The meaning of spiritual leadership

air-84665_640Ezekiel 34:2: “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy, and say to them, even to the shepherds, Thus says the Lord GOD: Ah, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep?

Leadership is selfless service. It is not about building a personal kingdom, but about the people. When Solomon asked that God gave him wisdom it was because he saw himself as the servant of the people, and wanted to do a great job (1Kings 3:5-10).

For Solomon, leadership was not about the flamboyance of the office, or about outdoing his father. It was not about making people fear him more than they feared his father, as his son Rehoboam did. Rehoboam was advised by his peers to speak harshly to the people, put them in their place; seek to apply the force of his office rather than benefitting the people. He wanted to be an overlord, rather than a cover for the people (1Kings 12:1-16).

After the words of the focus verse, God said he was going to come hard on the bad shepherds. He was going to ask questions from the shepherd, how they have handled their relationship with and responsibility to the sheep.

The shepherds are meant to feed the sheep, because the priority should be their growth. Growth and right feeding are inextricably linked. To pay attention to spiritual feeding is to ensure spiritual growth is not compromised. And the word of God is food.

But for the church leaders, it is not just about what is preached but what motivates the preaching. Is it about genuine care for the sheep or is there an hidden agenda, a ploy to meet personal needs; is it to serve the people or serve yourself?

Does preaching time serve as another opportunity to go on an ego trip, to display how great you are or how great God is, to add to the people or take from them in self-esteem? Do you not eat up the self-esteem of the people to feed your ever-increasing need for esteem? The ministry is not the place to meet your emotional need, but to meet the need of the people, for which you have been equipped.

The ill of the shepherd was that they were only concerned about themselves. But really that is the human default mode. If Jesus does not give us his heart for the people we would not be good shepherds.

Jesus said that he is the good shepherd, who lays down his life for the sheep (John 10:1-18). He said he comes for us to have life in abundance and, while the devil comes to steal, kill and destroy.

The hireling (the lower version of a shepherd) is only in the job for the pay (what is in it for him) and cannot sacrifice his life for the sheep. Rather than lay down his life, he leaves them unprotected.

Peter said that shepherd who do their work well will be rewarded when the chief shepherd, Jesus, appears in his second coming. He however said they should not act as being lords over the Lord’s heritage but examples to the flock. The shepherd is responsible for the sheep and not the sheep for the shepherd. That is the order of things

The bible says judgment will start in the house of God. And God will not spare his ministers, those who see the ministry as means of gain, whose god is their bellies (Philippians 3:19), who are controlled by their need for fame and self-glory (Philippians 2:21). They seek greatness for themselves and would stop at nothing to achieve it.

Spiritual leadership is about what you can offer, not what can be offered to you. So your business is to be increased in what you can offer, how you can better meet the needs of the people, how you can be a better leader. Your priority should be being with Jesus so that you can better represent him, flowing in his power.

The apostles said that they will give themselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word (Acts 6:4). Those are the basic interaction with the hand of God, so that when you go forth to serve the people it is as the hand of God.

The bible says that those who speak should speak as the oracle of God and those who serve with the ability of God (1Peter 4:10-11). The challenge is to continue being the voice of God, to be close to him; to continue being his hand, without distraction.

Paul said that he has authority over the Corinthians and it is not to break down but to build up (2Corinthians 10:8). That is the business of the minister -to build up, (this is done by adding to, not taking from the people) to minister the glory of God; to touch people with the presence of God; to liberate the people through the anointing of the Holy Spirit; so set them free into the glorious liberty of the sons of God (Romans 8:21); to release unto them grace so that they can live heaven on earth (John 1:14); to release the people into greater experience of the Holy Spirit, changing them, breaking every chain, touching them with the light of God and freeing them from darkness.

God told Paul that his mandate is to open the eyes of the gentiles, taking them from darkness into light. And for God to drive that home to him, when he encountered Christ, he became blind, in a symbolic statement about his own spiritual blindness/darkness before then (Acts 9:1-20, 26:12-18).

So when he saw people who do not know Christ he becomes everything to all men so that he might save some. He leads them into the reality of Christ, from blindness to spiritual sight, he helps them to recognize who Jesus is.

He wrote that those who do not know Christ are in spiritual blindness (Ephesians 4:18); he charged another to walk in the light as children of light (Ephesians 5:8). He concludes that the work of the devil (the thief) is to blind and prevent us from experiencing the light of Christ (2Corinthians 4:4-6) and the spiritual leaders’ business is to help the people to see.


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