Spiritual Leadership by J. Oswald Sanders
Principles of Excellence for Every Believer
Spiritual Leadership one of the best books I have read. It is powerful, deep, and dense with substance. It contains a multitude of applications for leadership and management.
My favorite chapters are 12: The Leader and Time and 13: The Leader and Reading. Chapter 13 contains practical applications on what to read, how to read, and how to get more out of what you read.
My Favorite Quotes
- You can measure leaders by the number and quality of their friends.
- Knowledge is proud that he has learned so much; wisdom is humble that he knows no more.
- The way we employ surplus hours after provision has been made will determine if we develop into mediocre or powerful people.
- The best use of life is to spend it for something that will outlast it.
- If we are careful about days the years will take care of themselves.
- The strength of moral character is conserved by refusing the unimportant.
- The leader who intends to grow spiritually and intellectually must be reading constantly.
- Unless our reading includes serious thinking it is wasted time.
- More failure comes from excess cautions than bold actions.
- Ignore minor tasks that can be accomplished by others.
- Dwight L. Moody once said that he would rather put a thousand men to work than do the work of a thousand men.
- The degree to which a leader is able to delegate his work is a measure of his success.
- Have you ever broken a bad habit?
- Do you keep self-control when things go wrong?
- Do you think independently?
- Can you handle criticism? Can you profit from it?
- Can you turn disappointment into a 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?
- Are you a peacemaker?
- Can you make and keep friends?
- Do you depend on the praise of others to keep you going?
- Are you tactful?
- Do you use people or cultivate people?
- Do you direct people or develop people?
- Do you criticize or encourage?
Chapter 1: An Honorable Ambition
Holding opposing ideas and verses in tension. Creates balance. I Tim 3:1, Jeremiah 45:5
Ambition is good but ambition centered on self is wrong.
Chapter 2: The Search for Leaders
Real leaders are in short supply. Constantly people and groups search for them.
Chapter 3: The Master’s Master Principle
Servant. Low prestige, low respect, low honor.
Qualities of Jesus:
Chapter 4: Natural and Spiritual Leadership
Leadership is influence.
Three kinds of people:
Those who are immovable
Those who are movable
Those who move them
A Contrast of Natural and Spiritual Leadership:
The natural leader is self-confident; the spiritual leader is confident in God.
The natural leader knows men; the spiritual leader also knows God.
The natural leader makes his own decisions; the spiritual leader seeks God’s will.
The natural leader is ambitious; the spiritual leader is humble.
The natural leader creates methods; the spiritual leader follows God’s example.
The natural leader enjoys command; the spiritual leader delights in obedience to God.
The natural leader seeks personal reward; the spiritual leader loves God and others.
The natural leader is independent; the spiritual leader depends on God.
Montgomery’s Seven qualities necessary for a military leader, each appropriate to Spiritual warfare:
Avoid getting swamped in detail.
Not be petty.
Not be pompous.
Know how to select people to fit the task.
Trust others to do a job without the leader’s meddling.
Be capable of clear decisions.
John Mott’s tests of leadership, one should inquire if a leader does the following:
Does little things well.
Has learned to focus on priorities.
Uses leisure well.
Knows how to exploit momentum.
Overcomes discouragement and impossible situations.
Understands his or her weaknesses.
Spiritual goals can be achieved only by spiritual people who use spiritual methods.
Chapter 5: Can You Become a Leader?
Ways to investigate your potential:
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 as influence.
Do you think independently?
Can you handle criticism? Can you profit from it? The humble person can learn from petty and even malicious criticism.
Can you turn disappointment into a 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?
Are you a peacemaker?
Can you make and keep friends?
Do you depend on the praise of others to keep you going?
Are you tactful?
Do you use people or cultivate people?
Do you direct people or develop people?
Do you criticize or encourage?
Chapter 6: Insights on Leadership from Paul
I Timothy 3:2-7 (no notes taken on this chapter)
Chapter 7: Insights on Leadership from Peter
I Peter 5:1-7 (no notes were taken on this chapter)
Chapter 8: Essential Qualities of Leadership
Before we can conquer the world we must first conquer the self.
Faith is vision. Moses.
