Biblical Models of Worship Leadership


What does it mean to be a worship leader? Many articles on the subject address musical, spiritual and technical issues involved in worship. In preparation for classes and seminars that I have taught, I’ve come to realize that these articles address only half the equation. While worship is important, leadership is equally important. The next four articles I submit will focus on leadership. They are entitled “The Gift of Leadership”, “Biblical Leadership Models”, “The Maturing Christian Leader” and “Leader Emergence.”

Included are some questions that are intended to reinforce the major points of each section. I suggest that you spend some dedicated time before the Lord in prayer, mediation and soul searching to answer these questions as thoroughly and accurately as possible. If you don’t have a good answer, continue in an attitude of prayerful waiting until you have your answer. It is my prayer that understanding God’s call to leadership will help you become more effective as a worship leader.

A leader is someone you will follow to a place you wouldn’t go yourself.
—Joel A. Barker 


Have you ever wondered what makes a good leader? The makings of a good leader are many, and vary based on the context of the position. In business, a good leader is one who maximizes profit and shareholder value without depleting company resources. In the home, a good leader is one who focuses on the well-being of the family; profitability is not a concern. In the Church, a good leader is one whom the Lord uses to build the body of Christ, prepare people for service and good works and to positively affect the world for Christ using the Church’s and the Church’s community human and physical resources.

So far we’ve identified leaders by what they do. However, this tells us nothing about what personal characteristics make good leaders. In this section, we will attempt to define, and certainly will emphasize, Christian leadership based on personal character and characteristics rather than activity. The premise is that leadership is borne from the leader’s character and characteristics, rather than their activities. In other words, God’s leaders are defined by who they are in Christ and not what they do. Allow me to illustrate my point.

The Gift of Leadership

Every neighborhood has a leader, though it is not clear why a particular person is singled out as the leader. In my neighborhood it was Gary. Gary was not smarter, better looking, older, a better athlete or kinder than anyone else on my street, yet every day after school and on the weekends, everyone would meet at his house to participate in the next “great adventure,” which usually was not even Gary’s idea. No matter what the circumstances, even when the group was in trouble and was confronted by a respected authority figure (such as a parent or law officer), the kids looked to Gary to validate and approve what the authority figure said. Gary had a leadership gift, which manifested itself in a charisma and charm that attracted the attention and respect of the neighborhood kids. Some leadership experts say this kind of charisma may be the most important gift for effective leadership.

Now let me tell you about Zack, whom I met at a young adult Bible study. Zach had a flare and background that was similar to Gary’s. However, unlike Gary, Zack was aware of his leadership gift and calling. Every week, you would find Zach serving members of the church, his family and his friends. Zach’s commitment to serving and helping people extended into his personal evangelism as well. He would help strangers in need, all the while sharing Christ with them and inviting them to church. Zach not only had a similar personality and charisma as Gary’s, but he also earned the respect of the church by his committed service, his leadership, his personality and his integrity.

These two examples show that leadership can be considered a personality trait. We say “trait” because we can’t really put our finger on exactly what spawns leadership activity. That is because leadership is deeply imbedded into the leader’s personality. In the cases of Gary and Zach, their leadership was a “natural” expression of their charismatic personalities.

At this point, you may be saying to yourself, “I might as well give up because I never have been a natural leader like Gary or Zach.” That is exactly what I said too but God’s callings are “irrevocable and without repentance” (Rom 11:39); what He calls us from in no way limits what He calls us to. Let’s consider for a moment two suppositions: First, that you might have a “natural” gift of leadership that has been dormant or suppressed for many years, and second, God may be creating a new work in you that you have not considered before; “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Cor 5:17 NIV). Isn’t it consistent with God’s creative nature, who created the universe from nothing and is creating our lives anew in Christ from the death of our old nature, that leaders would be created from people who have absolutely no natural leadership gifting? This is exactly what the author of Hebrews says regarding the honor of leadership; “No one takes honor to himself, but receives it when he is called by God, even as Aaron was” (Heb 5:4, NASB). Therefore, God does not call the qualified, but rather, qualifies the called. 

God’s calling to ministry will have a greater influence on you than simply changing your activities; it will change your personality, your character, your priorities; it will change your life! Here we can see that having a “natural” gift of leadership may, in fact, be a disadvantage; those who are “natural” leaders may tend to draw on their “natural” abilities and charisma, rather than the spiritual gifts bestowed upon them to function in their calling.

