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When thinking of spiritual leadership, the assumption should be: it must be biblical or must pass the biblical criteria for it to be called true spiritual leadership. Spiritual leadership has taken a lot of changes and forms after the time of the apostles and their first disciples. So many and varied are the leadership styles of many spiritual leaders today that one can be easily confused as to what type of leadership is acceptable and right.
Another thing is the sweeping categorizing of “leadership” that it has now become a norm that when anybody speaks of leadership, the person is presumed to be speaking about leadership in whatever organizations. There are no differences and the issue is generalized. Leadership is leadership regardless of what kind of group one is leading; hence, the same strategies and methods of management apply to any roles that fall under the heading “leadership” may it be corporate or clerical.
Biblical principles of leadership when applied to the corporate world might – in all likelihood – help and improve an institution, while business management principles taken from a totally secular point of views will not contribute a lasting effect which is, in the first place, the normal effect of true spiritual leadership.If, on the other hand, a merger of these two styles has been reached and is espoused, it attracts a huge audience and market.
The present popularity of self-help tools and conferences that cater to the cravings of the masses for “instant formulas” that will assist and promote personal discipline and success is proof enough that points to the reality that if only personal and corporate success can be woven into few easy simple steps, a great mass of people will buy into it provided the guarantee is when they leave, they will take with them the promised simplified solutions to life’s many puzzles. People who are getting tired of long processes and are becoming convinced that “spiritual leadership” is no different than any other kind of leadership are the most prone and easy market to authors and speakers who have come up with some “cleverly devised fables” on spiritual leadership. This paper, as in other papers that try to teach and inspire those who aspire for and are currently in positions of spiritual leadership, is prepared not to make the work appear more difficult that it is, but to outline the time-tested and proven Biblical principles.Definition of TermsTo say that a particular leadership is “spiritual,” is to make it its own kind. It should not be mistaken or confused with other kinds of leadership. As defined by J. Oswald Sanders, a wide gap exists between how the world defines and understands leadership in general, and how it is perceived by those whose work is spiritual leadership. While the world see leadership as something to covet because of the prestige and the power that comes along with it, those who serve as ministers over Christ’s churches view it – or rather should see it – as a work that if there’s any reward to it to be expected, it is the work of service itself. True spiritual leaders, serve. “The true spiritual leader is focused on the service he and she can render to God and other people, not on the residuals and perks of high office or holy title” (Sanders, p. 15). Taking leadership principles from the life of Jesus himself, Sanders clarify that to be effective as spiritual leader, one has to be “authoritative, spiritual, and sacrificial” (Sanders, p.18). A leader’s spirituality is one primary requisite because of the nature of the work. “To be a leader in the church has always required strength and faith beyond the merely human” (Sanders, p.18). If the one who holds the position of spiritual leadership is himself not spiritual, he is already disqualified; “because without a strong relationship to God, even the most attractive and competent person cannot lead people to God” (Sanders, p.18)).Personal Model of Spiritual Leadership: Leadership in the Covey and Sanders’ TraditionFirstly, Stephen Covey has been very prominent on a worldwide scale. His concepts have been known to have crept into almost every crook and cranny of the corporate world here and abroad. This is most especially attributable to the fact that his “Seven habits of highly successful people” spread his concepts in its publication in 1989, and it sold more than 15 million copies throughout the world. He promoted values, the internal governing forces, instead of confusing with the externally influential principles from which these values are to be endeavored to bring into line. The habits are those that are developed from the ascendance of values that operate within an individual. According to Covey, highly successful people are those that have the developed necessary or needed habits that had been inculcated out of the correct values. He calls these habits as “the seven habits of highly effective people” which became itself the very title of his best-selling book. He said, “Effectiveness, in other words, is a habit.”What are these seven habits? As laid down by Covey (1989), these are:Habit 1: Be Proactive: Principles of Personal VisionHabit 2: Begin with the End in Mind: Principles of Personal LeadershipHabit 3: Put First Things First: Principles of Personal ManagementHabit 4: Think Win/Win: Principles of Interpersonal LeadershipHabit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood: Principles of Empathetic CommunicationHabit 6: Synergize: Principles of Creative CommunicationHabit 7: Sharpen the Saw: Principles of Balanced Self-RenewalThe habits that Stephen Covey has developed in his book are not only habits that good spiritual leaders develop, but traits which can be said as already possessed by spiritual leaders. They might be traits that are not fully developed yet in some ministers, nevertheless, in some measure, they are already there and can be expected of a spiritual leader. For example, a leader must be an initiator. Being one that is mandated to “go” and to “make disciples” by the Lord definitely needs to be someone who makes initiative. Hence, to be proactive as suggested by Covey is presumed to be one of the