We Need Spiritual Leaders
What qualities should we be looking for?
This is the fifth of a 5-part devotional series called Stewardship: A Biblical Model For Leadership
We live in an era when politics and social problems tend to take up a great deal of our thoughts and discussions. The experts tell us that people on both sides of the political aisle have grown restless and political polarization has intensified. As we turn our attention towards the midterm election next week, we will be told repeatedly by the news outlets and political pundits that the stakes are incredibly high as we choose our next political leaders. Such is the tenor of public discourse in our time.
But the Bible teaches that political leadership is not the ultimate answer to the world’s greatest problems. Rather, it teaches us that the world’s greatest challenges are really more eternal than they are temporal. Ephesians 6:12 reminds us that “We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” In other words, the real battle is a spiritual one, not a political one.
Considering the Bible’s emphasis on spiritual warfare, could it be that what we really need in today’s climate of political and social restlessness is a renewed emphasis on spiritual leadership? I believe so. Because if the real battle is a spiritual one, then what we really need are men and women who are equipped to help lead us in this spiritual fight. But what exactly makes a good spiritual leader?
When examining the parts of Scripture that speak directly about the qualifications for spiritual leaders, such as 1 Timothy 3:1-13 or Titus 1:5-8, one thing that stands out is that none of the qualifications are extraordinary. Instead, there is a focus on character formation: having self-control, being disciplined, “not being arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain.” There are also positive—yet still ordinary—actions which are expected of spiritual leaders: being hospitable, holding to sound biblical teaching, raising children well. These are the kinds of things that Scripture tells us we are to expect from our spiritual leaders.
Yet these are also qualities which are rightfully expected of every Christian. As such, these lists not only serve as qualifications for leaders in the church but also as aspirational qualities for all of us. Because the truth is that each of us are called to be a spiritual leader of some kind: husbands are called to spiritually lead their families; parents are called to spiritually lead their children; each individual Christian is called to equip themselves to stand strong in the faith (Ephesians 6:11-20). Every one of us is called to some form of spiritual leadership.
So how might we grow to become spiritual leaders who are more fully equipped to withstand the spiritual battles of our time? Well, another key quality for spiritual leaders that stands out in Scripture is this: good spiritual leaders keep their minds focused on what matters. Paul tells Timothy that an elder "must be…sober-minded” (1 Tim. 3:2). He also warns him that a bad leader will have “an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels” (1 Tim. 6:4). In other words, good spiritual leaders don’t allow their minds to become distracted by the perfunctory squabbles of the day. They keep their heads, even when everyone else around them is distracted and panicked.
What the world really needs is more ordinary Christians doing the ordinary things that spiritual leaders do. It needs more sober-minded people who understand that the real battle is a spiritual one and who are equipped to resist the temptations and distractions of this age. If we are to become better spiritual leaders, we must keep our minds focused on reality and on what matters most. Therefore, let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the ultimate good leader, and the one who is reigning now from heaven.
Adam Smith is a Ministry Associate in Washington, D.C.