The 7 Principles of Spiritual Leadership
Edited by Military Chaplains
“Leadership is intangible, and therefore no weapon ever designed can replace it.”
—Omar N. Bradley
The first requisite for a spiritual leader is submission to the leadership of God. The spiritual leader will be a person of prayer, who reads and studies the Bible, and who seeks to implement biblical principles and Christlike character in all areas of life.
All of the spiritual leaders in the Bible, whether they were prophets, priests, kings, commanders in the army, overseers, or other leaders in the church, were men and women who were led by God. The foundation of their leadership was their relationship to God and their continuing reliance on His leadership. These men and women recognized their strengths and their weaknesses; they counted on God to guide them in effective uses of strength and to build them up in areas of weakness, allowing His strength to be made perfect in their weakness (See 2 Corinthians 12:9).
The ability to communicate effectively is also essential. Leaders will make sure followers understand their mission. Leaders will recognize and employ the abilities and gifts of their followers, placing them in positions where their talents and skills are most effective. Finally, effective spiritual leaders will know how to build up the team so that all members are working in unity.
The seven principles of leadership presented here are essential for success in any sphere of leadership. Those who are in positions of leadership should always be aware of the need to seek knowledge and self- improvement. They will develop and model biblical character. They will seek to relate like a leader, exhibiting authority but never in harsh- ness or with a superior attitude. Effective spiritual leaders will have a deep sense of caring for others. This caring has its root in their relationship with Christ and will be evident in many kinds of situations.
These seven principles of leadership will benefit men and women in all walks of life. From the pastor of the church to the officer in the military, from the CEO of a corporation to the manager of the department store, from the elected officials on local, state, or national levels to the volunteer leader of a local charitable group—all can become the kind of leader that people look up to and trust.
Regardless of your position of leadership, these seven principles of leadership will serve you well. May the Lord Jesus bless you as you commence this study.
If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. (Galatians 5:25, NTV)
1.Seek Knowledge and Self-Improvement
“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.”
—John F. Kennedy
Regardless of the area of leadership—whether spiritual or secular—Ephesians 1:17-18 is relevant. It is part of the Apostle Paul’s prayer for all believers in the church at Ephesus. He wanted them to understand that God would give them wisdom and revelation that would enable them to carry out all that was required of them. That wisdom and knowledge could range from the practical everyday demands of life to the spiritual benefits of life in Christ. He also prayed that the “eyes” of their understanding would be enlightened. He wanted them to understand what they were looking at—understand the information presented to them. When we view a situation with “eyes of under- standing,” we are open to new ideas, better ways to approach a situation, and those “aha!” moments when inspiration and clarity break through and we exclaim, “Now, I see!”
When we pray for wisdom and knowledge, God will answer that prayer. He may direct us to develop essential skills related to our areas of leadership, or He may give us understanding of how to better relate to our followers. He may show us that we need to hone our skills in specific areas and that we can gain these skills by taking a class, reading a manual, or seeking help from a mentor or counselor. This prayer will always be relevant; regardless of how much we learn or how much experience we gain, there will always be new areas to challenge us. The story of King Solomon illustrates this.
King Solomon inherited a vast kingdom from his father David. Simply by chance of birth, he was elevated to a place of leadership. Even though he had been trained and educated to rule, Solomon knew his strengths and his weaknesses. He realized that he required more wisdom than he possessed to rule the kingdom. He prayed, “Therefore give to Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours” (1 Kings 3:9). God answered his prayer, and gave Solomon a wise and understanding heart. Solomon became known as the wisest man in the kingdom and the regions beyond.
An example of his wisdom is found in 1 Kings 3:16-28. Two women who were harlots came to King Solomon. Both women lived in the same house and both had given birth within a few days of each other. One woman claimed that the other woman’s son died in the night because she lay on him, and that woman then took the living child of the other and placed her dead child beside the other woman. In the morning, the woman rose to nurse her child and found the dead baby. Upon examination, she recognized that the dead child was not hers. The other woman denied that she had switched the babies, and so they brought the baby to the king for his judgment.
