You may not think of yourself as a “leader” but if you serve God and care for others then you are a Christian leader, a spokesperson for Christ. Spiritual leadership is not just for the church or ministry — it’s also for the family, community, and business. The people in your sphere of influence, those who know the Lord and those who don’t, need you to lead from the character and power of Christ.

Spiritual leadership in the way of Christ is very different and dramatically more impactful than cultural leadership in the way of our world and people’s natural abilities. Spiritual leadership is of the Holy Spirit and the human leader is a vessel. It can only be done by disciples of Jesus who are prepared to fulfill their leadership role from within the spiritual reality and resources of the Kingdom of God.

What is distinctively Christian leadership? What does the Bible say about it? Here’s a survey of some key Bible verses on spiritual leadership that honors God and blesses people. (Bible verses are from the NIV unless indicated otherwise.)

Bible Verses on Spiritual Leadership

We’re Called to Leadership With and For the Lord

Magnify the Office/Calling that God has Given You! (As Paul Models)

“I magnify my office” (Romans 11:13, KJV). “I make much over the greatness of the work I do” (Romans 11:13, Dallas Willard paraphrase).

God Created Human Beings to Be Leaders

“Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.'” (Genesis 1:26; see also Psalm 8:5-8)

Jesus Calls YOU the Light of the World You’re In: Shine His Light Where You Are or It’ll Be Dark There!

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16)

Death Reigns in Our World, But By Trusting in Christ His Life Reigns Through Us

“For if, by the trespass of the one man [Adam], death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!” (Romans 5:17)

Is it Good to Seek to be a Leader? It Depends on What it Means to You to Lead Others

Jeremiah’s advice to his servant Baruch who wanted more notoriety: “Should you then seek great things for yourself? Do not seek them.” (Jeremiah 45:5)

But Paul advised Timothy and other potential leaders, “To aspire to leadership is an honorable ambition” (1 Timothy 3:1, NEB)

The Divine Purpose of Leadership in Any Setting (Including Secular Business) is That Christ Be Formed in Those We Care For

“My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you.” (Galatians 4:19)

True Leaders are God’s Humble Servants (Key Principles)

Christ is the Supreme Leader!

“[Christ] is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.” (Colossians 1:17-18)

The Best Leadership is to Make More of Christ and Less of Yourself (Be Free of Competition and Jealousy)

“[Christ] must become greater; I must become less.” (John 3:30. When the crowds were enticing John to outdo Jesus in baptisms.)

Godly Leaders Assist Jesus, the Real Leader

“Calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, ‘Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to saving yourself, your true self.'” (Mark 8:34-36, MSG)

God Calls Moses “My Servant,” Not “My Leader” (The Word “Leader” is Only Used Six Times in the Bible)

“Moses, my servant…” (Joshua 1:2).

Humble Leaders Serve Others (They Don’t Seek Glory) — This is True Greatness!

“Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to [Jesus]. ‘Teacher,’ they said, ‘we want you to do for us whatever we ask.’ ‘What do you want me to do for you? he asked. They replied, ‘Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.'”…

“Jesus called [all his apostles] together and said, ‘You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant.'” (Mark 10:35-37, 42-43)

The Greatest Leaders Keep Growing More Humble as Paul Did

Early in his ministry he said, “I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle” (1 Corinthians 15:9). Later he said, “I am less than the least of all God’s people” (Ephesians 3:8). At the end of his life he said, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners — of whom I am the worst” (1 Timothy 1:15).

