The characteristics of leadership of a spiritual leader has an additional dimension compared to a natural leader. Many more qualities are required of him or her in order to lead a group of believers spiritually.
I believe that spiritual leadership is one of the toughest, but also the most authentic form of leadership. Many other forms of leadership can easily attainable through a change of style or method, but to lead a person to grow spiritually is an entirely different ball game altogether.
The people you are leading spiritually are there because they choose to be. No one can force anyone to be part of your church or your cell group. This means that your followers can choose to leave you anytime for various reasons, whether it is offences or disagreements.
It is a huge challenge for anyone who is willing to pick up such a arduous task. It is a noble calling, and thankless for the most part. However, it is my personal belief that Jesus has called all of us into spiritual leadership.
Spiritual leadership is not about how well you speak, or how well you can present yourselves. It is about how you live.
St. Francis of Assisi once said; Preach the gospel at all times, and only when necessary, use words.
In this section, I have listed the ten important characteristics of leadership for a spiritual leader.
» Characteristics of Leadership #1: Courage
A spiritual leader needs to do what is right in the sight of the Lord, despite what his/her followers say. In the Bible, the Lord asked Gideon to reduce his army size to 300 and to break pots as a weapon of war.
What the Lord is asking us as leaders sometimes can be counter intuitive. It doesn’t make sense to you, but you know that it is from the Lord. It is then your courage that will help you to follow through.
If Gideon did not have the courage to do so, he might not have had the victory that the Lord had planned for him. Be strong and courageous as a leader, and trust the Voice within you.
» Characteristics of Leadership #2: Boldness
Boldness means to be confident of what you are doing and speaking. While courage speaks of your character, boldness relates to your personality. In the New Testament, after the apostles were filled with the Holy Spirit, they spoke the Word of God with boldness (Acts 4:31)
A bold personality comes out in your speech; when you have the confidence that what you’re saying is from the Lord. It emerges when you have spent time building your life on the Word of God, the Holy Spirit and prayer.
» Characteristics of Leadership #3: Strength
People follow leaders who are stronger than they are. A growing spiritual life is constantly filled with pressures and stress and it takes a strong person to push through it.
The capacity of a flock to grow is always dependent on the personal spiritual growth of the leader. If a leader is not strong in facing the challenges, we find that a flock generally ceases to grow as well.
You can read Joshua 1:6, 1 Corinthians 16:13 and Ephesians 6:10 as reference.
» Characteristics of Leadership #4: Anointing of the Holy Spirit
Unlike natural leadership, spiritual leadership requires the touch of God in your life. It is not your natural strengths like speaking or presenting that will give you leadership.
It is the anointing of the Holy Spirit that helps you to lead a flock well.
Believers who are discerning will sense the presence of God when you are leading the church and it is that Presence that gives you the authority to speak and continually speak into their lives.
Without the presence of God, you’ll find that your words are empty and your sermons become more like a classroom lesson or a motivational seminar that does not have the power to change lives.
» Characteristics of Leadership #5: Integrity
Proverbs 22:1 says that a good name is to be preferred over riches. This is especially true in spiritual leadership. You can have to be known as a person of integrity if you want to lead people with authentic spiritual leadership.
Many religious hypocrites have come up in churches since it began, and it has given the church a really bad reputation. In fact, in Jesus’ time, he was already giving the Pharisees a piece of His mind.
Being a person of integrity means, to do what you know is true, not speak it. Many people quote the Bible’s principles and verses with the intention of changing another person’s behavior while having the same problem themselves. This severely causes you to lose credibility to your followers.
A man of integrity however, watches his words carefully, and makes sure that whatever he preaches, he has already achieved or done. If he preaches honesty, he should be a man who is given to truth. If he is a man who preaches generosity, he should already have a generous heart, giving to the poor and tithing to the church.
» Characteristics of Leadership #6: Dependability
A spiritual leader must be dependable. He must be someone who is capable in handling his own affairs as well as the affairs of others.
The followers of a spiritual leader must see that he is dependable; only then will they entrust their lives to him. They must see the leader as the shelter from a world that is chaotic and uncertain, much like how we see God. The followers can entrust their lives to him by sharing their problems, or looking to him for advice.
But no matter what, the spiritual leader must have shown that he is indeed someone that they can depend on.
» Characteristics of Leadership #7: Humility
Humility is an essential quality of a spiritual leader. Jesus says that he who desires to be the greatest in the Kingdom must be a servant to all (Matthew 20:26).
Humility comes from the acknowledgement that all the talents and abilities that you have are gifts from the Lord. A man who understands that will never be prideful or boastful but will be thankful that he has been given such.
You may be born smarter or with a gift to speak, but it doesn’t make you a better person in the eyes of the Lord. After all, it is Him who gave it to you; and God is no respecter of persons. (Romans 2:11)
With that revelation, a spiritual leader should humble himself to serve all his followers. After all, God gave them to him that he may learn the principle of stewardship.
Humility also means that you recognize your strengths and your weaknesses and not be afraid to reveal them in front of your flock.
» Characteristics of Leadership #8: Vision
Joel 2:28 says that when the Spirit is poured on all flesh, men and women shall see visions and dreams. Proverbs 29:18 also states that when there is no vision, the people perish.
As a spiritual leader, you must be always ready to give direction to your followers. Most people are not sure about what God wants them to do in their lives, and some are not sure why they are part of a church.
You have to constantly provide that direction for your followers through visions and goals. One of the constant phrases in the Old Testament was, “You shall remember the Lord your God.”
This alone shows us how easily we can forget. You have to remind your flock about why they’re part of the church and help them to remember their purpose in God.
Set exciting goals for the year so that every member can be filled with anticipation and join in to be part of the bigger mission of the church.
» Characteristics of Leadership #9: Generosity
A spiritual leader must set an example by being generous with his time and money. John 3:16 says that God so loved the world that He gave. A man can give without loving, but he can never love without giving.
Generosity is an expression of the overflow of the love of God in your life. A man who is in love with God will give of his time and money to those around him. A spiritual leader must set an example through giving. In doing so, everyone learns to become more like God.
Giving of your time means visiting and counseling your members when they have issues, or giving them financial aid when they’re in need.
I remember one of the most touching testimonies of my senior pastor Kong Hee; in the early days of the church where everyone was still poor and in need, one of the members told Pst Kong that she did not have money for allowance.
Having heard it, he immediately cycled over to her house and passed her $20 to spend. $20 may seem like very little now, but 20 years ago when everyone was still young and in need, it was a significant amount. This was one of the most touching gestures of generosity I’ve heard.
» Characteristics of Leadership #10: Spirituality
And of course, the spiritual leader must be spiritual. Spirituality doesn’t mean that you can quote Bible verses off your head quickly, nor does it mean you are experienced with leadership.
Spirituality means simply your relationship with God. Ultimately, above all the things I have mentioned above, spiritual leadership is about how to lead a person into a deeper relationship with Jesus. It is the be all and end all of spiritual leadership.
A man can become a person of character and values, but he must be taught to seek it from the Source of all goodness and life.
Ultimately, what makes a successful spiritual leader is that he teaches his flock how to seek God for themselves.
And that of course means that the spiritual leader must himself be in love with Jesus. From my experience, if a leader speaks from his own wisdom and knowledge, he heaps coals on people’s heads, i.e he increases their burdens by telling them that God will only be pleased if they act in a certain way.
But a leader who speaks from a true relationship with Jesus will draw out the longing in his flock to know the Lord deeper as well. He creates thirst and hunger in his followers and they will run to God themselves.
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