Putting the Spirit in Spiritual Leadership

A Spirit-led leader exhibits the fruit of the Spirit. (Max Pixel)

What type of Christian organization do you lead? Is it a church, school or university, religious nonprofit, business, or perhaps a para-church organization? Large, small, denominational, nondenominational, for-profit, it makes no difference; there is one touchstone character trait if you aspire to be a spiritual leader. It is vital that this element abides deep in your own spirit. It is imperative that it operates in your daily concerns.

Here is what it is not: mastery of the new and improved management techniques or embracing the redefined "best practices." Nor is it understanding principles from the latest "cutting-edge" national leadership conference. It's not found in the newest book that draws on decades of research never before available, now challenging long-established business ideologies. There is no course you can enroll in. No amount will purchase you the private tutelage necessary for you to project its effects with great confidence.

Here's the deal. There is a monumental distinction between the spiritual leader God brings forth and those who owe their position, and maintenance of it, to a worldly process or set of competencies. Even in a Christian organization. And what's the difference between these two? It is the Spirit.

Back to that character trait I'm baiting you with that stands as the touchstone of spiritual leadership—it is the fruit of the Spirit. Spiritual leadership first requires one to be "in the Spirit." Surprised?

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The fruit of the Spirit comes from the work of the Spirit deep in a leader's soul (mind, emotions and will). Which of these would you choose? Acute leadership abilities from the top leadership coach in the world, a gift in oration equaled by profound charisma or godly character resulting from the severe work of the Holy Spirit in your life. Did you halt for a moment pondering your answer? Sadly, highly skilled leaders with honed competencies and exquisite orators lead many of our Christian organizations today. They are able to prophesy and preach the Word of God, but their lives leave much to be desired in producing the fruit of the Spirit: compassion, peace, kindness, self-control, goodness, gentleness, love, faithfulness and joy.

Ask yourself: "Are my private life, character, words and interactions with others in symphony with the fruit of the Spirit?" A leader may be skilled in managerial techniques and produce marvelous results. She might be masterful in adaptive planning, the use of metrics and identifying and reaching key performance indicators and have great charisma of course. But what if she lacks the fruits of the Spirit? Can she be a spiritual leader?

We can teach about the Holy Spirit, preach about the Holy Spirit, write about the Holy Spirit and pray in the Holy Spirit. However, to be spiritual leaders, we must allow the Holy Spirit to coach us without reservation. We must invite Him to speak into our lives through Scripture, our experiences and people He places around us. In all three, He is the one who resounds. Can you hear Him?

John Calvin said, "In every saint, there is always to be found something reprehensible." In my work with charismatic leaders, prophetic pastors, heads of mega-organizations and others in venues of high-profile "spiritual leadership," I have too often discovered that gifting and competency outweigh character. This leadership can produce powerful preaching, miraculous events and an unparalleled following. But it is lacking in the fruit of the Spirit. This is not spiritual leadership.

The leader God is looking for is the one who understands leadership is exemplified by the fruit of the Spirit. Kindness and compassion must always be in the words on their lips. Their acts must be clothed in humility. Love needs be the force behind every action.

Dear saint, listen to the Spirit as you read these words. Not long before the Apostle Paul died, he wrote these final verses to his beloved son in the faith, Timothy. These words were meant to tell Timothy how to govern the church and identify successors. He wrote that those who cleansed themselves would be vessels for special purposes; they must pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace. They must be kind to everyone. If they met with opposition, they were to gently instruct those who pushed back against them (see 2 Tim. 2:20-26). Spiritual leadership is when the gifts of the Spirit preclude competency and achievement. They are the kindness, gentleness and patience you show to all others.

Does competency in spiritual leadership count? You bet it does. But, when we talk about true spiritual leadership that honors God, the fruit of the Spirit being in operation in your life is the unquestionable touchstone.

Tim Cameron is a passionate follower of Jesus, a father of five, with six grandchildren and two goddaughters. He graduated from Oral Roberts University, where he was a Division-1 basketball player, and completed graduate work at the University of Tulsa. Tim worked at ORU as director of admissions and financial aid. Following his tenure there, he was a public high school principal and then served as head of school at the largest private school in Oklahoma. Tim currently writes, speaks and serves in intercession and prophetic ministry at Believers Church in Tulsa. He has a great passion for prayer. He authored The Forty-Day Word Fast and his second book released with Charisma this June, 40 Days Through the Prayers of Jesus: A Journey to Pray More Like Christ.

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