Spiritual Leadership by J. Oswald Sanders

Sanders, J. Oswald. 1994. Spiritual Leadership. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

Godly leadership is more than being the most qualified to lead. Leaders in Christian ministry must understand and practice servanthood as taught by Jesus. Sanders compares the characteristics of “natural” leadership to spiritual leadership. In “natural” leadership, the emphasis is on power— specifically the ability to get subordinates to do things “they don’t want to do” and forcing people to act (27). Spiritual leadership is “influencing others spiritually” (28).

Spiritual leaders must not only possess leadership skills, but be ready and prepared to fight a spiritual battle (53). Sanders reminds readers that “God prepares leaders with a specific place and task in mind” (51). Even though many Christians are not called to a full-time ministry, all Christians are leaders since they influence people (109). Sanders insists on a leadership model in which leadership is “from the top down”—“never” from the “bottom up” (113). This philosophy is consistent with his other statement, “no cross, no leadership” (116).

Sanders’ description of spiritual leadership seems bleak by “natural” standards: a leader “lives with loneliness” (117), “fatigue is the price of leadership” (119), and “no leader lives a day without criticism” (119). Sanders’ leadership model is very biblical in that it reflects the principle of leadership under God’s guidance—“ Be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid of them! The LORD your God will go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor forsake you” (Deu. 31:6 NLT).

Leadership “from the top down” starts with God at the top. God is the Lord over creation, man, and the Sabbath and all is consecrated to Him. Ezekiel 37:23-24 explains, “They will truly be my people, and I will be their God.  My servant David will be their king, and they will have only one shepherd. They will obey my regulations and keep my laws.” In the same way, leaders should think of themselves as a vessel that is accountable to God.

Copyright © 2008 M. Teresa Trascritti



  1. Anna · June 16, 2008

    My life is going really well…I have a great job, just got married, but I still feel this emptiness within me. I’m not a religious person, but I feel like there’s gotta be a way to connect to something deeper. Any ideas?

  2. teresa4christ · June 16, 2008

    Hi Anna!

    First of all, let me start by congratulating you on your recent marriage! It is truly a blessing that you have someone who will share your life with you.

    There are so many people searching to fill a void in their lives. Some people fill the void by going to parties or clubbing, others buy things, and some turn to drugs and alcohol. We can be in a room full of people but still feel empty, or have all the possessions that people would want and still be discontented. The truth is that the void cannot be filled with the things of this world. God is the only One who can fill the void in the deepest part of our being because God is a Spirit.

    I’m not sure if anyone has ever told you about God’s plan for all humans. We are all born separated from Him because He is perfect and we are not; but since He created us, we are very special to Him. He wants to have a relationship with us, which is why He sent Jesus. Jesus Christ was human but He was also God; and because He is God, He is perfect.

    The Bible says that we are all sinners. A sin can be what we think, say, do, or not do; and even if we did good things, we are still sinners. When God looks at us, He only sees our sin (which is ugly and offensive to Him). God could not allow sin into Heaven. When Jesus died on the cross, He not only took our place in death, but took our sins with Him as well. When He was resurrected, God gave us a second chance.

    This “second chance” means that we can be a child of God, and call Him “Father.” He becomes our perfect Father– the One who will never leave us. The Bible says, “Anyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13). When we confess our sins, and confess that we are nothing without God, then we will have a second chance. We become like a new person and the Holy Spirit fills us with His presence. The presence of the Holy Spirit fills that empty space.

    I don’t know if I have helped you, but maybe you will find this website helpful: http://billygraham.org/SH_StepsToPeace.asp.

    I will pray for you. Please feel free to contact me again.


  3. bodybysam · June 18, 2008

    Anna, “harmonic wealth” is a book that I recently picked up for some financial/personal development reasons, but, as i was pleased to find out, actually tackles spiritual and physical topics as well. It might help you find what you are looking for – and maybe even some of what you are not (in a good way).


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