Preaching Articles

As believers, we recognize the value of imitating Jesus and His leadership style. But if we really think about it, it’s strange that we try to emulate a leader who never developed an organization, regularly encouraged people to stop following Him, and ultimately saw His death as the pinnacle of His accomplishments.

What kind of perspective must a leader have to place high value on these kinds of strategies? Jesus was not a manager. His primary role was to function as a spiritual leader.

Not all leaders in religious organizations are spiritual leaders. This is not a criticism as much as a distinction. Distinguishing spiritual leadership from other forms of leadership can free people from unrealistic expectations of some leaders.

At the same time, making this distinction can help identify who the spiritual leaders in your organization are. Here are six characteristics that identify most spiritual leaders:

1. They lead others into their own encounters with God.

One of the most effective things about Jesus’ lifestyle was that He didn’t switch into another mode to introduce His disciples to the reality of God. Whether standing in the synagogue or picking wheat along the path, interacting with the Father was so natural that others around Him could not help but do the same. Whether a spiritual leader is training a new employee or working through a difficult conflict resolution, his followers will discover their own connection to God more deeply in the process.

2. They lead others to discover their own purpose and identity.

Spiritual leadership is characterized by great generosity. A spiritual leader genuinely wants others to fully discover who they were made to be. Workplace issues and strategic development become tools to help followers discover their own identity and overcome obstacles standing in their way. People functioning in an area of their created identity and strength will always be more productive than those who are simply trying to fill a position or role.

3. They lead others into transformation—not just production.

When the goal is spiritual growth and health, production will always be a natural outcome.

People function at their peak when they function out of identity. Helping your followers discover that their own transformation can happen on the job will engender loyalty and a high level of morale.

Spiritual leadership fosters passion in those who follow. Passion is the ingredient that moves people and organizations from production to transformation.

4. They impact their atmosphere. 

While we may not stop a tempest with our words, spiritual leaders recognize that they can change the “temperature” of a room, interaction, or relationship.

Changing the atmosphere is like casting vision, only it is immediate. When there is tension, fear, or apathy, a spiritual leader can transform the immediate power of these storms and restore vision, vitality, and hope.

A spiritual leader can fill a room with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and gentleness, even while speaking hard things.

5. They help people see old things in new ways.

Many people are stuck not in their circumstances, but in their perspectives and paradigms. The word “repent” means “to think differently or to think in a different way.”

Jesus called people to look again at old realities through new eyes. Changing ways of thinking always precedes meaningful change.

6. They gain a following because of who they are—not because of a position they hold.

Spiritual leaders can be found in secular organizations in the same way managers and organizational leaders can be found in religious ones.

Spiritual leaders influence more than they direct, and they inspire more than they instruct. They intuitively recognize that they are serving something—and Someone—larger than themselves and their own objectives.

Question: Who has been a spiritual leader in your life? What sets this person apart from other leaders?

Bob Hamp works at a large non-denominational charismatic church in Southlake, Texas, where he oversees their Freedom Ministry. A private practice counselor for sixteen years, Hamp also has a Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy. His new book is titled, Think Differently, Live Differently. Read more from Bob Hamp at


Browse All

Related Preaching Articles

Talk about it...

John E Miller

commented on Apr 24, 2012

It would be dangerous to question the basic Christianity of anyone who professes to be a Christian but the statement that Jesus "ultimately saw His death as the pinnacle of His achievements" is certainly not based on the word of God. It is a misrepresentation of the purpose of God in His revelation of Himself in the Person of His Son. It makes Christ's death an end in itself and ignores its eternally predestinated purpose of God's intention to "bring many sons to glory" as the Spirit of God reveals in

Ephrem Hagos

commented on Apr 24, 2012

A spiritual leader is one whose words are confirmed by the Scriptures and by his Commissioner, viz.: the LORD, perpetually revealed with power and glory in Christ's death on the cross as on the day of Pentecost! (Acts 2)

Keith B

commented on Apr 24, 2012

The last one is somewhat bothersome to me. "The build a following based on who they are...". One could argue that a problem with Evangelicalism today is that our churches oftentimes are cults of personality. We tend to look at a particular man too much rather than Christ. When a popular pastor moves on to a new church, the old one declines.

Juanita Gilbo=ricard

commented on Apr 24, 2012

All true Christians, whether they realize it or not are leading others. However, and sad to say, not all ordained ministers are true Christians. There are many who lead others astray following every wind of doctrine. You may be a youth, a teacher, a homemaker, a ditchdigger, whatever, but if your heart is right with God and you are instant in your obedience to Him, then you are impacting others with your life. Just as those who are outright sinners influence others, so do Christians. Many a young person has led souls to Christ. Age has nothing to do with being or not being a spiritual leader, neither does higher education, although higher education is important. Sometimes I feel there are folks who let theology get in the way of righteous living. Wisdom is what is important next to a proper relationship with Jesus Christ. A wise person, a wise leader gets their wisdom from God's Holy Spirit. And they keep their focus on Jesus Christ-the greatest leader of all.

