The Heart of Biblical, Spiritual Leadership

As I write this I am looking forward to a week of training junior church leaders at Living Leadership's Formation Trainees Conference.

You don't have to look far in the Bible to find teaching about godly leadership, about godly and ungodly leaders, instruction on leadership for leaders and for churches. There are role models and examples a-plenty and lots of images of leaders: hardworking farmer, athlete, soldier, builder, fool, guide, under-shepherd, labourer, workman, servant (and scum of the earth!). Plenty of teaching to help us understand the spiritual gift of leadership (Romans 12:8).

My favourite verses to begin exploring what the Bible says about leadership in Jesus' church are Philippians 1:25-26:

Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again you will glory abundantly in Christ Jesus on account of me.
— Phil 1:25-26

What would the imprisoned apostle tell a church he would most like to achieve with them on his release and return? Them making progress in the faith and having joy in God so that they are full of delight in the glory of Christ. This is similar to Peter's description of the persecuted Christians in 1 Peter 1. They were full of "joy inexpressible and full of glory" because they were receiving the goal of their faith, the salvation of their souls. It isn't hard to see why a church is effective for God if they are all bursting with joy in Jesus. And it isn't hard to see why a church isn't effective if it isn't.

Of course it begs the question of how to work with people for their progress and joy. What might that look like in practice. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Helping people to delight themselves in the Lord. Helping them love God, love the Son of God, love the Holy Spirit, and to give expression to their love. Leadership is making worshippers
  • Helping them love the Word of God. Which flows from leaders doing so and not coming to the Bible merely as professionals to help others
  • Helping people appreciate the benefits of Christ. Adoption, forgiveness of sins, a home in heaven, entrance into God’s family, freedom from guilt and the curse of the Law, the gift of the Spirit, a new heart, new desires, a Heavenly Father, a great high priest through whom we have redemption. And on. And on!
  • Helping people see the glory of God in the gospel of his grace. Romans 5 says we reign in life by receiving of his grace and the gift of eternal life. Helping them know how to receive and seek God for his grace with them. James 4:6 says "God gives more grace". 
  • Loving people at all times and do them good, especially those in difficulty and distress
  • Having ambitions for where God might take people. Showing them some of what is possible in the Lord if they live and act in faith, especially in world mission
  • Helping others pray. Praying with them. Showing them how we pray. Telling them what we pray for them