The Basic Essentials of Christian Leadership
Module 1 : What is Christian Leadership?       
Getting Started      
  John Stott was regarded during the 20th century as the leader of the worldwide evangelical movement.  In his book ‘Issues Facing Christians Today’ he writes:
            'There is a serious dearth of leaders
               in the contemporary
At first glance, this seems to be an extraordinary statement as there are so many leadership positions in the church.
But that is his point.
There is a difference between having a leadership position - and being a leader.


Being a leader does not come from:

  • being appointed to a leadership position because of family or friendship connections
  • looking like a leader by being tall or well dressed, having a powerful voice, or an impressive office
  • always looking busy
  • being a good manager


All leaders have two characteristics – they have a sense of direction and attract people to them. They are like both a compass and a magnet.
Christian leaders combine these two characteristics with a relationship with God fuelled by abiding in Him.


Definition of Christian Leadership          
There are so many definitions in books on leadership that your printer would run out of ink if I gave them all!   I offer you this as my definition:
           'Christian leaders are Godly people of integrity and passion, who take people
             from where they are, to a place which God has envisioned the leader to take them,
              through empowering church members to become what God has gifted them to be'


Let us break this definition down:

Godly people of Integrity
Godly character is foundational to Christian leadership and we will focus on this in Module 2

Passionate people
'I devoted myself to the work'  [Nehemiah 5:16]

Taking People to a new place
Leaders know where they are going and why
‘They were on their way to Jerusalem with Jesus leading the way’ [Mark 10:32]

Empowering your church members
‘Preparing people for works of service’   [Ephesians 4:12]



Many books teach that Christian leaders are servants illustrating this from the story of Jesus washing his disciples' feet.
It is true that Christian leaders need the heart of a servant but they are more than servants - they are servant leaders.
They are humble people who see a better future for those who follow them.

    ‘When pride comes, then comes disgrace but with humility comes wisdom’ [Proverbs 11:2]



Can you think of an example in the Bible of one good leader, and one bad leader? What was the difference between them?



The Difference between Leaders and Managers


The Bible speaks about the gift of leadership [Romans 12:8] and the gifts of administration or management [1 Corinthians 12:28]
These are very different gifts.

Committed to change
Takes Godly risks
Asks 'what' and 'why

Maintains what is
Likes order
Asks 'how' and 'when'
  Most people in leadership position are a mix of the two – with a gift in one and a degree of ability in the other.      

Can Leadership be Learnt?      

Some people have the gift of leadership – you can see it in them even when they are young. 

But God’s gifts have to be cultivated. Every exceptional leader is still a learner.

Many of us may not have the gift of leadership but God has put in us the potential for leadership.  All of us have the ability to live “in Christ” and Jesus was a leader.  We can develop leadership skills through prayer, study, training, being mentored and learning from our mistakes

Likewise, many people who have the gift of leadership can acquire managerial skills as these can be learnt too.  Such skills will contribute to you being a more effective leader

 ‘Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval’ [2 Timothy 2:15]

Styles of Leadership       

Christian leaders have different personalities and will have a natural way in which they prefer to lead. You may recognise the three different ways below:

  • Leaders who focus on the task in hand (pioneering leaders)
  • Leaders who focus on building up teams (team leaders)
  • Leaders who focus on meeting the needs of individuals in their churches (pastoral leaders)


Which style of leadership in others do you personally find most helpful to you?




An effective leader will seek to balance these three styles of leadership in their ministry
- achieving the task
- team building
- meeting individual needs
If the leader lacks the capacity to offer a balanced leadership style, the leader needs to work with other leaders who have the skills that are lacking

Another way of looking at leadership styles is in the chart below:
    Directing the Task = Important Directing the Task =
Less Important
  Encouraging people = Important Coaching Style
Good for new teams
Supporting Style
Good when team feels vulnerable
  Encouraging people = Less Important Directing Style
Good for a crisis

Delegating Style
Good for motivated established teams



Good leaders practice what is called situational leadership
They will change their leadership style depending on the situation they face.

Establishing a new church may require a coaching style, dealing with sin which is infecting the church may require a directional style and leading a church where people have been hurt may require a supporting style, while a large church with a strong team may require a delegating style.



Reflect:  Which of the above is your natural leadership style?
Is this appropriate for the situation you face?
Do you need to adapt it?
How can you do this?


The Cost of Leadership      

Many people crave for leadership.  However, a wise leader counts the cost of leadership before accepting a position in leadership.

  • Overworked, overtired, under appreciated 
  • Often expected to be a gifted pastor, teacher, evangelist, social worker, judge and so on
  • Need to make decisions means you are not always everyone’s friend 
  • At times, you can suffer from loneliness
  • Church members expect easy answers but often there are none
  • You will be criticised
  • You are working with volunteers who can ( and at times do) vote by their feet and may move to another church

All the above can lead to spiritual depression unless you have established a support team you can trust.



Can you think of an example of a leader you know who has suffered from at least one of the above problems?
How did he handle the problem?
Was there a good conclusion?


Some Quotes      

‘Leadership is getting others to do what you want them to do because they want to do it. You do not lead people by hitting them over the head – that’s assault, not leadership’  President Eisenhower (President of the USA 1953 – 1960)

‘If a door is shut, attempts should be made to open it; if it is ajar, it should be pushed until it is wide open. In neither case should the door be blown up at the expense of those inside’ Julius Nyerere (President of Tanzania)

‘If real development is to take place, the people have to be involved’ Julius Nyerere (President of Tanzania)

‘It is amazing how much can be accomplished if no one cares who gets the credit’ President Truman (President of USA, 1944 -1953)

‘It always seems impossible until it is done’  Nelson Mandela

'I stand here before you not as a prophet but as a humble servant of you, the people. Your tireless and heroic sacrifices have made it possible for me to be here today--I therefore place the remaining years of my life in your hands.' Nelson Mandela, 11 February, 1990 (on release from prison)


Biblical Models and References      


  • Exodus 3:11 and 4:10
  • Numbers 13:1 to 14:4
  • Nehemiah 1 and 2


Can you give an example of a person in your life who you have identified as an effective leader?
What did you see in them that led you to that conclusion?

What can we learn from the call of Moses in Exodus 3 ?

Twelve people described as leaders in Numbers explored Canaan.   Which showed management skills and which showed leadership qualities? Why do you think the people grumbled?

What leadership qualities can you see in Nehemiah in chapters 1 and 2 ?

Can you give an example of another person in the Bible who can be seen as paying a very heavy price as a leader?

  • What was the cost? 
  • How did this affect them? 
  • Who else was affected? 


You can now move on to Module 2 :

        The Character of a Leader