7 Pillars For the Spiritual Leader

To grow as a leader, functioning in any capacity, it is helpful to know how you define your leadership philosophy. If someone was to ask you, “What is leadership to you?”, would you have an answer that’s in unison with your daily approach to life, people and projects?

7 Pillars For the Spiritual Leader

I believe the ability to focus is enhanced by the ability to articulate. The better you can specify your leadership philosophy, the greater odds you have to effectively translate that philosophy into results.

I’ve read a number of leadership books over the years and will continue to devour them as they are published. I have a handful of favorites that I constantly refer back to on a regular basis. Spiritual Leadership by Henry and Richard Blackaby is one of them. In Spiritual Leadership, they cited a book that discovered over 850 definitions of leadership. Wow! It’s should be no surprise many leaders struggle to achieve their leadership goals. With so many perspectives comes a multitude of ways to measure progress and develop strategies. The Blackabys offer the following definition of spiritual leadership:

Moving people on to God’s agenda

That may sound too brief for such a complex subject and yet, therein lays the beauty. Despite its conciseness though, it is also a loaded statement. It assumes several contexts from which we can begin to set goals and generate clear progress indicators.

Here are 7 Pillars For the Spiritual Leader…

  1. Spiritual Leaders Depend on the Holy Spirit

If God has indeed called us to move people on to His agenda, then He has called us to do something that, in fact, only God can do. This is the challenging dynamic to spiritual leadership. Leaders cannot produce spiritual change in people; only the Holy Spirit can accomplish this. Yet, the Spirit often uses people to bring about spiritual growth in others.

Think about what God said to Moses, “Come now, therefore, and I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring My people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt (Exodus 3:10).” God was sending Moses to accomplish something that only God could do. Such is the nature of spiritual leadership.

God calls us to situations that require miracles and miracles require relationship with God.

This is the constant tension in spiritual leadership. Leaders seek to move people on to God’s agenda, all the while remaining aware that only God’s Spirit can touch and transform hearts.

  • Are you depending on the Holy Spirit as a leader?
  • Are you crying out to God to see people grow into what you’re hoping?
  • Are you seeking God’s wisdom in your decision making?

These are the components that will not only bring about change in others, but they will draw you into a deeper relationship with Christ. At the end of the day, that’s the Father’s heart anyway. God uses the challenge of leadership in our lives to bring us to a “face-to-face intimacy” with Him, just as He did with Moses.

  1. Spiritual Leaders Are Focused on their Mission

The spiritual leader’s task is to move people from where they are to where God wants them to be. This is the specific type of “influence” God desires His leaders to have with people. Once a leader understands His will, they give 100% of their focus to shift people from pursuing their own agenda towards a pursuit of God’s purposes. If a leader doesn’t move people on to God’s agenda then a he/she has not led.

Some leaders have hyped people up or rallied a crowd for an event or bullied or guilt-ed or manipulated people for a moment; but they haven’t achieved spiritual leadership until people have adjusted their will and life towards God’s agenda. Moving people is different than dominating or scamming people. This definition assumes that spiritual leaders are using spiritual means to influence people compared to tactics devoid of God.

When people are being moved on to God’s agenda, their attitudes and behaviors are changed. A dynamic of faith and expectation about God’s purposes is almost tangible enough to bottle up. People give of themselves to others with generosity and sacrifice.

“When spiritual leaders have done their jobs, the people around them have encountered God and obeyed His will.” -Henry & Richard Blackaby

  1. Spiritual Leaders Lead Themselves First

Speaking of the Pharisees, Jesus said, “Let them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch (Matt. 15:14).” The Pharisees were supposed to be the spiritual leaders of their day, but they weren’t leading because they themselves weren’t on God’s agenda. Leaders who are trying to move people on to God’s agenda, and aren’t on God’s agenda themselves, are like the blind leading the blind according to Jesus.

There’s a leadership maxim that says, “You can’t take people where you haven’t been.” If a leader’s will, attitude and behavior aren’t yielded to God’s agenda, how are they going to have any wisdom to pass on to their followers? A man or woman of God must first look at the person in the mirror. The hardest person to lead is YOURSELF.

When a leader is modeling the life he/she is teaching about, the learning curve for their people is accelerated. Concepts, principles and expectations make more sense. Followers connect the dots much faster. Spiritually speaking, there is a path prepared for others to travel on.

For example, if a leader is connecting with God’s presence in their life, it will always be easier for their followers to do the same.

If we’re going to move people on to God’s agenda, we must first ask ourselves, “Are we on God’s agenda?” Is Jesus at the center of my life right now? Am I pursuing God and growing throughout each week of my life? Am I working as hard, if not harder, as I’m expecting others?

Before you attempt to move others on to God’s agenda, make sure you’ve moved yourself first. If you don’t feel like you’re currently on God’s agenda, ask yourself the following questions…

  • Why Am I not on God’s agenda?
  • What would it look like in the current season of life you’re in?
  • What changes need to be made?
  • What will be the cost of those changes?

The sooner you deal with these tough questions, the sooner you will see stronger results in your leadership.

  1. Spiritual Leaders MUST Connect with People

We’ve already looked at the importance of relying on the Holy Spirit when it comes to “moving people on to God’s agenda.” Once we’ve relied on the Holy Spirit, we still need to be able to connect with people on a relational level. Leaders can’t be so heavenly minded, they’re no earthly good. Leaders must be connected to Jesus and connected to their people.