A vision without a task makes a visionary. A task without a vision is drudgery. A vision with a task makes a missionary.
Insight into the heart of things.
Knowledge is proud that he has learned so much; wisdom is humble that he knows no more.
Integrity and Sincerity
II Timothy 1:3
II Corinthians 2:17
Chapter 9: More Essential Qualities of Leadership
You will never lead others far without the joy of the Lord.
The counterpart to love.
II Peter 1:6
Victorious endurance and constancy under trial.
Courageous and triumphant ability to bear things.
Meets the most difficult test in personal relationships.
Romans 15:1 strong bear the infirmities of the weak.
You can measure leaders by the number and quality of their friends.
Tact and Diplomacy
Reconcile opposing viewpoints.
Necessary to translate vision into action.
Judgment here means a method, order, system or law.
Therapy of Listening
Too many strong personalities are compulsive talkers.
Leaders should listen often and long and talk seldom.
True leaders know that time spent listening is well invested.
The Art of Letter Writing
Care should be taken to see that they are warm in tone.
Chapter 10: Above All Else
Be Spirit-filled and led.
Each of us is as full of the Spirit as we really want to be.
Develop the spiritual gifts of others.
Hidden abilities released by the Holy Spirit.
One called by God can be confident the Holy Spirit has given him or her all necessary gifts for the service at hand.
Chapter 11: Prayer and Leadership
I Timothy 2:1
Prayer is the Christian’s vital breath and native air.
Two reasons it is important to pray in the Holy Spirit:
- We are to pray in the realm of the Spirit for the Holy Spirit is the sphere and atmosphere of the Christian’s life.
- We are to pray in the power and energy of the Spirit.
The Spirit delights to help us pray.
The Spirit helps with our three chief handicaps:
- We are sometimes kept from prayer by sin in our heart. The Holy Spirit leads us to the blood of Christ which cleanses every sin.
- Sometimes the ignorance of our minds hinders our prayers. The Spirit shares the mind of God with us.
- Sometimes we are earthbound because of our bodily weaknesses. The Spirit will quicken our bodies.
In prayers deal with sin’s cause, not the effect.
Intercessory prayer is a divine ordinance.
God commands us to pray for kings and those in authority. There is an implied power to influence the course of men and events.
We can know the will of God concerning the prayer we raise.
When God lays a burden on our hearts and thus keeps us praying, he obviously intends to grant the answer.
George Mueller prayed for two men for 50 years and they were converted, one shortly after his death.
Prayer moves the arm that moves the world.
Prevailing prayer that moves people is the outcome of a correct relationship with God.
Every reason prayers go unanswered centers on the believer’s relationship with God:
God will not cooperate with prayers of self-interest or prayers of impure motives.
The Christian who clings to sin closes the ear of God.
God will not tolerate unbelief, the chief of sins. Hebrews 11:6
The paramount motive is the glory of God.
Chapter 12: The Leader and Time
The quality of a person’s leadership depends on what happens during time.
The character and career of a person depend on how he or she spends spare time.
The way we employ surplus hours after provision has been made will determine if we develop into mediocre or powerful people.
By any measure our time is short and the work is great.
Minutes and hours wisely used translate into abundant life.
The best use of life is to spend it for something that will outlast it.
Not how long we live but how fully and how well.
Psalm 90:12 measure our time by days not years.
If we are careful about days the years will take care of themselves.
A leader will seldom say I don’t have the time.
Each of us has time to do the whole will of God for our lives.
Our problem is not too little time but making better use of the time we have.
We are responsible for the strategic use of time.
The importance of a carefully planned life.
If we progress in the economy of time we are learning to live, if we fail here we fail everywhere.
The leader must thoughtfully weigh the value of different opportunities and responsibilities.
Select and reject. Then concentrate on the most important items.
Keep a record of how each hour is spent in the week and review as a test.
We have little ground to plead insufficient time for achieving something worthwhile in life.
Jesus set the perfect example for the strategic use of time. Jesus moved through life with measured steps, never hurried.
Jesus spent His time doing things that mattered.
The strength of moral character is conserved by refusing the unimportant.
To Jesus, there were no interruptions.
Often the pressure a spiritual leader feels comes from assuming tasks that God has not assigned. For such tasks, the leader cannot expect God to supply the extra strength required.