Leadership that Lasts is All About Love

“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge,and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind… (1 Corinthians 13:1-4)

Guide and Care For Others Not Out of Duty, Using Others, or to Have Power Over Them, But to Love Them for Jesus’ Sake

“Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.” (1 Peter 5:2-3)

How to Be a Christly Leader (Practical Humility)

Bring Yourself and Your Leadership into the Rule and Realm of the Kingdom of God

“Re-think your life and leadership in light of your opportunity to experience and work with the rule of the Kingdom of the Heavens.” (Matthew 4:17, paraphrase)

Invite Those You Lead to Follow Christ with You (Lead From Your Experience of God)

“Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1)

Humble Yourself Before the Lord and He’ll Exalt You in Due Season (Focus on Your Character, Wait for God to Elevate Your Leadership)

“Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you.” (1 Peter 5:5-6, ESV)

Don’t Seek More Power, Success, or Influence — Seek to Love Your Neighbor and God Will Empower You When the Time is Right (Character 1st, Power 2nd)

“This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty… ‘[Don’t] despise the day of small things.'” (Zechariah 4:6, 10)

“Serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’… Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh… The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Galatians 5:13-14, 16, 22-23)

Be Filled with the Holy Spirit (Draw Nourishment From, Be Permeated with, and Be Controlled by the Holy Spirit)

Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.” (Ephesians 5:17-18)

“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.” (Acts 6:3)

Don’t Live In Terms of Your Natural Abilities, But on the Holy Spirit’s Abilities

“Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.” (Romans 8:5-6)

Don’t Rely on Your Eloquence or Wisdom, But on the Spirit’s Power (Paul’s Example)

Paul wrote, “[The Lord] said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions,in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

As You Speak Don’t Rely on Your Eloquence or Wisdom, But on the Spirit’s Power

“When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.” (1 Corinthians 2:1-5)

More Qualities of Christly Leaders

See the Unseen God and Keep Following Him (Like Moses)

“By faith Moses… persevered because he saw him who is invisible.” (Hebrews 11:24, 27)

Wait to Listen for the Spirit-Wind and Then Follow God as You Lead Others (Like David)

“Once more the Philistines raided the valley; so David inquired of God again, and God answered him, ‘Do not go directly after them [like you did last time and had a great victory], but circle around them and attack them in front of the poplar trees. [Wait and] As soon as you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the poplar trees, move out to battle, because that will mean God has gone out in front of you to strike the Philistine army.’ So David did as God commanded him, and they struck down the Philistine army, all the way from Gibeon to Gezer. So David’s fame spread throughout every land, and the Lord made all the nations fear him.” (1 Chronicles 14:13-17)

Keep Inquiring of the Lord (As David Did When Younger)

“David inquired of the Lord.”  (Samuel records this seven times: 1 Samuel 23:2, 4, 28:6, 30:8; 2 Samuel 2:1, 5:19, 23.) David learned to do this first from Samuel (1 Samuel 10:22) and then from Ahimelech (1 Samuel 22:10). This includes the years that David suffered unjustly at the hands of King Saul and the early years of his kingship, but then he apparently stopped inquiring of the Lord and this led to his downfall.

Spiritual Leaders Feed People with Spiritual Knowledge and Understanding

“I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding.” (Jeremiah 3:15, ESV)

Wrestle in Prayer for Those You Minister To

“Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured.” (Colossians 4:12)

Learn How To Fall Down Safely and Get Back Up (We Learn From Our Mistakes)

“Though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again” (Proverbs 24:16).

Don’t Lead From Your Belly (Desires), Lead From the Heavens (God’s Presence)

“Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in [the] heaven[s].” (Philippians 3:19-20)

Refrain From Jealousy By Rejoicing in the Lord’s Generosity To You

“A young man ran and told Moses, ‘Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.’ Joshua son of Nun, who had been Moses’ aide since youth, spoke up and said, ‘Moses, my lord, stop them!’ But Moses replied, ‘Are you jealous for my sake? I wish that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!'” (Numbers 11:27-29)

“Christ encourages you, and his love comforts you… Don’t be jealous or proud, but be humble and consider others more important than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:1, 3, CEV).

