Spiritual leadership is a very unique calling because the individual has to be selected, ordained, and appointed by God. There are other qualifications which will no doubt be required; but the most important must be from the spiritual perspective. The individual must have a close relationship with the Lord depicting the Christ-like personality of connecting with people and being sensitive to their needs. The Bible speaks of possessing a kind and gentle spirit blended with meekness, tenderness, and self-control.

Considering the fact that there are people with myriads of personalities, the leader cannot please all of them all of the time. However, he can endeavour to do his best in helping them by delegating responsibilities to others. When he takes this direction, there is hope that the majority will be satisfied, while some will be appreciative, and others will be disappointed. He must never pretend that he can please everyone; but despite his limitations, he must be kind and considerate. If the leader has a healthy self-concept without arrogance and selfishness, he can overcome and manage the most difficult of persons. He will learn to listen and reflect before making judgments and above all, he must depend on the direction of the Holy Spirit.

Another significant note is that he must not display partiality, but must be objective. Partiality causes untold misery with strife and contentions among members. As an objective leader, he learns to listen in order to dissect facts from fiction, and this will avoid being accused of favouritism. When there is a dispute, he must ask relevant questions for concrete proof, with explanations before making decisions. If he listens thoughtfully with understanding this will prevent the tendency to take sides [James 1:19-25; II Timothy 2:24-26; James 3:13-18].

Leadership dynamics give an outline of the Christ-like qualities a true Spiritual leader should possess. This is by no means complete, and there are many other characteristics to add to this list for the spiritual leader. Nevertheless, every leader should bear in mind that to be effective, God must call, prepare, anoint, and appoint Him for this office.

L – Leading Others: he must be wise

Leadership begins with the skills of directing, teaching, training, instructing, managing and organizing others to carry out tasks without coercion. The leader must be able to communicate his intentions with confidence and wisdom. He must also be willing to open his mind to learning rather than being obstinate and inflexible even when there is a need for change. “A wise man will hear, and will increase learning: and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels” [Proverbs 1:5].

Furthermore, it is important that the leader is disciplined with a willingness to be a learner even when he thinks he knows everything. Each day life brings new challenges which must be faced. If the leader does not keep abreast with current affairs both in and out of the church community, he might be disappointed. With change, there will be needs which can be overwhelming for people who are experiencing life-changing situations. Therefore, to be an effective leader there must be readiness to listen in order to discover knowledge, and to gain understanding with the right concepts for application and to help those whom he leads.

E – Example – be a pattern of good works

Every leader must be willing to demonstrate applicable models of behaviours for others to emulate. The Scriptures clearly states, “In all things showing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine showing incorruptness, gravity, sincerity. Sound speech, that cannot be condemned: that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you” [Titus 2:7-8].

The individual must be diligent about displaying proper conduct with actions which are unambiguous, so that members can understand and follow. It is vital to make every effort to develop self-control and good character – [Galatians 5:22-23]. He should display examples of Christ-like conduct, and model effective behaviours of self-discipline, attitude, warmth, sincerity, and loyalty. The leader will be even-tempered, obedient, respectful, devoted to the calling, courteous, and an observer of confidentiality. These qualities will attract others to him and cause them to trust him.

A – Assertiveness: Attentive, confident, firm

The assertive leader is one who is confident about his calling and the vision which God gave him. He is not afraid to face problems and will deal with them when they occur. His aim is to consciously work toward a “win-win” solution for problems. A win-win solution means that he is trying to make sure that both parties end up with their needs met as much as possible. This is a person who expresses thoughts, feelings, and beliefs in direct, honest, and appropriate ways, which will make others respect him both as a person, and his office. With this quality, he is able to effectively influence his members who will show willingness to listen and choose to cooperate rather than being coerced.