Let’s take this one step further by considering God’s redemptive work. Once we were dead in our sins. Unregenerated, we “naturally” produced the fruits and deeds of the flesh. But now, we are alive in Christ and Christ is working in us. Having been regenerated, we have a new nature, a nature of the Spirit which replaces the nature of the flesh. If we, before we were redeemed, “naturally” produced the works of the old nature, shouldn’t we as Christians “naturally,” produce the works of the Spirit as a result of our new spiritual nature? So it is that God’s leader will “naturally” produce leadership as he matures in Christ simply by being who we are becoming in Christ. In other words, leadership is not doing what God wants, it is being who God wants.

There is another form of leadership, one where the leader becomes a figurehead for a group. This type of leadership is characterized by an ability to gather and organize information and represent the group they “lead” before the group’s constituents and other organizations. Such leaders frequently are found in business and hierarchal religions. Although they may be good decision-makers, they usually consult with the group to arrive at a consensus before “going public” with any decision. Many times they volunteer for leadership positions because nobody else does. Sometimes they step into leadership because their sense of organization is violated; there is a leadership vacuum. While these leaders can help most groups, they are particularly effecting in leading groups who’s mission is their passion.

Through these examples, we see the gift of leadership is manifested in different ways. However, to be effective, the gift of leadership must be exercised and developed within the character of the leader. We will discuss the gifting and development of church leadership and how group dynamics affect leadership expression and style in the next section.

Think About It

1) Leadership is not only God’s gift to the church, but also a character trait that manifests itself in our personality. What in your personality do you believe points to leadership traits in your character?

2) Do you believe that leadership is lying dormant in your character waiting for the opportunity of expression?

3) Can you identify in you personality and in what you do or desire to do the emergence of leadership?

4) How does the knowledge of God’s call to leadership affect you? 

Part 2: Biblical Leadership Models


In the previous section, we discussed the idea that what we do as leaders is not leadership, but rather leadership is a manifestation of our character and who we are as leaders. In the pervious section, I asked you to examine yourself for the internal characteristics you believe will manifest leadership. This process of self-examination is difficult, but necessary. The benefit is that you learn what your leadership strengths are and what gifts you are likely to be most comfortable with as you develop as a leader. Also, you may recognize areas of your spiritual life, character and gifting that could use maturing as you consider your gifts with respect to the needs of your particular ministry or how you envision your future ministry.

For example, someone who initially has a teaching gift typically has little tolerance for people who do not respond to Biblical truth. For them, if God says it, then people should conform their lives immediately to God’s word. However, in today’s relativistic society, a stanch and academic approach may not be received well, if at all. Therefore, the teacher must also incorporate measure of compassion with tolerance for differing world-views to be more effective in sharing God’s truth. Knowing both your strengths and weaknesses will help you become more effective in communicating your gift to others. As said earlier, recognizing your gifts or blend of gifts is an important first step. Next we will discuss biblical leadership models.

Old Testament Leadership Models

Let’s begin by defining leadership. Leadership is a God given appointment accompanied by a specific anointing and authority to carry out God’s plan, not only in the leader but in the followers as well. Joshua’s appointment to lead Israel shows us many leadership qualities and is worth considering.

“The Lord said to Moses, ‘Take Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the Spirit… and lay your hand on him; and have him stand before Eleazar the priest and before all the congregation; and commission him in their sight. And you shall put some of your authority on him, in order that all the congregation of the sons of Israel may obey him. Moreover, he shalt stand before Eleazar the priest, who shalt inquire for him by the judgment of the Urim before the Lord. At his command they shall go over and at his command they shall go out and at his command they shall come in, both he and the sons of Israel with him, even all the congregation”” (Num. 27:18-22).

And as we know, Joshua led Israel into the Promised Land and through many successful military campaigns. The first point we can draw regarding leadership is that Joshua’s qualifications are not his experience or his relationship with Moses, but rather “he was a man in whom God’s Spirit was in.” The point is that God does not call His leaders by their accomplishments or their strategic relationships; He sovereignly calls them by seeing the fruit they will bear as they live obedient lives. 

Next we see that Joshua was commissioned in front of all the people. This act of commissioning allows the minister to be recognized by the congregation as a leader. Today, different religious traditions commission their leaders differently. Though it is not in the scope of this lesson to discuss commissioning forms, it is important that the emerging leader knows that point in time when their church’s leadership recognizes their gift of leadership. This might be as obvious as when the emerging leader is ordained, or as subtle as the church quietly supporting the emerging leader’s ministry.