Rejoice in the Lord’s Generosity to You in Trials and Grow in Character and Wisdom

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” (James 1:2-5)

Take Courage From God By Meditating on His Word (Like Joshua)

“Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:8-9)

Seek to Please God, Not People

“I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me.” (1 Corinthians 4:3-4)

Be Transparent (Be Authentic With Your Emotions With God and Safe People)

“(Joab and his brother Abishai murdered Abner because he had killed their brother Asahel in the battle at Gibeon.) Then David said to Joab and all the people with him, ‘Tear your clothes and put on sackcloth and walk in mourning in front of Abner.’ King David himself walked behind the bier. They buried Abner in Hebron, and the king wept aloud at Abner’s tomb. All the people wept also.” (2 Samuel 3:30-32)

Minister with Three Kinds of Christ-Centered Friends: A Mentor, Friend, and Mentee (As Paul Did)

“When [Paul] came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles.” (Acts 9:26-27)

“Paul [told his friend Barnabas that he] wanted to take [Timothy, a young disciple] along on the journey… As they traveled from town to town, they delivered the decisions reached by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem for the people to obey. So the churches were strengthened in the faith and grew daily in numbers.” (Acts 16:4-5)

Make Disciples to Jesus Who Disciple Others to Jesus (As Paul Did Through Timothy)

“You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.” (2 Timothy 2:2)

Don’t Burn Out: Learn to Delegate (as Moses Learned From Jethro)

“But select capable men from all the people—men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain… have them bring every difficult case to you; the simple cases they can decide themselves. That will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you.” (Exodus 18:21-22)

Be Faithful in Little Things to Be Given Leadership Of More  Things

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!'” (Matthew 25:21)

Use Your Time Wisely

“Redeeming the time because the days are evil… Make the best use of your time… Buy up your opportunities” (Ephesians 5:16: KJV, Phillips, Weymouth Bible).

Read, Study, and Re-Read for Depth of Learning

“Occupy thyself reading, exhorting, teaching” (1 Timothy 4:13, Jubilee Bible).

Paul wrote Timothy: “When you come [visit me in prison], bring… my scrolls, especially the parchments.” (1 Timothy 4:13).

Offer Follow Up Letters of Encouragement to People You Minister To (Paul, Peter, John, and Others Model This)

“With the help of Silas, whom I regard as a faithful brother, I have written to you briefly, encouraging you and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Stand fast in it.” (1 Peter 5:12)

Jesus’ Way of Leadership

Jesus Receives his Mission From God Through Scripture

“In a synagogue service Jesus stood and read Isaiah 61:1-2: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Then “he began [his message] by saying to them, ‘Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.’” (Luke 4:18-19, 21)

Jesus, the Son of God, Submits to God the Father’s Leadership in All Things

“Jesus gave them this answer: ‘Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.'” (John 5:19)

Jesus Depends Entirely on the Anointing (Presence and Power) of the Holy Spirit

“God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and… he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.” (Acts 10:38; Peter’s testimony.)

Jesus Teaches What’s He Learned and Experienced in His Own Life

“Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony.” (John 3:11; see also John 7:15-17)

Jesus is a Servant Leader

“Even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45)

“[Jesus] got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.” (John 13:4-5. Jesus washed his disciples’ feet not as a symbolic act but because their feet were dirty and he loved them.)

Jesus Followed the Way of the Cross (Self-Denial and Giving His Life For Others)

“Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.” (Luke 9:51; see also Mark 9:31-32, 10:32-34; John 12:23-28)

Jesus’ Leadership Training Program

Jesus Takes Initiative to Mentor People

“[Jesus] looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.'” (Luke 19:5).

When Jesus Calls Disciples He Doesn’t Put Them in a Classroom, But in Ministry Leadership with Him

“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” (Matthew 4:19)

Jesus Works With a Diverse Group of Apprentices

He trains ascetic disciples of John the Baptist (John 1:35-39), fisherman (Mark 1:16-17), Roman tax collectors (Mark 2:13-14), Jewish zealots (Mark 3:18), many women (John 4:4-26, 39-42; Luke 8:1-3, 24:1-7), foreigners and lepers (Matthew 4:23-25; Luke 17:11-19), “sinners” (Mark 2:15-16), people he delivered of demons (Mark 5:1-20), and Pharisees (John 3:1-2; Mark 15:42-46).

