Spiritual Leadership by J. Oswald Sanders

25 Leadership Principles for Every Believer“To aspire to leadership is an honorable ambition.” (1 Timothy 3:1)

One of the best books I’ve ever read on the Christian life and leadership is Spiritual Leadership by J. Oswald Sanders, who served as a consulting director of Overseas Missionary Fellowship. Over the past 25 years, I’ve read this book many times. I’ve used it as a conversation starter and “field manual” on spiritual leadership for many small groups of men who were learning to lead.

Currently, I’m meeting with a group of young men from the Arise College Ministry at Crossroads Bible Church. We meet at 6am each Tuesday morning at my home and we’re just a couple of weeks into Sanders’ book. We started meeting this summer and went through another wonderful book – Disciplines of a Godly Man by Kent Hughes. We focused on issues of integrity and how to apply “godly sweat” to important areas of our life: our tongue, our work, our devotion, our worship, our friendships, our leadership, and our prayers. A few years ago, I started summarizing some of the key leadership principles in each chapter and I’d like to share 25 Leadership Principles from the first 52 pages.

  1. Spiritual leadership is motivated by a deep love for Christ and genuine concern for the church. (p 14)
  2. Spiritual leaders will never “campaign for promotion.” (p 15)
  3. Spiritual leadership is found in giving yourself in service to others, not in convincing or inducing others to serve you. (p 15)
  4. Spiritual leaders have shortcomings and flaws and still God uses them. (p 17)
  5. Spiritual leaders must be authoritative, spiritual and sacrificial. (p 18)
  6. Spiritual leaders must be willing to suffer for the sake of objectives great enough to demand their wholehearted obedience. (p 18)
  7. Spiritual leaders must pass on the torch to younger people as a first-line responsibility. (p 18)
  8. Spiritual leadership does not come as a result of theological training or seminary degrees. (p 22)
  9. Greatness comes through servanthood, and leadership through becoming a slave of all. (p 23)
  10. God assigns places of spiritual ministry and leadership in His sovereign will. (p 22)
  11. God’s ideal servant is optimistic until every part of God’s work is done. (p 25)
  12. Leadership is influence, the ability of one person to influence others to follow his or her lead. (p 27)
  13. The personality of the spiritual leader influences others because it is irradiated, penetrated, and empowered by the Holy Spirit. (p 28)
  14. Spiritual leadership requires superior spiritual power, which can never be generated by the self. (p 28)
  15. Spiritual leaders pursue spiritual goals which require spiritual methods. (p 32)
  16. Spiritual leaders can accept opposition to their viewpoint or decision without taking offense. (p 36)
  17. Pessimism and leadership do not mix. (p 37)
  18. Leaders who cannot keep secrets should not try to lead. (p 38)
  19. The spiritual leader should be a man of unchallengeable morality. (p 41)
  20. The life of the leader should reflect the beauty and orderliness of God. ((p 41)
  21. A person’s ability to lead at home is a strong indicator of his readiness to lead in ministry. (p 44)
  22. A spiritual leader’s primary responsibility is to see that his “flock” is properly fed and cared for (1 Peter 5:2). (p 47)
  23. A spiritual leader must be a worthy example for the people to follow. (p 49)
  24. Spiritual leaders do not hunger for money or thirst for applause. (p 49)
  25. Lazy and disorganized people never rise to true leadership. (p 52)

Where do you need to grow as a spiritual leader?

Which of these principles are evident in your life?

To which of these principles do you need to devote more attention?

Today’s Missional Challenge

Develop the leader within you and leaders around you.

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Dave DeVries

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Dr. Dave DeVries is a coach, trainer, author and founder of Missional Challenge. He is passionate about coaching and training church planters and missional leaders. With 30+ years of church planting and leadership development experience, Dave brings his passion and encouragement to those he trains and coaches.
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