Finally, Joshua consulted Eleazar the priest. It is important for the emerging leader to stay closely connected to their church’s leadership in a relationship that will provide spiritual guidance, as well as spiritual accountability. This should apply to their personal life as well, including their family relationships, the way they are managing their time, and how they are planning for the future. It would be best that an accountability or spiritual formation relationship be with someone outside their leadership sphere of influence to maintain objectivity. As leaders, we need to take the time to monitor every aspect of our or inner life with friends who can be trusted to keep the information to themselves and for their wisdom and discernment.

Let’s study Moses’ qualifications for leadership in Ex 3:7-12

“And the Lord said, ‘I have surely seen the affliction of My people who are in Egypt, and have given heed to their cry because of their taskmasters, for I am aware of their sufferings. So I have come down to deliver them from the power of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and spacious land, to a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanite and the Hittite and the Amorite and the Perizzite and the Hivite and the Jebusite. And now, behold, the cry of the sons of Israel has come to Me; furthermore, have seen the oppression with which the Egyptians are oppression them. Therefore, come now, and I will send you to Pharaoh, so that you may bring My people, the sons of Israel, out of Egypt. But Moses said to God ‘Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt? And He said ‘Certainly I will be with you, and this shalt be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt you shall worship God at this mountain.”

Moses’ question “Who am I?” reveals his recognition that neither his relationship with Pharaoh and other Egyptian leaders nor his excellent education in Pharaoh’s house were sufficient qualifications to complete God’s plans for him and for Israel. Also notice that God did not tailor His plan according to Moses’ abilities (neither his inabilities); God established His plan independent of Moses. When Moses tries to back out of the responsibility that God placed on him, God effectively tells Moses, “This is not about you; it is about Me working in you.” Everything that Moses needed to lead Israel, God provided. God continues to call His leaders out of their inability into His extraordinary ability. 

As a side note… worshipers should take notice of what God’s uses to validate His word to Moses, “You shall worship at this mountain (Mt. Horeb)”. Worship is a consistent outcome of completing God’s work in and through an individual or group.

New Testament Leadership Models

Some Biblical leadership gift models, which are sometimes called the five-fold ministry, can be found in Eph 4:11-13 which says:

“Eph 4:11It was he who gave some to be (1) apostles, some to be (2) prophets, some to be (3) evangelists, and some to be (4) pastors and (5) teachers, 12 to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”

It is God’s intent that all the gifts work together for the purpose of building the body of Christ. Table 1 includes the five gift models of Eph 4, as well as shepherding and service models. In any given situation, one or more of these gifts could be harnessed through a person or a group. The point being, that these leadership ministries are essential for building the body of Christ, whether they are expressed through a group or an individual.

Table 1 – Leadership Gift Models

In Table 1 we see similarities between Jesus’ mission and the Church’s mission. If we consider that these gifts are needed until the Church is unified in the faith (which has never been the case since the Church’s inception), then we can assume that God is still giving these gifts (Eph 4:7-16). While there are many ways of looking at spiritual gifts, thinking of them in terms of gift clusters can be useful.

Rarely is any one gift singularly expressed. For example, Gregg Laurie and Billy Graham are evangelists that preach Biblical lessons to demonstrate people’s need for salvation. They combine the gift of evangelism with preaching and teaching. A shepherd will use the Bible to console, comfort and encourage the flock. He combines shepherding with teaching and helps. Knowing what ministry gifts you have may help to clarify God’s call on your life. At the end of this section is a Gift Assessment Survey that can help to identify the gifts you are currently using. This tool is not prophetic, so don’t expect it to determine the gifts you may have in the future or identify gifts that are currently dormant in you. It will most likely identify the your prominent gifts in your current situation.

I would like to briefly address women in leadership. Because there remains a gender bias that was introduced in the Church after its formation, many women have not assumed their leadership callings. As a result, I believe the church suffers.

