The Basic Essentials of Christian Leadership
Module 2 : The Character of a Leader
Getting Started          


A story is told about an old king who needed to choose a successor.

He had no children and wanted to appoint a young successor.
So he called 10 young people and shared that one would become king.  He told them that he would give each a special seed, which they should plant and water and each should return in a year to show what they had grown. 
Then he would judge the plants and make a decision on who would be the next king.

As months went by, all the boys started to talk about how their seed was growing into a magnificent plant.

      Except one boy. 
      For that boy, nothing ever grew.
      He felt a failure.
      He knew that somehow he must have killed his seed.

The year went by and all the young people brought their huge beautiful plants to the king.
One boy did not want to return to see the king but his mother insisted that he went.
So he took his empty pot to the palace.

The king arrived and looked at the boy with the empty pot and announced ‘This boy will be the new king’.  

Everyone was amazed.

Then the king continued.  ‘I gave you all boiled seeds which would never grow. Nine of you substituted the seed I gave you but this boy with the empty pot was honest’



Often we value success or results above character. But it is character that is foundational to being a Godly leader.

As The American preacher and author Chuck Swindoll has written:

   ‘Sow a good thought and reap a good habit,
     sow a good habit and reap a good character,
       sow a good character and reap a good destiny’


Abiding in Christ      

‘I am the vine, you are the branches; He who abides in Me and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me, you can do nothing’ [John 15:5]

If your union with Him is strong, then the power of God will infuse and strengthen you. 
Keep close to Him through prayer, bible reading, fasting and other spiritual disciplines

We could write so much on this but abiding in Christ is a foundational distinctive of all Christians and not just Christian leaders.
There are many books and much teaching already on this topic.



Reflect:  In your busyness and focusing on leading others, are you still abiding in Christ as you did some years ago?

Do you need to alter your private life to spend more time abiding in Him? 

How can this realistically be done?


Maintaining Your Integrity                   

In surveys, integrity is normally the number one character trait that people want in their leaders.
Integrity means being honest, trustworthy, consistent, faithful and sticking to your principles.

The slogan is ‘Walk the talk’.
Or as Francis of Assisi said, ‘It is no good walking to go and preach unless our walking is our preaching’ 


  • David is mentioned as a man of integrity [1 Kings 9:4]
  • Hanani, brother of Nehemiah is described as a person of integrity [Nehemiah 7:2]
  • Jesus is described as a man of integrity [Matthew 22:16]


It takes much time to build up a reputation of being a person of integrity but this reputation can be lost in a minute. 

Take a moment to think or discuss why this is the case



There are 5 core areas where you can lose your reputation as a person of integrity.

Area one: Broken promises

Promises are easy to make but often difficult to keep. Look what happened to Peter’s big promise in Luke 22:33

Christian leaders can make promises – ‘I will visit you this week’, ‘I will give you an opportunity to do this’, ‘I will make sure this happens’
However, in their busyness, they can forget. 
If you make a promise, keep a note of it and make sure you keep that promise. 

Do not make promises you cannot keep as in time your people will cease to trust you.



If you don't have a good memory, what can you do practically to remind yourself of promises you have made?



Areas two, three and four: Gold, girls and glory

So many Christian leaders have fallen in the areas of gold (money) and girls (sex).  Obeying the commandments not to steal and not to commit adultery is not sufficient to maintain your integrity.  You must ensure that you do not give the opportunity for people to question your integrity in these matters.




Try to live within your means. 
See 1 Timothy 5:5-16 and Hebrews 13:5

As a pastor, keep yourself away from handling money; this should be done by the church treasurer who should not be a member of your family.
So as a pastor, do not count the collection and the collection should not be deposited in your personal account (where possible open a church bank account). 
Likewise, you should never make yourself the sole signatory for expenditure from the church account




The renowned evangelist Billy Graham never travelled with just one woman with him in a car or was in a room on his own with women unless it was his wife Ruth.
Never counsel a member of the opposite sex on your own. 
Be careful how you hug sisters in Christ.

One big temptation for a Christian leader is to give so much time to the work of the ministry that little time is left for their family. 
This is a poor testimony to the church and the world. 
Create time for your spouse and your family.  Have a close relationship with your spouse.



Have you considered setting aside exclusive 'Marriage Time' every week with your spouse where you can invest in your relationship?




