Sunday, June 01, 2014

Conditions for Spiritual Leadership

spiritual leadership
Luke 22:24-27:” Now there was also a dispute among them, as to which of them should be considered the greatest. And He said to them, "The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those who exercise authority over them are called 'benefactors.'   But not so among you; on the contrary, he who is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he who governs as he who serves.  For who is greater, he who sits at the table, or he who serves? Is it not he who sits at the table? Yet I am among you as the One who serves”. (NKJV)

We must admit that our society today is in dire need of leaders. This is not news. It has been the case through the centuries whether in secular or sacred realms. In the Scriptures, God is frequently represented as searching for a man of a certain type. In First Samuel 13:14 –it was for “a man after His own heart”. In Jeremiah 4:25 – it was dismay when God said “I beheld and lo there was no man”. In Jeremiah 5:1 It was for a man “that executes judgment, that seeks the truth so that God would pardon” In Ezekiel 22:30 – it was for a man that would “stand in the gap”. When God discovers a man who conforms to His spiritual requirements, despite their obvious limitations, and short-comings there is no limit to what He will do for and through them.

The Church today needs Authoritative, Spiritual and Sacrificial leadership.
  • Authoritative, because people love to be led by one who knows where he is going and who inspires their confidence.
  • Spiritual, because a leader, who is carnal and explainable in terms of the natural, be it ever so competent, can result only in sterility and spiritual bankruptcy. 
  • Sacrificial, because it is modelled on the life of the One who gave Himself for the whole world, and who stated that the path of leadership was by the lonely road to sacrificial service.

What is the Nature of Leadership?  

If we are to become leaders it will be because we can show the way to others, the way which we have successfully trodden ourselves. We can lead others only so far as we ourselves have gone, and we are leaders only to the extent that we inspire others to follow us. Because, a leader is qualified he can secure the cooperation of others in achieving some work for God.

Leadership is not so much the result of the force of own personality, potent though that may be, but of the welcomed domination of that personality by the Holy Spirit. Because of the Spirit’s unhindered operation, the leader possesses a spiritual authority greater than that of his followers. While the power of his influence is not altogether independent of his natural endowments, it cannot be explained on that level alone, for in many things natural and spiritual leadership are very diverse.

There are a few questions to ask yourself as a spiritual leader:
1. Do I do little things well?
2. Have I learnt the meaning of priorities?
3. How do I use my leisure?
4. Have I got intensity?
5. Have I learnt to take advantage of momentum?
6. Have I got the power of growth?
7. What is my attitude to discouragements?
8. How do I face impossible situations and people?
9. What are my weakest points?

Leadership is essentially the power of one man to influence others. “None of us lives to himself, and no man dies to himself” (Romans 14:7) Both Scripture and experience affirm that none of us can be neutral either morally or spiritually. We leave, on the lives which come within the range of our influence, an indelible impression for good or ill.
The story is told of Dr. John Geddie who went to Aneityuim in 1848, remained there for 24 years. On his tombstone were these words; “When he landed in 1848, there were no Christians; when he left in 1872, there were no heathens.” 
How do you influence those who come in contact with you? Paul, expressing this influence in contact told the Corinthian church; “I am free – all things are right but not all things are expedient. I am free to eat meat but if by my eating meat I cause one for whom Christ died to be offended, I would rather eat no meat.” (First Corinthians 8:13)

What Qualities Of Character Is God Looking For In Potential Leaders?  

Read More: The Man God Uses

The supremely important characteristic is True Spirituality. “He that is spiritual judges (discerns) all things” says Paul in First Corinthians 2:15. In reference to how an erring brother should be treated, Paul further admonished “You who are spiritual restore such an one in the spirit of meekness” (Galatians 6:1) Even for positions of minor leadership the early Church demanded “men ... full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom” (Acts 6:3). Spirituality is the manifestation in the life of the consecrated believer of the power and influence of the Holy Spirit. To be filled with the Spirit is to be controlled by the Spirit. That which takes possession of the mind is said to fill it. In Luke 5:26, the disciples were filled with fear – fear possessed their minds. John 16:6 records that when Jesus told them of his impending departure, His disciples were filled with sorrow; sorrow controlled their minds. Exactly the same word is used in Ephesians 5:18 where we are told to “be filled with the Spirit” A spiritual man is one whose mind and heart and personality are possessed and controlled by the Holy Spirit. Every Spirit filled man is to some degree a Spiritual leader.

The Second quality of character that God is looking for in a potential leader is Humility. He will be a man of deep humility. Jesus in the passage we read from Luke 24-27, gave us His conception of the pathway to leadership. The Gentile kings and leaders might be pompous and proud, but the man who is great in the kingdom of Heaven will be humble like His Master. This man will prefer the pathway of hidden sacrificial service to the adulation of the crowd. “Whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister (servant); and whosoever will be the chief among you, let him be your servant” (Matthew 20:26-27) He will be able to lead the people only in so far as he serves and helps them. The secret which made John the Baptist the greatest of those born of women is found in his own declaration: “He (Christ) must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30)

The humility of the leader as his spirituality will be an ever-increasing quality. It is instructive to note Paul’s growth in this grace as the years went by. Early in his ministry, as he reviewed his unsavoury past, he acknowledged: “I am the least of the Apostles, that I am not meet to be called an Apostle.” (First Corinthians 15:9) Sometime later he volunteered: “I am less than the least of all saints” (Ephesians 3:8). As his life was drawing to a close he mourned: “I am the chief of sinners” (First Timothy 1:15)

The third quality of character that God is looking for in a potential leader/disciple is Self-discipline. The words discipline and disciple come from the same root. Only the disciplined person knows true discipleship to say nothing of leadership. The leader will work while others waste time, pray while others play, study while others sleep; He will observe a soldierly discipline in dress and diet that he might wage a good warfare. He will do the unpleasant task or the hidden duty which others would avoid because it evokes no applause and wins no appreciation. He will not revolt at a discipline imposed from without. There are multitudes who are willing to lead but who are not willing to be lead because they are not willing to obey. A great leader must first prove himself a good and loyal follower of those over him in the Lord. He knows how to be an individual without being individualistic, because he himself is strongly disciplined others will accept his strong discipline.