Table 2 shows Biblical examples of women as effective leaders in Israel and in the Church. Contrary to some church traditions, these women exercised leadership over men. If we maintain a theology limiting the gifts in Table 1 to men only, we need to ask ourselves if the Biblical examples in Table 2 are “unbiblical” in our theology. If so, we should consider overhauling our theology. Nowhere does the Bible indicate that God was sorry for His choice of women leaders. If fact, He chooses and anoints women over and over again. Any gender bias goes against the many Biblical examples we’re given and against Gal 3:28. Having said that, we must not overlook the Biblical mandate that woman in leadership must remain in proper authority relationships to the church (1 Cor 11:3, 1 Tim 2:14). There remains a delicate Biblical balance of authority for women; authority to lead while remaining in submission to church authority. And men need to help find this delicate balance, not merely quietly support, or passively tolerate women leaders. I do not want to belabor this point, so I will defer this conversation to the many books on this subject that could help bring balance to women’s authority, like J. Lee Grady’ book entitled “10 Lies the Church Tells Women”.

Table 2 – Women in Leadership 

Regardless of gender, the Christian leader is chosen and empowered by God as a result of God’s sovereign will. God does not choose people because of their experience, aptitude, unique skills, social position or politics like man does. In fact, when you consider Moses’ preparation to lead nations as Pharoh’ son, you realize that God’s calling is overwhelmingly greater than any skills a person may possess. So what qualifies people to be God’s leaders? Leaders are called because, in their humble obedience to God, they will naturally produce the supernatural gifts of Godly leadership. If there is one thing leaders should remember, it is that God does not call the qualified, He qualifies the called. 

God’s Sovereign Call to Leadership

Because many people think of leadership in terms action rather than a gift of character, they struggle with their call to leadership. While they desire to fulfill God’s call to lead, at the same time, some don’t want to be presumptuous about their leadership. As a result, leaders neither understand nor utilize the full authority given to them by God and the people they are leading. Consequently, they find themselves in a cycle of ineffective leadership and unable to attain God’s call and vision in their lives and for their group. The prerequisite to being an effective Christian leader is operating in God’s authority and call.

There are several ways to know if you are being called. Sometimes we have confirming revelation or are led to become leaders through our time spent with the Lord. When you are given opportunity to lead, that opportunity itself could be conforming God’s call. John Wimber once said a worship leader is a person that, when they lead worship songs, people worship. This pragmatic approach might be another conformation of God’s call. Whatever the method may be, it is important that you establish a “touch point” in your life to distinguish the time and the way that God’s call to leadership was revealed to you.

I say this because you can be certain that your call will be challenged many times and you need to have the conviction and assurance of knowing, without a doubt, that your calling has nothing to do with you and everything to do with God’s will. Having that “touch point” and knowing that “God’s gifts and His call are irrevocable” (NIV, Rom 11:29) will bring great assurance when the enemy, or even your own doubts, attempt to undermine your confidence in your calling.

Think About It

Example of a Worship Leader Time Line

1) Create a time line of your call to ministry and leadership (see example above).

2) How do you feel about your call to leadership? Do your gifts qualify or support you in any way?

3) When did you know you were called into Christian service? Write the date in your Bible.

4) In general, what leadership model best suits you? (Refer to Table 1.)

5) Discuss your call to leadership with important people in your life. What do they say about your call as a leader? 

Part 3: The Maturing Christian Leader

Introduction to Part 3

In the last sections, we discussed how leadership is confirmed and emerges in various character traits. We emphasized the giftedness of the leader will often reflect more than one gift which we called a gift cluster. And finally, we used an instrument designed to highlight those gifts we currently use (This was the Excel Gift Assessment Survey file). In this section, we will discuss the high personal, family and social expectations for leaders. But first let’s make a couple of observations regarding worship and the worship leaders influence over the congregation.

The Maturing Christian Leader

On the one hand, as we discussed, God’s call is sovereign. But on the other hand, the one who is called needs to be spiritually mature and discerning to fulfill God’s call and to keep from disqualifying themselves. 1 Tim. 3 and Titus 1 discuss the characteristics (or the signs of spiritual maturity and grace) for church leadership. Although these passages speak specifically about overseers and deacons, we can apply the same requirements to those who lead God’s people into His very presence through worship. When you consider the fact that preachers and teachers teach Christians how to live on earth and worship leaders teach Christians how to live in eternity, you begin to understand the importance of spiritual integrity of worship leaders.

Because of their influential roles, worship leaders must maintain excellent lives, which is integral to their personal worship expression. Many people underestimate the influence worship leaders have on the spiritually of the congregation. Consider the following influences the worship leader has on their church:

1. The songs and style that a worship leader chooses significantly guides and forms the congregation’s expression of worship.