There are few more dangerous times in ministry than after a time of success.  Be careful at these times. One of two things can happen:

  • Success can go to your head.  Pray for true humility.  Identify other people who should be thanked and encouraged.
  • You can become depressed. Success often comes as a result of using up great energy and a sense of purpose.  Once the task has been achieved, you are suddenly hit by exhaustion

Mission Possible UK has a values statement – our guiding principles - and one of our values is ‘always give God the glory for the spiritual impact that results from our ministry’



Area five: Power


The golden rule about relating to others is found in Matthew 7:12
‘Whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them’ 


However, as you become  established as a leader, there can be temptations to abuse your power.  There are many ways you can do this including manipulating and/or not listening to people, bullying, or tarnishing the reputation of those you do not like.



Can you think of a situation when you have been tempted to, or actually did abuse your power or position? Take a moment to confess this to God, accept His forgiveness, and resolve to adopt the attitude of Christ [Philippians 2]


Having the Heart of a Shepherd      

All good leaders will care for their people

Read John 10:1 to 16


  • Know your sheep and allow sheep to get to know you
    [John10: 3 and 14]

    ‘Knowing people must take priority over projects’ John Stott

    Jesus lived with his disciples – so he not only knew them but they got to know him
  • Guide the sheep  [John 10:3]
    Encourage people to obey God’s word and set example by obeying God’s word yourself
  • Lead the sheep
    A shepherd knows where he is taking the sheep.  We will look at this more in the next module.  A shepherd is both a servant to his sheep and a leader of his sheep.

  • Protect the sheep  [John 10:11-13]
    From childhood, Luke 15:3-7 has been one of my favourite stories in the Bible.  99 sheep may be safe in the sheepfold but a good shepherd will take every effort to restore one lost sheep.
    A good shepherd has a heart of compassion caring for the sheep when they are going through difficult times
  • Rescue lost sheep  [John 10:16a]
    Pastors have a heart for mission inviting sheep to join the flock
  • Unite the sheep  [John 10:16b]
    The prayer of Jesus is that the church should be a place of harmony and not discord. [John 17:21]
  Key verse:  ‘The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep'
[John 10:15]


Read Psalm 23. Identify 6 things the Shepherd did for the sheep. How can you practically help to meet the needs of those in your care in a similar way?


Seeking to empower others      

Leaders lead, great leaders train other leaders

Jesus could have done everything himself but he choose to empower others to assist him in his ministry.  See Luke 9:1-6 and Luke 10:1-9

Key verse:  ‘Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church’ [Ephesians 4:12]

We will look at this in detail in Module 4 on Team Building


Pursuing wisdom      

Key verse: ‘If you need wisdom, ask our generous God and He will give it to you’  [James 1:5]

Wisdom is like the fruit of the Spirit.  It does not just happen, it takes time and effort.

Nehemiah helps us understand wisdom and leadership:


  • He asked questions [Nehemiah 1:2]
    Wise people gather information before making decisions
  • He knew that wisdom has its source in God  [Nehemiah 1:4]
    Wise people fast and pray before making big decisions
  • He was patient   [Nehemiah 2:1]
    Increasingly we live in a society when everything has to happen now.  Wisdom requires patience as we think, pray and seek advice
  • He was cautious   [Nehemiah 2:2]
    Leadership involves taking risks but it is not reckless.  Nehemiah was human and experienced fear. He overcame fear through wisdom which is cautious and careful
  • He was prepared   [Nehemiah 2:5]
    Nehemiah knew what he would ask the King when the opportunity came. A wise leader plans and prepares what he is going to say and for questions, concerns and objections that others may have.


Which of Nehemiah's 'Wisdom' characteristics can you already see in your life? Which ones do you need to develop?


Demonstrating courage and perseverance      


Leadership requires courage as you are leading your people to a new place.  This involves taking risks and failing at times, attempting what seems impossible to others and taking a stand when things getting difficult.

Key verse: ‘Be strong and courageous for you are the one who will lead these people to possess all the land’  [Joshua 1:6]




Are you naturally a risk-taker or a risk-avoider?




In Module one, we looked at the cost of leadership.  It is a big temptation to give up or run away.  Some pastors are like wandering stars [Jude 1:13]. They start well and shine like bright lights. But when the going gets tough, they move to a new place.