There must also be sensitivity when giving instructions to others. He must pay special attention to his words as he communicates with others, and the way in which he speaks to those he is leading (Proverbs 15:1, James 1:19). The leader must be obedient to the leading of the Holy Spirit. The assertive leader will say “yes” with humility; and “no” with firmness, yet with respect.

Moreover, the assertive leader is not afraid of criticisms, but encourages it from those with whom he interacts so that he is aware of his weaknesses. This gives him insight concerning where there are interpersonal issues which need to be resolved before they become bigger problems. He is not afraid of being shown his limitations and failures in a timely respectful manner. Being assertive, he will also be attentive with watchfulness, duty, and care for his members. He will follow the admonition from I Peter 5:2-3, “Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.”

The assertive and attentive leader will welcome the channel of feedback, which is an excellent management tool. It gives each individual the opportunity to express feelings, ask questions, and receive explanations. Where there is no feedback system in any church, there will be various kinds of interpersonal problems with groupthink and fear. This means that even when individuals have problems, they will not speak up; but choose rather to let others speak, or suffer the consequences.

D – Delegate: test the spirits

The leader who does not delegate will be over-worked, which is most certainly not the will of God. If the leader is conscious of his calling and recognizes that it is his duty to select, teach, and train others with the leading of the Holy Spirit, he will not suffer defeat from exhaustion and stress. Moreover, he should not fill a vacancy for the sake of doing so knowing that the individual is not qualified. It is also very important to avoid the temptation of nepotism or using friendship as a factor when filling a position.

The discerning leader does not accept everyone to place into positions since so many false prophets and deceivers who claim to be Christians are a reproach to the Name of Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit will reveal falsehood if the leader is listening, and is obedient (Matthew 24:5, I John 4:1). Before making any decisions for an appointment, it would be wise to seek the guidance and direction of the Holy Spirit. The leader must also explain the requirements for the particular position with an over-sight to ensure that there are no misunderstandings. It is very important that he directs with diligence; but not with constraint.

E – Encouraging Spirit: reassuring

The spiritual leader must demonstrate compassion and sincere concern for those who are hurting and who have suffered losses. There must be willingness to offer comforting words to the bereaved and even those who have had to face divorce, death of a loved one, and other grief situations. There are times when the bereaved has no one close to encourage or give support. A kind word from someone who truly cares will help the individual face the situation. The pastor will be of invaluable assistance at such times for the hurting and those who feel helpless. A kind reassuring word is all some people really need in times of trouble even if there is no tangible help; choosing the right words will do a world of good.

If the leader has the characteristic of being approachable, the person in need or facing difficulties will seek out his wisdom and help. Leaders who are conscious of their calling and recognizing the leadership of Jesus Christ, will emulate His style of calm and thoughtfulness in the times of trouble [Matthew 14:27]. In their time of grief, Jesus lovingly comforted Mary and Martha after the death of their brother, His friend, [John 11]. His kind words soothed them and gave hope. When He was preparing to leave His disciples, knowing the sadness in their hearts He calmly said, “Let not your heart be troubled….” [John 14:1].

No leader should be so busy that he cannot take the time to encourage someone in the time of emotional need.  Just one moment of interest will soothe an aching heart. Encouragement and reassurance are qualities every leader should be able to give when required.

R – Reliable: dependable

The leader must be constant, stable, committed, punctual, considerate, and conscientious [Romans 12:10-11]. Being dependable also means being trustworthy. Leaders must lead with consistency and clarity, faithfulness, and steadfastness. One of the greatest contentions among members is the leader who does not respect other people’s time, but is unreliable and inconsistent. These are characteristics which will negatively affect the church and the membership. Although the numbers may increase, people might not remain for long if they are disrespected. The leader who is unreliable is someone who is lazy, irresponsible, and insensitive about the significance of his calling. He displays an “I don’t care” attitude towards the work and towards the people whom he leads.

