Introduction to Spiritual Leadership 3

Written by Marcus Honeysett

You can download the PDF of this resource here.  

In part two of this introduction we discovered that right at the heart of biblical spiritual leadership is the task of making missional disciples. God gives leaders who work with disciples so that they make progress and in the faith and have joy in Jesus as they participate in this wonderful task.

In this part we will tease out the basis of being thoroughly God-centred, God-exalting, God-focussed leaders a little more with two further definitions that both build on the first one. The first of these definitions comes in the answer to two extremely important questions:

Group discussion questions:

  • Why did God make creation? What was his goal in doing so? Can you think of Bible verses that answer this question?
  • What is the purpose of the Church? Why did Jesus create it? What does he empower it to accomplish? 

A little while ago I spoke to a group of theology students who were just finishing their studies and about to assume their first positions in church leadership. I was greatly alarmed that they couldn’t give clear answers to these two questions. If they don’t know why God does whatever he does, and what the purpose of the Church is, how on earth were they going to know if they were doing the right job or not? The task of leadership is defined by – and conditional on – what we think the answers to these two questions are. If we don’t know what the Bible has to say, we won’t lead in a biblical way, for biblical goals.

According to the Bible, the reason God made the world and the reason he made us is for “the praise of his glorious grace.” We could sum it up as God being worshipped and crowned as king by all people everywhere, through them seeing, savouring, believing, and enjoying the glorious good news of his grace to us in Jesus Christ.

The book of Ephesians says that we exist for the praise of his glorious grace three times in the first 14 verses. If this is the reason God does all he does, if this is the purpose of our very lives, it must also be the purpose of spiritual leadership. God gives leaders to local churches to make and shape them as grace-filled communities of disciples that accomplish this.

The purpose of the Church, simply put, is to go into all the world, making disciples of Jesus, baptising them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything Jesus commanded (Matt 28). If the making of disciples is the primary purpose of the Church, then equipping churches for the task is the primary purpose of spiritual leadership. As leaders work with people for their progress and their joy it is all meant to be directed to them participating in disciple-making, in one way or another. All disciples should be active participants in the Matthew 28 purpose of the church. Passive, pew-filling disciples should be a contradiction in terms.

Group discussion questions:

  • What percentage of your church activities are actively directed to making or equipping active disciples? Why is it the percentage that it is?
  • If you asked an average church member how they were being equipped to work with Jesus in fulfilling the Great Commission, what would they say? 
  • What happens to churches and leaders if this foundational understanding is missing? 

Churches should be communities of disciples for making mature disciples who follow Jesus more and more closely and participate actively in the Matt 28 purpose of the church. Disciples are people who are growing closer to Jesus, grasping his grace for each day of their lives, experiencing God’s love, loving his word, enjoying his people, being worshippers. And being proclaimers of how amazing he is.

Therefore that is what all our activities should be devoted to. It’s what small groups are for. It’s what our outreach ministries locally and around the world are for. It is what our compassion ministries are for.

And therefore that is what leaders are for. Building disciples, shaping the community of disciples, training and releasing other leaders and all the disciples so that people grow more and more like Jesus and actively participate in the Matt 28 purpose of the church.

I propose that Matt 28 and Phil 1:25 and 2 Cor 1:24 belong together. Paul is making Matt 28 communities and he says what those communities look like is the people of God making progress in God, enjoying God, overflowing with joy in Christ Jesus, full of faith. You don’t have to think very hard to see why God is going to be glorified, why the church is going to go to all the world making disciples if they are full of faith, making progress and exploding with irrepressible joy. It doesn’t take much to see how churches stand up under trials and resist temptation if they are exhibiting inexpressible and glorious joy.

A Fuller Definition

Here is the third definition. We take the previous two points and add a further five:

  • Leadership is based on God’s goal for creation – namely the white hot worship of Father and Son in Heaven. Leaders exercise their role so he is exalted.
  • Leadership is based on the work of the Holy Spirit. The Bible says that churches are a “spiritual house” which is built up through the centrality of the Spirit-given message of the cross of Christ.
  • Leadership is based on how exactly a church grows into this purpose, which is through all the disciples growing to be spiritually mature. Eph 4 says that God has given leaders to prepare God’s people for service so that the body is built up as unto a mature man, attaining to the whole measure of the stature of Christ. 
  • Leadership is based on the character of Christ. The Pastoral Epistles contain extensive instruction about how Jesus-like character is essential to spiritual leaders. This tells us that the personal prayer and worship life of leaders are of primary importance.
  • Leadership is based on a correct understanding that God gives gifts to all believers for ministry. Leaders facilitate ministry, they don’t do all the ministry, leaving everyone else as a passive onlooker. 

To summarise, in this session we have seen that leadership is defined by:

  • The purpose of God as revealed in the Bible
  • The worship of Christ
  • The work of the Spirit
  • The mission of the Church
  • The nature of mature discipleship
  • The character of Christ
  • The corporate nature of the Church

Group discussion questions:

    • What happens to our understanding of leadership if we miss out the first three of these?
    • What about if we miss out some or all of the last four? 

    These seven factors allow us to answer a key foundational question: what does it mean to be a church that glorifies God? We cannot understand what it means to be a leader to the glory of God until we have firmly in our minds what it means to be a church to the glory of God. Everything leaders do is for Christ’s sake. For his glory. So that he is formed in people’s hearts through faith and that they love his glory. Leaders serve churches in order to achieve that.

    Marcus Honeysett

    © Marcus Honeysett