In his article on the “7 Factors That Influence Influence,” John Maxwell States that “Leadership is influence. Just because someone has a title, doesn’t mean that person is a leader.” He wants us to buy into the concept that “leadership is influence— nothing more, nothing less.”

I believe that the issue of leadership holds a deeper dimension for Christians: Is Christian leadership the same thing as secular leadership? Can the leadership we give to our churches be defined with one word, influence? The trend among many Christian leaders has been for an almost indiscriminate and uncritical acceptance of secular leadership theory without measuring it against the timeless precepts of Scripture.

Scripture is utterly unique in its nature as God-breathed revelation; it is unparalleled and absolute in its authority; and it is the sole infallible rule of faith for the church (2 Tim. 3:16-17). The scriptures must be the final ground for guidance in all areas of life. Jesus constantly quoted scripture, explained it and treated it as a source of authoritative guidance (Lk. 24:27). He promised the Spirit’s guidance for the future leaders of the church, who would write the New Testament ( Jn. 14:25-26; 16:12-15). When He left them, they had very little idea how to proceed, except that they must do so in the power of the Holy Spirit. All subsequent unveilings to the church of God as to methods of work and service have come from the growing interpretation of the Spirit. The challenge for today’s leaders is to

What does “Spiritual” mean? We use it to refer to somebody who is not in touch with life, to a person living in the clouds. Actually, “spiritual” has to do with God the Holy Spirit. What is spiritual is what the Holy Spirit does. (1 Cor. 14:46) According to the Scriptures, the ‘spiritual’ state of soul is normal for the believer, but to this state all believers do not attain, nor when it is attained is it always maintained. (1 Cor. 3:1-2) Vines suggest that sin, immaturity and indifference to spiritual disciplines can hinder spiritual progress if not revoke any spiritual progress previously enjoyed.

Spiritual goals can be achieved only by spiritual people who use spiritual methods. Therefore, “an effective and comprehensive biblical theology of leadership must draw the person and the work of Christ, the nature and the activity of the Trinity, and the way biblical figures were led by God to develop into effective coworkers with Him.” God equips His leaders when they are saved, and when they come to have the spiritual and moral qualifications that come from obedience to His Word, their leadership blossoms and becomes evident. (1 Corinthians 12:7). The spiritual man is one who walks by the Spirit both in the sense of Gal. 5:16 and in that of Gal. 5:25, and who himself manifests the fruit of the Spirit in his own ways.

Spiritual leadership requires Spirit-filled people. Other qualities are important; to be Spirit-filled is indispensable. The Spirit will not delegate authority into secular or carnal hands; all workers must be Spirit-led and filled (Acts 6:3,5). To be filled with the Spirit is to be controlled by the Spirit. The leader’s mind, emotions, will, and physical strength all become available for the Spirit to guide and use. Under the Spirit’s control, natural gifts of leadership are lifted to their highest power, sanctified for holy purpose. Through the work of the now ungrieved and unhindered Spirit, all the fruits of the Spirit start to grow in the leader’s life. His witness is more winsome, service more steady, and testimony more powerful. All real service is but an extension of the Spirit’s power through believers yielded to Him (John 7:37-39). Spirit-filled leadership appears rapidly when God is freely at work in His body (1 Corinthians 12:7). The secular mind and heart however gifted and personally charming, has no place in the leadership of the church. The spiritual state is reached by diligence in the Word of God and in prayer; it is maintained by obedience and self-judgment. Such as are led by the Spirit are spiritual, but, of course, spirituality is not a fixed or absolute condition, it admits of growth; indeed, growth is evidence of true spirituality. (2 Peter 3:18)

In that same article I mentioned in the beginning of this article, Maxwell quotes Bill Hybels. He says Bill “believes that the church is the most leadership-intensive enterprise in society.” While I agree with Bill, I must respectfully disagree with Maxwell. We must become spiritual leaders who lead spiritually least we lead in the flesh. Let’s not define our leadership with a single word. Our leadership must be spiritual or not at all.