characteristics of a good spiritual leader. A minister of God does things with the end in his mind because he understands that one of his main objectives is to make the people he is leading Christ’s disciples. And so from habit one to habit seven, a lot of biblical principles can be used to back all of them up.Secondly, in the classic book entitled simply Spiritual Leadership, J. Oswald Sanders defined the word “spiritual” as follows: “Spirituality is not easy to define but its presence or absence is easily discerned. . . it is the power to change the atmosphere by one’s presence, the unconscious influence that makes Christ and spiritual things real to others.” The principles that Sanders has laid down in his book were all taken from the Holy Scriptures. He extracted from the leadership principles of Jesus, from the qualifications that Apostle Paul had pointed out to Timothy as guiding criteria in appointing leaders at Ephesus, and as well as insights from Apostle Peter’s letter regarding leadership. The necessary qualities of effective leadership are thus plenty. However, drawing from the insights of Sanders’ book, here are some of the biblical models/traits on spiritual leadership which are still binding and musts for spiritual leadership today:1.) A sense of calling.Before any traits, there has to be an element which is beyond and outside every leader that he cannot secure for himself regardless of what he or others might do to secure this position of leadership. As Jesus has revealed to brothers James and John: “To sit at My right or left is not for Me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared” (Mark 10:40). In other words, spiritual ministry and leadership are works that God is reserving only for those whom He has called for the job. Though training is important to prepare one’s self for the ministry, mere academic degree in theology or charismatic personality will not qualify a person to spiritual leadership, as important as those credentials are. One has to be first and foremost 100 percent sure that God is calling him/her in this specific life work.2.) Moral and mental qualifications (spiritual maturity).Of all the professions one can prepare himself beforehand in terms of skills and expertise, it is only in the Lord’s work that moral integrity is absolutely required. Anybody may claim and prove in terms of adeptness in speech, social relations, or management ability, that he is indeed a minister, but if in moral issues he barely meets the standards, he cannot pass for biblical leadership. In what many call “secular” professions like, for example, teaching career or engineering professions; if a man is a skilled engineer, even if he has failed his wife as a husband for committing adultery with another woman, he can still retain his work and function as a good engineer. The same with an excellent teacher; he can still teach and retain his post even when in some point of his teaching career, he has committed a moral blunder. Not so among people in spiritual leadership work. One breach of integrity and one’s career in this spiritual work is almost finish. It’s as if putting a period upon a life-time’s work. “Faithfulness to one marriage partner is the biblical norm” (Sanders). Moral qualifications have to be met, in order to be an effective spiritual leader. Mental fitness is also required along with moral excellence. “This principle describes the well-balanced state of mind resulting from habitual self-restraint – the inner character that comes from daily self-discipline” (Sanders).3.) Willingness to face the challenge.If in the world, it is common to aspire for positions of leadership merely for the rewards or promises it entails, in spiritual leadership, though aspirations for it is not discouraged, nevertheless, it must be pursued by those whose understanding of leadership is right and whose motives are truly for the glory of God. According to Sanders, (p.15) the word “ambition” suggests from its Latin root, “a variety of elements: social visibility, popularity, peer recognition, the exercise of authority over others.” This kind of ambition has no place in the hearts of those in spiritual leadership. The reason is, the nature of the work promises no instant fleshly gratification. In fact, in the New Testament, most of the rewards lie in the future. Imagine the dynamic that drives the apostles in their ministries. It was the prospect of the eternal rewards which they would receive ultimately when they have accomplished their life’s callings.Summary and ConclusionsMy personal pattern or model that spiritual leaders must possess is a replica of the ideal that is exemplified in the life of Jesus Christ, and imitated by His apostles. Sanders was able to capture many of these characteristics in his book. The sacredness and solemnity of the task should be instilled in the minds of those who feel they are called to the ministry for they are not facing an ordinary work which will require only human capabilities.The seriousness of the responsibility of spiritual leadership is best summarized in the two main principles espoused by Sanders: 1.) The sovereignty of spiritual leadership and, 2.)The suffering of spiritual leadership (pp. 22-23). The Lord Jesus stated this in Mark 10:40 and Mark 10:38 respectively, that the call is first and foremost an appointed one, i.e., in the sovereignty of God. In order for true motives for service in His kingdom to be confirmed, the second principle – suffering of spiritual leadership – must be borne into the minds of those aspiring for leadership. Since there is no pleasantness in the idea of sufferings, definitely, those who are considering and will eventually enter the realm of spiritual leadership are those whose hearts have been purged of wrong perceptions of leadership. The Lord showed these things in His life, suffering, and death before His eventual resurrection. No illusions there at all. Suffering will come and those who truly heard and heeded the call, will be those who have the grace to sustain and to withstand all forms of suffering connected to spiritual leadership. May the real leaders or servants rise to the occasion and challenges of the day.