HH, Sir Godfrey Gregg D.Div

The Outer Circle of Spiritual Leadership

Everyone in the church has one or more spiritual gifts. Everyone should be involved in ministry. Everyone should be seeking to lead others to the point where they bring glory to God by the way they think and feel and act. But there are some people to whom the Lord has given qualities of personality that tend to make them more able leaders than others. Not all of these qualities are distinctively Christian, but when the Holy Spirit fills a person’s life each of these qualities is harnessed and transformed for God’s purposes.

1. Restless

Spiritual leaders have a holy discontentment with the status quo. Non-leaders have inertia that causes them to settle in and makes them very hard to move off of dead center. Leaders have a hankering to change, to move, to reach out, to grow, and to take a group or an institution to new dimensions of ministry. They have the spirit of Paul, who said in Philippians 3:13, “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before.”

Leaders are always very goal-oriented people.

God’s history of redemption is not finished. The church is shot through with imperfections, lost sheep are still not in the fold, needs of every sort in the world are unmet, sin infects the saints. It is unthinkable that we should be content with things the way they are in a fallen world and an imperfect church. Therefore, God has been pleased to put a holy restlessness into some of his people, and those people will very likely be the leaders.

2. Optimistic

Spiritual leaders are optimistic not because man is good but because God is in control. The leader must not let his discontentment become disconsolation. When he sees the imperfection of the church he must say with the writer of (Hebrews 6:9), “But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak.”

The foundation of his life is Romans 8:28, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”

He reasons with Paul, “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32).

Without this confidence based upon the goodness of God manifested in Jesus Christ the leader’s perseverance would falter and the people would not be inspired. Without optimism restlessness becomes despair.

3. Intense

The great quality I want in my associates is one of intensity. Romans 12:8 says that if your gift is leadership, “Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness.”

Romans 12:11 says, “Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord;”

When the disciples remembered the way Jesus had behaved in relation to the temple of God they characterized it with words from the Old Testament like this, “And his disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up.” (John 2:17).

The leader follows the advice of Ecclesiastes 9:10, “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.”

When Jonathan Edwards was a young man he wrote a list of about seventy resolutions. The one that has inspired me the most goes like this: “To live with all my might while I live.” Count Zinzendorf of the Moravians said, “I have one passion. It is He and He alone.” Jesus warns us in Revelation 3:16 that he does not have any taste for people who are lukewarm: “So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.”

  • Spiritual leaders must go out alone somewhere and ponder what unutterable and stupendous things they know about God. If their life is one extended yawn they are simply blind.
  • Spiritual Leaders must give evidence that the things of the Spirit are intensely real.

They cannot do that unless they are intense themselves.

4. Self-controlled

By self-controlled, I do not mean prim and proper and unemotional, but rather a master of our drives. If we are to lead others toward God we cannot be led ourselves toward the world. According to Galatians 5:23 self-control is a fruit of the Spirit. It is not mere willpower. It is appropriating the power of God to get mastery over our emotions and our appetites that could lead us astray or cause us to occupy our time with fruitless endeavours.

In 1 Corinthians 6:12, Paul says, “All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.”

The Christian leader must ruthlessly examine his life to see whether he is the least enslaved by television, alcohol, coffee, golf, computer games, fishing, Playboy, masturbation, good food.

Paul said in 1 Corinthians. 9:25, “And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.”

And he says in Galatians 5:24, “And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.”

Spiritual leaders ruthlessly track down bad habits and break them by the power of the Spirit.

They hear and follow Romans 8:13, “For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.”

Spiritual leaders long to be free from everything that hinders their fullest delight in God and service of others.

5. Thick-skinned

One thing is for sure: if you begin to lead others you will be criticized. No one will be a significant spiritual leader if his aim is to please others and seek their approval.

Paul said in Galatians 1:10, “For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.”

Spiritual leaders do not seek the praises of men, they seek to please God.

If criticism disables us, we will never make it as spiritual leaders. I don’t mean that we must be the kind of people who don’t feel hurt, but rather that we must not be wiped out by the hurt.

We must be able to say with Paul in 2 Corinthians 4:8, “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;”

We will feel the criticism but we will not be incapacitated by it.

As Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:16, “ For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.”

Leaders must be able to digest depression because they will eat plenty of it. There will be many days when the temptation is very strong to quit because of unappreciative people. Criticism is one of Satan’s favourite weapons to try to get effective Christian leaders to throw in the towel.

I should, however, qualify this characteristic of being thick-skinned. I do not want to give the impression that spiritual leaders are closed off to legitimate criticism. A good leader must not only be thick-skinned but also open and humbly ready to accept and apply just criticism. No leader is perfect and the late Archbishop Frank Simon said once that he made it a spiritual discipline to look for the truth in every criticism that came his way before he discarded it. That’s good advice.