In one of those divine flashes of wisdom, Solomon knew how to deter- mine the truth. He asked for a sword and declared that the child be divided in two, giving half to each woman. The woman who was mother to the living child protested and said, “Don’t kill him. Give him to her.” However, the woman who had lied said, “Divide him. Let him be neither mine nor hers.” King Solomon answered that the child be given to the woman who was willing to give up the child rather than have him killed.
This kind of wisdom only comes from God, the fountain of all wisdom and knowledge.
That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him; having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope of His calling, and what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints. (Ephesians 1:17-18, NTV)
1.How can we effectively seek more wisdom and knowledge? 2.What are some methods we can employ to improve ourselves? 3.Discuss constructive ways we can positively affect those we lead.
1.Share with one another areas of your life in which you need more knowledge, and then pray for each other. 2.Share why you need to improve yourselves, and then pray for each other toward that goal. 3.Who is one of your favorite leaders, and why, then pray for each other to become more like that leader.
2. Develop and Model Biblical Character
“Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”
2 Peter 1:5-7 is a blueprint for developing biblical character. Character is acquired over time as we grow in our relationship in Christ and endure hard- ships in His service. As we follow Christ and allow the Holy Spirit to work in our lives, the attributes of Christ are formed in us. Then, like fruit growing on a tree, they appear in due season and become a blessing to others.
The attributes mentioned in the above verses are essential for any- one serving in a position of spiritual leadership, and they will serve a leader well in any field—religious, military, business, sports, or the home. For example, an effective leader will have moral excellence, which includes integrity, honesty, virtue, and goodness. He will have knowledge, which includes wisdom, expertise, and comprehension as well as information, education, and intelligence. The effective leader will possess self-control, and this includes willpower, discipline, and restraint. Perseverance will also be an important quality; this could involve patience, resolve, and a sense of purpose. Godliness, which includes righteousness, decency, and justice, is also necessary for the effective leader. Brotherly affection, the ability to be kind, compassionate, considerate, and helpful to others is essential. Love is the final attribute on this list. Without love, we are nothing (1 Corinthians 13:2).
The followers of a leader who models these qualities will know that they can trust him and count on what he says. The influence of such a leader is far-reaching and long lasting. Those under his leadership not only will appreciate his integrity and decency, but also they will be motivated to follow his example. For instance, if they observe his self-control and kindness when dealing with volatile situations or angry people, they may express an interest in how he is able to do this. Then the leader has an opportunity to share how these abilities have their root in his relationship with God.
The attributes of biblical character can show themselves in a variety of ways and in a variety of situations. The story of Joseph in Genesis 37-50 illustrates the domino effect of good character and behavior.
Joseph’s jealous brothers sold him into slavery and he was taken away to Egypt, where Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, purchased him. Potiphar recognized that the Lord was with Joseph and that all he did prospered. The godly characteristics evident in Joseph gave him favor in Potiphar’s sight and he promoted Joseph to be overseer of his house. Joseph’s integrity was tested when Potiphar’s wife asked him to “lie with her.” He refused, but day after day, she tried to entice him. He continued to go about his work and paid no heed to her. However, one day when no one else was in the house, she grabbed Joseph’s garment and insisted that he lie with her. He fled from her, leaving his garment in her hand. Her lies about Joseph attacking her caused him to be cast into prison. While in prison, Joseph’s exemplary character brought him to the attention of the keeper of the prison and he placed Joseph in charge of all the prisoners. A series of events brought Joseph to the attention of the Pharaoh who recognized in Joseph the qualities of leadership needed for that crucial time in Egypt. Joseph went from the lowly position of slave to second in command in Pharaoh’s court. Joseph’s leader- ship skills enabled him to prepare the entire nation for the coming famine. The plans set in place by Joseph not only caused Egypt to survive a famine, but also they reunited Joseph with his family. His path was not an easy one, but it was one ordained by God. Throughout his journey, Joseph’s godly character opened doors to freedom and success.
