There are many leadership development resources available for business managers, companies and organisations. Outstanding leaders in various fields are often invited by consultancy firms to present seminars, conduct training courses and give talks. Their success stories inspire many, fuelling an industry of books and other media.
Leadership experts today are placing emphasis on the importance of character, identity and values, and not just competence or results achieved. Can we therefore find overlaps in how the secular world views successful leaders with the qualities that we as a Church would desire from our spiritual leaders?
In Acts 6:1–7 the 12 apostles chose seven men to help manage the food programme. These men were well respected and were full of the Holy Spirit, wisdom and faith. They were in fact deacons, i.e. ordained ministers, as mentioned in 1 Timothy 3:8–13.
Paul presents clearly, in his epistle to Titus, the qualities of a spiritual leader: he must live a blameless life; he must be faithful to his wife; and his children must be believers who don’t have a reputation for being wild or rebellious.
He must not be smug or quick tempered; a heavy drinker, violent, or dishonest with money. He must be hospitable, and he must love what is good. An ideal spiritual leader is just and lives a life suffused with wisdom. He is devout and disciplined, and has a strong belief in the trustworthy message he was taught.
The world can accept an arrogant person as a leader and look beyond his character flaws-and sometimes even his scandalous private life-so long as the individual in the leadership role is able to produce sterling results and bring in profits for the organisation. But the same cannot be said for the Church.
Then there are the extremely powerful and wealthy who use various means to get elected as leaders despite their lack of competence. This, too, the Church cannot allow.
Spiritual leaders in churches must not only have skills and capability. More importantly, they need to be believers who are exemplary in their character and values, are engendered by an inner maturity, and possess a devotion to and reverence for God. They need to be role models.
Such leaders will not violate the law or engage in improper activities. In 1 Samuel 16:7, the Lord reminds Samuel, that in his selection of a leader, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” Godly leaders will have not only leadership capability and wisdom but also divine discernment, and they have spiritual resources to rely on. They are able to hear the word of the Lord: “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit” (Zech 4:6).
Spiritual leaders are not born-they have to be nurtured. Experiential knowledge takes time, which is an essential requirement in tempering and moulding a spiritual leader who is after God’s heart. It is like the clay that has to be formed and kneaded continuously by the hands of the potter until it becomes a masterpiece. (Isa 64:8; Jer 8:4)
Bishop Dr Chong Chin Chung was elected Bishop of The Methodist Church in Singapore in 2016. He served as President of the Chinese Annual Conference for two quadrennial from 2008 to 2016.
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