Leadership Lessons

English is a strange language. You have words which sound the same but mean something entirely different! ‘Wear’ and ‘were’, ‘Hear’ and ‘here’, ‘write’ and ‘right’, ‘whether’ and ‘weather’. It’s a wonder that so many people choose to speak the language!

And it can be the same in Christian life. We hear the word ‘Leader’ and we can think about the Leadership courses we’ve had to undertake in our workplaces, or the leadership shown by a team coach in the Ryder Cup or Rugby World Cup on our TVs so recently. But God’s leaders, Spiritual Leaders, are something quite different. In a way we shouldn’t be surprised – God’s Kingdom isn’t a Kingdom of this world (Jn 18:36), and God’s ways are not our ways (Is 58:8).

Godly Leaders

So what does a Godly Leader look like? Here are some characteristics we find in God’s word:

Shepherd (1 Pet 5:2)

Peter commanded the Elders of the early church to “Shepherd the flock”. It is an apt term – Jesus was the Good Shepherd (Jn 10:11), leading the flock through good times and difficult (Ps 23), leading us rather than forcing, looking for the one ‘lost sheep’, protecting the flock, gentle yet strong. Ezekial 34 contrasts God’s good shepherding with bad/careless shepherds (and our right behaviour as ‘sheep’!), calling God’s leaders to be good shepherds of His flock.

Servant (Mk 10:45)

Jesus did not come to be served but to serve. When he stooped to wash his disciples feet they were offended – they thought a great leader shouldn’t behave like that. But we are told that we should have the same mind as Christ, who became a servant for our salvation (Phil 2:4-7).

Selfless (1 Cor 10:33)

Paul said “I am not seeking my own good, but the good of many, that all may be saved.” Spiritual Leadership is above all about God’s Kingdom, His glory and His purposes. As John the Baptist said “He must increase, I must decrease” (Jn 3:30), and this is the heart of every spiritual leader.

Sacrificial (Jn 10:11)

Paul said “I will very gladly spend for you everything I have and expend myself as well” (2 Cor 12:15), following Jesus’ example: “The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep” (Jn 10:11) Spiritual Leadership will never be about what we gain, but what is given up for His sake, and in doing so Spiritual Leaders point to Jesus who gave up all for us.

Sincere (2 Cor 1:12)

Paul noted that none of his ministry could be pointed out as self-seeking, motivated by anything other than love for God and His people. Sincerity is about being the same no matter where someone looks in your life. Spiritual leaders are to be examples (1 Cor 11:1) and the life of spiritual leaders should shine for Jesus in every part – Jesus as Lord over all.

In a word: Jesus – Spiritual Leadership comes from looking like, leading like Jesus.

In a word: Jesus – Spiritual Leadership comes from looking like, leading like Jesus.

Oh, and one more:

Spirit Led (Num 11:17)

When Moses was told to appoint leaders, God said he would put a portion of the Spirit which Moses had upon the Leaders. In Acts 6, when Deacons were selected the church were asked to look for people “known to be full of the Spirit”. We look at the nature of the Spiritual Leader, given above, and say ‘I can’t do that’. But that’s the thing we need to realise: I can’t do that, but God can … we can only be Spiritual Leaders in His power! And He is able.


So Spiritual Leadership is so different from leadership in the world. The goal is God’s glory (Mt 5:14-16); the result is the growing of God’s Kingdom; the means is the Gospel; the power is God’s Spirit; the way is as God’s servant; the motivation is God-given love and the path is the Cross. Good leaders in the world rarely make Godly leaders in His Kingdom. “The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the tearing down of strongholds” (2 Cor 10:4). The big Spiritual Leadership lesson is therefore simple – to lay down all we believe we have in terms of leadership skills, and sit at Jesus’ feet so we can learn to be leaders from Him. And He will equip and enable those who seek to serve as His Spiritual Leaders.