Yes, and for this very cause, making every effort, in your faith supply moral excellence; and in moral excellence, knowledge; and in knowledge, self-control; and in self-control, patience; and in patience, godliness; and in godliness, brotherly affection; and in brotherly affection, love.
(2 Peter 1:5-7, NTV)
1.What is the prerequisite for modeling biblical character and how is it developed in us? 2.What are some of the character traits that will be evident in spiritual leaders? Name one person who exhibits these. 3.What are the advantages of biblical characteristics to you and those you lead?
1.Share with others in the group one area of your life in which you feel the need to mature in biblical character, and then pray for each other. 2.Share about a particular situation where you need wisdom to deal with it in a way that models biblical character. Then pray for one another. 3.Make suggestions as to how you and other members of the group can encourage one another to continue modeling biblical character, and then pray for each member of the group.
3. Relate like a Leader
“Leaders must be close enough to relate to others, but far enough ahead to motivate them.”
—John C. Maxwell
According to the Apostle Paul’s letter to Titus, Paul chose Titus to oversee believers in the cities on the island of Crete. A strong and reliable leader was essential to the spiritual growth and well-being of the new converts there. Titus would be responsible to appoint elders in the various cities—men who were blameless, stewards of God, not self-willed, quick tempered, violent, or greedy for money. In order to do this, Titus would have to be able to relate in an open and honest way. He would have to spend time with them, observing how they treated their wives and children, and how they conducted themselves in other areas of life. Titus, himself, would have to be a model of good works, speaking truthfully with sound speech that could not be condemned. His relationship with the elders and other believers was to be one of integrity and incorruptibility as he exhibited a reverence for God and a respect for all under his leadership. An effective leader must know how to relate to other people and their fields of work. Leaders should provide direction for the people under them, and that direction must include planning, maintaining ethical standards, making good decisions the team accepts, solving technical and logistical problems, supervising and evaluating tasks, teaching people what to do, enabling their self-expression, coaching and counseling personnel, and training individuals and teams.
Part of being a proficient leader is having capable men and women in strategic positions to give critical input—much as a president sur- rounds himself with experts in many fields.
Sometimes a leader can be so personally involved and feel the responsibility for every step of a project that he is ineffective because of the sheer multitude of demands on his time, abilities, and energy. An example of this is Exodus 18.
After the children of Israel were delivered from Egypt, and during their time in the wilderness, Moses sat as judge of the people. From morning to evening, the people stood before him so he could judge between one and another. This was an overwhelming task and Jethro, his father-in-law, observed that Moses would surely wear himself out since this was too much for one man. Jethro advised Moses to select able men of truth and place them to be rulers of thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens. These men were to bear the burden with Moses. Moses heeded the advice of Jethro. The men he appointed would judge the small matters, and Moses would deal with the difficult matters.
I left you in Crete for this reason, that you would set in order what remains and appoint elders in every city as I directed you, . . . But say the things which fit sound doctrine, . . . in all things showing yourself an example of good works; in your teaching showing integrity, seriousness, incorruptibility, and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned; that he who opposes you may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say about us.
(Titus 1:5; 2:1, 7-8, NTV)
1.Name and discuss one important quality of a leader who is able to relate well to his followers. 2.Discuss the qualities of spiritual leadership mentioned in the quoted portions of Titus 1 and 2. 3.If you were, or are, in a leadership position, discuss how you could best relate to your followers.
1.Share any concerns you have about relating to others. Pray for one another in these areas. 2.Ask for prayer that you will be more aware of how others perceive your leadership. 3.Mention one area in which you feel overwhelmed with the bur- den of leadership and ask for prayer in that situation.
4. Care about the Well-Being of Others
“Leadership should be born out of the understanding of the needs of those who would be affected by it.”
