10 Commandments of Effective Spiritual Leadership


Joseph Mattera shares the most important elements of spiritual leadership.

As someone who has been involved in some form of leadership and studied this subject for over thirty years, I have observed certain non-negotiables in regards to what makes a person an effective leader. When it comes down to it, the most important elements of leadership are very simple. I have summarized these in ten fundamental commandments:

1. Thou shalt model what you preach

The most powerful leaders are those who walk in private what they preach in public. Those leaders who personally live out the principles they expect from others maximize their influence and effectiveness as leaders.

2. Thou shalt develop leaders of leaders who can succeed you

As soon as a person becomes a senior leader, they need to start working themselves out of a job by empowering others to do what they are already doing. Those they pick should fulfill the qualifications Paul laid out in 2 Timothy 2:2. Consequently, when a person is able to do a job about 80% as good as the senior leader, the senior leader should delegate the job responsibility over to them.

Those who don’t have this attitude are never entrusted with more by God because they limit their capacity due to having too much responsibility and thus no leverage to go to the next level of assignment. Those who refuse to delegate will only produce followers who don’t mind being limited in regards to leadership capacity because they don’t like to think for themselves.

Conversely, the highest and hardest calling for senior leaders is to develop leaders who develop other leaders of leaders. Most leaders never develop anything more than followers. Leaders who develop leaders of other leaders are able to produce themselves in those who leave a legacy of developing leaders for many generations.

3. Thou shalt prioritize investing in people more than programs and marketing

It is very tempting for a senior leader to put all their focus on implementing programs and marketing that will draw more people into the church or organization. Yet our first priority should always be pouring into people.

Those who spend most of their time administrating programs will never develop strong and deep disciples because the biblical discipleship process takes years and can only be done through personal interaction (both intense and informal).

4. Thou shalt communicate a divine, compelling vision worth following

It doesn’t matter how gifted a leader, a speaker, or a strategist you are. If you do not have a compelling vision from God then other key leaders with potential will not follow you. Those with high leadership caps not only look at the leader they want to follow but they need to feel an emotional and divine tug regarding vision that speaks to their need for having a purpose (Acts 11:23).

5. Thou shalt learn to release others to help fulfill the vision

Effective leaders are not lone rangers and do not try to accomplish a vision without a team. After investing in the lives of other potential leaders, the next priority is to discern where to place those you are mentoring. Like a sports coach, the key to high performance in an organization is to release each person to serve in a team in the areas best suited for their personality, gifts and calling. The leader’s vision must become a shared vision if it is to come to pass!

Some are more suited for administration and minutia and others are more suited for the big picture and people. Trying to put a big picture person you are mentoring in an administrative role would not only hurt the organization’s performance but could crush that person’s confidence and frustrate them.

6. Thou shalt hold yourself and your followers accountable

All effective leaders allow for much freedom when it comes to ministry but have high standards of personal accountability when it comes to their marriages, families, and walk with God. Those who don’t hold their leaders accountable in their ministries and home life could eventually lose the respect and focus of key people in their organization. In the worst case scenario, people might begin doing their own thing and developing their own vision, which will result in division.

7. Thou shalt practice Matthew 18:15-17

Along with holding other leaders accountable, senior leaders need to insist that everyone who serves in the ministry with them must walk in the principles outlined by Jesus in Matthew 18. This has to do with walking in the light and in transparency with one another, without which people who work closely together will eventually develop bitterness and resentment, and give themselves over to gossip which could destroy the culture of an organization.

Senior leaders who are too afraid or passive to confront other people in their organization will eventually self-destruct due to holding back bad feelings. This could lead to physical and emotional stress, marital failure, and deeply rooted resentments and bitterness.

8. Thou shalt affirm those who bear fruit and redeem those who fail

Effective leaders learn to praise those who minister effectively and try to redeem those who are failing. If you quickly throw those who fail under the bus without trying to redeem them, then you will not develop the loyalty needed to have a strong core. This could result in a lot of turnover on your staff. Those people senior leaders successfully process out of failure into success will more likely be loyal to the senior leader for believing in them instead of dropping them. This kind of gratitude and loyalty will then spread and become part of the culture of the organization.

9. Thou shalt hold to high standards of excellence and integrity in service

Along the lines of accountability, every leader needs to hold high standards both for their own life, ministry and performance as well as those who are serving along with them. Everyone and everything in the organization must have a spirit of excellence: the administration, communication, accountability systems, teaching, and physical appearance. If any of these areas become sloppy it could bring down the quality and culture of the entire organization.

10. Thou shalt walk in wisdom and humility regarding the future

All effective leaders must be able to see where their organization needs to go in the future based on demographic and cultural shifts. Leaders who do not change their approach with changing times will eventually be bypassed by the next generation who will gravitate towards those who speak their language and meet their needs.

In order to do this effectively, leaders must always be humble enough to question themselves regarding their personal walk, their goals, their methods and the way they are attempting to meet the needs of their community. Those that are presumptuous and too arrogant to ask themselves these questions will eventually marginalize their influence.

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