My schedule is God’s to arrange at His pleasure. Ephesians 2:10.
Much reading can be done through otherwise wasted minutes.
A leader needs a balanced approach to time. Even when the leader has done the utmost to fulfill daily obligations for the day, vast areas of work always remain.
Every call for help is not necessarily a call from God.
If the leader sincerely plans the day in prayer and executes that plan with all energy and eagerness, that is enough.
Procrastination is one of the devil’s most potent weapons.
The passing of time never makes action easier.
The nettle will never be easier to grasp than now.
Chapter 13: The Leader and Reading
II Timothy 4:13
Reading makes a full man, speaking a ready man, writing an exact man. Francis Bacon.
The leader who intends to grow spiritually and intellectually must be reading constantly.
Lawyers and doctors must always read.
Read or get out of the ministry.
Read to refill the wells of inspiration.
Read not to contradict or confute, nor to believe and take for granted, nor to find talk and discourse, but to weigh and consider.
Some books are to be tested, others to be swallowed and some few to be chewed and digested.
If we read merely to stock our head with ideas, to feel superior to others, or to appear learned, then our reading is useless and vain.
Read for Spiritual benefit.
For Intellectual growth. Books that test wits, provide fresh ideas, challenge assumptions, and probe complexities.
Read to cultivate preaching and writing style. Enlarge vocabularies.
Read to acquire new information. Keep current with the time. Be well informed in his own field of expertise.
Read to have fellowship with great minds.
What to read:
A man’s character is reflected in the books he reads. A leader’s reading is the outward reflection of his inner hunger and aspirations.
Discriminating choice is essential.
We can afford to read only the best. Only that which invigorates our mission.
Books can be three categories lovers, friends, and acquaintances.
Indiscriminate reading serves no one.
Biography. Transmits personality.
A leader should neither be content with reading easy books or only those within his specialty.
Don’t be afraid of new ideas. Examine them against Scripture.
The leader should immerse himself in books that equip him for higher service and leadership in the kingdom of God.
How to read:
By reading we learn.
By meditating on the themes of our reading we pluck the fruit from the tree of books and add nourishment to our minds and our ministries.
Unless our reading includes serious thinking it is wasted time.
We can read without thinking but such reading has no profit for us.
Master your books (the great ones).
Make notes and analysis.
The mental constitution is more affected by one book thoroughly mastered than by 20 books merely skimmed.
Little learning and much pride come of hasty reading.
What you intend to quickly forget, spend little time reading.
Read with a pencil and notebook in hand.
Develop a system of note-taking.
Have a “commonplace” book to record that which is striking, interesting and worthy of a second thought.
Pass no word until you know it’s meaning.
Verify historical and scientific information.
Correlate your reading.
Vary your reading to keep your mind out of a rut.
Every good book should have three readings:
- Rapid and continuous to give your mind an overview.
- Careful and paced, take notes and think.
- After a period of time a third reading like the first. Write a brief analysis of the book on the back cover.
A book is a channel for the flow of ideas from one mind to another.
Chapter 14: Improving Leadership
Every Christian is obliged to be the best he can be for God.
Every Christian is a leader because we all influence others.
The first step of improvement: recognize weakness, make corrections and cultivate strengths.
Reasons why church leadership can be less than the best:
Lack of a clearly defined goal that will stretch us, challenge faith and unify life’s activities.
Timid faith and hesitation to take risks.
Lack of enthusiasm.
Sacrificing depth for breadth.
Exert yourself to lead.
Serve with energy and leave no room for sloth.
Kept at boiling point.
Romans 12:11 fervent in spirit.
Six important areas to care for as a leader:
- Administration. to improve the character of the work.
- Spiritual tone. deepens piety and success of the worker. Spiritual health.
- Job satisfaction. Group morale.
- Personal relationships. Warm relationships among team members are vital. Loving people is more important that administration.
- Creative planning. Supplement what is lacking.
Chapter 15: The Cost of Leadership
Leadership in God’s kingdom requires us to pay a price higher than others are willing to pay.
Your life. Payment in installments.
Self-sacrifice. Must be paid daily.