2. The freedom that worship leader allows will likely dictate the free expression of worship and ministry of the community

3. The extent to which the worship leader calls on the power of God will be the extent that the congregation avails itself, or commits to, God’s power opportunities for the Body to minister to itself arise.

4. The intimacy of the worship will likely stimulate the intimacy of the congregation’s relationship with God and each other.

In other words, the congregation’s worship, including the worship of the individuals within the congregation, will take on the personality and spirituality of the worship leader and their style. Therefore, it is paramount that worship leaders carefully maintain their moral and ethical responsibilities within their position in the church, community, and to God. Similarly, worship team members should exemplify these same standards.

For reasons I cannot explain, it seems a common practice to ignore these basic leadership requirements on worship leaders and their teams. For some reason, struggling people and those weak in the faith and some who are failing in righteous living are encouraged to “join the choir” or get involve in the sound or multimedia presentation ministries. Why do we do this? This only adds to their problems because Satan always attacks those that visibly serve the Lord the hardest. In doing this we become like the Pharisees condemned in Mat. 23:4 who placed heavy burdens on people shoulders. Why should we add the burden of ministry to a struggling brother or sister? As people responsible for building up the Body of Christ, we should encourage the struggling saint to get the help they need so they can become strong and spiritually mature enough to faithfully serve. So then, as team leaders, we must always be sensitive to the spiritual health of ourselves and our team members.

Another issue should be considered. When we usurp God’s word we open ourselves to His judgment; judgment for disobeying God as well as other consequential actions that are not aligned with God’s will or plan. Disobedience always reduces our ministry’s effectiveness and can disqualify us. Therefore, we must pick team members that are developing a Christian maturity that is honorable in the sight of God and their family and community. Likewise, as team leaders, we must remain aware of and take opportunities to mature our team’s spirituality. 

Biblical Requirements for Leaders

In this section we will discuss a leader’s biblical qualifications based primarily from 1st Timothy and Titus. Specifically we will be investigating the personal, family and church qualification and obligations for the spiritual leader.

Personal Qualifications

Effective spiritual leadership is byproduct of the essential spiritual maturity of the leader. Leadership is not doing more, doing things better, being busy or getting results. These were the common thrusts of many older leadership theories. As seen in the examples of Gary and Zach, leadership is a manifestation of personal quality of the leader and in particular, spiritual leadership is a manifestation of a leader’s deepest spirituality. Effective spiritual leadership stems from a vital and vibrant relationship with the living God and a deep understanding of self.

In the fundamental process of spiritual and personal maturity, the leader develops a sense of their purpose. This unique purpose separates the leader from his or her peers in what Edwin Friedman would calls “self differentiation.” According to Friedman “Differentiation means the capacity [of a leader] to define his or her own life’s goals and values apart from the surrounding pressure toward togetherness; to say ‘I’ when others are demanding ‘we'” . Friedman asserts, “…they [the leaders], when they do so, become the owner of their destinies”. Leaders frequently experience a feeling of personal distance and isolation from the group they lead. Therefore, it is also critically important that leaders maintain friendships where God can recreate, refresh and possibility redirect and reprove them. These friendships are usually found outside their sphere of influence, which in some case can cause turmoil within the group they lead.

The biblical and spiritual requirements for a leader’s character, their relationship with his or her family and their relationship with his or her community are seen in Tables 2 through 4 respectively and are taken primarily from 1st Timothy and Titus. 1 Tim 3: 2-12 says:

“Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap. Deacons, likewise, are to be men worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain. They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience. They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons. In the same way, their wives are to be women worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything. A deacon must be the husband of but one wife and must manage his children and his household well.” (NIV, 1 Tim 3:1-10)”

and in Titus we find:

“An elder must be blameless, the husband of but one wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. Since an overseer is entrusted with God’s work, he must be blameless–not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. Rather he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.” (NIV, Tit 1:6-9). 

Table 3, below, shows how these passages form a basis for the personal qualifications of a leader.

Table 3 – Scriptural Personal Qualifications

Family Qualifications 

Paul wisely adds that leaders should be also evaluated on the basis of their relationships with their families. Specifically, Paul asks, “how can someone lead a church if they can’t lead their own families (1 Tim 3:5)?” Our families are in the best position to discern our character because we are with them day in and day out; they see us at our best and our worst. Table 4 below shows the qualities of a good leader’s family and home.

