What Does the Bible Say About Christian Leadership?

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Jesus is the Lord of the church and the Holy Spirit is the leader of the church. God calls and equips some to be leaders in the church with him. The words most often used about church leaders are “presbyteros”, which translates to “elder”, “episkopos”, which translates to “overseer” and “poimaino”, which translates to “shepherd” or “pastor”. These words are often used synonymously and are therefore not intended as hierarchical titles, but rather as leadership functions. Each congregation should have a leadership consisting of several church leaders/elders.

Being a Christian leader does not mean leading in a worldly way by dominating, ruling, taking credit, etc., but following Jesus’ example and leading by serving and ministering to the church and its members. The purpose of Christian leadership is not to think of one’s own good but rather of the good of others by helping the members of the congregation to develop in their faith, to know Jesus and in turn to be equipped to carry out their own ministry in the church.

Bible Verses

2While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”(Ac 13:2)

28For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay on you no greater burden than these requirements:(Ac 15:28)

28Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.(Ac 20:28)

23And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.(Ac 14:23)

11And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,(Eph 4:11–13)

1The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. 2Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, 5for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? 6He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.(1 Ti 3:1–7)

9He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.(Tt 1:9)

2shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; 3not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.(1 Pe 5:2–3)

25But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 26It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 27and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, 28even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”(Mt 20:25–28)

8But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. 9And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. 10Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ. 11The greatest among you shall be your servant. 12Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.(Mt 23:8–12)

Study Questions

  1. What is the difference between secular and Christian leadership?
  2. Can you be a secular leader in the church?
  3. What is a servant?
  4. What is the purpose of Christian leadership?
  5. What experiences do you have of Christian leadership?
  6. How to be a good Christian leader?
  7. What does it mean to wash someone’s feet?
  8. What happens if you fail as a Christian leader?

Additional Bible Verses

Col 1:18, Acts 16:6-7, Acts 6:3-6, 1 Cor 12:28, Titus 1:5, John 13:12-17, Phil 2:3-4

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