Recently I’ve been reading Spiritual Leadership by J. Oswald Sanders, which is a classic as far as Christian leadership books go. Sanders packed so much wisdom into this little book that every time I’ve read it, I find something new. Today, I want to take a moment and share a few of my favorite highlights from the book. These are sentences and passages that I find particularly challenging, convicting or encouraging (or some combination of all of the above):
- “Desiring to excel is not a sin. It is motivation that determines ambition’s character. Our Lord never taught against the urge to high achievement, but He did expose and condemn unworthy motivation.” (13)
- “If those who hold influence over others fail to lead toward the spiritual uplands, then surely the path to the lowlands will be well worn.” (20)
- “Neither strident nor flamboyant, God’s servant conducts a ministry that appears almost self-effacing. What a contrast to the arrogant self-advertising of so many hypesters today, both in and out of the church.” (25)
- “If we are disturbed by anything short of perfection in ourselves and others, that must go. The perfectionist sets goals beyond his reach, then sinks into false guilt when he falls short. Our world is imperfect, and we cannot expect the impossible. Setting modest, realistic goals will help a perfectionist move through a problem without discouragement.” (41)
- “If you would rather pick a fight than solve a problem, do not consider leading the church. The Christian teacher must be genial and gentle, not a lover of controversy.” (48)
- “While a leader cares for church and mission, he must not neglect the family, which is his primary and personal responsibility. The discharge of one duty in God’s kingdom does not excuse us from another.” (50)
- “A domineering manner, an unbridled ambition, an offensive strut, a tyrant’s talk—no attitude could be less fit for one who claims to be a servant of the Son of God.” (55)
- The spiritual leader will not procrastinate when faced with a decision, nor vacillate after making it. A sincere but faulty decision is better than weak-willed “trial balloons” or indecisive overtures. To postpone decision is really to decide for the status quo In most decisions the key element is not so much knowing what to do but in living with the results.” (70) (This one is cuts deep, by the way.)
- “When we lead by persuasion rather than command, patience is essential. Leaders rightly cultivate the art of persuasion that allows maximum individual decision making and ownership of a plan.” (83)
- “The leader cannot spent time on secondary matters while essential obligations scream for attention. A day needs careful planning. The person who wants to excel must select and reject, then concentrate on the most important items.” (113-114)
And these are all just in the first half of the book. As I shared above, every single one of these is challenging for me in some way, and there are several that I’m working through afresh right now with my responsibilities in my job. Leadership is not simple. It is not something you can do well just by trying to rely on your natural abilities or through sheer force of will. Success as a leader comes by the grace of God, and if we are leaders in any spiritual context, we must rely on him with all our being.
This article originally appeared here.