6. Energetic

Lazy people cannot be leaders.

Spiritual leaders “redeem the time” (Ephesians 5:16). They work while it is day because they know that night comes when no man can work (John 9:4). They “do not grow weary in well-doing” for they know that in due season they shall reap if they do not lose heart (Galatians 6:9).

They are “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 15:58).

But they do not take credit for this great energy or boast in their efforts because they say with the apostle Paul,

“But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.” (1 Corinthians 15:10).

And: “Whereunto I also labour, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily.” (Colossians 1:29).

The world is run by tired men, someone has said. A leader must learn to live with pressure. None of us accomplishes very much without deadlines and deadlines always create a sense of pressure.

  • A leader does not see the pressure of work as a curse but as a glory.
  • He does not desire to fritter away his life in excess leisure.
  • He loves to be productive.

And he copes with the pressure and prevents it from becoming worrisome with promises like:

Matthew 11:27-28 “All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him. 28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

Philippians 4:7-8 “And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”

Isaiah 64:4 “For since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside thee, what he hath prepared for him that waiteth for him.”

7. A Hard Thinker

“Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men.” (1 Corinthians 14:20).

It is not easy to be a leader of people who can outthink you.

A leader must be one who, when he sees a set of circumstances, thinks about it. He sits down with a pad and pencil and doodles and writes and creates.

Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. (1 Thessalonians 5:21).

He is critical in the best sense of the word, that is, not gullible or faddish or trendy. He weighs things and considers the pros and cons and always has a significant rationale for the decisions that he makes. Careful and rigorous thought is not contrary to a reliance on prayer and divine revelation.

The apostle Paul said to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:7, “Consider what I say; and the Lord give thee understanding in all things.”

In other words, God’s way of imparting to us insight is not to short-circuit the intellectual process.

8. Articulate

It is hard to lead others if you cannot state your thoughts clearly and forcefully. Leaders like Paul aim to persuade men, not coerce them (2 Corinthians 5:11).

Leaders who are spiritual do not muster a following with hot air or waves or words but rather with crisp, solid, compelling sentences.

The apostle Paul aimed, like all good leaders, at the clarity in what he said. According to Colossians 4:4, he asked the people to pray for him, “That I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak.”

It is astonishing and lamentable how many people today cannot speak in complete sentences. The result is that a great fog surrounds their thought. Neither they nor their listeners know exactly what they are talking about. A haze settles over the discussion and you walk away wondering what it was all about. If no one rises above the muddle-headedness and verbal chaos of “You know . . . I mean . . . Just really”, there will not be any leadership.

9. Able to Teach

It is not surprising to me that some of the great leaders at The Mystical Order have been men who are also significant teachers.

According to 1Timothy 3:2, anyone who aspires to the office of overseer in the church should be able to teach.

What is a good teacher? I think a good teacher has at least the following characteristics.

  1. A good teacher asks himself the hardest questions, works through to answers, and then frames provocative questions for his learners to stimulate their thinking.
  2. A good teacher analyzes his subject matter into parts and sees relationships and discovers the unity of the whole.
  3. A good teacher knows the problems learners will have with his subject matter and encourages them and gets them over the humps of discouragement.
  4. A good teacher foresees objections and thinks them through so that he can
    answer them intelligently.
  5. A good teacher can put himself in the place of a variety of learners and therefore explain hard things in terms that are clear from their standpoint.
  6. A good teacher is concrete, not abstract, specific, not general, precise, not vague, vulnerable, not evasive.
  7. A good teacher always asks, “So what?” and tries to see how discoveries shape our whole system of thought. He tries to relate discoveries to life and tries to avoid compartmentalizing.

The goal of a good teacher is the transformation of all of life and thought into a Christ-honouring unity.

10. A Good Judge of Character

Jesus knew the hearts of men (John 2:24-25) and he urged us to be perceptive in assessing others (Matthew 7:15).

Leaders must know who is fit for what kind of work.

Good leaders have good noses.

  • They can snoop out barnacles in a hurry, that is, people who are forever listening but never learning or changing.
  • They can detect potential when they see it in a beginner.
  • They can hear in a short time the echoes of pride and hypocrisy and worldliness.

The spiritual leader steers a careful course between the dangers of rigid pigeonholing on the one hand and indifference on the other hand.

11. Tactful

Paul said in Colossians 4:5-6, “Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time. Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.

And the writer of Proverbs 25:11 said, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.”

