Spiritual leadership is about being and becoming a transformational servant leader, following the example of Christ. Leadership isn’t just about leading, it is about serving and encouraging positive change and spiritual empowerment in the live of those we love and lead.

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Being and Becoming a Transformational Servant Leader

Note: These are the episode notes for the podcast, for full content, listen to Episode 127.

We will be working with and among leaders in Africa. In one of the initiatives we are engaging, we have a saying to guide us, “Everyone (engaged in ministry) being led by and becoming a transformational servant leader.” 

This puts the focus on two fronts:

  1. Every leader on the continent is to be growing as a transformational servant leader
  2. Every leader being equipped and raised up on the continent is becoming a transformational servant leader. 

Our focus is simple… we need to all be leading like Jesus, and growing to be more like Jesus in the execution of our calling. 

Serving One Another (leading, if you will) is a Natural and Integral Function in the Body of Christ.

I admit I get a little defensive when I hear someone devalue leadership as a secular idea not relevant to our service to God and to one another because when I think of leadership, particularly spiritual leadership, I think of TRANSFORMATIONAL SERVANT LEADERSHIP. 

Arguably, there is a hierarchy of spiritual gifts. The spiritual gifts listed in 1 Corinthians 12 seem more important than the gifts listed in Romans 12, but both are indicative of the way God moves in and through us in a variety of ways and gifts. 

Romans 12.6-8 says, “Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.” 

Jesus had this to say to his disciples regarding ruling, governing, and leading, “But Jesus called them to him and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’” (Matthew 20.25-28, ESV)

As Jesus was training his disciples to be multiplying disciples and taking on their role in providing administration and leadership for the establishment of the church, he reminded them not to lead as do the secular leaders and rulers they had observed, rather, Jesus gave them some “dos” and “don’ts” of leadership. 

Spiritual Leadership Don’ts…

  1. Don’t lord your leadership over those you should be serving.
  2. Don’t see greatness as being able to exercise authority over those you should be serving.

Spiritual Leadership Dos…

  1. Do see “greatness” as being the greatest servant.
  2. Do realize that the “first” place is the greatest responsibility to serve.
  3. Do follow Jesus’ example of servant leadership.

The example of Christ is again presented in Philippians 2.5-8, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

What is Servant Leadership?

Servant leadership is a leadership philosophy in which the main goal of the leader is to serve the interests of others. 

Even in a business environment, servant leadership is powerful. Everyone has things the really need, and everyone wants to feel as though they are fulfilling their life purposes. The servant leader leads in such a way as to help team members find meaning and fulfillment in their roles. 

Servant leadership is exemplified in Philippians 2. “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2.3-4, ESV)

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit.

Again, this is modeling Christ. Rather than leading for our own gain or to accomplish our own agenda, we focus upon God’s agenda and what he wants to do in and through those we lead. We serve God and we are serving others. 

I’ve had it up to my gills with leadership gurus who promote entrepreneurialism as an endeavor to get what YOU want, to make YOUR life better, to influence others to get what you want. 

And only one step better, I am tired of the leadership philosophy that says, if you help others get what they want, they will help you get what you want. Again, the motivation leads to self. 

The Christ-life is a life of crucifixion and surrender. Christ modeled the surrendering of our rights for God’s greater plan and agenda in our lives. I know this is not popular for many, but it is the way of Christ. 

I don’t serve you for the purpose of getting something I want from you, I serve you because I love you and want to see God’s good plan for you fulfilled. I will trust God that he will also fulfill the plan he has for my life. 

In humility consider others more significant than yourselves. 

We are sometimes so concerned that we will be a doormat that we fail to realize God’s greatest gifts to us through serving others. 

Humility is a topic all its own. We talked about it in Episode 93 (Demonstrating the Heart and Humility of Christ as a Spiritual Leader). We also talked about it in Episode 81 (Living Joyfully Through Embracing Humility) and in Episode 75 (Gaining Humility Through Adversity and Serving)

Humility is a sword that cuts two ways: on one side humility is deferential to the interests of others, on the other side, humility is a confident strength that has nothing to prove. In the confident strength of humility we are free to love and serve others without feeling it diminishes us. 

Look not only to your own interests, but to the interests of others. 

I love the way we jump to point out the words “not only,” as they imply that as we look to the interests of others we must also look to our own interests. True; however, the main point of this statement is the interests of others. 

We naturally look to our own interests without prompting, so for most of us our challenge is not the inability to promote our own interests (though that is a reality for some), but of greater concern is our lack of concern with the interests of others. 

Servant leadership is exemplified in the leader who is considering the interests of the team and those she serves. 

What is Transformational Leadership?

This is a a rich subject. On the highest level for the sake of this episode, a transformational leader is one who is concerned with the transformation and growth of first the person they lead and second with the organization they lead. 

Secular transformational leadership proponents may focus on leading in such a way as to bring transformation and positive change to an organization, but a spiritual leader knows that ministry is accomplished in the context of relationship, relationship with God and with each other, so our focus is upon seeing the person grow in Christ as they engage the organization. 

One thing that helps me is keeping in focus the difference between TRANSACTIONAL leadership and TRANSFORMATIONAL leadership. In transactional leadership each party receives something (i.e. a paycheck for services rendered), in transformational leadership we seek to structure the organization and the relationship in such a way as to make the relationship transformational. We seek to see people grow closer to God, more like Christ, and fulfilled in the Christ-life through transformational leadership.


Wow, this episode took a different direction than the one I thought it would take, and I am inspired to take the next few weeks and just talk about how each of us can grow as transformational servant leaders and exemplify Christ as we calibrate our lives so that we can lift those we love and lead. 

Remember, our desire is that everyone in the arena of leading is becoming a transformational servant leader. And for those of you leading in an organization, be it a church, a family, a business, etc., to help the leadership team grow in becoming the transformational servant leader everyone in the organization needs. 

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