Jesus instructed His disciples to build on the foundation which He started by spreading the gospel to every nation in the world [Matthew 28:19-20]. Not only did He issue the command, but He also gave them the assurance that He would be with them continually. While Jesus walked on the earth, He saw the sufferings of mankind in every area of life imaginable. He was often moved with compassion and helped even when not asked. Jesus showed and taught that we can still live in this world with peace of mind which only comes through the divine nature when we have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit [Romans 12:1-2; Titus 3:5; II Peter 1:4].

As we view the world, we can agree that across the globe there are evidence of unrestrained godlessness; emotional and spiritual pain whereby people are seeking some form of outlet that will assist them in obtaining peace and answers. Therefore, they need effective spiritual leadership in the church. Some people may look to science and technology, relationships, philosophies, and various types of ideologies, but none of those can bring about effective change to help anyone find comfort in this troubled world.

Although the Christian pathway is challenging, yet we cannot find any other restorative comfort for mankind, other than the gospel of Jesus Christ. Clearly, Jesus who knows everything informed His disciples to take this message to every nation, and to reach everyone before His return. This is where spiritual leadership will be of great value as people respond to the gospel and accept Jesus Christ.

Consequently, in defining spiritual leadership, we must look to the characteristics of Jesus and the way He led His disciples. As a true leader, He encouraged them in every way possible when this was required. Jesus was very thoughtful about those whom He led, and those who followed Him. For example, after teaching the multitude that had gathered with Him on the mountain side, Jesus was not willing to send them home hungry. Instead, Jesus saw that the people were fed before leaving lest they fainted on the way [John 6].

The true spiritual leader is Christ-like, which means he is caring and considerate for those whom he serves. The Apostles continued after Jesus, and we too, must follow behind them so that the gospel reaches everyone before the Lord puts in His appearance. Evidently, this is a global responsibility which every leader must be conscious of when assuming his position. It is very essential to the ministry that he is called by God, and is prepared to lead.  However, there are certain people who are specifically called into certain areas of ministry. We read of the many gifts for the church, which means there are all kinds of offices for leadership; each with its own anointing and expertise (I Corinthians 12). Therefore, every leader must be sure that he is in his rightful place where God has called him.

Importantly, the spiritual leader must be one who was sought by God. He knows the heart of everyone and those whom He can trust. He will only select willing individuals who will not hurt His people, but persons who will be dedicated and serious about serving the Lord.  The aim of the spiritual leader is to lead God’s people into His purpose with earnestness and obedience to His word.

The local church, which is a living spiritual organism, is the Body of Jesus Christ which He purchased with His own blood on Calvary [Ephesians 5:25-27]. No leader should take on the responsibility to lead a church unless he has been called by God because effective leadership is an awesome responsibility requiring dedication, integrity, reliability, and faithfulness. Furthermore, spiritual leadership is a sacred trust God places in the hands of a minister to lead His people. It must not be taken lightly or treated as any other types of leadership activity. The leader must guide the people of God according to specific spiritual principles which are stated in His word. To deviate from those instructions and procedures would be a violation against the will of God.

Some spiritual leaders present only a false representation of this unique calling because of their behaviour and reputation. The true obedient spiritual leader follows the principles of Christianity which sets him apart from the world’s interpretation of leadership. Unfortunately, because of the failures of some modern-day prophets, evangelists, and those self-titled leaders, sinners are disappointed, with lack of interest to hear about God. The Commandments are disregarded; churches are now embracing worldly ideologies and doctrines, while schools no longer have open prayers; and justice for most is ridiculed.

Appropriately the Scriptures state, “And judgment is turned away backward, and justice stands afar off: for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter. Yea, truth fails; and he that departs from evil makes himself a prey: and the Lord saw (it), and it displeased him that (there was) no judgment. And he saw that (there was) no man, and wondered that (there was) no intercessor: therefore his arm brought salvation unto him: and his righteousness, it sustained him” [Isaiah 59:14-16].

This is the state of affairs in the world today, and even in the local church. Therefore, the true Spiritual leader must be one who is emotionally and mentally strong in order to take on such a responsibility. Some theological graduates are only interested in leading a church which is financially thriving and populated by members who are in certain financial, social and educational brackets, and in a particular locality.