Loneliness. Enoch. Jonah. Paul.
Fatigue. The world is run by tired men. II Corinthians 4:16. Jesus (John 4:6). Fatigue is the price of leadership.
Mediocrity is the result of never getting tired.
Humility is never more on trial than when criticism comes.
It does not matter what happens to us but our reaction to what happens to us is of vital importance.
Pressure and Perplexity.
Chapter 16: The Responsibilities of Leadership
II Corinthians 11:28
Jesus defined leadership as service.
The true leader is concerned primarily with the welfare of others.
Sympathy fortifies and stimulates, it does not soften and make weak.
Love is the fundamental ingredient in all discipline.
The person who has faced up to his own problems and weaknesses is best able to help another.
The spirit of meekness will achieve far more than the spirit of criticism.
Five Guidelines of a disciplinary situation.
Conduct a thorough and impartial inquiry.
Consider the overall benefit to the work and the individual.
Do all in the spirit of love and the most considerate manner.
Always keep the spiritual restoration of the offender in view.
Pray it through.
The spiritual leader must know where he is going before presuming to lead others.
Go before the flock. John 10:4
I Corinthians 11:1
A Leader Must Initiate.
Be venturesome as well as visionary.
Either initiate plans for progress or recognize the worthy plans of others.
He does not wait for things to happen but makes them happen.
Always on the lookout for improved methods.
More failure comes from excess cautions than bold actions.
Rules for life:
Eagerly start the day’s main work.
Never murmur at your business or the shortness of time.
Chapter 17: Tests of Leadership
Moses and Pharaoh.
Moses showed selfless nobility when God offered to make of him a nation.
The Impossible Situation.
Deal with impossible tasks rather than easy ones.
Ignore minor tasks that can be accomplished by others.
View the difficult as commonplace.
God delights to lead people and, in response to their trust, show them great power.
Three phases in most great tasks undertaken for God (Hudson Taylor).
The God of the second chance.
No failure need to be final.
Moses family was jealous of him.
Chapter 18: The Art of Delegation
Ability to recognize the special abilities and limitations of others.
Fit each one into the job he or she will do best.
D.L. Moody said he would rather put 1,000 men to work than to do the work of 1,000 men.
Delegate responsibility AND authority.
Some leaders feel threatened.
Failure to delegate authority is unfair to the subordinate and unlikely to be satisfactory or effective.
Often indicates a lack of confidence.
The degree to which a leader is able to delegate his work is a measure of his success.
Failing to delegate, a leader is caught in secondary detail. It overburdens him and diverts hit attention from primary tasks.
Insisting on doing a job oneself is a result of simple conceit.
After delegating show utmost confidence in the people you have entrusted.
Responsibilities should be clearly defined in writing.
Jethro and Moses. Exodus 18:18
Moses laid the groundwork for effective leadership after his death.
If he had not done this it could have left chaos behind. No one trained to lead.
Moses was able to focus on the biggest problems.
Latent talents of many around him were discovered.
God takes all responsibility for enabling His servants to do their work.
Even if secondary tasks are not done perfectly, delegation is the better part of wisdom.
Moses was probably better at judging than any of the 70 associates he had appointed.
Qualifications listed by Jethro.
Men of ability.
Men of piety.
Men of honor.
It is a big mistake to assume more duties than we can discharge.
Recognize our limitations.
Listen to our Jethros.
If we break natural law, such as sleep, we cannot be exempt from repercussions.
If we give in to human persuasion and take on more than we should, God will accept no responsibility for the outcome.
The sense of being watched destroys confidence.
Chapter 19: Replacing Leaders
Joshua 1:2, 5.
The true test of a person’s leadership is the health of the organization when the leader is gone.
The loss of a great leader does take God by surprise.
God selects and prepares leaders for the kingdom. Mark 10:40
God’s resources are equal to the task at hand.
When the crisis comes, God places his appointee in the place ordained for him.
God’s greatest gifts are always people.
Only after his removal are the character and achievements of a leader fully revealed.
We must assume that Joshua was better equipped to conquer Canan than Moses.
Often when the weight of responsibility falls suddenly on his shoulders, a subordinate develops abilities and qualities he and others had not suspected he had.
