The Danger of Mixing Secular Principles with Spiritual Leadership

February 1, 2014


Among the Millennials, the subjects of leadership and influence are at the forefront of ministerial advancements.  We buy leadership books, subscribe to leadership podcasts, attend leadership conferences, and study leadership gurus.  Even though I am not technically a Millennial (I was born before 1980), I am still a student of leadership.  I love to learn, I love to listen, I love to lead.  I personally believe every pastor should embrace his calling of leadership and constantly seek to improve His God-given abilities and skills. 

However, we must be aware of the kind of iron we use to sharpen our blade.  “We can learn a great deal from the secular world and its studies and practices of leadership,” said Albert Mohler, “but the last thing the church needs is warmed-over business theories decorated with Christian language.” Selling product, motivating people to self-affirmation, and creating a brand may work in the training sessions on Wall Street, but God has not called us to such insidious tactics.  We are salt and light; therefore our leadership, our influence must be spiritual, it must be different.

I do not question the motives of leaders who seek to develop their skills and style; but I do see the dangers of patterning ourselves after secular CEO’s, motivational speakers, and best-selling authors.  Furthermore, trying to build a ministry or church on secular principles is counterproductive to the Kingdom.

So what is the true key to spiritual influence?  Notice that I said, “spiritual” influence.  The biggest difference between influence and spiritual influence is direction.  Spiritual influence always directs others toward God and His Word.  With influence you may instill personality traits, speaking styles, or administrative skills; but with “spiritual” influence you make disciples who long to look like Christ, not you.  Spiritual influence is directing people to God, and His will for their lives.

And this is what people really want.  As Mel Lawrenz astutely contends, “No one really wants to follow you per se.  They really don’t.  They want to know that, by following you, they are really following a higher principle, a transcendent truth.  In spiritual followership, people want to know whether they are being led and influenced by God.”  So the real question is not “are you leading others?”  You are.  The question is, “Are you leading others to follow Christ?”  Only spiritual influence can secure such a noble cause.


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