What is Spiritual Leadership?

A question I could go on and on about. The Bible talks about leadership all over the place. However what we don't get much of is clear definitions of this spiritual gift. We get examples and models of it being used, and exhortations to those who have it to use it (Rom 12:8,) and exhortations to honour those who carry the responsibility of leadership (1 Thess 5:12, 1 Tim 5:17, Heb 13:17), but not a lot of systematic definition.

I contend that spiritual leadership is a contingent doctrine and practice - namely it is dependent on other truths for its definition and outworking. A key question is "on what doctrines do we predicate our doctrine of leadership?" Let me suggest 8 things that impinge on the question:

1. Leadership is predicated on the godness of God. All practice needs to flow from who God is and why God does what He does. Everything He does is for the magnification of the gospel of the glory of his grace. That's why churches exist. Therefore that is why leadership is given to the church, to shape her to that end

2. Leadership is predicated on the goal God has for creation - the worship of God and His Son in Heaven with everlasting marvel and wonder. Leaders exercise their role with that in view - God's glory being magnified, his name praised and his person worshipped

3. Leadership is predicated on the work of the Holy Spirit, building up believers in Christ. The preaching of the gospel doesn't come with wise and persuasive words but a demonstration of the Spirit's power so that faith rests on the power of God not on human wisdom (1 Cor 4:4). 

4. Leadership is predicated on the value of the blood of Jesus. Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God which He bought with His blood (Acts 20:28)Therefore leadership is to do with applying the centrality of the message of the cross to those who belong to Christ

5. Leadership is predicated on the purpose of the church - to go into all the world and make disciples, declaring God's excellencies. It is a gift given to the church to shape the community of disciples for making disciples

6. Leadership is predicated on how the church grows into this purpose, which is through all the disciples growing in spiritual maturity. Eph 4 says that God gave leadership ministries to prepare all the people for ministry so that the body is built up like a mature man. The parallel passage in Colossians fleshes out how it happens: we proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present every perfect in Christ. Leadership ministry will always include teaching-for-spiritual-maturity

7. Leadership is predicated on the character of Christ. Have a look at the pastoral epistles to find out how much the exemplifying the character of Jesus is essential to leaders. Which in turn tells us how important the prayer and worship life of leaders is

8. Leadership is predicated on a right understanding of God giving gifts to all his people for ministry, and all his people being involved in ministry. The people who do the ministry are the people of God, the particular ministry of leaders is to lead, not to do everything for everyone else, while everyone else is denuded of ministry by leaders

Or to summarise, authentic Christian leadership is closely linked to:

  • The nature and person of God
  • The worship of Christ
  • The Work of the Holy Spirit
  • The mission of the church
  • The nature of mature discipleship
  • The character of Christ
  • The nature of the body of Christ