Jesus is the 1st Disciple: He Lives and Leads in the Easy Yoke of the Father and He Shows Us How to Follow His Example

Jesus says, “The Father has given me all these things to do and say. This is a unique Father-Son operation, coming out of Father and Son intimacies and knowledge… Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.” (Matthew 11:27, 29, MSG)

Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

Jesus Prays for His Leaders in Private (They Observe This) and He Prays with Them (They Absorb His Way of Praying)

“One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles.” (Luke 6:12-13)

“Abruptly Jesus broke into prayer, ‘Thank you Father…’ Jesus resumed talking to the people, but now tenderly.” (Matthew 11:25, 27)

“One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.’ He said to them, ‘When you pray, say: “Father, hallowed be your name…”‘” (Luke 11:1-2)

Jesus Trains Leaders in Internships: (1) They Watch Him Lead, (2) He Sends Them Out in Pairs to Lead and He Watches, (3) They Report Back to Him

“Then Jesus went around teaching from village to village. Calling the Twelve to him, he began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over impure spirits… He sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick…” (Mark 6:6-7; Luke 9:2)

“The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.'” (Mark 6:30-32)

Jesus Trains 72 New Leaders to Expand His Core Group of Disciples From 12 to 84

After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go.” (Luke 9:1-2; 10:1)

Jesus Gives Us Opportunities to Learn From Experience, Including Failure

“A man in the crowd answered [Jesus], ‘Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.'” (Mark 9:17-18)

Jesus Commissioned His Followers to Lead Others on His Behalf

“Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.'” (Matthew 28:18-20)

Jesus Restores Fallen Leaders (Peter)

Jesus said, “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:31-32) 

“When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?’ ‘Yes, Lord,’ he said, ‘you know that I love you.’ Jesus said, ‘Feed my lambs.'” (John 21:15)

Jesus Trains His Leaders to Wait on God to Be Immersed and Empowered By the Holy Spirit

“[Jesus] gave [his disciples] this command: ‘Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’…

“‘But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.'” (Acts 1:4-5, 8)

God’s Chosen Leaders Are Often Unlikely (A Few Examples From the Bible)

Deborah: a Woman in a Culture that Repressed Women Was Called by God to Be a Prophet and Leader of Israel

“Now Deborah, a prophet, the wife of Lappidoth, was leading Israel at that time.” (Judges 6:4)

Gideon: the Least and Quite Fearful Led Israel to Freedom From Their Enemies

“When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon [where he was hiding from Israel’s enemies], he said, ‘The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.’… ‘Pardon me, my lord,’ Gideon replied, ‘but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.’ The Lord answered, ‘I will be with you…'” (Judges 6:12, 15-16)

David: the Youngest Son and Only a Shepherd Boy Became the Greatest King of Israel

“When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, ‘Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord.’ But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but theLord looks at the heart.’… Jesse had seven of his sons pass before Samuel, but Samuel said to him, ‘TheLord has not chosen these.’ So he asked Jesse, ‘Are these all the sons you have?’ ‘There is still the youngest,’ Jesse answered. ‘He is tending the sheep.’… Then the Lord said, ‘Rise and anoint him; this is the one.'” (1 Samuel 16:6-7, 10-12)

Mary: a Young Virgin Became the Mother of the Christ

“God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, ‘Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.'” (Luke 1:26-28)

Mary Magdalene: The Former Demon-Possessed Woman Was the 1st Evangelist for the Risen Christ

“When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons. She went and told those who had been with him and who were mourning and weeping.” (Mark 16:9-10)

Andronicus (Man) and Junia (Woman): Two Great New Testament Apostles Who Are Forgotten

“Greet Andronicus and Junia, my fellow Jews who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was.” (Romans 16:7)

Paul: a Great Sinner Becomes the Greatest Apostle

“For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.” (1 Corinthians 15:9)

Priscilla and Aquila: A Wife (Listed 1st) and Her Husband Taught the Apostle Paul and Became Church Pastors

“[Paul] began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately.” (Acts 18:26. Later they pastored a house church, 1 Corinthians 16:19)


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