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Christian Leadership


What does the Bible teach us about leadership, responsibility and initiative, and how does it compare and contrast with leadership in the world today?


Leaders exert an enormous influence. One way history can be studied is by purely looking at leaders, the famous and infamous. Unfortunately the examples of poor, corrupt or even evil leadership are too numerous to number. Nations which have a concept of leadership at all levels which rejects corruption and sees it as a role of service to the community are blessed and their nation prospers. One of the most telling features of many nations which are struggling is the level of corruption in their leadership. In the Western world the influence of Christianity has promoted integrity in leadership but as this foundation is eroded then the abuse of power by those in positions of leadership will become more common. The Bible, especially Jesus, has a great deal to say about leadership, both by example and by precept, and about related attitudes towards both God and others. Jesus stands out as our prime example and teacher but there are many examples, both good and bad, in the Old Testament and in the New Testament. Stand out examples are Moses, Joshua, Saul, David, Nehemiah, Peter and Paul, but there are many others. Studies of real people, making both good decisions and poor decisions are an especially rich source of instruction. These leaders operated mostly as those who led the people of God in worshipping and obeying God. Even Kings had this responsibility. Most of our students, however, will have leadership positions as part of their employment. Yet the same principles apply. As disciples of Christ we always serve the Lord and always represent him. We are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. As Christian leaders perhaps our greatest challenge is the temptation to be successful, but at the price of sacrificing our souls. Good leadership is not measured by success but by faithfulness, though this cannot be used as an excuse for incompetence or laziness. Christians should be marked by the very highest standards, see Daniel in Babylon (Daniel 6:1-5). Our nation needs leaders at all levels and in every area who are marked by integrity and faithfulness to God. Those who seek to serve others and not themselves. Above all, leadership is a calling from God and is done in the power of the Spirit, whether in a Church context or other areas of life. As such, leaders must look to God for power and direction and know that they will be accountable to him at the end.

Key Concepts

  • The importance of leadership
  • How do you measure a leader? What criteria do you use?
  • Servant leadership model of Christ
  • Examples of good and bad leaders, famous and infamous, from both the Bible and history
  • What does God require of us "…to do justice, love kindness and to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8
  • What models/mentors are available to learn from?
  • The great temptations of leaders – money, power, sex (See for example David and Solomon)
  • Leadership has being done in the power of the Spirit, even in secular settings (or especially in secular settings?), and as being faithful to the Lord
  • The need for Christian leadership in every area of life and the application of Christian principles to every setting

Scripture References

***The list of references here is quite long and each has its own contribution to make to the full picture. It is worth taking the time to become familiar with the full range of ideas.
Matthew 23:1-12 - Jesus on leadership, the call to be a servant (See also Matthew 20:25)
Luke 9:46-50; 22:24-27 - the disciples argue about who is the greatest
Mark 10:35-45 - Jesus again on leadership, to be great we must become the least
Luke 12:42-44 - must be faithful in small matters
Luke 24:49 - empowered by the Spirit to be a leader (See also I Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4:1-11 and Exodus 18, especially v21, with Numbers 11:16-30)
1 Corinthians 12 - the Spirit is the one who places everyone where they should be and empowers them to do their task. Leaders are those who facilitate the full expression of everyones gifting.
John 10:2-15 - not a hired hand but, John 13:13-16, a true servant
1 Cor 3:5-9 with 1 Cor 4:1-13 - understands that it is God at work and so seeks to be faithful
1 Cor 9:16-23 - there is no boasting
2 Cor 2:15-17 - they understand the enormous responsibility they have, and that they will be judged, see James 3:1
2 Cor 4:2 - they have integrity
1 Tim 6:11 - flee immorality
1 Thess 2:3 - have pure motives
2 Cor 6:3 - avoid personal preferences which would be a stumbling block to others
2 Tim 1:13 - keep sound teaching
2 Tim 2:1-23 - singleminded focus
1 Peter 4:10 - use their gifts to help others and glorify God
Joshua 1:1-9 - The key qualities Joshua needed, to meditate on the Law and to obey it completely and to be courageous in obeying God
Ezra 7:10 - study the Word
Is 52:11 - flee impurity
Jer 1:7 - do not fear
Mal 2:6 - be honest
1 Samuel 2:35 - faithful in all God says
1 Timothy 2:7; 2 Timothy 1:1 - leaders are appointed foremost by God and hence serve him and are accountable  to him first and foremost
Luke 24:48; Acts 1:8 - the Apostles were witnesses of the Gospel and responsible to preach and protect this truth. All Christian leaders have a special responsibility to be faithful to the Gospel
Matthew 23:9 - Christian leaders are be models of humility, hence the command to not take titles
John 13:14-16; Acts 4:29 - They are to be, more than all others, servants
1 Peter 5:1-13 - they are not domineer those they have authority over, but serve out of passion for their responsibilities and not out of a desire for money
2 Corinthians 8:23 - they should be able to work together with other leaders and workers, thus modeling the oneness and the love foe each other (see John 13:31-35; 17:23) which should exemplify all believers
Luke 16:1-12; 1 Corinthians 12:28 - leadership involves both the ability and faithfulness in administrating resources belonging to others, ultimately God
2 Timothy 2:6 - leaders are to be like hardworking farmers
John 21:15-16 (see also John 10:1-18); Acts 20:28-39 - leaders as shepherds of sheep, including the willingness to lay down their live for their sheep (Note: This metaphor depends on the Israel model of a shepherd as one how goes before the sheep, knows them all by name, sleeps with them in the fields and who will fight the bear or lion to protect them. See also Psalm 23 and David’s account of being a shepherd in 1 Samuel 17)
1 Corinthians 3:10; 2 Timothy 2:15 - expert builder who does not need to be ashamed because they have worked very hard to master their trade and make sure their work is top quality
2 Timothy 2:5; 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 - Paul compares his approach to an athlete who disciplines themselves to win the race
1 Corinthians 4:10,13 - leaders are prepared to regarded as fools and scum or refuse for the sake of the Gospel


Leadership Series from Bible.org - quite a long series, covering many different aspects
Biblical Characteristics of a Christian leader - part of a longer series, also available from this page
YouTube Examples
Maxwell Leadership Bible - digital version/Maxwell is acknowledged in the area of leadership 

Ideas/Strategies for Lessons

Students draw up their own list of what makes a great leader, then compare with what the Bible has to say and discuss similarities and differences
Look at leaders who have been regarded as great leaders because they have had great success - evaluate them
Can a leader be regarded as a great leader if they have not been successful?
Look at decisions made by political leaders reported in the news recently and critique  (Could be a group task and students collect these)  Discuss these and determine what the students believe are good and bad decisions…. Reflections of good and bad leadership…judged on what basis? Refer them to the Bible… see Maxwell’s leadership
Bible referred to below What are the qualities of an ethical leader.
Debate: “You cannot be an ethical leader without operating from a Christian framework” (This contentious premise will help open up thinking discussion about leadership and Christian faith)
Look at well known leaders and break them into two categories, good and bad and try to tie down key issues
Examine key texts and Biblical examples
Students imagine themselves as leaders and try to think about their strengths and weaknesses
Discuss the great temptations of leadership
How does the Christian concept of leadership relate to employment with a non-Christian employer?
How would these principles be applied in a nation where corruption is the normal way of life?