I remember this story like it was yesterday. I went to a small, private, American ISB school in Benin, West Africa.
In my senior year, I heard rumors about some of the teachers wanting me to run for student body president. They tried to sell me on the benefits of being president, like using it for my college applications. But I couldn’t shake the thought, “I don’t want the responsibility.”
This would mean I need to act right, be a good example, speak in public, etc. I fought it as hard as I could. To make a long story short, I lost the battle, and I became president.
As I reflect on my life, I believe God often put me in positions of leadership at my school, in sports, and even with my friend groups. I didn’t mind the fun and camaraderie of it all but taking responsibility for the good, the bad, and the ugly has always been challenging for me. Over the years, I have learned just how much fear played and still plays a part in how I respond to leadership.
When we think of leading, we can admire great leaders yet shy away from embracing the call to lead ourselves. There is a quote that says:
This means everyone can become a leader. More importantly, everyone can become a spiritual leader, but it begins with the decision to allow God to make you into one. God uses our talents, our strengths, our weaknesses, our personalities, and the things that make us “us” so that we can lead.
Spiritual leaders are few and far between, not for a lack of desire or effort but for a lack of complete reliance on God. Today, I want to talk about 5 ways you can become the spiritual leader God is calling you to be.
In those days Israel didn’t have a king. The people did anything they thought was right.
Judges 21:25 NIRV
This scripture really resonates with me in our current climate. Without strong leadership, things will not change. It is evident to me that the world and our society need leaders – those who will help set the world on a course of renewed morality.
We need leaders in the home, on the job, in schools, and in all facets of our society. The outcry is loud and clear as evidenced by increasingly overt political divisiveness and social injustice, among many other things.
While all facets of leadership are important, the one area that is in great need and would change everything else is spiritual leadership. Spiritual leadership is the need of the hour because it supersedes the faults of human leadership.
Our ill-motives, rollercoaster emotions, inexperience and human fragility will always fail to hit the mark of leadership we all need and desire.
Spiritual leadership is attained through the following:
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus
Philippians 2:3-5 (NIV)
My pride has gotten me in trouble in more ways than I want to admit. Do you find yourself thinking or saying to yourself, “I should know?” These 3 words are the common phrase uttered by the proud. And these words are seldom spoken to others. We say this to ourselves and have personal debates.
On the contrary, humble people are always ready to learn. This humility is so crucial to the development of spiritual leadership. No amount of talent, effort, or skill will suffice to become a spiritual leader if we don’t embrace the humility needed to learn from God and those he places in our lives.
Within a span of two days, three different people told me I was proud. On the third day, I decided it would be very foolish to ignore my pride. I finally chose humility, let down, and discovered different things I was willfully ignoring inside of me:
My bad attitude in the face of adversity
My bitterness in response to the truth
My blame-shifting instead of taking responsibility
Pause and reflect
What’s your attitude like in the face of adversity?
How do you respond to hard truths?
Do you embrace responsibility, or do you prefer playing the blame game?
Good leadership is built on love and truth, for kindness and integrity are what keep leaders in their position of trust.
Proverbs 20:28 TPT
I remember when I was in college, and I opened up about some pretty rough experiences from my childhood with a friend. His initial response was harsh and very insensitive. In my attempt to be humble, I tried to listen and learn. However, I finally decided not to tell him anything vulnerable about my life again.
Sometime later, that same friend admitted that my vulnerability and honesty scared him, and he didn’t know what to say. So he figured a fiery speech would help me. I told him that was a terrible way to go about things, we laughed, and I helped him see that a simple “Thanks for being honest” would have sufficed.
I learned a valuable lesson. When we aren’t honest about our fears as leaders, we often respond in one of two ways: harsh or passive. One of the ways I believe God develops spiritual leaders is by helping navigate them through their fears.
Here are four fears that God has helped me continue to navigate:
Do you see how God is helping navigate you through these fears?
My friends at Corinth, our hearts are wide open to you and we speak freely, holding nothing back from you.
 If there is a block in our relationship, it is not with us, for we carry you in our hearts with great love, yet you still withhold your affections from us.
 So I speak to you as our children. Make room in your hearts for us as we have done for you.
2 Corinthians 6:11-13 (TPT)
Spiritual leadership requires we give all our heart. And this is scary for most people. When all our heart is involved, we are risking rejection & disappointment. However, this risk is necessary as it teaches us to develop a complete reliance & trust in God.
In this scene from the 1997 movie Gattaca, two brothers are in a heated argument, stemming from an event from the past where the older brother (Vincent) saved the younger brother (Anton) from drowning in a game called “chicken”. Vincent is conceived without the aid of genetic selection; his genetic profile indicates a high probability of several disorders and an estimated lifespan of 30.2 years. His parents, regretting their decision, use genetic selection in conceiving their next child, Anton. As you can imagine, this created all kinds of issues and complexes in Vincent.
As you saw in the scene, Vincent reveals the secret to his success in the game of chicken but also in his pursuit of his dreams: He never saved anything for the swim back. Spiritual leadership requires we make that kind of courageous commitment and not give into fear. We can’t hold our hearts back, as the scripture above implores us.
Pause and reflect
In what ways do you hold your heart back?
Why do you resist being all in?
What opportunities has God given you to save nothing for the swim back?
The spiritually hungry are always ready to learn more, for their hearts are eager to discover new truths.
Proverbs 18:15 TPT
Do you have an appetite to learn and grow? This is one of the trademarks to becoming a great spiritual leader. However, there is an obstacle we must resist and defeat to embrace this: Pride. It can very easily creep in and steal that hunger and appetite to grow.
If you ever find yourself thinking the following thoughts, then your pride is probably getting the best of you and preventing you from learning and growing:
I would rather look like I am successful than be successful…
I should already know this by now…
I do not need anyone’s help; I can do this on my own…
I will prove to you that I can do this…
You do not understand my struggles…
If only you did your part, I would not be in this predicament…
Unfortunately, I have had all these thoughts at one point or another. And one thing is for sure, the above thoughts have usually led to more stress, defeat, frustration, and anger. They prevented me from learning, from building closer relationships, from building a team, from the joy of team success, and more. On the contrary, humility led to learning and discovery which in turn led to more happiness, better relationships, better teamwork, and an overall better outlook on life.
Pause and reflect
How may pride be preventing you from growing and learning?
What would your life look like if you developed an appetite to learn and grow?
Is pride really worth the frustration?
5. Help (others)
 Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them  and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”
 This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism.
 They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.  So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.
Acts 6:3-7 NIV
I am naturally conceited and can very much make leadership about me – how I am failing or succeeding in my performance. Time and again, I am reminded that it is not about me. Spiritual leaders are trained by God to meet the needs of others, not promote themselves or simply brag about their title/position.
Mahatma Gandhi is quoted as saying, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” Similarly, I believe the best way to become a spiritual leader is to imitate the greatest leader, Jesus, and make it a priority of your life to serve others. Some of my most fulfilling times as a leader were when I put aside my ego, interests, and selfish ambition and served others.
Making a shift from selfish leadership to becoming a servant is not an easy fix. In fact, you could make an argument that, for many, it is a life-long quest or pursuit. As humans we are naturally self-centered, so the spiritual leader makes him/herself aware of his/her human frailty, thus producing a humility and daily dependence on God. There is beauty in the struggle to overcome and become selfless leaders.
Pause and reflect
How do you make leadership about you?
How do you measure your leadership?
What transformation will need to take place in your relationship with God in order to become a spiritual leader?
What demons must you face in order to have the resilience necessary to lead?
Who will your team be?
Whose life will be inspired or changed as a result of your decision to lead?