What does spiritual leadership look like, when one realizes that it involves lowly service and not legal power? Paul describes its conduct under three different circumstances: correcting a wrongdoer; encountering a controversialist and dealing with a divisive person.
If required to correct a fellow-Christian who is doing wrong, the person who thinks he or she has legal power will usually be rude, domineering, harsh and perhaps self-righteous. Instead, Paul tells Timothy: “Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity” (1 Tim. 5:1-2).
Similarly, controversy often brings out the worst in people, especially those filled with self-importance because of their supposed authority or position of power. So Paul writes: “Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone . . . patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness” (2 Tim. 2:23-25).
Even if God’s leader is kind, patient and gentle as Paul instructs, controversialists are sometimes rough, short-tempered and unkind — and persistently so in each respect. When encountering such a divisive individual, the spiritual leader whose role is to serve and not to assume power or assert authority will have as little as possible to do with that one, and will seek to avoid his or her presence. This is Paul’s counsel: “As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned” (Titus 3:10-11).