Clippings from Spiritual Leadership

Day 6 of J. Oswald Sanders and Spiritual Leadership.

This chapter (and the next one) are packed with insight! I’ve taken several days to process and meditate on the insight Sanders shares in these chapters. I’ll share the highlights.

Chapter 8 = Essential Qualities of Leadership

Sanders lists seven qualities that leaders possess:

  1. Discipline
  2. Vision
  3. Wisdom
  4. Decision
  5. Courage
  6. Humility
  7. Integrity and Sincerity


  • “Before we can conquer the world, we must first conquer the self.”
  • “Many who drop out of ministry are sufficiently gifted, but have large areas of life floating free from the Holy Spirit’s control. Lazy and disorganized people never rise to true leadership.”
  • “Many who aspire to leadership fail because they have never learned to follow.”
  • “The heights by great men reached and kept were not attained by sudden flight. But they, while their companions slept, were toiling upward in the night.”


  • “Vision involves foresight as well as insight. A leader must be able to see the end results of the policies and methods he/she advocates.”
  • “The pessimist see difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty.”
  • “Leaders take lessons from the past, but never sacrifice the future for the sake of mere continuity.”


  • “Wisdom is heavenly discernment. [It] gives a leader balance and helps avoid eccentricity and extravagance. If knowledge comes by study, wisdom comes by Holy Spirit filling. Then a leader can apply knowledge correctly.”
  • “Wisdom is nine-tenths a matter of being wise in time. Most of us are too often wise after the event.” Theodore Roosevelt


  • “A visionary may see, but a leader must decide.”
  • “The spiritual leader will not procrastinate when faced with a decision, nor vacillate after making it.”
  • “To postpone decision is really to decide for the status quo.”


  • “Leadership always faces natural human inertia and opposition. But courage follows through with a task until it’s done.”


  • “A leader’s humility should grow with the passing of years.”
  • “Let every day be a day of humility; condescend to all the weaknesses and infirmities of your fellow-creatures, cover their frailties, love their excellencies, encourage their virtues, relieve their wants, rejoice in their prosperities, compassionate their distresses, receive their friendship, overlook their unkindness, forgive their malice, be a servant of servants, and condescend to do the lowliest offices of mankind.” William Law

Integrity and Sincerity

  • “The spiritual leader must be sincere in promise, faithful in discharge of duty, upright in finances, loyal in service, and honest in speech.”

Clippings from “Spiritual Leadership”

Day 5 of J. Oswald Sanders and Spiritual Leadership.

Chapter 7 = Insights on Leadership from St. Peter

Sanders reviews St. Peter’s words of counsel to leaders in the churches:

To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ’s sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed:  2 Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers– not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve;  3 not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.  4 And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.  5 Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” {5 Prov. 3:34}  6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.  7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:1-7 NIV)

Some words from Sanders that made my pen get busy underlining:

  • “The spiritual leader cannot have money in his eyes when service beckons.”
  • “…the greed Peter warns against extends beyond money to fame and prestige, which are sometimes a more insidious temptation.” (Paul Rees)
  • “I’m not sure which of the two occupies the lower sphere, he who hungers for money or he who thirsts for applause.” (J. H. Jowett)
  • “A leader must be a worthy example for the people.”
  • “The leader must be clothed with humility.” I always find this one interesting, particularly in light of the above statement. It takes a leader close to God to be able to humbly say, “live your life like I live mine” (see 1 Corinthians 11:1).

I particularly loved how Sanders wrapped up this chapter:

Are we alone in the leader’s role? Do we work in solitude? Not at all, Peter announces. Rather our frustrations and worries are shared with God, who offers relief and reprieve. “Cast all of your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). The Christian leader need not fear that care of the flock of God will be too heavy a burden. By God’s invitation, the leader can transfer the weight of spiritual burdens onto shoulders bigger, stronger, broader, and more durable. God cares for you. Let worries go!

Restoring Spiritual Passion

Gordon McDonald is one of my favorite authors. He has written many books. Recently I finished reading, for the second time, his book, Restoring Your Spiritual Passion.

The basic premise of this book is that we are doing more and enjoying it less. We have become a “weary” people.

He writes,

“Weariness is not the honest tiredness of the body we will all feel at the end of a good working day. Rather it is the weariness of a tired spirit, the state of passionlessness where serving the Lord has become a tasteless experience, where the power and the delight of being a man or woman of God is missing.

Is there hope for the weary?

McDonald teaches that a wise person knows those seasons, events, relationships, etc. that are most likely to drain our passion, and plans for them! To paraphrase Bill Hybels, “Passion leaks.” You simply cannot expect your passion for anything to stay “up” on it’s own. It must be nurtured.

In this book, McDonald discusses the three ways to nurture passion:

  1. Safe Places
  2. Still Times
  3. Special Friends

The safe places provide us a venue to discover who God is. The still times give us a chance to hear what God is saying. Our special friends give us encouragement and insight as we live out God’s desire for our lives.