Another perspective is that in most churches the culture influences the types of programs the people prefer and without the leading of the Holy Spirit. The length of the service is determined to end by a prescribed time, with a sermon or talk suitable for the dictates of the congregation. If for some reason the service extends, there is complaining, and calls of complaints will be made to the pastor. It is plain to see that spirituality is scarce among the people of God. Worldliness seems to be the order of the day with the aim of maintaining numbers and the financial aspects of the church. Therefore, pleasing God has taken second stage in those churches.

Consequently, to define Christian leadership, firstly, we must view this humbling, yet awesome mission from the biblical perspective with relation to the manner in which God’s servant administers doctrinal, spiritual, godly and moral principles to His people. The person called to lead God’s people must know that spiritual leadership is completely different from secular, even though there are some similarities as pertain to interpersonal and managerial demonstration. Outside of spiritual leadership, the world’s expectation is for profits in the corporations. In the sports arena, the coach must excel with winnings; otherwise, he is out of a job if there are too many losses.

Distinctly, the spiritual leader’s ultimate accountability is to God [I Corinthians 4:1-2]. Therefore, we must describe this assignment as a gift from the Holy Spirit, similar to all other spiritual gifts (I Corinthians 12:4, 11). Additionally, the uniqueness of Christian leadership requires love, wisdom, strength, endurance, and patience. The leader must be humble (Romans 12:3, 18), and one who does not respond to the world’s standards for living (Romans 12:1-2).

Despite the calling of God, spiritual leadership can be a lonesome experience with lack of thankfulness from those who are selfish and insensitive. There are moments of frustration and dissatisfaction when members become aggravating and thoughtless towards the pastor. Some are unconcerned about his needs, and will expect him to be available at all times. For these reasons, the leader must be willing to face trials, tests, hardships (II Timothy 2:3; James 1), and such like; all for the sake of pleasing God and being obedient to His will. These are some of the requirements, which make this type of leadership unique. Still, the leader must use wisdom in all that he does recognizing the fact that he gets tired and ought to rest.

Secondly, spiritual leaders create the mission for the ministry and outline the strategies for its attainment through the power, wisdom and guidance of the Holy Spirit in the Name of Jesus. Thirdly, Christian leadership is one of servant-hood for the Lord: “For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake” [II Corinthians 4:5]. Therefore, the leader demonstrates through his behaviours the qualities pertaining to what Jesus would express, especially that of humility, patience, and obedience [John 13:4-8; Philippians 2]. Fourthly, the main goal for Christian leadership is the winning of souls and preparing God’s people for the return of Jesus Christ. It teaches them how to live in this present world, lives which are pleasing unto the Lord [Romans 12:1-2, 18; Galatians 5:16].

Finally, the leader carries out the mission of the church which incorporates the holistic needs of its people such as spiritual, emotional, and other non-spiritual situations which will develop in its midst. We cannot deny the fact that recent times have seen all manner of corruption among those who claimed they were called by God into ministry. Yet they deceived the people they led and defiled the spiritual garment of holiness which once sets them apart. These are some of the defects in the church community caused by leaders who failed. Despite the inconsideration of those who behaved inappropriately, the standards for spiritual leadership have not changed. God is still seeking for true, loyal and faithful hearts; those who will assume their responsibilities.

A sobering thought is that although many people are unable to attend church during the week, the pastor must encourage his people to set aside time each day for meeting with the Lord. On a Sunday morning, it is not always possible to teach from the pulpit. However, if the church has a Bible Study program on a Sunday morning, members should make themselves available to attend this important teaching session which is vital to their spiritual health. It is in the Sunday Bible School or weekly Bible Study that many doctrinal aspects are discussed which will help members understand what they believe. This type of teaching requires time, and therefore members must be encouraged to attend even one of the meetings to gain knowledge and understanding of the Word of God. This action is an example of the true spiritual leader who was called and appointed by God to lead His people.

There are several ways in which the true, conscientious, and effective spiritual leader can reach members, even those who cannot make it out to the services. Technology has produced many electronic devices, with easy access to long-distance telephoning. There can be no excuse for not attending one service per week to learn about the Word of God. The true spiritual leader will do all he can to help the people, and encourage them to be faithful to God.

Previous: Leadership Dynamics.
This book Spiritual Leadership is available from our website.

© 2023 Shekinah Theological College
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