The Spiritual Leader's Task

Spiritual leadership is not identical to leadership in general. While spiritual leadership involves many of the same principles as general leadership, spiritual leadership has certain distinctive qualities that must be understood and practiced if spiritual leaders are to be successful. The following are the distinctive elements of spiritual leadership implied in our definition.

Spiritual leaders move people from where they are to where God wants them to be.This is influence. Once spiritual leaders understand God's will, they make every effort to move their followers from following their own agendas to pursuing God's purposes. Leaders who fail to move people on to God's agenda have not led. They may have exhorted, cajoled, pleaded, or bullied, but they will not have led unless their people have adjusted their lives to God's will.

Moving people is not the same as driving or forcing people to do something. Our definition assumes that spiritual leaders use spiritual means to move or influence people, as opposed to methods devoid of God. When spiritual leaders have done their jobs, the people around them have encountered God and obeyed His will.

Spiritual leaders depend on the Holy Spirit

Spiritual leaders work within a paradox, for God calls them to do something that, in fact, only God can do. Ultimately, spiritual 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. Leaders seek to move people on to God's agenda, all the while being aware that only the Holy Spirit can ultimately accomplish the task.

Spiritual leaders are accountable to God

Spiritual leadership necessitates an acute sense of accountability. Just as a teacher has not taught until students have learned, leaders don't blame their followers when they don't do what they should do. Leaders don't make excuses. They assume their responsibility is to move people to do God's will. Until they do this, they have not yet fulfilled their role as leaders.

Spiritual leaders can influence all people, not just God's people

God is on mission at the local factory as well as at the local church. His agenda applies in the marketplace as well as the meeting place. Although spiritual leaders will generally move God's people to achieve God's purposes, God can also use them to exert significant influence upon unbelievers.

History is replete with examples of Christian men and women exerting spiritual leadership upon secular society. Christians in business ought not to assume that spiritual leadership is purely in the local minister's domain. Spiritual leadership occurs down the middle of everyday life.

Spiritual leaders work from God's agenda

The greatest obstacle to effective spiritual leadership is people pursuing their own agendas rather than seeking God's will. God is working throughout the world to achieve His purposes and to advance His kingdom. God's concern is not to advance leaders' dreams and goals or to build their kingdoms. His purpose is to turn His people away from their self- centeredness and sinful desires, and to draw them into a relationship with Himself.

The key to spiritual leadership, then, is for spiritual leaders to understand God's will for them and their organizations. Leaders will then move people away from their own agendas and on to God's. It sounds simple enough, but many Christian leaders fail to put this basic truth into practice. Too often, leaders allow secular models of leadership to corrupt the straightforward model set by Jesus.

Dr. Henry T. Blackaby is the founder and president emeritus of Blackaby Ministries International, an organization built to help people experience God. He has served on staff at the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention and as special assistant to the presidents of the International Mission Board and LifeWay Christian Resources. His book Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God has sold 7 million copies and has been translated into over 45 languages.

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