Listen to the depth of connection in these words: “…Christ— from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love (Eph 4:15-16, NKJV).” Words stand out to me in that passage such as “joined” and “knit together.” The illustration of the human body’s ”joints” expresses where two or more bones come together with tendons, ligaments, muscle tissue and more for harmonious functionality. I get a sense of multiple layers of connection that, although complicated, possess cohesion. Paul said that this close intertwining would result in “growth.”

In order to move people, we need God’s help spiritually speaking and we need a connection with people practically speaking. As leaders we have to be able to get beneath the surface with people, discover who they are and demonstrate love before we can ever be given permission (by them) to awaken them to God’s agenda.

When one bone of a joint gets knocked out of place it automatically knocks the other bone(s) in the joint out of place. When something gets knocked out of place in your peoples’ lives are you close enough to them for it to knock you out of place too? If not, there may be a lack of connection.

When the human body is properly connected it causes growth, vitality and health. The same will be true for your leadership. When those you are leading feel connected to you as a leader, the result will be growth in their life. The growth we are talking about is your people moving on to God’s agenda for their life.

  1. Spiritual Leaders Constantly Work from God’s Agenda

When a leader is attempting to move a person on to God’s agenda, there is a huge assumption being made: He or she is already working from God’s agenda. Problems occur when leaders are pursuing their own agenda instead of God’s.

God’s priorities are not advancing someone’s dreams or goals. He is not concerned with advancing a personal, social or political agenda. Leaders that gradually get disconnected from God’s agenda slowly get distracted and begin to focus on the unimportant.

God’s purpose is to turn His people away from their self-centeredness and their sinful desires in order to woo them into a relationship with Himself. Leading people through the eyes of that paradigm produces Biblical priorities. The key to spiritual leadership, then, is for spiritual leaders to understand God’s will for themselves and their people.

One of my favorite prayer verses is Colossians 1:9-10:

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of His will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, 10 so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please Him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God…

As leaders, let’s pray for God to fill us with the knowledge of His will!

  1. Spiritual Leaders Influence All People

It’s important to highlight that spiritual leaders influence all people, not just God’s people. God has an agenda for the local business complex as well as the local church. He has a mission for the marketplace as well as the meeting place. The majority of the time, spiritual leaders will move God’s people on to His agenda, but God can also use them to gain influence upon nonbelievers too.

Think about Joseph from Genesis. He influenced Pharaoh who wasn’t a follower of Jehovah. At the time, Pharaoh was the most powerful man in the world. As a result of his spiritual dullness he could not interpret certain dreams he was having. Joseph gained influence with Pharaoh by accurately interpreting the dreams. Pharaoh wasn’t aware of God’s agenda to spare the Egyptians and other Middle Eastern people from a seven year famine until he came in contact with Joseph. Building barns to store grain may not seem that spiritual, but it was a high priority on God’s agenda. The Lord began to reveal Himself to an unbelieving nation (Egypt was already the most powerful nation in the world before the famine) through a God-fearing government official.

Being a spiritual leader doesn’t come with boundaries. It’s not something you do, it’s something you are. Therefore, spiritual leadership interfaces with all areas of one’s life, not just church activity.

  1. Spiritual Leaders Are Accountable to God

Spiritual leaders walk with a strong personal awareness of being accountable to God through the Holy Spirit. Leaders don’t point the finger at their followers when they’re not getting the results they desire. Leaders don’t make excuses as to why their organization or ministry isn’t growing. Leaders accept responsibility for the results they’re seeing (or not seeing).

When leaders are frustrated with their followers, the FIRST thing they do is look into the mirror and ask the Holy Spirit, “What needs to change?” They shoulder the responsibility of initiating the shift in momentum that is necessary.

When a leader sees deficiencies in their followers, they must look for the same flaws in themselves first.

Leaders also don’t make excuses as to why God’s agenda can’t be fulfilled. They see obstacles as instruments of personal development, not justification for poor results. Situations that seem limiting and impossible become fuel for uncommon creativity.

True spiritual leadership is moving people from where they are to where God wants them to be. Until they do this, leaders have not fulfilled their role. Leaders always assume responsibility for moving people towards God’s will.

In review, the 7 Pillars For the Spiritual Leader are…

  1. Spiritual Leaders Depend on the Holy Spirit
  2. Spiritual Leaders Are Focused on their Mission
  3. Spiritual Leaders Lead Themselves First
  4. Spiritual Leaders MUST Connect with People
  5. Spiritual Leaders Constantly Work from God’s Agenda
  6. Spiritual Leaders Influence All People
  7. Spiritual Leaders Are Accountable to God

Which one speaks to you? Which one do you need to work on in the current season of your life? Feel free to share your responses in the comments below…

¹Blackaby, Spiritual Leadership, (Tennessee: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2001)

 CC Image • Courtesy of McKay Savage on Flickr

    Andrew Mason is the Small Groups Pastor of Real Life Church, a family of churches in the Nor. CA region. He oversees Small Groups and Assimilation. He is Founder of SmallGroupChurches.com, an online community of leaders dedicated to growing churches one small group at a time. Andrew resides in Sacramento, CA with his wife Camille and their two sons.

    Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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