5 Important truths for a Spiritual Leader

A few years back I was reading a book on leadership by John MacArthur.  In that book there was a statement that leadership wasn’t the ability to manage people or details, but the ability to inspire others to follow.  It went on to communicate that leaders don’t exist without followers.  This thought challenged me because I had always been a good “manager”, but had to start evaluating how effective I was at being a leader.  As I started to think through this, some areas started to become obvious to me as a pastor.

1.  We are not managers, but Spiritual Leaders.  A manager can direct traffic in any organization simply by conveying a list of things that need accomplished.  As spiritual leaders, we have the opportunity to move people from following out of a sense of obligation, to following because they believe in the goals we set out.  We must convey the goals and the overall vision in such a way that it inspires people and motivates them to become something more than they could ever have imagined.  We can’t just do this with good, persuasive words.  It must be accompanied with much prayer and discernment on our part.  We should see that, as spiritual leaders, we must spend time daily with our Leader and Lord.  This should be a priority in our schedules if we ever hope to accomplish anything for Him as we lead.

2.  Relationships Matter.  A manager can function apart from any real relationship with those that are managed.  Again, it’s simply conveying a list of things that need to be accomplished and the people who do it are just a means to an end.  As a spiritual leader, we must follow the example of Christ in what we do.  If we examine how He was able to have such a broad impact, we can see that He invested His life in people through relationships.  We can look at His relationship with the disciples and see that these were the people He poured into.  How were they able to go on and turn their world upside down? It’s because they had been inspired by their leader through their relationship with Him to become leaders of others.  We should make it a point to invest in the lives of the people and leaders we lead.

3.  Direction Matters.  We must be able to cast a vision for where we are going.  For those who follow, they want to know that what they are doing has value.  They want to see that it accomplishes an overall purpose or goal.  No one likes busy work.  No one wants to look back and see that they have just been working in circles and have nothing to show for it.  We must constantly remind those we lead where we are leading them to.  What is our purpose? How will this grow the kingdom? How will this impact the church? How will it help those who are hurting?  As we have one on one conversations with people, lunch with people, meetings with groups, we must always restate the vision in different ways and in different settings.  This allows us to remind them, as well as ourselves, where we are going.

4.  Grace is necessary.  As a manger in the work force, I would often find myself in situations where policies were broken by employees and action would have to be taken.  There were often times where I had to go in and demote people or terminate people from their positions because of their actions.  But as a Spiritual Leader, it’s not just a matter of enforcing policies. Although, we do desire that people work within the boundaries laid out.  We must be consistently communicating with those we lead.  If there is a situation or confrontation that needs to take place, it must be done in grace.  This doesn’t mean that we allow people a free pass to do whatever they want or to work against the vision or direction of the ministry.  It simply means that we are not the judge and jury.  We all do the wrong thing sometimes and we need people to come into our lives and lovingly guide us and correct us.  In these times we should follow Matthew 18 and talk with those who may have offended us one on one.  I have discovered that some clear communication at this time can go a long way to restoring and refocusing everyone on the overall vision and direction.  I’m reminded of Peter’s denial of Jesus at the cross.  Jesus knew it was coming, but it must have been devastating to Peter.  But Jesus showed him grace and Peter became one of the key leaders in the early church.  Grace can go a long way.

5.  Truth matters.  We should always be honest as we lead.  Everyone wants to follow those who have a strong character and live in integrity.  Grace is important, but it must always be measured with truth.  If someone is living in sin and/or refusing to follow spiritual leadership it must be confronted sooner rather than later.  If we sweep it under the rug or just hope it will go away, we can actually do more damage than addressing the issue.  We shouldn’t confront people in anger, but in truth.  If our emotions are high, we must take some time to pull away and pray.  It’s amazing how some time alone with God can change our perspective on situations.  Often, it becomes less about us and more about Him.  When this happens, we can address people from the truth of God instead of a personal agenda.

These aren’t intended to cover everything about Spiritual Leadership, but is a good place to start.  Just working through these has reminded me of some areas that I can focus on more in order to be a better leader.  What are some thoughts on Leadership you might could add to this?


About John Herring

I've been in ministry for almost 20 years. In that time, I have had the opportunity to serve in a variety of roles including, Student and Children's Pastor, Worship and Media Pastor, Education/Small Groups Pastor, Associate Pastor, Church Administrator, Missions Pastor and 'other duties as assigned' Pastor. Many of these have been within the same church and I have had the opportunity to see a variety of changes and transitions in ministry over the past 20 years. I enjoy coaching, consulting, mentoring and investing in leaders to see them become who it is God created them to be. As I do all of these, I am also in transition from where God had me to where He is taking me and enjoying learning more about Him in the journey. I am blessed to have been married to a beautiful godly woman, Alisha, for 11 years and have 2 amazing kids. I continue to learn more about them, myself and God every day. View all posts by John Herring

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