8 Principles for Teaching Leadership from the Bible

It is a foregone conclusion by many believers that leadership is easily taught from the Bible. It is and is not a true idea.

Leadership is definitely put on display and explicitly taught in the Bible. But, like all other subjects, it requires careful interpretation and handling with nuance. It is, in fact, a spiritual discipline for believers. Here are eight principles that you can use when going to the Scriptures to teach leadership.

1. The Bible is not a leadership manual. It is unhelpful to define the Bible as something less than God revealing Himself. Though a divine leadership manual sounds like a great statement to make in a sermon or training event, it diminishes the Scriptures. We need to state that in the Bible, God includes authoritative teaching about leadership.

2. Identify the prescriptive teachings on leadership. The Bible contains a great many passages that directly address leadership and how leaders are to do their work. For example, in Titus 1:5-9, Paul gives the qualifications for a man to serve as an elder in the church. It is a prescriptive passage about who can lead and how they are to do it.

3. Help people understand the descriptive illustrations of leadership. Nehemiah, King David, Gideon, Simon Peter, and a host of other characters give us examples of godly leadership… sometimes. We must be careful to not take a point-in-time occurrence and use it as an eternal principle. Nehemiah is a prime example of how this can be used and misused. It is an epic story of how God used Nehemiah to complete a necessary task for the Kingdom of God. We must be careful to not simply turn the thirteen chapter book into a corporate leadership manual for success.

4. Deny the temptation to proof text clichés and moralisms. If we lose sight of its nature, the Bible becomes a fable intended to make bad people behave better. The Scripture is the eternal truth of God that is rooted in the gospel. As it is addressed in the Bible, leadership must do the same. Root it in God’s transforming work of the heart so that lives can be changed.

5. Keep the goal of leadership true to the Bible’s goal. No subject included in the Bible can have a different goal from the Bible. God reveals Himself for His own glory and He can consequently change us for our good. In teaching leadership, it is not to simply make a leader better, more competent, or nice. The Bible addresses leadership so that we can understand how God should be glorified through the person who is leading and the work that they lead.

6. Teach offensive and defensive leadership. Leadership must be proactive. We take God’s truth out to the fields of people’s lives and apply it before trials come. Spiritual leadership also defends God’s people and His work against the assaults of the God’s enemies. Teach both sides of this equation without diminishing the other. Help leaders go on the offensive against evil and know how to defend the faith when attacked.

7. “Servant leadership” is a thing but not the only thing. In teaching, we tend to over-complicate mattes or simplify them to their base part. The model of “servant leadership” is often proposed as the ultimate way of defining leadership. It is a way but not the only way. Many of the descriptive and prescriptive passages regarding leadership show us that leaders confront sin, stand against earthly structures of power, and challenge believers to press deeper into God’s mission. Teach that leaders serve within the context of all that they do.

8. Urgency is a hallmark. The godly leaders included in the pages of the Bible were people of action. They discerned the need for God’s transforming work to take root in the lives of those who followed them. Wasting time is evidenced in the lives of those disobedient to the mission of God. As you teach leadership, infuse the urgency of the unfinished task we face to deliver the gospel to the nations.

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Philip Nation

Philip Nation

I serve as the Director of Adult Ministry Publishing at LifeWay Christian Resources and frequently speak at churches and conferences. I earned a master of divinity from Beeson Divinity School and a doctor of ministry from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. In 2010-2012, I served as the national spokesperson for the Back to Church Sunday campaign from Outreach. Over the years, I’ve served as a pastor, minister of education, and a church planter. Currently, I am a Teaching Pastor at The Fellowship. We are a multisite church in Nashville determined to make an impact on our city and world. I’ve coauthored two books: Compelled: Living the Mission of God and Transformational Discipleship: How People Really Grow. I am also the general editor of The Mission of God Study Bible. Along the way, I have also written the small-group studies Compelled by Love: The Journey to Missional Living and Live in the Word, plus contributed to The Great Commission Resurgence: Fulfilling God’s Mandate in Our Lifetime. My wife, Angie, and I live in Tennessee, with our two sons, Andrew and Chris.

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I just discovered this today and am looking forward to exploring the content on here. It looks like it could be very helpful. Just an FYI - in your paragraph on not putting out B+ material you have a typo. A little ironic. :-) The third sentence begins with "You time" not "Your time."
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I'm lost, to say the least! As a new pastor, taking over a newly started church I have read just about everything there is to learn what I can do to grow the church. I truly beleive that those attending our church are friendly and sincere. So that can't be the issue. I have read all the comments to this article and I feel that most churches will never have a fair chance! We are a VERY small church, so we don't have a children's church (yet). So if a family comes and gets upset that we don't have a children's church for them to put their children into, we lose! We do provide things for their kids to do during the service and even have an option for their kids to be in a different room, if they don't want their kids to sit with them. We are also such a small church that we don't have a worship team/band/etc. Our worship music comes from music videos. The congregation we do have likes it this way, but of course we would love to have a worhsip team. So, if someone comes to our church and is upset that we don't have live music, we lose! The point I am trying to make is that when people come in with preconceived ideas of what a church should be like, they will never find a church home, unless they find a church who's goal is to entertain! Every Sunday our message comes from the Bible, so that can't be a complaint for someone, so instead, people leave the church and never come back because they want more from a church: they don't want friendly people who are following the Word of God; they want a church that give them something (a babysitter for their kid, entertainment, free gifts, etc.) I'm sorry if sound cynical, I truly want everyone to hear the Good News and learn about Christ's love, but if they come in looking for something else, then the church will always lose!

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