Leadership is everywhere. Regardless of who is present, someone will ultimately take the lead. I remember years ago, hearing John Maxwell give his simple definition of leadership: “Leadership is influence.” The question then, is for whom or to what end is the leadership working? Philip Nation correctly asserts that the world measures success, therefore leadership, by power, money, and, achievements. All leadership, in fact most leadership in the world, has nothing to do with pointing people toward God or the things God values.
Spiritual leadership is not often noted in books as a spiritual discipline. Why does Philip Nation include it in his? He points out that to take something that naturally occurs (leadership) and use it for God’s glory (spiritually directed and driven leadership) will take intention and discipline.
We should note that the category of “spiritual disciplines” is a man-made one, not strictly speaking, a Biblical category. Unlike spiritual gifts, which has passages like Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12 to instruct and guide us in what are spiritual gifts (and, therefore, what are not), the spiritual disciplines are a more loosely grouped set of practices that are sometimes taught about in Scripture, but are really a collection of practices that have been observed in Godly people over the centuries – habits that can be seen in Biblical and extra-Biblical people who have walked with the Lord.
How do we distinguish between worldly leadership and spiritual leadership? On page 183, Nation writes, “Remove the idea of holiness and love for God from leadership and all you have left is selfish dictatorial impulses from the human heart.” Nation asserts that as we love God more, His Holy Spirit will be transforming our character and using us (leadership) to influence others to move toward the very same God who loves and draws us.
Nation writes with passion about leadership and as one who has given much thought to the subject. Having done doctoral work on spiritual, missional leadership, he would be expected to have a good definition of it:
Missional leadership is living according to and speaking about the mission of God as first revealed in the Scriptures and the life of Jesus Christ so as to guide others to surrender to and participate in the mission of God on a personal and community level. (p. 184)
In an excellent section of the chapter, the author points to several places in the Old and New Testaments where it is clear that spiritual leadership is more than holding a position and is not something to be used for selfish purposes. Paul says it’s ok to aspire to leadership, but the overall message of Scripture is that God calls us to lead. This burden is placed both on the individual to hear and accept and also on God’s people, who are often asked to look deeper than the appearances and into the hearts of potential leaders.
Three characteristics of spiritual leaders are: 1. They first serve God. 2. They lead with discernment. 3. Their desire is to leave a legacy for God, not themselves. What motivates the spiritual leader? 1. The idea of the Kingdom of God. 2. The Covenant God established with us through Christ. 3. The mission Jesus verbalized in John 17:23 – that people would be united as one redeemed family under Christ.
How does one get started in being an influencer over others for God’s glory?
- “Give Him your love and He will give you His character.” (p. 192)
- How will we know where to place our attention, time, resources if we are not in prayer seeking the Father’s guidance?
- Whole-hearted effort.
Nation concludes his writing leadership with a call to remember that leadership is always “among the people.” There is a simple logic here. If leadership is influence on the lives of people for God’s glory, then clearly we must be with people. We must be with one another.
PRAYER: Father, when I want to keep to myself, push me out toward others and use me to help them see You. When I am with others and want them to serve me, help me to lead through serving them. Give me a passion for the things You care about and the wisdom to see how I can lead people to trust You with their full hearts.