Troy Heald

commented on Apr 24, 2012

The concept of this article is good, realizing that there are different types of leaders within a given organization and within the church. Recognizing that the things that seperate a spritual leader over another type of leader (i.e. governmental, or directional leader) is important. I would argue that the first and most important leadership skill is to point to Christ and in doing so fulfill the will of the Father. As we look all through scripture, we see very clearly that God designed everything to point to Christ as the Savior. I once read from a well-known author that even the Holy Spirit points to Christ. If the Holy Spirit puts any emphasis on even Himself over Christ, it is not the Holy Spirit. Everything points to Christ. Christ in turn, did only the will of the Father. All thru the New Testement, we see Christ, Himself, indicating he came to do the will of His Father. In fact it was the Father that planned the path of salvation including the cross (Isaiah 53:10.) Therefore, as a spiritual leader, we should be doing nothing less than what did Christ in pointing people to Himself (Christ as Savior) and in doing so, we will be fullfilling the will of the Father.

Anonymous Contributor

commented on Apr 24, 2012

A true leader is one who can point to Jesus and say "There is the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world" A true leader that aims to please God will never be popular, but we are not called to be popular. Jesus was not popular he had no following at the end all deserted Him, although He led by example.The only reason the crowds followed Him was for the bread they ate. Is the servant higher than his master?

Mark Street

commented on Apr 24, 2012

Like Hamp, I believe who we are as persons influences others more than a position or title of leadership we go by or are called by the congregations or organizations we lead and serve. Personally as a senior pastor for nearly 27 years, the servant-leader model of ministry has worked well for me. Jesus embodied this type of leadership himself and also taught it to his disciples. Obedient, faithful and humble servants of God make strong spiritual effective leaders. In order to lead well, we must first learn to serve well. The greatest leader of all was also the greatest servant of all. O to be more like Jesus!

Jay Didriksen

commented on Apr 24, 2012

I really liked this article! Yes, I think we over analyze the thoughts offered on this forum. I think the point of the comment, "ultimately saw His death as the pinnacle" is referring to Jesus life before His death and resurrection. The same way we would talk about our life before our death and resurrection. The issue of building a movement based on "themselves" as opposed to a "position" is simply a false dichotomy. I think what the author was getting at is our perspective that we want our Leadership positions filled by leaders with positional objectives as opposed to "larger than themselves" objectives. This article is more a reaction to leadership defined in current American Church culture compared to the leadership displayed in the New Testament.

Vince O'keeffe

commented on Apr 24, 2012

I really resonated with this article as it has linked in with my current thinking around Church Leadership. I liked the phrase "transformation rather than production" and have always believed that production will come when transformation begins. The key to me is balance -- we need both types of leaders in the Kingdom of God.

Robert Sickler

commented on Apr 24, 2012

Excellent! I am a retired business consultant and I get so tired of reading "business advice for churches and church leaders." You are one of the very few who wrote something I would consider spiritually relevant. Of course, I focus on shepherds when I think of leadership and that may be a bit too narrow of a focus for many. Anyway, well done!

Ron Riddley

commented on Apr 25, 2012

I, too think many over analyze the thoughts offered on this forum, including this article. This article is thought provoking and informative within the context of the articles title. The position that genuine spiritual leaders, like Jesus, do not have to switch modes to impact their culture is relevant today. Genuine spiritual leaders do not have to wear a collar, put on a robe, wear a tie, or have a platform before an audience to spiritually impact lives. It is a life-style of "walking with Jesus" that will touch those around us. Anyone can work for God, but those who walk with Him, well they are the ones who are making a difference!

John E Miller

commented on Apr 26, 2012

Ron Ridley's warning against "over-analizing" the thoughts provided here are very mistaken. He then goes on to talk about "genuine spiritual leaders like Jesus". Does he not realise that Jesus is the Eternal Son of God? He is not to be compared with or likened to anyone else. Commenting further on the article, it is very important to scrutinise anything written about the Lord Jesus Christ. He is not just another "spiritual leader". He is our God. I have already referred to one completely unbiblical remark and if I may, let me highlight amother in this article. "His primary role was to function as a spiritual leader". This error is at the root of much of today's liberal theology. It is not only misleading, it is a perversion of God's revealed plan of salvation for men. Jesus came here to die an atoning death and save us from a lost eternity. Read His own words, "The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and give His life a ransom for many." The world will happily accept the notion that Jesus was a great religious leader. It will happily accept that His life was a great model of spiritual leadership and admirable morality, but it does not accept the word of the cross. That is offensive. That is foolishness. Jesus came to this earth to die on the cross. When we grasp that and accept that our sinful condition was the reason, we come to God in repentance and faith, availing ourselves of Christ's atoning work. His death was not the pinnacle of His accomplishments. If that was true it was only the death of a martyr. His death and resurrection opens to us the way to the Father. It changes the sinful creature to a new creature. It does not improve us. It renews us by the new birth. Our place in heaven with Christ will be the great and glorious eternal testimony to the perfection of the work of Christ. If there is any "pinnacle" to His accomplishments, not an expression that I would use, that will be its display.

Razak Laari

commented on Apr 16, 2023

IT'S ALL ABOUT JESUS God bless you I have learn a lot from this article

Join the discussion