Table 4 – The Scripture Family Qualifications


Church and Social Qualifications

Finally, Paul includes social requirements. Again this seems purely pragmatic. A leader’s good reputation will reflect positively on the church he or she attends and will also give them and the church ministry access to the community. Paul’s social concern is the image of the church to the world. Table 5 shows the social qualifications of a leader.

Table 5 – Social and Church Qualifications

The problem is that wholly qualified leadership is difficult to come by yet the church continues to grow in need of leaders from nursery workers to church boards members to pastors. Therefore, no individual or team will be perfect and the leader must employ several techniques that allow growth past the leader’s immaturities. This punctuates the importance of the emerging leader to be a person having deep spiritual faith which continues to lead and guide them into all truth and love and the need for spiritual and ministry accountability. 

Think About It

Allow me to make a comment before you consider the following two questions. There is a very great tendency to be overly critical of yourself and to simply give up because there seems to be too much to get straightened out. Many have told me at this point that they think that leadership was a mistake for them. Mostly I disagree. We are not perfect and not one of us can meet all the requirements. Remember God qualifies the called. God is interested in our obedience and not our perfection. It is our own struggle to conform our lives to God’s word and plans that reveals His power to make us overwhelming conquerors of our own shortcomings. It encourages others to see a leader that views Godliness as a goal to strive for rather than one which is already attained (Phil 3:1-16). These questions below, therefore, are to simulate progress toward Godliness.

1) Spend some time in prayer and meditation using Ps 139 as the seed for inspiration. Allow God to search you through and through and reveal anything that would disqualify you for the ministry. Write any issues down and start in the repentance process including becoming accountable to someone. Limit your accountability discussions to two or three issues that are most scandalous to your leadership authority.

2) After reviewing Tables 3 through 5, have you learned anyway that you might be short-circuiting your own leadership? If so, what do you need to do, to change your life to conform to a leader’s Godly life patterns.

3) How is God leading you within your ministry context in a way that separates you from the rest of the group? In other words, how are you being “differentiated” from your group in a way that allows you to lead your group?

Introduction to Part 5

In the previous three sections, we discussed the idea that leadership is a manifestation of our character and who we are as leaders. As such, leadership is an internal characteristic. We also discussed how leadership can be identified as it emerges in various character traits or gift clusters. In the last section we also discussed the worship leader’s influence on the congregation and the high biblical expectations for church leaders. Now we will be turning our attention to the various stages of leadership from emergence to when the leader concludes their ministry by passing the torch.

Leader Emergence

Many spiritual leaders know they are called but have nebulous ideological and philosophical understandings of their specific calling. Because of this, emerging leaders have difficulty discerning what is needed to mature their gift effectively and how they will fulfill their ministry goals and their destiny. The reason God’s direction and call on the leader is hard to determine is twofold. First, spirituality itself is defined in abstract terms such as sanctification, justification, devoted follower of Christ, new creature in Christ; all have different meanings depending on the person and their context. Secondly, our view of the future is, at best, dim (1 Cor. 13:12). Because we don’t know these details, we daily seek direction from God in a living and vital relationship. This daily discipline forms the context of the emerging leaders call. However, while the leader’s spirituality originates in their relationship with God, it is also expressed outwardly to those around them. The leaders spirituality is the sum of their experiences in a destined, gifted and empowered relationship with the living God. Spiritual leaders become tangible and discernable reflections of their spirituality, vision and destined purpose which, in turn, inspires others to seek their own spiritual maturity.

Robert Clinton, in his book The Making of a Leader, focuses on the leader’s previous experiences as indicators of their future ministries and influences. He recommends emerging leaders plot out a time/life line for the purpose of revealing their state of preparation. Clinton asserts that there are six maturation phases of leadership. Below are his first three stages of leader emergence:

1. Sovereign foundations where God providentially works through family, environment, and historical events beginning at birth to create the leader’s personality and characteristics.

2. Inner-life growth where the leader learns the importance of praying and hearing God. The leader will grow in discernment, understanding, and obedience.

3. Ministry maturing where the emerging leader begins to reach out to others. Ministry is becoming their focus. Through the various opportunities to serve and minister, the leader can identify his or her gift and skill mix. They also become introduced to a greater cross section of the Body of Christ allowing them to express their gifts in different styles and cultures.

During these three phases, God strengthens the leader’s character by testing their integrity, obedience and their authority. As they grow, leaders develop the foundational elements of their ministry, call and focus.

