There are so many leadership resources out there. It’s a hot topic nowadays. Church leaders take advantage of those resources in an effort to become better leaders. But spiritual leadership is a much more precious and consequential task. Christian leaders are entrusted with the spiritual lives of their congregants or employees. As someone in Christian leadership, I love reading material on leadership. But I ABSOLUTELY love reading material on spiritual leadership. Enter John Piper. This year, Piper retired as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota, after pastoring there for thirty years. So he may know a thing or two about spiritual leadership. In his short work, “The Marks of A Spiritual Leader”, he offers the following (which I find really helpful):
Spiritual leadership is aimed not so much at directing people as it is at changing people.
You can get people to do what you want, but if they don’t change in their heart you have not led them spiritually. You have not taken them to where God wants them to be.
The spiritual leader must be a person who meditates on the Word of God and who prays for spiritual illumination. Otherwise, his faith will grow weak and his love will languish and no one will be moved to glorify God because of him.
A spiritual leader must be a person who has strong confidence in the sovereign goodness of God to work everything together for his good. Otherwise, he will inevitably fall into the trap of manipulating circumstances and exploiting people in order to secure for himself a happy future which he is not certain God will provide.
If you can’t say ouch, say amen. Way too many leaders feel like they are leaders because they can tell people what to do. But heart change is the key to spiritual leadership. Otherwise, spiritual leaders have failed their people. In the short work, Piper goes on to talk about the inner circle of spiritual leadership—which is basically the sequence of event that happens in the human soul that must happen to take the first step in spiritual leadership. He offers the following tips to anyone in a position of spiritual leadership.
1. That Others Will Glorify God: the true mark of a spiritual leader is to take others to a place where they glorify God (see Matthew 5:16)
2. Love Both Friend and Foe By Trusting in God and Hoping in His Promises: demonstrate love, even to those who oppose your work. In the process, it demonstrates that you are trusting in God.
3. Meditate and Pray Over His Word: self-explanatory, but very key. The spiritual leader MUST be a man/woman of meditation and prayer.
4. Acknowledge Your Helplessness: hard for many leaders, but Gospel-centered. Strength is found in weakness (see 2 Corinthians 11:30).
Sounds like some great advice from someone with 30-plus years of experience in spiritual leadership. I took some serious notes while reading it. He goes on to talk about the “outer circle of spiritual leadership and lists about 16 traits there. Google it. Read it. Reflect it. Whatever area of leadership you find yourself in, you’ll find yourself to be a better leader if you implement what he suggests.