Spiritual Leadership 1: An Honorable Ambition
This year, we’re going to focus on J. Oswald Sanders’ book, Spiritual Leadership, as the main topic for Teleios Training. For the majority of readers who don’t know what this refers to, at our church, I try to send an email to our small group leaders twice a month or so with tips, training, encouragement, or devotional thoughts. I’m making this blog the spot for all of them.
Sanders opens his book by saying, “Most Christians have reservations about aspiring to leadership. They are unsure about whether it is truly right for a person to want to be a leader.” Ambition has led to the downfall of many, and is a potential stumbling block for others. 1 Timothy 3:1 says, “To aspire to leadership is an honorable ambition.” In Paul’s day, a love for God and others was the driving force behind aspiring to leadership, for Paul and others faced persecution and death. No fool decided to lead in the church.
Today’s leaders need to have three characteristics, says Sanders.
1. Authoritative. People desire “reliable leaders who know where they are going and are confident of getting there.”
2. Spiritual. Those would lead people to God must know God first. God anoints men and women with His Holy Spirit to do His work through them.
3. Sacrificial. Our Lord Jesus Christ was sacrificial, so we should model this trait too.
Sanders’ biggest insight from this chapter is this: “Spiritual leaders are not elected, appointed, or created by synods or church assemblies. God alone makes them.” He then adds that if we do not lead this way to a higher kind of life, a life with God, then surely the lowly path will be well-traveled. We cannot believe the myth that our own spiritual formation does not have direct impact on those we befriend and do life together with in small groups.
Implications for Small Group Leaders
1. You’ve been appointed to leadership, but this alone does not make you a “spiritual leader.”
2. Your aspiration to lead must be balanced with both the cost of leadership and a changed heart.
3. Small groups are only one context for our spiritual growth. Because of their size, and your immediate influence over those in your group, your walk with God matters all the more.