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Spiritual Leadership


The book spiritual leadership is written by Oswald Sanders, who was a missionary in Far East Asia, and field director of the Overseas Missionary Fellowship for many years. This book, Spiritual Leadership, is one in a series of three on serious discipleship. The other two are Spiritual Discipleship, and Spiritual Maturity. For Christians who have been demoralized by the shallow and superfluous popular "fluff" that abounds on the topic of discipleship, this series will come as cool water in a desert. A sander deals with the brutal struggles in discipleship, and makes it clear there is no spiritual growth without a price. If we are not willing to pay the price--we will not grow towards maturity. As Oswald Sanders said during a series on discipleship at Gull Lake Bible Conference, "There are spiritual Christians, and there are unspiritual Christians. And most are unspiritual." This kind of brutal language needs to be revived, in an age in which most people confuse Christian discipleship with self-help or self-optimization. In reality, the gate is still narrow, and the path hard, which leads to life (Matthew 7:14).



What is spiritual leadership? “Leadership is influence, the ability of one person to influence others.  One man can lead others only to the extent that he can influence them to follow his lead.” He does this “not by the power of his own personality alone but by that personally irradiated, interpenetrated, and empowered by the Holy Spirit. There is no such thing as a self made spiritual leader. He is able to influence others spiritually only because the Spirit is able to work in and through him to a greater degree than in those he leads.” The person most likely to be successful is one who leads by not merely pointing the way but by having trodden it himself.  We are leaders to the extent we inspire others to follow us.” Christianity needs powerful voices in today's world, voices from strong leaders guided by God and devoted to Christ. Spiritual Leadership will encourage you to place your talents and powers at His disposal so you can become a leader used for His glory.

D. E Hoste stated: “When a man... demands obedience of another, irrespective of the latter’s reason and conscience, this is... tyranny. When... by tact and sympathy; by prayer, spiritual power and sound wisdom one is able to influence and enlighten another, so that through the medium of his own reason and conscience is led to alter one course and pursue another that is true spiritual leadership.” “All are leaders to the extent that they influence others.  All of us can... increase our leadership potential.  The first step to achieve that end is to discover and correct weaknesses in that area and to cultivate our strengths.” “Leadership is the ability to recognize the special abilities and limitations of others, combined with the capacity to fit each one into the job where he will do his best.  He who is successful in getting things done through others is exercising the highest type of leadership.” True leadership is an internal quality of the spirit and requires no external show of force.  “Many who take courses in leadership in the hope of attaining it fail because they have never learned to follow.”

This book writer mentioned many biblical references to show the spiritual leadership, how it should be, likewise; 1 Timothy 3:1 ‘To aspire to leadership is an honorable ambition. In this text Paul’s affirmation that aspiration to leadership is an honorable ambition will not be accepted by all Christians without a measure of reservation. We cannot deny that there is an ambition which warrants this scripture. But there are ambitions that are noble and worthy and to be cherished. In appraising the honorable ambition of which Paul speaks, several factors must be kept in mind. All Christians are under obligation to make the most of their lives, to develop to the utmost their God-given powers and capacities. But Jesus taught that any ambition that centers around and terminates on oneself is wrong. 

Spiritual leaders are not made by election or appointment, by men or any combination of men, nor by conferences or synods. Only God can make them. Simply holding a position of importance does not constitute one a leader. Religious position can be conferred by bishops and boards, but not spiritual authority, which is the prime essential of Christian leadership. The spiritual leader, however, influences others not by the power of his own personality alone but by that personality irradiated and interpenetrated and empowered by the Holy Spirit. Spiritual leadership is a matter of superior power, and that never be self-generated. Dr. A. W. Tozer’s conviction: ‘A true and safe leader is likely to be one who has no desire to lead, but is forced into a position of leadership by the inward pressure of the Holy Spirit and the press of the external situation. Such were Moses and David and the Old Testament prophets. The true leader will have no desire to lord it over God’s heritage, but will be humble, gentle, self-sacrificing and altogether as ready to follow as to lead, when the Spirit makes it clear that a wiser and more gifted man than himself has appeared.’

Spiritual maturity is indispensable to good leadership. The spiritual leader must be disinterested in gain in his service. The leader is to be ‘clothed with humility.’ Once a spiritual leader is sure of the will of God, he will go into immediate action, regardless of consequences. The true leader will resist the temptation to procrastinate in reaching a decision, now will he vacillate after it has been made. The humility of the leader, as his spirituality, should be an ever growing quality.  

The book of Acts, an inspired source-book for principles of leadership, is the story of the men who established the Christian church and led the missionary enterprise. It also stands clear in the book of Acts that the leaders who significantly influenced the Christian movement were men who were filled with the Holy Spirit. It is recorded of Him who commanded His disciples to tarry in Jerusalem until they were endued with power from on high that He was Himself “anointed with the Holy Spirit and with power” (10:38). The fullness of the Spirit is an essential and indispensable experience for spiritual leadership. And each of us is as full of the Spirit as we really want to be. ‘Praying in the Spirit’ may have a dual significance. It may mean praying in the realm of the Spirit, for the Holy Spirit is the sphere and atmosphere of the Christian’s life. But the phrase ‘praying in the Spirit’ may also mean prying in the power and energy of the Spirit. Since leadership is the ability to move and influence people, the spiritual leader will be alert to discover the most effective way of doing this. One of the most frequently quoted of Hudson Taylor’s statements in his expression of conviction that ‘it is possible to move men, through God, by prayer alone.’  



I think this book by one of my spiritual mentors who train young adults for ministering to young people. Sanders offer straightforward and practical teaching on leadership in the church. Especially appealing to me were the chapters on prayer, time, and reading. There is also helpful advice on delegating authority and reproducing leaders through mentorship and personal training. The study guide is very helpful for use in leadership training courses for church and believers. The material in this book has been presented in a form that is calculated to be helping even the younger Christians in whose hearts the Holy Spirit is working to create a holy ambition to place all their powers at the disposal of the Redeemer.



J. Oswald Sanders “Spiritual Leadership” Moody Press, Chicago….. 1966.

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