We must remember that leaders are aiming to change hearts, not just to get jobs done. Therefore, alienating people unnecessarily is self-defeating. Tact is that quality of grace that wins the confidence of people who are sure you won’t do or say something stupid. You can’t inspire a following if people have to hang their heads in embarrassment at the inappropriate and insensitive things you say or do. Tact is especially needed in a leader to help cope with embarrassing or tragic situations.

For example, very often when you are leading a group someone will say something totally irrelevant, which is recognized to be very foolish by everyone in the group. A tactful leader must be able to divert the attention of the group back to the main course of the discussion without heaping scorn upon the individual.

The tact of a leader must demonstrate itself in forthright confrontation. The person who is unwilling to approach a person who needs admonition or rebuke will not be a successful spiritual leader. Combined with his judgment of people’s character, a leader’s tact will enable him to handle delicate negotiations and opposing viewpoints. His choice of words will be astute rather than clumsy. (There is a big difference between saying, “Your foot is too big for this shoe” and “This shoe is too small for your foot”.)

12. Theologically Oriented

Colossians 3:17 says, “And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.”

1 Corinthians 2:16 speaks of the spiritual man as having the mind of Christ. A spiritual leader knows that all of life, down to its smallest detail, has to do with God. If we are to lead people to see and reflect God’s glory, we must think theologically about everything. We must work toward a synthesis of all things. We must probe to see how things fit together. How do war and sports and pornography and birthday celebrations and literature and space travel and disease and enterprise all hang together? How do they relate to God and his purposes?

Leaders must have a theological standpoint that helps give coherence to all things.

This will give the leader stability that keeps him from being knocked off his feet by sudden changes in circumstances or new winds of doctrine. He knows enough about God and his ways that things generally fit into a pattern and make sense even when they are unpleasant.

So the leader does not throw up his hands but points the way onward to God.

13. A Dreamer

According to Joel 2:28, in the last days (in which we now live), “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions:”

This is the positive counterpart to restlessness. We must not only be discontent with the present but also dreaming dreams of what could be in the future.

In 2 Kings 6:15-17 “And when the servant of the man of God was risen early, and gone forth, behold, an host compassed the city both with horses and chariots. And his servant said unto him, Alas, my master! how shall we do? 16 And he answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them. 17 And Elisha prayed, and said, Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.”

Elisha and his servant were surrounded by Assyrians in the city of Dothan. When the servant sees this and cries out with dismay, Elisha prays and says, “O Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes that he may see.” So the Lord opened the eyes of the young man and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.

Leaders can see the power of God overshadowing the problems of the future.

This is a rare gift – to see the sovereign power of God in the midst of seemingly overwhelming opposition. Most people are experts at seeing all the problems and reasons not to move forward in a venture. Many pastors are ruined by boards who think that they have done their duty when they throw up every obstacle and problem to an idea that he brings. That’s cheap. Hope and solutions are expensive. The spirit of venturesomeness is at a premium today. 0, how we need people who will devote just five minutes a week to dream of what might possibly be. The text says that old men will dream dreams. How sad it is, then, to see so many old people assuming that their age means that now they can coast and turn over the creativity to the young. It is tragic when age makes a man jaded instead of increasingly creative. Every new church, every agency, every new ministry, every institution, every endeavour, is the result of someone having a vision and laying hold on it like a snapping turtle.

14. Organized and Efficient

A leader does not like clutter.

  • He likes to know where and when things are for quick access and use.
  • His favourite shape is the straight line, not the circle.
  • He groans in meetings that do not move from premises to conclusions but rather go in irrelevant circles.
  • When something must be done he sees a three-step plan for getting it done and lays it out.
  • A leader sees the links between a board decision and its implementation.
  • He sees ways to use the time to the full and shapes his schedule to maximize his usefulness.
  • He saves himself large blocks of time for his major productive activities.
  • He uses little pieces of time lest they go to waste. (For example, what do you do while you are brushing your teeth? Could you set a magazine on the towel rack and read an article?)
  • A leader takes time to plan his days and weeks and months and years.

Even though it is God who ultimately directs the steps of the leader, he should plan his path. A leader is not a jellyfish that gets tossed around by the waves, nor is he an oyster that is immovable. The leader is the dolphin of the sea and can swim against the stream or with the stream as he plans.

15. Decisive

In 1 Kings 18:21 Elijah cries out, “And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? if the Lord be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word.”

A leader cannot be paralyzed by indecisiveness.

He will take risks rather than do nothing.

He will soak himself in prayer and in the Word and then rest himself in God’s sovereignty as he makes decisions, knowing that he will very likely make some mistakes.

