Very many churches suffer today from a lack of spiritual leadership. That diagnosis is true across denominational lines. It fits both urban and rural churches. It applies equally to rich and poor, to people of all races, without regard to their country, state or province, town or village. The truth is that we all can benefit from a fresh look at biblical teaching on this subject. For the next few gracEmails, I would like to challenge us to consider three fundamental truths of spiritual leadership.
The first truth is that spiritual leadership involves lowly service, not legal power. This truth raises a caution — Do not confuse spiritual leadership with political position. Jesus taught this in clear language, as we will see. Peter applied the principle in writing his churches. Paul describes it in action under a variety of circumstances as he instructs and guides his proteges and trainees Timothy and Titus. The apostle shows what spiritual leadership looks like when rebuking a wrongdoer, when engaged in controversy and when dealing with a divisive person. We will consider his guidance for each situation.
The second truth is that spiritual leaders exercise grace-gifts from God, not worldly qualifications. This truth also raises a caution — Do not focus on worldly achievements when choosing spiritual leaders. Too often, churches focus on educational degrees, professional expertise or financial success when seeking out spiritual leaders. Yet not one of those elements has any necessary relationship to spiritual maturity, worthiness of imitation, Christlikeness or ability to teach, model and inspire others toward godliness and Christian maturity. When churches use improper standards for selecting spiritual leaders, they are almost certain to come to spiritual stagnation (even if the institutional church thrives).
The third truth is that the Bible identifies gifted people, not legal qualifications. This creates a caution — Do not confuse technical qualifications with spiritual character. Scripture does not provide a single, uniform list of “qualifications” for spiritual leaders. It does provide general descriptives that help identify gifted persons.