In Luke 10, a lawyer, seeking to test Jesus, asked what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus answered him with a question, “What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?” The lawyer then responded with the above verse, which is a quote of two scriptures—Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18. Jesus said that the lawyer had answered correctly. However, the lawyer, wanting to justify himself, then countered with, “And who is my neighbor?” Then Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan, which illustrates how we are to care about the well-being of others.
A man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho was overcome by thieves who stripped and wounded him and left him near death. A priest came upon the wounded man, but crossed to the other side of the road and went on his way. Then a Levite also passed by, and he too crossed over to avoid the wounded man. Then a certain Samaritan came upon the man and he had compassion on him. He stopped beside the man, bandaged his wounds, placed him on his own animal, and brought him to an inn where he took care of him. When the Samaritan departed the next day, he paid the inn- keeper to care for the wounded man. Jesus told the lawyer that the Samaritan was neighbor to the wounded man and that the lawyer should have the same kind of compassion for others and care for their well-being.
The effective spiritual leader will have a deep sense of caring for others—not just his own people, but anyone in need. This caring has its root in his relationship with Christ and will show itself in times of need.
The leader who looks out for the well-being of his followers will instill a high sense of morale in them. They will know they can count him. For example, if a situation develops where the safety or well- being of employees or followers is in jeopardy, the leader must step up and see that all the resources to resolve the issue are brought to bear on the situation. He will not allow those under his leadership or supervision to remain in unsafe conditions or be placed in questionable moral situations.
An example of taking responsibility for others is Genesis 14:8-16. Several warring kings were in the area of the Valley of Siddim near where Abram’s kinsman Lot had settled. Two of the kings took Lot captive along with his people and his goods. When Abram heard that Lot had been taken captive, he armed 318 trained servants and went in pursuit. He divided his forces against them by night, and he and his servants attacked them and pursued them as far as Hobah, which is north of Damascus. He committed the needed resources of men and weapons as well as himself to rescue Lot and bring him back to his home along with all his people and goods.
The leader who is committed to his people will do whatever is necessary to ensure their safety and well-being.
He answered, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’ ” (Luke 10:27, NTV)
1.Discuss the lessons we can learn from the story of the Good Samaritan. 2.Was Abram obligated to rescue his kinsman Lot? Why or why not? 3.Share an example in which you have stepped up to defend the well-being of anyone you know, or where a leader has come to your defense.
1.Pray for each other that you will be mindful of the well-being of those in your sphere of influence. 2.Name a specific area where you feel you should be more aware of the welfare of those who serve under you, and ask for prayer that you will step up in this area. 3.Pray that the leaders of this nation and other nations will be concerned about the well-being of their people.
5. Communicate Like a Leader
“The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint to keep from meddling with them while they do it.”
Jesus, the ultimate example of leadership, shows us how to communicate with our followers in Matthew 4. In the early days of His ministry, Jesus singled out two brothers, Peter and Andrew, who were fishermen, and said, “Follow me.” We do not have the details of this encounter, only the outcome. Peter and Andrew immediately left their nets and followed Jesus. It is likely that they had heard Jesus preaching in the area and recognized him. Yet, there must have been something in His voice—an authority and a command—that they responded to.
A leader who communicates well will have this commanding authority.
However, there are other aspects of effective communication. A leader must be able to communicate his plans and his mission to his followers. A study of Jesus’ ministry as told in the four gospels reveals that He communicated through words, actions, and by example. Jesus not only told, He showed. His disciples fully understood their mission.
In Matthew 10, Jesus sent out twelve disciples, giving them detailed instructions on where to go, what to preach, and how to deal with adverse situations. These twelve were well prepared and eventually it was said of them that they turned the world upside down (See Acts 17:6).
The leader who follows the example of Jesus will be effective in communicating with those who serve under him. He will keep them informed as to the purpose of the mission as well as the steps needed to fulfill that mission. His communication will carry the tone of command and authority, but not in a harsh or callous manner. He will have the ability to relate information as well as correction when needed, but in a considerate and caring manner. The secret to his ability to communicate effectively with his followers is that, like Jesus, he cares deeply for them.