Decisive leaders seek out the appropriate information they need to make good decisions. Decisiveness is the ability to make clear-cut and timely decisions with the appropriate amount of information. In the organization, decisiveness is key to effectively executing plans and achieving goals.

  • Practice making decisions quickly. Time how long it takes you to make decisions. Minor decisions–what movie to see or restaurant to choose–should be made in thirty seconds to a minute. Bigger decisions should be made in less than five minutes, even if that decision is to do more information gathering so that a decision of action can be made more effectively. The next time you decide what to eat, time yourself and only give yourself a minute to answer. Once you get used to making decisions rapidly you will realize that clear, firm decision making often results in better decisions and more energy.

  • Practice taking a balanced view. Don’t just think about what could go wrong, think about what the benefits of the decision could be. Consider what the worst result could be, and if you can handle that, do it.

  •  Engage the members. As you work with others, listen. Work for buy-in and discover issues of which you were unaware. But don’t overplay and try to work too hard for consensus. There comes a time when you quite simply have to move on from the fact-finding and collaboration phase and decide.

  • Own the decision. When you make a decision, speak of it with confidence and move forward with bold action. Don’t flip-flop, and then own the results, good or bad.

  • Get familiar with your internal GPs. As you gain experience, you build up a wealth of knowledge and insight. That fuels your intuition. Trust it. It will allow you to make reliable, quick decisions when you take the time to listen. Your gut instincts will be right more often than you think.

16. Perseverant

Jesus said in Matthew 24:13, “ But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.”

Paul said in Galatians 6:9, “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”

We live in a day when immediate gratification is usually demanded. That means that very few people excel in the virtue of perseverance. Very few people keep on and keep on in the same ministry when there is a significant difficulty.

Vision without perseverance, however, results in fairy tales, not fruitful ministry.

A minister once told me that the reason he thinks many pastors fail to see revival in their churches is that they leave just before it is about to happen. The long haul is hard, but it pays. The big tree is felled by many, many little chops.

The criticisms that come your way will be long forgotten if you keep on doing the Lord’s will.

17. A Lover

Here I am speaking directly to men who are husbands and leaders.

Paul said in Ephesians 5:25, “Husbands, love your wives!”

Love her! Love her! What does it profit a man if he gains a great following and loses his wife? What have we led people to if they see that it leads us to divorce?

What we need today are leaders who are great lovers.

Husbands who write poems for their wives and sing songs to their wives and buy flowers for their wives for no reason at all except that they love them. We need leaders who know that they should take a day alone with their wives every now and then; leaders who do not fall into the habit of deriding and putting their wives down, especially with careless little asides in public; leaders who speak well of their wives in public and complement them spontaneously when they are alone; leaders who touch her tenderly at other times besides when they are in bed.

One of the greatest temptations of a busy leader is to begin to treat his wife as a kind of sex object. It starts to manifest itself when the only time he ever kisses her passionately or touches her tenderly is when he’s trying to allure her into bed. It is a tragic thing when a wife becomes a mannequin for masturbation. Learn what her delights are and bring her to the fullest experience of sexual climax. Talk with her and study her desires. Look her in the eye when you talk to her. Put down the paper and turn off the television. Open the door for her. Help her with the dishes. Throw her a party. LOVE HER! LOVE HER! If you don’t, all your success as a leader will very likely explode in failure at home.

18. Restful

We began with the quality of restlessness and we end with the quality of restful.

“Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labour in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep” (Psalm 127:1-2).

The spiritual leader knows that ultimately the productivity of his labours rests in God and that God can do more while he is asleep than he could do while awake without God. He knows that Jesus said to his busy disciples,

“Come away by yourselves to a lonely place and rest a while” (Mark 6:31).

He knows that one of the Ten Commandments was,

“Six days shall you labour and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God” (Exodus 20:9,10).

He is not so addicted to work that he is unable to rest. He is a good steward of his life and health. He maximizes the totality of his labour by measuring the possible strains under which he can work without diminishing his efficiency of unduly shortening his life.

The Conclusion

There are no doubt many other qualities which could be mentioned which, if a person has, would make him an even more successful leader. These are simply the ones that came to my mind as I was pondering this subject. One need not excel in every one of them. But the more fully each one is developed in a person the more powerful and fruitful he will be as a leader.

Let me emphasize again that it is the inner circle that makes the leadership spiritual.

All genuine leadership begins in a sense of desperation; knowledge that we are helpless sinners in need of a great saviour. That moves us to listen to God in his Word and cry out to him for help and for insight in prayer. That leads us to trust in God and to hope in his great and precious promises. This frees us for a life of love and service which, in the end, causes people to see and give glory to our Father in heaven.

Author: Godfrey Gregg

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