Spiritual Leadership

I first encountered Spiritual Leadership by J. Oswald Sanders in Seminary. Pastor Moan introduced us to 20% of the chapters to give us a taste of a resource he hoped would become a ministry-long companion. It worked. I love old books on leadership. The trendy, fashionable advice is often shallow, but books that have endured decades (or more) pass on principles that transcend time. I am grateful for this, and many other such books, but this is my #1 go-to book for training current and future leaders: Leadership consists of servanthood and suffering. The only two places in Scripture where God portrays Christ as an example is servanthood (John 13) and suffering (1 Peter 2). Ambition is not necessarily bad, but it usually is. Are you at ease in front of your superiors? A humble man can learn from petty — even malicious — criticism. Leadership is both aptitude and attitude. Leaders only lead as well as they follow.

There are far more books about how to increase your power/authority/opportunity, but a handful of books that teach servant leadership, even if not by that name. Servant leaders lead by serving and serve by leading. Sanders’ work was ahead of its time, and valuable for the reader today. The topics are organized thus: The cost of leadership, the responsibilities of leadership, tests of leadership, qualities and criteria of leadership, the art of reproducing leaders (of great interest to those serving congregationally), and the one indispensable requirement of leadership.

Spiritual Leadership is a brief book, but it is dense. The 3–5-page chapters are straightforward, though containing some historical references unfamiliar to many, and the message takes time to digest. I have led about 100 men through this book, usually using the (included) study guide that breaks the book down into 7 weeks of study. I re-read this book regularly for personal application. In my opinion, the best approach to a resource such as this is to read the material in advance, then ask questions that stimulate conversation. The leader, then, is not directly teaching, but trying to keep the group on track in discussion of the principles.

Additional Info to Note:

I think we all understand that no book is perfect, save for holy writ, and that we must become adept at spitting out bones and straining out camels. There is one line in the book that always causes a stir, specifically, something to the effect of “some people having more spiritual power” or “more of the Holy Spirit” than others. Even that, though, can become a springboard to a positive at the hands of a capable facilitator.


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