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“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

How do we define spiritual leadership? Successful spiritual leadership can be defined in a variety of ways, but there are some definitive biblical characteristics. The successful spiritual leadership of those called by God should be worth emulating within the life of the church and its leaders.

“The central task of spiritual leadership is influencing God’s people toward God’s purposes.” -Robert Clinton 

In this article, we will learn more about spiritual leadership as we uncover the following topics:

    1. The Crisis of Spiritual Leadership
    2. Characteristics of a Biblical Spiritual Leader
    3. 3 Primary Tasks of Spiritual Leadership

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? One 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. Healthy churches launch and plant churches to do the same. By equipping leaders to discover and expand their spiritual influence, hurting churches can be revitalized and begin to multiply.  

Characteristics of a Biblical Spiritual Leader

A spiritual leader isn’t called to lead people toward their own preferences, the building of a brand, or even the building of a particular church. Instead, a spiritual leader is given the great responsibility of leading people towards the purposes of God and building the kingdom of God (God’s Glory and God’s Purpose). 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 leading people toward to glory of God. His life was spent pursuing the purposes of God and leading others toward 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 often measured by the one who works to serve those around them. What a challenge! You set the tone of leadership in your congregation by the way you seek to serve those around you. It is done by clearly casting the vision that moves a people to embrace the truth and beauty of the Word.

Three Primary Tasks of Spiritual Leadership

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 a 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.


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.

Joel Wayne

Founder of Be The Church

Joel Wayne has spent twenty years improving leadership and cultivating healthy culture within organizations and churches in Connecticut, Kentucky, and Michigan. He currently serves as Lead Pastor for Chapel Pointe in Michigan. Joel’s dynamic communication style conveys his enthusiasm for developing strong leaders focusing on Vision, Strategy, and Implementation to create an overall organizational reset. He currently lives in Michigan with his wife and four children.