Walking in Spiritual Leadership

This Way Is 30:21Leadership has taken over the church world.  Rarely can you find a pastors conference any more. Everything is about leadership.  I am trying to recover from leadership overdose.  You see, if you look at my library of books I have read as a pastor, they are dominated by leadership books.  Many of them I enjoyed greatly and gave me great principles to be a good leader.  But I think I have focused too much on leadership and not enough on Spiritual Leadership.

To balance this over-emphasis on organizational leadership in the church, the Century Leadership movement that my local denomination launched provides good principles from the leadership world without neglecting the role of Pastor as a spiritual leadership.   Darren Pilcher’s passion is to develop true spiritual leader in our local churches. (Darren blogs regularly on this topic. check it out!). It takes more than organizational principles to be a good pastor.

Organizational leadership is necessary in large church organizations that have multi-levels of staff or leadership. But in the average church, the organizational structure is fairly simple and often fairly flat.  Many of the principles taught at leadership conferences only address the experience of the larger church.  The average church operates differently.  It has too.  However, it seem to me that leadership in the small church has some leadership tendencies that I have found out personally never work:

  • Leading by Culture – This is where Pastor decides the direction of the church based on “what others are doing.”  While I certainly never want to become outdated in my leadership, culture should not be the organizing principle of my church. Not even church culture. To me, the drive to imitate what is working elsewhere destroys our uniqueness.  And its never worked for me. What will make your average church successful is embracing its uniqueness.  Be who you are and don’t be driven by where the church world is going.
  • Leading by Fear –  Many pastors are afraid to lead the church into what they feel God wants because of fear of losing people or losing what little financial support they already have.  It is reality we all deal with.  When you lead from fear you always end up with an incomplete version of the church God wants you to become.  The fear of not realizing God’s vision for your church should overrule the fear of those who won’t embrace it.
  • Leading by Knowledge – This type of leadership is the type that is always looking for a magic bullet to success and growth.  This assumes that if you just had the right information on how to do things, it will get better. We fall into this trap so many times.  When we learn something new, we go to our church and say “this is what we should do.”  Meanwhile, our people are saying to themselves, “this is what he about the last idea.”  Gain all the wisdom you can from good knowledge, but realize there is no magic bullet.

I think what is needed today for the average pastor is good spiritual leadership.  There is wisdom in the leadership movement, but true Spiritual leadership is needed in the church because it is God’s church and not ours.  Our agenda for the direction of our church is irrelevant.  We are shepherd, Jesus is the true leader.  Therefore, the only leadership that matters is God’s leadership.

Spiritual leadership is needed in the church because it is God’s church and not ours.

Spiritual leadership is Spirit-focused.  To be “spiritual” is to be full of the Spirit.  To lead spiritually is to have the direction you lead be lead by the Spirit.  The best principle for leadership in your local church is: “Hear what the Spirit is saying to the church”(Rev 2-3). The church will go nowhere without the Spirit.   When we don’t listen to the Spirit it is easy to miss God’s purposes for our churches.   Every book of the New Testament was God’s Spirit filled instructions to a church in a particular location.  Let the Spirit of God lead you as you lead your congregation.  The book of Isaiah reminds us that this type of leadership. God says to his people:

  “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.” Isaiah 30:21

The best Spiritual leadership is listening to that voice that tells you, “This is the way.”  Your leadership as a Pastor is not to follow the culture, fear or the latest ideas.  It is to follow the Spirit. That means that the best leadership for the local church is a Spirit-led pastor.  The Holy Spirit is the filter that allows you to sift through ideas that you have for your church.  When you are led by the Spirit, you have the freedom to discern not only what you should do to lead your church, but also the when you should do it.


The Spirit gives us confidence to say no to good ideas when knowledge says yes.  The Spirit gives us faith to make brave decisions that will be in the best interest of our church in spite of the fear of what it will cost us.  The Spirit gives us confidence in who we are instead of measuring ourselves against the paradigm of those around us.    The Spirit leads us into all the fruit we wish for our personal life.  How much more will “keeping in step” with the Spirit produce the fruit we want to see in our church (Gal 5:25)? Today you will make decisions about your church.  Be a Spiritual leader.


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