Thoughts, Ideas and Inspiration by Melissa Earley

Leading from the Midst

I wanted to go to the Monday night Bible study the day after Easter. This was remarkable. Easter Monday, as I call it, is usually a treasured day off after the marathon of Holy Week worship services, the work of planning Easter Sunday, the energy expenditure of the larger than normal crowd and then the inevitable let down Easter night. But I didn’t want to miss it.

I suppose a pastor should always want to go to Bible study. We are, after all, the religious nerds of our community, unusually committed not just to our own spirituality but to religious institutions as well. But honestly, I’ve been just as glad as anyone for a break from a long-term study. I’ve felt the glee of a second grader getting a snow day when I’ve cancelled a study because of inclement weather. I look forward to holiday breaks and summer vacation.

One of the dangers of being clergy is the blurring of the lines between what we do for a paycheck and what we do because it is authentically who we are. I’ve gone through periods not sure that I would go to worship if I weren’t paid to be there. I have preached the “Good News” as much to convince myself as to convince the people in the pews. Sometimes I’m not sure if what I am saying is really what I know to be true or just something that sounds good.

To realize I wanted to go to Bible study was a gift. Something is happening for me in that group. I am growing and deepening spiritually. I am the leader of the group, but also a co-participant. We share deeply from our own lives and ask important questions of the text. We take the risk of not sticking with pat answers. We sometimes disagree. I learn from the stories that others share and the wisdom of the gathered community. People share their life experiences, and together we ponder deep questions.

This experience reflects and shapes my leadership. The image of leadership that I most often see lifted up is of someone standing at the front of the pack, a bit at a distance, pointing the way with a confident arm. A strong leader sets the vision and answers to the questions. The leader is never unsure, is always unwavering. These days, I am not leading from the front, I’m somewhere in the middle. I convene the group, make room for questions, share what I know, ask what others know, admit when I’m wrong, confess uncertainty, and trust that the Spirit will move among us and not just with me. I am leading from the midst of the gathered people. Is that really leadership? I’m not sure what the leadership gurus would say, but it feels right to me. And it’s good for my spirit.



  1. Karen

    It is my favorite kind of leadership.
    As always, you inspire.

    • admin

      thanks, Karen.

  2. Susan Weber

    Right on target, Melissa. “Where two or more are gathered….” I feel I have always gained more from others…Or from the experience than from my leadership in various groups and organizations.

    • admin

      thanks, Susan.


  3. Aaron

    I have to say, as Erin and I struggle to find balance between the boys, work, and play, that bible study seems to be a rock in her schedule whenever we bring up what to cut back. Not bad, considering we didn’t go to church just 3 years ago.

    • admin

      It’s a rock in my schedule too. We have something special going on there.

  4. Erin P. Gosser

    I feel the same way about the group, Melissa. Gosser is right: it is a rock that I’m rarely willing to move.

    • admin

      Me too, Erin. It’s been an important part of my life these last 18 months.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

© 2024 Waking Up Earley

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