God calls us into a ministry and it is God who calls us out of that ministry in His time

Key verse: ‘I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith’ [2 Timothy 4:7]


Being Accountable      

 ‘If you are standing firm, be careful you do not fall’ [1 Corinthians 10:12]

The devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour  - and in particular he is looking for Christian leaders to devour.

Worldly leaders are looking for success, significance, satisfaction and security and the devil tempts us with one or more of these focusing on our particular weakness. Jesus did not have a  weakness but look at the way that the devil still tried to tempt him [Matthew 4]

Christian leaders are accountable to God but also should make themselves accountable to other Godly leaders.
‘Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another’ [Proverbs 27:17]



Accountability is to be regularly answerable for each key area of our lives to qualified people.
Key areas include:

  • Our personal lives including personal struggles
  • Our financial challenges
  • Motivations for decisions we have made
  • The soundness of our teaching
  • Our present relationship with God
  • Our family life

Qualified people means

  • People we can totally trust to keep a confidence and of your gender
  • People with Godly wisdom
  • People with at least as much experience in leadership as you have


You can make yourself accountable to one person or have an accountability group (we suggest a group of 3 people of same gender) where you are  mutually accountable to each other.

It is important that you commit to meeting this person/group on a regular basis.

Once a week is far too often and twice a year is not regular enough.

The ideal is 6 times a year with the dates put into your diaries well in advance of meeting up.



‘Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.’ 

One of his core strategies is to destroy your integrity. 

Do you have anyone who you respect and trust with whom you can meet a few time each year to share honestly your inner struggles with and who can pray with you? 

This will probably be another Christian leader and importantly be the same gender as you.  If not, should you pray about finding such a person?   Remember 'iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another’ [Proverbs 27:17]


Some Quotes      

‘Preach the Gospel at all times and in all places and when necessary use words’ Francis of Assisi (Founder of the Franciscan order in 13th century)

‘If you want to test a man's character, give him power’ Abraham Lincoln (President of USA 1861 – 1865)

‘Too many leaders act as if their sheep …. their people…. are there for the benefit of the shepherd, not that the shepherd has responsibility for the sheep’ Ken Blanchard (author and management expert)

‘Courage is not the absence of fear – it is inspiring others to move beyond it’ Nelson Mandela

‘Success is not final...failure is not's the courage to continue that counts.’ Winston Churchill (British Prime Minister in World War 2 1940-45)

‘If people knew how hard I worked at my art, they would not consider me a genius.’  Michelangelo (Italian sculptor, painter, architect in 16th century)

‘It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.' Theodore Roosevelt (USA President  1901- 1909)

‘I did not feel at liberty to talk to anybody about my weaknesses in that area.  I now realise I was lacking mutual accountability.  We need friendships where one man can regularly look another man in the eye and ask hard questions about our moral life, our lust, our ambitions, our ego’ A Christian leader


Biblical Models and References      

The qualities of a pastor are listed in 1 Timothy 3:1 -12 and Titus 1:6-9

For examples of integrity read  Job 1 to Job 2:10 and Daniel 3

For Jesus’ teaching on being a good shepherd read John 10:1 -21

For importance of empowering others read Exodus 18


  • Jude verses 8 to 13 lists 5 characteristics of bad leaders. What are they?
  • ‘If you are standing firm, be careful you do not fall’ [1 Corinthians 10:12]. What practical steps do you need to take now to ensure that you do not fall?
  • How close is your relationship with your spouse?
  • Do you have an accountability partner?
  • Are you still disciplined regarding time for prayer and Bible reading?
  • Do you keep an arm’s length (detached) from all money issues in your church/organisation?
  • Are you still enthusiastic about the ministry despite the challenges?
  • Are you keeping to yourself the confidences that are shared with you?
  • Are you careful when hugging women and do you avoid counselling women?
  • What are you looking at on your computer, TV or in magazines?
  • In 1 Kings 18, we read how God used Elijah in an amazing way and powerful witness.  In 1 Kings 19, we read of Elijah in the pit of despair.  What can we learn from this?
  • In Nehemiah 2:4, the king asked Nehemiah ‘What is it you want?’  Read Nehemiah 1 and consider why Nehemiah was ready to answer this question


You can now move onto Module 3:

                Mission, Vision and Values