What characterises a person God can use to lead His people?

Biblical leadership is based entirely around the Person, and work, of Jesus.

There’s no room to vary from the Word of God.

I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after Mine own heart, which shall fulfil all my will.” – Acts 13:22 (KJV).

“For even the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many.” – Mark 10:45 (KJV).

It’s said, “he cannot serve, who has not first learned to obey…”.

What qualities, then, did some Biblical characters whose leadership played a significant role in Israel’s journey display? 

Paul “…believed in someone bigger than himself…”. Jesus. Paul had courage when facing opposition and limitless horizons in his mission. He ultimately believed in – and was anchored by – “…Jesus Christ and Him crucified…” – 1 Corinthians 2:2 (KJV).

“I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’” – Acts 13:47 (KJV). Nehemiah teaches us to “…build on what God’s given you…”. His leadership was built not so much on ancestry from Jewish lineage, as it was on faithfulness. God gives each leader specific gifts. Some aren’t visible – all are useful.

In Joshua we’re constantly reminded “…focus on who is commanding you…” He had been in God’s presence, and we then see a theophany – a visible manifestation of God – take place.

“…and the commander of the Lord‘s army said to Joshua, “Take off your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so.” – Joshua 5:15 (KJV). 

In Acts, a powerful reminder is at work through Barnabas. The importance of bridging the ‘gaps’ caused by differing opinions. Barnabas bridged gaps between the Greek and the Jewish worlds. “Barnabas… means son of encouragement…” – Acts 4:36 (KJV).

Moses reminds us, “…blind your eyes to petty criticism. Exodus 16:8, and verses 16-20 tell us he was seen as the patient leader of a people who displayed little faith.

We often hear the phrase, “…bind the ties of love and courage…” Today’s language calls that tough love. Some call it a tough mind and a tender heart. Elijah had both. He loved God and had the courage to speak to the evils of his day.

Peter was restored, having denied Christ. In Matthew 16, Peter was both a ‘rock’ and a ‘stumbling block.’ Both blessed and disgraced – almost in the same breath. Leadership is not a reward for age, gender, affluence or status. Leadership is a calling from God for specific ministry.

As I prayed about Biblical leadership, I felt to make mention of some principles which were brought to mind as I recently watched a Netflix documentary on WWII.

I share them praying they may encourage readers.

Firstly, be willing to change. World War Two came 20 years after WWI ended. Many senior generals, especially in France, were experienced World War One officers successful in methods of that war. Yet, when confronted with new radical ideas of strategy and equipment in WWII, these men said it couldn’t be done and things would be fought as they had 20 years earlier. This was ineffective.

“…put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires… be made new in the attitude of your minds… put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” – Ephesians 4:22-24 (NIV).

Don’t be driven by personal agendas and jealousies.

Many generals carried irrational personal motives into some of their operations. Often at great cost to many. Sometimes despite reasoned opposition from their knowledgeable subordinates.

In leadership, you aren’t always right. No one knows everything. When dealing with issues outside one’s area of expertise, seek the Godly advice of those more aware.

Be careful who you listen to.

Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.” – 1 Corinthians 15:33 (NIV).

It’s often likely too, that – at times – there’ll be those following you who have their own agenda. They’ll only give you advice they think you want to hear.

Focus on what’s important. Don’t be distracted by lesser things that intrude at critical times, even if they seem ‘normal’ at other times, or even important.

I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 3:14 (NIV).

Wherever there is boorishness, rudeness, insensitivity, a sense of entitlement or even affluence, it’s almost always detrimental.

Importantly, you should regularly evaluate your effectiveness – committing – and leaving in God’s hands – the results. When He makes you aware of areas to change, are you willing to do so?

Complacency denies the existence of danger, or the proximity of serious issues. According to the documentary I watched, the Pearl Harbour attack occurred when everyone was resting on a Sunday. Warning signs were assessed as “…not likely to ever happen”. Additionally, the Battle of the Bulge in the Ardennes was completely unexpected by the United States.

In leadership – and many other areas of life – ‘injuries’ happen. Rest is required. But, rest in Christ, placing your burdens on Him.

“Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” – Matthew 11:28 (NIV).

“Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.” – 1 Peter 5:7 (NIV).

Lastly, personal discipline comes before disciplining. How do you exercise discipline? Do you act with a ‘payback’ reaction? Or in a measured, responsible way?”

Read Romans 12 and be encouraged. If your gift is to lead, do so diligently. 

  • Howard Goold is the CEO of Putaruru-based Transform Aotearoa – an organisation dedicated to building healthy whānau, and providing practical tools and support to those in provincial communities. For more, see www.transformaotearoa.org.nz

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Howard Goold

About the author

Howard Goold was born of missionary parents in India. He and his wife Jill worked with YWAM in Spain for almost seven years, before returning to New Zealand. They shifted to Putaruru and – before taking on his current role as Transform Aotearoa CEO – Howard pastored at Putaruru Gospel Chapel for a decade.

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