Spiritual leadership

When the leaders whom God calls allow Him to have complete control of their lives, the spirit of self-sacrifice, servanthood, and humility will exert a power for good over those they influence.

Wilie E. Hucks II is associate editor of Ministry Magazine

When I lecture on the sub­ject of leadership, I ask the participants to name three individuals—biblical or nonbiblical, alive or deceased—whom they con­sider to be leaders, and why. The responses generally revolve around qualities that manifest themselves in actions: for example, Moses was a del­egator; Nehemiah was a visionary; and Martin Luther King Jr. was a motivator.

So often when discussions take place about leadership, we place the focus on the externals. As necessary as these attributes are, there are other qualities that carry a more spiritual tone. Indeed, spirituality must be at the foundation of delegation, vision, and motivation. But it is possible to delegate, cast a vision, and motivate without being spiritual.

So what does the Bible say about spiritual leadership? What does such a person look like?


The children of Israel, under the guidance of Aaron, were worshiping a golden calf. At that moment, it mat­tered very little to them how much Moses or the Ultimate Leader, God Himself, had done for them. They insisted on pursuing their own agenda.

God spoke to Moses, saying, “‘Let Me alone, that My anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them; and I will make of you a great nation’” (Exod. 32:10).* Moses pleaded with God to not annihilate His chosen ones. “‘Turn from Your burning anger and change Your mind about doing harm to Your people’” (v. 12). The next day Moses pleaded with God again. “‘Alas, this people has committed a great sin, and they have made a god of gold for themselves. But now, if You will, forgive their sin—and if not, please blot me out from Your book which You have written!’” (vv. 31, 32).

God seeks spiritual leaders who place the interests of their flock above those of their own—for Christ set this example.

A servant

The mother of James and John requested of Jesus that He place her two sons on either side of Him—mak­ing them great in the kingdom they all expected Him to establish.

Jesus dashed her delusions of grandeur with a sweeping statement: “‘Whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many’” (Matt. 20:26–28).

A servant? A slave? It couldn’t get any lower than that in Jewish soci­ety. But Jesus exemplified His belief system when, as recorded in John 13, He poured water into a basin and washed the feet of His proud disciples. “‘I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you. . . . A slave is not greater than his master’” (John 13:15, 16).

God seeks spiritual leaders who consider others before themselves­ not living for self, rather, living to bless others.


Reflecting on the life of Christ, Paul wrote to the church in Philippi: “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself. . . . He humbled Himself by becoming obedi­ent to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:5–8).

Humility is among the rarest of qualities in earthly leaders. Hubris, arrogance, conceit, and narcissism seem to be the order of the day. But the spiritual leader does not think highly of himself (see Phil. 2:3); rather, he or she willingly fades into the back­ground—often lifting others up onto the pedestal that some consider right­fully belonging to the leader.

The leader does not maintain humility for personal gain or glory. Indeed, humility earned Jesus’ death on a cross. But God Himself notes the humility of the leader and rewards him or her in His own time (see Phil. 2:9). Humanity may never applaud the humble leader; but such a one doesn’t mind, because it’s not about the earthly leader; it’s about the heavenly Leader and those for whom He died.

God seeks spiritual leaders who empty themselves and allow the Holy Spirit to fill them with His presence and power so that they may uplift others.

When the leaders whom God calls allow Him to have complete control of their lives, the spirit of self-sacrifice, servanthood, and humility will exert a power for good over those they influence. The example of their lives informs leadership theory and approaches—be it delegation, consultation, participa­tion, and so forth—and the church and society will be moved for God!

* All scriptural references are from the New American Standard Bible.

Ministry reserves the right to approve, disapprove, and delete comments at our discretion and will not be able to respond to inquiries about these comments. Please ensure that your words are respectful, courteous, and relevant.

comments powered by Disqus

Wilie E. Hucks II is associate editor of Ministry Magazine

April 2015

Download PDF
Ministry Cover

More Articles In This Issue

Humble servant leadership: An interview with Ted Wilson

Discover the definitions for “humble servant leadership and true spiritual leadership.”

Pastors as gatekeepers: Congregational encounters with mental health and substance abuse issues

Clergy have a valuable role in helping those facing the challenges of mental health and addictions issues.

Sex on the Sabbath

The subject has always elicited strong reaction. Does the Bible address it?

Deepen Your Commitment

If we ever needed to revive our commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ and to the message He gave us, it is now.

God calls for a revival and reformation

From our continuing revival and reformation series.

A delightful day

How does God want us to experience the delight of His Sabbath?

The heavenly temple in the Gospel of John

This article will first explore temple language used by John in his Gospel, and then concentrate on what John says about the heavenly temple.

Moses and Jesus

The author argues for the continuum position: Jesus built on what went before, and He did not discard law; indeed, He overwhelms the law with the fullness of grace and truth.

Learning to Walk in the Dark

The author provides a way to find spiritual meaning in those low times in our lives when we do not have all the answer.

View All Issue Contents

Digital delivery

If you're a print subscriber, we'll complement your print copy of Ministry with an electronic version.

Sign up
Advertisement - Southern Adv Univ 180x150 - Animated

Recent issues

See All
Advertisement - NAD Stewardship (160x600)