While they are emerging, Edwin Friedman adds the leader, in order to be effective, must become “self-differentiated.” Self-differentiation is knowing one is somehow separated while remaining connected to the group they lead; it creates a boundary that defines where the connection to the group ends and where the independence from the group, as a leader, begins. On one hand, being self-differentiated from a group conflicts with the groups fundamental nature to desire togetherness. On the other hand, the leader, in order to lead, cannot remain simply a member of the group. Therefore the leader must balance the amount of separation from and togetherness with the group in order to be “separate” enough to lead but “together” enough to remain part of the group. 

Friedman summarizes this concept in his book, Generation to Generation – Family Process in Church and Synagogue, “If a leader will take primary responsibility for his or her own position as ‘head’ and work to define his or her own goals and self, while staying in touch with the rest of the organism, there is a more than reasonable chance that the body will follow. There may be initial resistance but, if the leader can stay in touch with the resisters, the body will usually go along.” This group’s resistance, which is usually expressed anxiety, applies a pressure toward homeostasis (a desire for things to remain the same and toward togetherness). This anxiety will continue to increase as long as it can affect and manipulate the leader. However, the leader must not respond to the anxiety and must project what Friedman calls a “non-anxious” presence, to allow and accept the anxious tension the group is projecting. In so doing, the group loses its power to manipulate the leader away from their self-differentiation from the group.

Many times emergence phases begin and end in what Robert Clinton calls “boundary conditions”. He defines a “boundary condition” as an instrument that brings a change from one phase to another resulting in a respective and usually growing sphere of influence together with an associated principle lesson or leadership value. For example, groups nearly always resist change. However, the group must change to grow otherwise it will become dysfunctional and die. The group’s opposition to change, and the affect the opposition has on the leader is a boundary condition. In this example, the boundary condition teaches the leader that sometimes God’s people resist His directions for change. Common boundaries include:

1. Entry – God directs and challenges the leader into ministry.

2. Training – God develops the leader’s skills and spiritual gifts to enhance affectivity. This is where the emerging leader begins to discover their gift sets or gift clusters. Often God challenges the leader with conflicts that are designed and intended to strengthen the conviction of their call.

3. Relational learning – God enables the leader to relate to authority and other people in motivating and influencing ways. Leaders sometimes have difficulty submitting to authority, especially an authority that tests of their maturity. Leadership backlash, which can be common in this phase of emergence, can be God’s instrument to teach perseverance, commitment and clarity of vision and faith.

4. Discernment – God helps the leader discern and apply spiritual principles that govern ministry. Knowing spiritual warfare strategies and discerning between principalities and powers, spiritual influence through oppression and possession, and the spiritual weapons and their use are key for leadership. God teaches the leader to pray for the spiritual protection of their ministry and the people in their sphere of influence. Ultimately the goal is a shift from doing ministry to being a minister which thereby releases spiritual authority through the leader.

Learning various avenues of guidance is very important to the emerging leader. Several ways of discerning God’s will are through many counselors (Proverbs 15:22), through God’s Word (Psalms 119:105), through direct revelation (Psalms 48:14), by acknowledging God’s ways (Proverbs 3:5), by humbleness (Psalms 25:9), by the Holy Spirit (John 16:13), by a fleece (Judges 6:36-40) or double confirmation (a internal sense of God’s direction confirmed by another event or person), through divine interventions and contacts, through spiritual mentors/counselors, through conflict (as it opposes to God’s purposes) and divine affirmation. Regardless, the leader must actively seek guidance in all of its many forms. Possible sources may include fellowship with peers, reading books and magazines, particularly biography of Christian leaders and the disciplines of silence and solitude.

After a leader emerges, Robert Clinton outlines three stages of the life of a leader. They are:

1. Life maturing is where the leader is in a satisfying ministry mode and they are learning how to be effective and efficient. They learn what to do and what not to do.

2. Convergence where God moves the leader into a role that matches their gift mix and experience so that ministry is maximized

3. Afterglow where the leader has built up a lifetime of contacts and continues to exert influence in their relationships. 

Since our scope is on emerging leaders, we will leave this discussion of maturing leaders for another time. Nevertheless, it needs to be said that maintaining your spiritual health is of primary importance in every stage of leadership. This includes maintaining a balance between ministry and personal spiritual maintenance and a balance between relationships where you exert influence and where you submit to other’s influence. This is exactly what Jesus did. As leaders our attention is drawn to Jesus’ ministry and conversations and sometimes we overlook His periods of rest, solitude, isolation, and recreation. I like the saying “How can you expect to do the things Jesus did unless you do the things that Jesus did.”