The fourth quality of character that God is looking for in a potential leader/disciple is Vision. He must be a man of vision. The old prophets were called seers because they had a keener spiritual perception than their contemporaries.

The Spiritual leader sees things clearly as in the light of eternity. Vision is more than sight, or even insight. “It is to see the invisible”. All the Biblical characters who made an indelible impression on their own generation possessed this quality in marked degree. Because the leader sees farther than his followers, he will set the standard high, though this may not always tend to popularity. He will tend to hold them to the highest, and because he sees the ultimate so clearly, he will not permit them to sacrifice the ultimate for the immediate.

The fifth and the final character that God is looking for in the potential leader is Swift and Clear Decision. He must be a man of swift and clear decision. Once sure of the will of God, he will go into immediate action regardless of consequences. Because his aim is single and his motive pure, his decisions are not complex and he does not vacillate. It is the quality of leaders that they can bear to be sat on, absorb shocks, act as a buffer, bear being much plagued ... Moses put up with the complaints and the waywardness and revolt of the people. He pursued a steady course, enduring and seeing Him who is invisible. The wear and tear and the continual friction and trials which come to the servants of God are a great test of character.

How are Leaders Made?

Leaders are not made by mere election or appointment. Spiritual authority cannot be conferred by bishops or Church Boards. Spiritual leaders seldom seek place or position. It usually comes unsought to those who by Spirituality, character and ability have proved themselves worthy of it. They are men who have mastered Jehovah’s counsel to Baruch in Jeremiah 45:5: “And do you seek great things for yourself? Do not seek them; for behold, I will bring adversity on all flesh," says the LORD. "But I will give your life to you as a prize in all places, wherever you go."'" (NKJV) 

Spiritual leadership is not won by promotion, but by many tears and confessions of sin, and humbling and heart-searching and self-surrender; a courageous sacrifice of every idol, a bold uncomplaining and uncompromising embracing of the Cross. It is not gained by seeking great things for ourselves, but like Paul, in counting those things which were gain, loss for Christ. That is a great price, but it must be paid by him who would be a real leader.

Not all who seek leadership are prepared to pay such an exacting price. But God’s grace is sufficient. God’s conditions must be complied with in secret before He will honour a man in public.


  1. The possession of this Spiritual authority will not render a man infallible. Because he is human and compassed with infirmity, he will still be prone to make mistakes. But a genuine mistake is not necessarily sin. It is better to have made an honest mistake than to have attempted nothing for God. Even Apostles appeared at times to make mistakes which God subsequently overruled.
  2. The Spiritual leader is not rendered immune from the operation of natural laws. If he breaks physical laws, he will pay the physical penalty. Many of the holiest and ablest men have temporarily broken down under the almost intolerable burdens they carried. At the end of life, John Knox, the Scottish reformer, lost heart, withdrew from public life and wrote despairingly; “Lord Jesus receive my spirit, and put an end to this miserable life, for justice and truth are not to be found among the sons of men” John Knox with deliberate mind to his God. Compare this with the experience of Elijah or Jonah. It is not without its comfort that the two men who conversed with the Lord on the Mount of Transfiguration both broke down under the strain of their ministry and prayed that they might die.
  3. Spiritual leadership once bestowed is not automatically retained. Samson enjoyed the unlimited power of the Spirit for a long time, and even when he was trifling with the secret of his power. But at last his sin caught up with him. “And he did not know that the Lord had departed from him” (Judges 16:20) Paul entertained no illusions on this score and in his letter to the Corinthians tells them of his fear of being disapproved at the last. (First Corinthians 9:27) This is not loss of salvation.
  4. It appears that God deals more stringently with the sins of a leader than with those of his followers. Since the very nature of his responsibilities keeps him constantly in the public eye as the representative of God, God’s honour is involved in his. For forty years Moses was the focal centre of Israel’s national and religious life. All eyes were on him. All his actions were public actions and hence the severity of God’s dealing with a sin which, at first blush, did not appear so serious.

But there is a blessed complementary truth. Although God deals severely with the erring leader, He also deals severely with those who would challenge the authority of the leader, He has endorsed. When the sons of Korah gathered themselves against Moses and said: “You take too much upon yourselves, for all the congregation is holy, every one of them, and the LORD is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the LORD?" (NKJV) the divine vindication was swift. “And the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, with their households and all the men with Korah, with all their goods. So they and all those with them went down alive into the pit; the earth closed over them, and they perished from among the assembly.  Then all Israel who were around them fled at their cry, for they said, "Lest the earth swallow us up also!" (Numbers 16:32-34) (NKJV) Even when Miriam, Moses elder sister, criticised him for his choice of a wife, God smote her with leprosy which was healed only at Moses’ intercession. A God-appointed Spiritual leader is perfectly safe when, and only when, he walks humbly with his God, for God is very jealous of the authority of those whom He has endorsed.

It remains to be said that leadership often involves loneliness, especially in the work of the kingdom of God. The mental anguish sometimes involved in making a difficult and unpopular decision can be fully known only by those called upon to do it.

Those are the prices you have to pay if you want to be a leader. I wish to ask you at this point: Do you still want to be a leader?

May the Lord help you!

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