You are first a disciple of Jesus before you are a leader for Jesus.

The values, tone, and purpose of your leadership is shaped by the quality and depth of your discipleship.

Think about how you have been discipled as a follower of Christ. That process has a profound impact on the leader you are today.

You carry the depth, quality, and maturity of your experience as a disciple into your leadership today.

Your spiritual leadership cannot consistently out-perform your life with God. 

None of us ever “arrive” as a leader, which requires us to continue to grow and mature as a disciple.

We could list ten to twelve pathways to spiritual growth, but the core basics remain the same.

  • Grounded in the Word
  • Fervent in prayer
  • Connected in authentic community

My growth in these three areas must keep up with or exceed my growth as a leader. My spiritual vitality sets the pace for my leadership effectiveness.  

I believe this is true for all of us.

With this as a foundation, our spiritual depth and heritage as a disciple first do not in any way dismiss strategic skills, progress, and accountability.

Vision and purpose are evident in God’s plan.  

Strategy is also clear in scripture from the story of Nehemiah’s leadership to rebuild the wall in Jerusalem to the early church in the book of Acts.

Jesus himself demonstrates a very intentional selection of His key followers (12 disciples). (Luke 6:12-16)

As one practical example, we should not dismiss recruiting as a secular management skill. When you consider the depth of Jesus’ words, “Come and follow me,” it’s a master’s course in recruiting on a spiritual level.  From relationship to vision, recruiting is a nuanced skill that is essential in the operation of the church. Our nature as a disciple is the foundation that shapes how and why we recruit.

Our salvation is a result of grace, not work, and our maturing faith is part of our spiritual growth, but it’s connected to good works prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:8-10)

Leadership is a spiritual endeavor.

5 Ways Your Life As a Disciple Shapes Your Effectiveness As A Leader

1) In order to lead well, you must first be willing to follow.  

There is no leadership apart from followership.

“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” 

Luke 9:23

As Christians, our leadership starts with our ability to follow Jesus. If we can’t or won’t follow His lead, how can we then lead others?

This is not about perfection; it’s about the intent of our hearts.

No one is forced to follow; it’s a choice. That’s part of the beauty and power of your willingness to follow those who lead you.

For example, I choose to follow our senior pastor Kevin Myers as I lead those who follow me. It’s not either-or; it’s both lead and follow.

It’s like when a volunteer says yes to you; they choose to follow. It’s a beautiful and sacred trust that we must lead well.

Following is also an attitude based on character, and humility is the core character trait of a follower’s attitude.

2) Leadership is based on responsibility over authority. 

“All authority in heaven and on earth …” (Matt 28:18) has been given to Jesus, yet He does nothing apart from the Father.

The way Jesus handles His spiritual authority is our model for leadership and followership.

“Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.” 

John 5:19

As a spiritual leader, you have authority, but that’s not what you seek.

  • If you seek authority first, your leadership feels heavy to those you lead. It’s like the burden of leadership is on the followers.
  • If you seek responsibility first, your leadership feels light to those you lead because you carry the burden; you carry the load along with those you lead.

When you focus your leadership on responsibility over authority:

  • Your eyes are on the purpose
  • You are willing to sacrifice your personal gain
  • Your authority is only for the good of the people.

3) Serving is second nature to a spiritual leader.

The heart of a servant was one of the first things I was taught as a young disciple. But it took me a while to learn that it’s only when I serve with joy that I truly model Jesus’ example.

“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Mark 10:45

Putting others first and serving them is not our instinctive human nature, but it becomes second nature to a spiritual leader over time.

Human nature is “me first.” Jesus’ example is others first. Candidly, I think it’s a life-long endeavor to live this out as a leader, and we must keep maturing.

One good way for us to know we possess a servant’s heart as we lead is that we don’t mind being treated like one.

Here’s another way.

When someone asks you to do something for them or even expects you to do something for them, how do you feel? Put upon, or happy to serve?

4) Our purpose here on earth has alignment in heaven.

Our purpose is very clear, to make disciples, which of course includes evangelism first.

(If we don’t first introduce someone to Christ and see that relationship begin, how can we disciple them? Our purpose as a disciple has never been only to gather in a holy huddle but to share the gospel with others.)

We have a great deal of freedom in how we accomplish the mission, but ultimately, it’s not our will but God’s that we must stay in alignment with.

He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed,“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”

Luke 22:41-42

As a leader, how do you stay in alignment with the mission and purpose of God? It’s easy to get so busy doing ministry that we can lose track of the big picture.

5) Grace, faith, and humility set the tone for our leadership.

I must admit, we could list so many other core traits here, so feel free to add some that are most meaningful to you. But for the sake of brevity, I’ll focus on just three.

Grace shapes how we treat those we lead.
Grace is one of the earliest gifts we encounter as a new disciple, love is perhaps the only thing that precedes it, and they form our leadership.

Grace enables so much within the heart of a leader, from patience to forgiveness, without which it’s nearly impossible to lead following Jesus’ model.

Faith shapes our trust in God and belief in the future.
Faith allows us as leaders to trust and follow God, as well as keep hope in the future alive.

Let’s be honest, our faith takes hits along the road of leadership, and doubt creeps in, but as we remember God’s faithfulness, our faith is renewed, and we keep going.

Faith and trust are the foundation to a leader’s vision and belief that it can be realized.

Humility reminds us that without God, we can do nothing of eternal significance.
Life has its own unique way of humbling you; it’s much wiser to choose the path of humility on your own.

The challenge is that humility is not always such an easy path, and after all, how do you know if you are humble and much humility is enough? Right?

It’s not so much that you try to “achieve” humility. Humility is based more on the idea that you don’t feel superior to or better than others because of what you have, your status or authority, and equally, it’s not about feeling inferior to others.

Humility, at its essence, is following the example of Jesus.