This is the first part of a five-part series of blogs that chronicle the journey of a cohort of business leaders who together pursued deeper relationships with God and the integration of the resulting spiritual transformation in their personal lives into their roles as leaders in their businesses, and ultimately into the culture of their businesses as a whole. Click here for more information.

On April 5, 2013, a cohort of business leaders gathered at the Ayres Hotel in Costa Mesa, CA. They were there to participate in the first of a series of six retreats. The retreats were called The Journey and were sponsored by The Leadership Institute, an organization whose goal is to inspire generations of leaders who are equipped to integrate spiritual formation and leadership development. These leaders came to The Journey with varying expectations and hopes, but few were prepared for the powerful and surprising ways in which God would show up during these retreats.

The Journey began over twenty years ago and was designed to be a “catalyst for life and leadership transformation.” Its purpose was to “refresh and inspire leaders who listen to God, follow Jesus’ rhythms of life, and lead from the overflow." Until the spring of 2013, Journey participants had been primarily church and parachurch leaders. But seven years earlier, in 2006, Paul Jensen, the founder and president of The Leadership Institute, had recognized the need and desire on the part of business leaders to participate in a Journey designed specifically for them. After waiting on the Lord for the go ahead to begin such a Journey, in 2013 Paul discerned that the time was right.

Paul’s vision for this Executive Leaders Journey included developing business leaders who “are deeply formed in Christ and who extend God’s transforming grace to others in their worlds out of the overflow of their intimacy with God in imitation of Jesus Christ.” The goal was to transform these leaders’ lives “in such a way that the fullness of this transformation flows into your organization’s leadership team as a whole and ultimately overflows into a transformed organizational culture."

To accomplish this goal, Paul and a team of teachers and mentors from The Leadership Institute focused on four different tracks, which were carefully interwoven: spirituality, leadership, kingdom, and vocation. The spirituality track touched on areas such as living a life of holy unhurry, cultivating holy rhythms of work and rest, and leading through empowerment by grace. Discussion on leadership emphasized the importance of living and functioning as a disciple of Jesus Christ in the workplace by following the three priorities of the Christian life outlined by Jesus in John 13-17 (abiding, loving one another, and bearing witness). The portion of the retreats that dealt with kingdom issues concentrated on the implementation of kingdom ethics in life and vocation through the biblical use of power within the kingdom of God and in opposition to the kingdom of Satan. The vocational track addressed topics such as the theological basis for and various styles of the integration of faith and work, as well as spiritual transformation of and overcoming immunity to change in organizations.

In addition to the information shared in these different tracks during retreat sessions, each retreat included time for the practical implementation of principles presented. For example, each retreat included a block of time for extended personal communion with God, also known as an EPC. These were times of listening to God with respect to personal issues as well as vocational and leadership issues. God’s guidance to various retreat participants received during EPC times led to some of the most significant and enduring discoveries received during the retreats.

The business leaders who were part of this Journey were impacted in unexpected and amazingly transformative ways. The remaining four blogs in this series will feature elements of their stories in the hope of encouraging and inspiring other leaders.