The effective leader will keep others informed—this includes staff, mentors, employees, and volunteers. He will clearly communicate the goal of the mission or project, the resources needed to accomplish the goal, and the time-frame for its completion. He will supervise not too much and not too little. He will not burden his followers with unimportant details, but will keep his remarks clear and to the point. Some- times he may sit down and talk with an employee or follower one-on-one. Other times, a general public announcement will be the method of communication. The leader will understand his followers and know which method of communication to use.
The Apostle Paul when dealing with problems in the Corinthian church showed restraint in his communication. He said that he chose to “write these things while absent, that I may not deal sharply when present, according to the authority which the Lord gave me for building up, and not for tearing down” (2 Corinthians 13:10, NTV). He understood that even words of correction were to be for edification or building up and not for tearing down and destruction.
He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19, NTV)
1.Discuss specific aspects of Jesus’ communication skills and how they are still effective today. 2.Mention two or three leaders who were good communicators and discuss why they were, or are, effective. 3.Discuss your experiences with leaders who failed to communicate effectively.
1.Share an aspect of communication that you would like to improve, and pray for each other in these areas. 2.Pray for each other that you may effectively communicate your faith to others in all that you do. 3.Pray for one another that when you must correct someone, you will do so in a spirit of building up and not tearing down.
6. Employ People’s Abilities and Gifts
“Get the best people and train them well.”
Romans 12:4-8 include a wide range of gifts and abilities. While these directly pertain to the Body of Christ, both the principle of various gifts and the idea of one body with differing functions can be applied in many settings. The effective leader will recognize that some people have skills or abilities in one area and others have different skills and abilities in other areas. He will make use of his people according to their various abilities. This means, of course, that he will know how to evaluate the natural abilities, training, education, and experience of his followers or employees. For example, a leader will look at and assess more than a per- son’s formal education; he will also consider qualities that indicate the person is one who can encourage or exhort others, one who is capable of teaching—both by example and words, one who shows mercy and is cheerful, one who leads with diligence, as well as many other abilities or gifts. The effective leader will be aware of specific demands of various positions and will find the right people to fill those positions. “The right man for the right job” is a formula for success.
A good example of a leader utilizing the gifts and abilities of a large company of people is found in Exodus, chapters 35-40. After the children of Israel were delivered from bondage in Egypt, God gave Moses instructions to build a tabernacle where the people could worship. Moses called for all who were skillful among them to come and make all that God commanded. The women who were gifted artisans spun yard for the curtains. One man, Bezaleel, designed artistic works of gold, silver, and bronze, and all manner of artistic workmanship. Bezaleel also had the ability to teach others to work with him, and these men and women did all that was required to build the tabernacle. When this huge work was completed, the cloud covered the tabernacle and the glory of God filled it.
It should be our goal to use our gifts and abilities to the glory of God.
For even as we have many members in one body, and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts differing according to the grace that was given to us, if prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of our faith; or service, let us give ourselves to service; or he who teaches, to his teaching; or he who exhorts, to his exhorting: he who gives, let him do it with liberality; he who rules, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness. (Romans 12:4-8, NTV)
1.Share with one another your specific gifts or abilities and the areas in which you have utilized them. 2.Discuss how the various abilities of your group could be used to work together. 3.Discuss how the building of the tabernacle symbolizes the Body of Christ.
1.Pray for one another that you will use your gifts and abilities for the benefit of others and for the glory of God. 2.As leaders, pray that you will have “eyes to see” the abilities of those around you. 3.Pray that, as a leader, you will be faithful to encourage members of the team or organization in the development and use of their gifts.
7. Build Up Your Team—Work in Unity
“You have to look at leadership through the eyes of the followers and you have to live the message. What I have learned is that people become motivated when you guide them to the source of their own power and when you make heroes out of employees who personify what you want to see in the organization.”
