superman in the capsule being hurled toward earth, where he would be embraced and loved by someone other than his biological father. Throughout my life, Uncle Dan continued to create space for me in his life. And in that space, he actively loved me and helped me to feel like I was worthy.

As a young adult, I met with him and talked about the challenges of life. Even when I made bad choices (and I made many), he made time for me, listened to me, loved me and encouraged me. He has been, and still is, a consistent presence of worth and love in my life. His influence is a large part of who I am today. And throughout our sharing of life together, Uncle Dan has allowed himself to be influenced and impacted by my presence in his life. He allows me to inspire and encourage him in his life and ministry. I know and experience shalom when I am with Superman.

In my Uncle Dan I see and experience the love of God. He has led me by creating spaces of grace for me, sacrificially loving me in those spaces, and allowing the Holy Spirit to work freely in those spaces to influence and transform us both in the process. This is what it looks like to lead with God’s love. We create space for others without oppressive expectations or rules. Spaces that are open to all people, regardless of who they are, who they were, or who they are becoming. We embody the sacrificial love of Christ in those spaces. We do not judge or shame others. We are patient, compassionate, gentle, honoring, and sacrificial. We seek to help others see their beauty and potential that God has created within them. Our active presence has the single aim of revealing to all people that they are beloved and worthy children of God. We trust the Holy Spirit to transform us and everyone else in those spaces. We let the Holy Spirit do the saving and renewing of people through right relationships that meet each person at their own brokenness and love each person toward freedom and healing in their own time.

If we lead with Three-in-One Love, then we will see the fruit of transformed people leading in the same way; by creating spaces, embodying sacrificial love, and participating in the transformation of others and themselves along the way. And thus, the Kingdom of God’s Shalom is continuously experienced, expressed and expanded.

Emman T. Chapman is an Ordained Elder in the Church of The Nazarene. He is currently pastoring in Brisbane, Australia at Place of Peace Church of The Nazarene, a member of the ANWD Missional/District Superintendency Team and of the Board of Trustees for Nazarene Theological College – Brisbane. He earned a M.Div. from NTC-Brisbane and a master’s degree in Counselling from Trevecca Nazarene University.

To purchase the book from which this leadership essay comes, see Open and Relational Leadership: Leading with Love.

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