McDonald ends this book with a prayer:

Holy Father,

In the frenzy of our modern lives at home, in the market place, and in the church, keep before us your invitation to intimacy.

Help us to locate those safe places, where in still times you will speak into our spirit from your Word, by your Spirit, through our special friends. May we learn as a result how to live in pursuit of your wishes.

For all who are weary, empty of spirit, directionless or numb, I pray for the restoration of spiritual passion. The reason? To be a pleasure to you and a light to the world.


This is an older book (1986), but the investment of a couple of dollars and handful of hours will prove to be worth your while as you seek to develop or renew your spiritual passion! (Click here to go to Amazon and purchase this book)

Clippings from “Spiritual Leadership”

Day 4 of J. Oswald Sanders and Spiritual Leadership.

Chapter 6 = Insights on Leadership from St. Paul

Sanders reviews St. Paul’s instructions to his protege, Timothy, regarding the characteristics of a spiritual leader:

the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap. (1 Timothy 3:2-7 NIV)

A few “notables” from his reflections:

  • “The character of the [leader] should command the respect of the unbeliever, inspire his confidence, and arouse his aspiration. Example is more potent than precept.”
  • “A leader cannot allow a secret indulgence that would undermine public witness.”
  • “A well-ordered life is the fruit of a well-ordered mind.”
  • “If you would rather pick a fight than solve a problem, do not consider leading the church.”
  • While a leader is caring for church and mission, he must not neglect the family, which is his primary responsibility. The discharge of one duty in God’s kingdom does not excuse us from another. There is time for every legitimate duty. Paul implies that a person’s ability to lead at home is a strong indicator of his readiness to lead in ministry.

Clippings from “Spiritual Leadership”

Day 3 of J. Oswald Sanders and Spiritual Leadership.

Oh man… today’s chapter was a good one! It was packed with so much material! BUT in the interest of brevity AND to make up for yesterday’s data dump, I’m not going to post all of the good content. If you’re interested in it… buy the book and read…

Chapter 5 = Can You Become a Leader?

Sanders gives a list of questions that when answered will help you thoughtfully assess your leadership potential and help you identify areas to celebrate and go to work on.

  • Have you ever broken a bad habit? To lead others, you must master your appetites.
  • Do you keep self-control when things go wrong? The leader who loses control under adversity forfeits respect and influence. A leader must be calm in crisis and resilient in disappointment.
  • Do you think independently? A leader must use the best ideas of others to make decisions. A leader cannot wait for others to make up his or her mind.
  • Can you handle criticism? Can you profit from it? The humble person can learn from petty criticism, even malicious criticism.
  • Can you turn disappointment into creative new opportunity?
  • Do you readily gain the cooperation of others and win their respect and confidence?
  • Can you exert discipline without making a power play? True leadership is an internal quality of the spirit and needs no show of external force. (For more on this idea read this book – A Tale of Three Kings)
  • Are you a peacemaker? A leader must be able to reconcile with opponents and make peace where arguments have created hostility.
  • Do people trust you with difficult and delicate situations?
  • Can you induce people to do happily some legitimate thing that they would not normally wish to do?
  • Can you accept opposition to your viewpoint or decision without taking offense? Leaders always face opposition.
  • Can you make and keep friends? Your circle of loyal friends is an index of your leadership potential.
  • Are you at ease in the presence of strangers? Do you get nervous in the presence of your superior?
  • Are the people who report to you generally at ease? A leader should be sympathetic and friendly.
  • Are you interested in people? All types? All races? No prejudice?
  • Are you tactful? Can you anticipate how your words will affect a person?
  • Is your will strong and steady? Leaders cannot vacillate or cannot drift with the wind.
  • Can you forgive? Or do you nurse resentments and harbor ill-feelings toward those who have injured you?
  • Are you reasonably optimistic? Pessimism and leadership do not mix.
  • Do you feel a master passion such as that of St. Paul, who said, “This one thing I do!” Such singleness of motive will focus your energies and powers on the desired objective. Leaders need a strong focus.
  • Do you welcome responsibility?

As you read and answer these questions, no doubt there will be some answers that you don’t like. So does that mean you can’t be a leader? No. Sanders writes, “Adding leadership potential to our lives usually requires that we shake off negative elements that hold us back.”

What’s holding you back from being a great leader today?

Will you begin addressing it today so that tomorrow you will be a better leader? Go for it!

Clippings from “Spiritual Leadership”

Day 2 of Oswald Sanders and Spiritual Leadership.