God put together a most remarkable team when He created the Body of Christ. Not only did he create the team, He commissioned it (Matthew 28:19-20), appointed leaders with specific gifts and skills (1 Corinthians 12:28-29), and gave instructions on how it was to function (See 1 Corinthians 12-14).
The leaders on God’s team have specific functions. The apostles are like pioneers who go into new areas and establish churches. The Apostle Paul held this position. The prophets are those who “speak for God.” While their words may at times be foretelling, most often they speak words of edification, exhortation, and comfort. John the Baptist was a prophet who prepared the way for Jesus. Agabus is mentioned in Acts 21:10, and he foretold certain events that would happen to Paul. An evangelist is one whose primary message is that of salvation. Philip the evangelist is spoken of in Acts 21:8. This is the same Philip who preached Jesus to the Ethiopian eunuch, who was a man of great authority (Acts 8:29-37). Pastors are leaders of a local church and often referred to as shepherds. They watch over and tend the flock of God. Timothy was evidently a pastor, or an overseer, for Paul wrote to him telling him to “preach the word” (2 Timothy 4:2). Teachers are men and women who are skillful in expounding the Word of God. They have the ability to reveal truths not evident to some. Aquila and Priscilla, a husband and wife team, are mentioned in Acts 18:24-26; they took aside Apollos and explained the way of the Lord to him more accurately.
God intended all of the various members of His team to work together in unity. In fact, he ordained a blessing upon those who do so. “Behold, how good and pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity. . . . For there the Lord commanded the blessing—life forever- more” (Psalm 133).
Members of the body have differing gifts and purposes, but all are necessary to have a functioning body (or team). Some may be more evident because of their position, but the unseen members are often the most essential. For example, a strong right arm is a powerful asset, but without a heart pumping blood, the arm is useless.
Diversity is the key to a successful team. A group of men or women who all have the same talents and knowledge do not constitute a team. The team consists of varied individuals who contribute their special skills and knowledge to the overall project. For example, a basketball team made up of all point guards or centers would not be effective.
A team is built up when the leader speaks encouraging words to the team and sets the example for them to encourage one another. The leader will also build up hope and expectation that the team will accomplish its goal.
Several chapters in 1 Chronicles tell the story of David and how his army was built up from men throughout the land. Chapter 12 tells about mighty men who came to join David while he was a fugitive running Saul. One of the factors that led men to be a part of David’s army was the fact that they recognized that God helped him.
No greater attribute could be desired by a leader in any area of life than to have a reputation that God helped him. Followers will trust the leader who trusts God. Therefore, the foundation for building a successful team is for the leader to be known as one who depends upon God. He will be a man who seeks God’s leadership in selecting those who will serve under him. He will place people in positions where their talents and capabilities are used to the best advantage. Members of the team will trust their leader to form the most efficient team possible and will respect one another for what each contributes to the whole.
He gave some to be apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, to the work of serving, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a full grown man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. . . . from whom all the body, being fitted and knit together through that which every joint supplies, according to the working in measure of each individual part, makes the body increase to the building up of itself in love. (Ephesians 4:11-13, 16, NTV)
1.Discuss how diversity within a team enhances its chances for success. 2.Who are some of your favorite leaders in the Bible? Discuss their outstanding qualities 3.Name one or two outstanding world leaders. What makes them stand out?
1.Pray for one another that you will look for and appreciate the diversity of team members. 2.Pray for one another that you will find ways to encourage team members to function as a unit. 3.Pray for leaders in your nation and in the world.
My prayer for you is that God will lead you in the application of these seven principles of leadership, and that your leadership will be a blessing to many. I pray that your leadership will cause the Kingdom of God to increase throughout your sphere of influence. I pray that the blessed Holy Spirit will be your helper, your teacher, and your constant source of inspiration.
For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and desire that you might be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding. (Colossians 1:9, NTV)
Source: The Military Bible by Military Chaplains
Copyright © 2016 Military Bible Association
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