Contrastingly, the leader who is reliable cares for the people and functions as a servant of God. He is unselfish and very thoughtful about members’ needs and feelings. He takes responsibility for failures and does not blame others for his weaknesses. He does not abuse verbally, emotionally, or financially. With financially, it means that he does not pressure his people to give beyond their means with the use of charisma and persuasive words. The leader will reject the temptation of seeking wealth at the expense of his people. His aim is pleasing God, the care of the people, his family, and spreading of the gospel to reach the world.

S – Servanthood: willingness to serve

As the servant of God, the leader must identify with the Lord Jesus Christ, Who at the end of His work, said to the Father, “I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which you gave me to do. And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was” [John 17:4-5].

Evidently, the leader must not seek to be fully rewarded here on earth. Jesus showed that He had completed the work the Father gave Him. Similarly, the leader must be dedicated to his work recognizing that he is the servant of the Lord, and his reward is sure. According to the promise which says, “And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fades not away” [I Peter 5:4]. In the natural, servants are paid at the end of their work, and the sincere spiritual leader will also be compensated if he completes the work given to him.

Spiritual leadership is servant-hood, which means the person must do everything in his power to be like Jesus Christ and serve His people. He must be a person of resolute integrity who can be trusted.

God forbid that I should justify you: till I die I will not remove mine integrity from me. My righteousness I hold fast, and will not let it go: my heart shall not reproach me so long as I live” [Job 27:5-6].

Therefore, his word must be truthful with genuineness and earnestness without incongruence or ambiguity. He must be a teacher, who is qualified, capable, and skilled, so that he can serve effectively. This leader is well informed concerning the needs of his people and leads with prudence, discretion, and impartiality. As a servant of Jesus Christ, this means the leader is conscious of his position and what his perfect Leader expects from him. Jesus has set the example for everyone who is called into leadership to follow Him with diligence.

H – Humble: non-competitive

Since this person has to interact with people of varying characteristics, temperaments, cultural, economic, educational backgrounds, and styles of communication, he must be humble. There must also be frankness and a determination to fulfill plans. Nevertheless, he must be patient and willing to help, with courtesy and a generous spirit (I Peter 5:6). This person must display a life of faith (Hebrews 11:1, Mark 11:22-24).  Always bear in mind that humility is strength and not weakness. By being humble, the leader must submit to the will of God, and resist the temptation of treating God’s people with disrespect [Colossians 4:6]. He must be willing to forgive, and make right with those whom he has caused hurt. He should never use his position as an excuse to impose his will on others, or to avoid taking responsibility for his faults and mistakes.

I – Intercessor: prayerful

The leader must be an intercessor not only for the self, but also for the people he leads. Similar to Moses and others; he stands in the gap for them. Examples of intercessors include (Daniel 9; Jeremiah 14:7-9, 19-22; Moses – Exodus 32:30-33; Jesus at Lazarus’s grave John 11; over Jerusalem Luke 13:34; for Himself; His disciples; and all believers John 17).

Unfortunately, many leaders do not attend prayer meetings, and some are always too busy. How often do they pray for the people? What time do they give to the God who called them? To be an intercessor means there must be time set aside each day for prayer to seek God’s guidance and direction. The leader who does not pray is weakening daily, and he cannot function spiritually unless he is pretending. The intercessor is concerned for his people, and will pray for them daily and for himself.

P – Perceptive: observant

The perceptive leader is sensitive to the needs of others by being observant. Although he is a leader this does not mean he must on call 24/7. The leader must be practical with godly wisdom towards his duties (James 3:17). He should not neglect the welfare of his immediate family, but acknowledge their needs and be available for them. The structure of a successful leader’s life is God, family and then ministry. Any leader who does otherwise is not carrying out his duties with wisdom. Consequently, if his family suffers, the people of God under his care will also be affected. He must be prayerful and should encourage his people to exercise faith by his own example. The perceptive leader has a keen awareness of what is happening under his leadership.

Following: The Definition of Spiritual Leadership

The book: Spiritual Leadership is available from our website

© 2023 Shekinah Theological College
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