We maintain our physical health by disciplined exercise, rest and diet and regular medical check ups. We maintain our emotional health by monitoring our feelings, talking to friends about our feelings, learning about our own emotional response and excising personal disciplines and boundaries that control the influences of people and life events around us. In the same way we maintain our physical and emotional health through discipline, we maintain our spiritual health through spiritual disciplines. These include:

1. Bible study – daily reading with reflection and times of personal exegetical Bible study.

2. Daily prayer with an emphasis of being silent for a time to allow your inner voice to communicate with the still small voice of God,

3. Worship (both corporate and private).

4. Fellowship (this includes time with the general body of Christ and with a close circle of friends).

5. Solitude and isolation where you spend extended time alone and away from people.

6. Ministry where you give from the resources you’ve received.

7. Temporary self-denial to break the grip of the world from your character and identity (food, money, work, sex for married couples, etc.).

Before leaving the topic of spiritual disciplines, we should understand that it is impossible to do every discipline every day, every week and every year. Emphases change with respect to your life needs and the spiritual seasons you may be in. As an example, if you are in a summer spiritual season focusing daily or weekly on the disciple of isolation will be counter productive. While this discipline should not be forgotten, an emphasis on ministry and fellowship would be appropriate. On the other hand, it would equally counter productive to emphasize the discipline of ministry in a spiritual season of winter; it would be better to focus on solitude, isolation, temporary self-denial and prayer.

To summarize, Godly leadership is a manifestation of the internal gifts and characteristics within God’s sovereignly chosen leader that are express in the context of a group fulfilling its mission. Not only does God choose His leaders, He also empowers them to fulfill His call in their lives. However, with the call of leadership, comes the responsibility to live according to the principles found in 1 Timothy and Titus. Although at times if is difficult, the emerging leader must have a clearly defined sense of calling and recognize the reassurances of their leadership. Reassurances come in many forms, from being very spiritual and perhaps subjective in nature to being very tangible and concrete. Leadership is strengthened by continued service and obedience. Finally, leaders are to look for the gift and call of leadership in others. The effective maturing leader will find themselves developing leadership gifting in others. 

Think About It

1) Plot a timeline that shows Robert Clinton’s first three leader emergence steps. Include the situations (boundary conditions) that tested and secured each of the three steps.

2) From your own experience (both as a leader and a follower) describe in detail the leadership conflict of balancing being differentiated enough to lead but together with the group enough to be considered part of it. In what ways was the group’s anxiety expressed? How did (could) the leader remain a “non-anxious” presence?

3) How does God speak to you (pray, journaling, mediation, scripture, worship, through other people…)? Which is the most predominant? Start arranging your devotional life such that there is an emphasis in the predominant methods of communication.

4) When is the last time you spent 3 to 4 hours alone with God simply to be with Him? Begin to schedule your spiritual discipline. Write out a daily schedule for the next week that includes bible devotional reading and a time of quietness before God (preferably when you are awake). Write a weekly schedule that will include tithing, ministry, fasting and a time of personal bible study that is not preparation for any ministry. Write a monthly schedule that includes a least one time where you will spend at least 3 hours secluded away from everything around you to be in God presence only. Finally jot on your annual calendar at least 4 times where you dedicate a full day of being with the Lord alone and away from everything else. Start keeping a record of what God speaks to you and the ways you discern His voice.

(1) Clinton, Robert, The Making of a Leader, NavPress, Colorado Springs © 1988. p. 44-45, summarized by John White.
(2)Friedman, Edwin. “Reinventing Leadership” VHS video, Guilford Publications, NY. 
(3)Friedman, Edwin. Generation-to-Generation, Family Process in Church and Synagogue. Guilford Press, NT. 1985, p. 229.
(4)Clinton, Robert. The Making of a Leader. NavPress, Colorado Springs, 1988. p. 121 – summarized by John White.
(5)Clinton, Robert. The Making of a Leader. NavPress, Colorado Springs, 1988. p. 46-48. 

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John White has led contemporary worship bands since 1985. He teaches people the basics of leading worship in an 8-week course (about 20 hours total) and currently works as an optical engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab designing and building the next generation space clocks that should be accurate to one second in 30 million years. John is happily married since December 30, 1983 and has two children.