God’s resources in any work He initiates are inexhaustible.
If a man who possesses great gifts will not place them at the disposal of God, He will take a man of lesser gifts that are fully available to Him and will supplement those gifts with His own mighty power.
Chapter 20: Reproducing Leaders
II Timothy 2:2
Leaders are responsible to train other leaders.
Paul trained by Barnabas.
Provide subordinates with opportunities to exercise and develop their powers.
Multiply yourself by developing other leaders.
Blunders are the inevitable price of training leaders.
The wise trainer will not advertise the end he has in view.
If we set out to produce a group of leaders, what we will succeed in doing is probably to produce a group of restless and discontented intellectuals.
To tell a man he is called to be a leader is the best way to ensure his spiritual ruin. Since in the Christian world, ambition is more deadly than any other sin.
Paul brought out the best in Timothy, saving him from a life of mediocrity.
The observant leader may discover latent talent in some quite unpromising people.
Most juniors are best to reserve their observations for me a more mature season. In the case of an exceptional junior two things must be observed:
- As a junior learn to make your observations in the right way so as to carry your seniors with you.
- The senior must be willing to learn from one who is younger.
Chapter 21: Perils of Leadership
I Corinthians 9:27
The perils are especially subtle.
Proverbs 16:5. The Lord detests pride.
Spiritual pride is the most grievous.
Three tests of pride:
- Test of Precedents.
- Test of Sincerity.
- Test of Criticism.
The practice of speaking and thinking of oneself.
A person who is suspicious of rivals.
Numbers 11:29 Moses was not jealous.
Woe unto you when all men speak well of you, said Jesus.
I Corinthians 3:7
Leaders must work to attach the people’s affection to Jesus.
Leads to spiritual pride.
Perfection eludes us all.
Some cling to authority long past when they should.
Elation and Depression
Jesus checked their elation.
Elijah’s discouragement was corrected after Mount Caramel.
The glory for achievement belongs to God alone.
Prophet or Leader
The dilemma of being a popular leader or an unpopular prophet.
I Corinthians 9:27
Paul was a herald and competitor.
Chapter 22: The Leader Nehemiah
His methods were effective only because of the quality of his character.
A man of prayer.
An ordinary part of living and working.
Prayer was his first reaction.
Courage in the face of danger. Nehemiah 6:11.
Genuine concern for the welfare of others. Nehemiah 2:10.
Expressed in fasting, prayer, and tears. Nehemiah 1:4-6.
Identified with people in their sorrows and sins.
A strain of caution.
Make clear decisions.
Uncommonly empathetic. 4:10-14, 5:1-13.
Realist. Understood mechanics of the real world.
Raised the morale of his colleagues.
Built up their faith by redirection focus away from the impossible towards the greatness of God.
Faith builds faith.
Pessimism dismantles faith.
Build the faith of others!
Encouraged others generously.
Promptly faced potential weaknesses in his plan.
People discouraged and tired.
Opponents making life miserable.
Garbage piling up and hampering progress.
People disillusioned by the greed of their own rich brothers. 5:1-15.
Led people to repentance through the reading of the Law.
Established Sabbath rest.
Organized projects and people.
Before making detailed plans he conducted a careful survey. 2:11-16
A detailed assessment of personnel available.
Did not neglect un-glamorous paperwork.
Established key objectives.
Assigned objectives to responsible leaders.
Gave adequate recognition to subordinate leaders.
Wise delegation of responsibility. 7:2
High standards for the subordinates he chose. (Hananiah for example)
Opened the leadership potential of others.
Ignored the adversary.
Always kept faith in God.
The test of spiritual leadership is the achievement of its objective. Nehemiah 6:15 the wall was completed.
My Action Steps After Reading
- Focus on being more selective of what books to read.
- Being more diligent in taking notes while reading.
- Developed a commonplace book in Evernote for my book notes.
- Paying greater attention to managing my time.
- Being more aware of opportunities to delegate.
- Saying no to unimportant tasks.
- Many improvements to my mental model of leadership.
Related Book Summaries
- Love Does by Bob Goff
- Everyone Communicates Few Connect by John Maxwell
- Everybody, Always by Bob Goff
- Purpose Driven Life Book Summary