Chapter 3 = The Master’s Master Principle

  • Sanders points to Jesus’ revolutionary teaching on leadership = the greatest leaders are the greatest servants. (see Mark 10:42-43)
  • Six qualities of a servant leader:
    1. Dependence – “As we become empty of self and dependent on God, the Holy Spirit will use us.”
    2. Approval – a mutual approval from God to us and from us to God.
    3. Modesty – “Neither strident nor flamboyant, God’s servant conducts a ministry that appears almost self-effacing. What a contrast to the arrogant self-advertising of so many hypesters today, both in and out of the church.” Hmmm… I wonder if Sanders had a blog if he would call it 😉
    4. Empathy – “The Lord’s servant is sympathetic with the weak, mercifully understanding those who err. How often do people who fail wear the treadmarks of fellow pilgrims. But the ideal servant does not run over the weak and failing. He mends bruises and fans the weak spirit into a flame.”
    5. Optimism – “Pessimism and leadership are at opposite ends of life’s attitudes. […] God’s ideal servant is optimistic until every part of God’s work is done.”
    6. Anointing – “None of these leadership qualities [listed above] are sufficient for the task. Without the touch of the supernatural, these qualities are as dry as dust. And so the Holy Spirit comes to rest upon and dwell in the ideal Servant (Jesus).” Sanders goes on to say, “Are we greater than our Lord? Can we do effective ministry without the Spirit of God working through us at every step? God offers us the same anointing.”

Chapter 4 = Natural and Spiritual Leadership

  • “Leadership is influence, the ability of one person to influence others to follow his or her lead. Famous leaders have always known this.” (I believe this is where John Maxwell derived his famous definition of leadership – “Leadership is influence. Nothing more. Nothing less.”)
  • “There is no such thing as a self-made spiritual leader. A true leader influences others spiritually only because the Spirit works in and through him to a greater degree than in those he/she leads.”
  • “We can lead others only as far along the road as we ourselves have traveled. Merely pointing the way is not enough. If we are not walking, then no one can be following, and we are not leading anyone.”
  • Sanders shares a bit from William Sangster’s journal. (Sangster was a young leader in the early Methodist Church):
  • This is the will of God for me. I did not choose it. I sought to escape it. But it has come. Something else has come too. A sense of certainty that God does not want me only for a preacher. He wants me also for a leader – a leader in Methodism. I feel a commissioning to work under God for the revival of this branch of His church (Methodist) – careless of my own reputation; indifferent to the comments of older and jealous men. I am thirty-six. If I am to serve God in this way, I must no longer shrink from the task – but do it. I have examined my heart for ambition. I am certain it is not there. I hate the criticism I shall evoke and the painful chatter of people. Obscurity, quiet browsing among books, and the service of simple people is my taste – but by the will of God, this is my task, God help me.
  • Sanders shares General Bernard Montgomery’s “seven qualities necessary for military leadership”, of which Sanders says “each is appropriate to spiritual warfare.” The leader must:
    1. avoid getting swamped in detail
    2. not be petty
    3. not be pompous
    4. know how to select people to fit the task
    5. trust others to do a job without the leader’s meddling
    6. be capable of clear decisions
    7. inspire confidence
  • He also references John Mott’s inquiries of a leader. Does the leader:
    1. do little things well
    2. focus on priorities
    3. use leisure well
    4. have intensity
    5. know how to exploit momentum
    6. overcome discouragement and “impossible” situations
    7. understand his/her weaknesses
  • A contrast of natural and spiritual leadership qualities:
  • Natural Leadership Spiritual Leadership
    Self-confident Confident in God
    Knows people Also knows God
    Makes own decisions Seeks God’s will
    Ambitious Humble
    Creates methods Follows God’s example
    Enjoys command Delights in obedience to God
    Seeks personal reward Loves God and others
    Independent Depends on  God

Clippings from “Spiritual Leadership”

This morning I started reading through J. Oswald Sanders’ classic book, Spiritual Leadership. This is the second or third time I’ve read through this book and as always am deeply moved by it! John Maxwell says of this book, “No other book has influenced my life the way this one has.”

Over the next few weeks I’m going to post highlights from this book. Hopefully you’ll go pick up a copy, but if not, at least you’ll have these notes! Here we go…

Chapter 1 = [Leadership] An Honorable Ambition

  • “Desiring to be great is not a sin. It is motivation that determines ambition’s character.” The integrity of ambition is determined by this question – why do you want to be great?
  • “Ambition that centers on the glory of God and welfare of the church is a mighty force for good.”
  • “True greatness, true leadership, is found in giving yourself in service to others, not in coaxing or inducing others to serve you. True service is never without cost. Often it comes with the painful baptism of suffering. But the true spiritual leader is focused on the service he and she can render to God and other people, not on the residuals and perks of high office or holy title. We must aim to put more into life than we take out.”

Chapter 2 = The Search for Leaders

  • The Bible shows us that when God does find a person who is ready to lead, to commit to full discipleship and take on responsibility for others, that person is used to the limit. Such leaders still have shortcomings and flaws, but despite them, they become spiritual leaders.”
  • “To be a leader in the church has always required strength and faith beyond the merely human.”
  • If the world is to hear the church’s voice today, leaders are needed who are authoritative, spiritual, and sacrificial. Authoritative, because people desire leaders who know where they are going and are confident of getting there. Spiritual, because without a strong relationship to God, even the most attractive and competent person cannot lead people to God. Sacrificial, because this follows the model of Jesus, who gave Himself for the whole world and who calls us to follow in His steps.”