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Spiritual leadership

Obey your spiritual leaders and do what they say. Their work is to watch over your souls, and they know they are accountable to God. Give them reason to do this joyfully and not with sorrow. That would certainly not be for your benefit. — Hebrews 13:17

There are many dimensions to leadership. One of the most obvious is that leadership requires “follow-ship.” If no one is following, then it’s clear that no one is leading.

The key, then, to all leadership is relationship—between those who exercise leadership that others want to follow and those who are eager to follow such leaders. It is a relationship where the leader generates in others a desire to follow, and the followers gladly and willingly respond to the leader’s initiatives.

The task of “spiritual leaders” is to “watch over … souls” and to model a lifestyle that produces much good and which others will wish to emulate (Hebrews 13:17).

The care of souls requires a heart filled with compassion and concern, a servant spirit, an ability to teach by both precept and example, and a willingness to tell people what they do not want to hear and to direct them where they do not wish to go when necessary. All this comes out of a genuine desire to see people nourished and nurtured in their walk of faith. Or as the author of Hebrews explained it: “May the God of peace, who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, equip you with all you need for doing his will” (13:20-21). This should be the objective of the spiritual leader.

The spiritual well-being of spiritual leaders is, of course, extremely important.

It springs first from their personal relationship of trust in the Lord. Second, it arises from the fact that “they know they are accountable to God” (13:17).

Leaders who are so self-confident that they sense no need to trust the Lord in order to accomplish their work are bound to fail. The care of souls requires integrity, insight, discernment, and the spiritual dynamic necessary to effect change. And leaders who forget that those they minister to belong to the Lord—they are His sheep—may begin to abuse them or to use them for their own ends. Moreover, leaders who ignore their own ultimate accountability to the Lord may lapse into carelessness, callousness, or carnality.

Followers need to be reminded, “Obey your spiritual leaders and do what they say” (13:17).

Obedience does not come easily for many people. They prefer independence to obedience. They resent anything that demands something. And should they claim to follow with that attitude, they make leadership a nightmare if not an impossibility. But willing followers give leaders reason to lead “joyfully and not with sorrow” (13:17). This is to everyone’s advantage.

For further study: Hebrews 13:17-25

Content taken from The One Year Book of Devotions for Men by Stuart Briscoe. Copyright ©2000. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers. All rights reserved.