“But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” – Mark 10:43-45
Successful leadership can be defined in many ways but there are some definitive characteristics to successful spiritual leadership that need to be emulated by those God calls to leadership in the church.
“The central task of spiritual leadership is influencing God’s people toward God’s purposes.” -Robert Clinton
Characteristics of a Biblical Spiritual Leader
A spiritual leader must not lead people towards their own preferences, the building of a brand, or even the building of a certain church. Rather, a spiritual leader is given the great responsibility in leading people towards the purposes of God, and the building of the kingdom of God. If a pastor has any other motives than that, they must repent of that, and make leading people towards God’s purposes their number one priority.
Jesus was the ultimate example of this. His entire life was spent pursuing the purposes of God, and leading others towards those purposes. But his example of leadership was, and still is, counterintuitive. When asked who is greatest in the kingdom of God, Jesus points to the way of servanthood. Effective spiritual leadership is not measured by the one who is successful in getting people to listen to them. Effective spiritual leadership in God’s kingdom is measured by the one who works to intentionally serve those around them. That is challenging! You will set the tone of leadership in your congregation by the ways you seek to serve those you lead.
Three primary tasks of spiritual leadership:
- Cast Vision
- Build Confidence
- Promote Unity
1. Casting Vision
There are three primary tasks involved in leading God’s people towards God’s purposes as you serve your congregations as spiritual leaders. First, a leader must cast vision for God’s people. A spiritual leader must be able to clearly communicate what it is that God requires of his people, and the amazing benefits of a life lived with God. Like Moses did with the Israelites, you as a spiritual leader must be consistently hearing from God and discerning with the other leadership in your church what God has for your particular congregation. Communicating that vision is one of your central tasks as a spiritual leader.
2. Building Confidence
The second task of the spiritual leader is to build confidence. There will be those in your congregation who don’t believe that God wants them involved in his mission in the world, or that they have anything to contribute. Encourage your people that since God has called your congregation to certain things (sharing the gospel, caring for the oppressed, building up disciples, etc.), that he will also equip the believers in your congregation to fulfill his call on your church. Build up their confidence by giving them opportunities to serve, lead, and share. Build up their confidence by encouraging them and telling them over and over and over the wonders of God’s love and truth of his grace.
3. Promoting Unity
The last central task of the spiritual leader is to promote unity. Unity is vital to any ministry. If a church is not unified, the leadership will be distracted by trying to solve quarrels rather than with casting vision, building confidence, discipling, and equipping God’s people for God’s work. When a clear vision has been cast and God’s people are encouraged to chase after lives lived under that vision, people in your congregation will want to seek that purpose together. Pray constantly for unity in your leadership and in your congregation. Pray that your church would rally around what God has for you and run in the direction of God’s purposes.
The Crisis of Spiritual Leadership in America
It’s no secret that there is a crisis in the American church. The latest research conducted by the Malphurs Group found that 80-85% of churches in America are either plateaued or declining. With only 15-20% of churches healthy, we are left with the question – Why are so many churches hurting? The answer is a lack of healthy spiritual leadership.
Gospel movement starts with our churches developing healthy spiritual leaders. When leaders are transformed to be more like Christ, they begin a movement of transformation. Healthy leadership fuels healthy churches to grow spiritually. By equipping leaders to discover and expand their spiritual influence, hurting churches can be revitalized and multiplied.
Is your task as a spiritual leader great? Absolutely! Do you have what it takes to be a spiritual leader? On your own, absolutely not! But remain faithful to God’s call to ministry, relying on God to equip you to cast vision, build confidence, and promote unity, and expect God to do great things in and through your church.