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Spiritual leadership in God’s Church is a sacred trust. The Church belongs to Jesus. We must never forget that when God calls men and women into spiritual leadership, He entrusts them with the care and oversight of His Church.  That means those who are blessed with overseeing His Church are flawed human beings. There isn’t a perfect one among us.  Because no one stands perfect and righteous before God or His people, those that lead in God’s church will make mistakes, sin, and fail as they live out their abiding life in Christ. Wherever sin is revealed, the remedy is humility, repentance, and reconciliation.

However there are those in positions of spiritual leadership that don’t belong there. They are wolves in sheep’s clothing inflicting damage within the Body of Christ. There are clear signs of good and bad leadership in the Bible. Let’s consider what Pastor Peter writes to hurting and hassled Christians:

1 Peter 5:1–4 (NKJV) The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed: Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.

In these few verses, we find 8 signs of a good and a bad spiritual leader.

1. A Bad Spiritual leader thinks he/she is the Chief Shepherd. (5:2)

Peter says that a good spiritual leader knows we only have one Chief Shepherd, Jesus Christ. A bad spiritual leader only sees himself in his own authority. It’s when the man or woman begins to think, wrapped up in their own pride and arrogance, that they are the “chief” leader that their leadership is harmful to others.  We don’t serve and oversee in our own authority, but under His delegated authority. The Church belongs to Jesus.

2. A Bad Spiritual leader forgets that he/she is a sheep too. (5:2)

Peter says a good spiritual leader knows they are a sheep too. We serve alongside and among the flock, not above.  A bad spiritual leader believes they are above everyone because of their role or position. Spiritual leadership doesn’t place you ‘over’ but really under and among.

3. A Bad Spiritual leader uses others instead of serving them. (5:2)

Peter reminds us that a good spiritual leader follows Jesus in laying down His life for the flock. He came to serve, not to be served. A bad spiritual leader forgets he/she is to serve the flock, and not be served. They begin to demand to be served as if they are no longer a servant. Leaders in the Church ought to be the greatest servants of all. Period.

4. A Bad Spiritual leader does everything grudgingly and unwillingly. (5:2)

Peter teaches us that serving Jesus as a good spiritual leader in His Church must come willingly without a grudge. A bad spiritual leader, while he/she may start out strong, begin to serve others with a chip on their shoulders, thinking they deserve something in return. They hurt the name of Jesus and His precious church when their attitude corrupts their oversight and ministry.

5. A Bad Spiritual leader rips people off in Jesus name! (5:2)

Peter tells us a good spiritual leader serves God for the highest motive, to please Him, not at all in anyway for dishonest gain. A bad spiritual leader uses his/her position to rip people off financially, spiritually, and even emotionally. These are some of the most rank sins of a leader in God’s Church. The ministry is not a place to fleece the flock but rather to feed, care, serve, and support them.  Too many men and women aspire to positions of leadership in the Church with the motive of what they can get from people, rather than what they can give in Jesus’ name!

6. A Bad Spiritual leader lords his/her authority and position over others., (5:3)

Peter teaches us that a good spiritual leader serves His Lord and the flock in great humility. A bad spiritual leader uses her/his position to boss people around the use them with ulterior motives. While there is authority entrusted to you, it’s not to be used to control others, lording over their lives as if you were God.

7. A Bad Spiritual leader forgets that the Church belongs to Jesus! (5:3)

Peter teaches us that a good spiritual leaders serves as a steward, a caretaker of the riches of God, realizing spiritual leadership is a “sacred trust”. A bad spiritual leader thinks he/she deserves to be a leader and goes forth in prideful arrogance.  A bad spiritual leader attempts to build a ministry rather than serve their Lord. They set out to make a name for themselves rather than make the name of Jesus famous.

8. A Bad Spiritual leader lives a life that is a bad example to others. (5:3)

Peter teaches us that a good spiritual leader lives an exemplary life that others can follow in their relationship with Jesus. A bad spiritual leader is a bad example and unworthy to be followed. Spiritual leaders are not perfect but they do live out their abiding life in Christ in unity and fellowship with Jesus which is evident to others. A bad spiritual leader doesn’t care about his/her personal walk with the Lord, but only that outward hypocritical ‘appearance’ of righteousness.

No one leads perfectly, but there are many pitfalls to avoid. You are under no obligation to submit to a bad spiritual leader. Pray for them and pray for yourself. The Lord will lead you to an undershepherd that will care for your soul.

For more on the topic of bad leadership: 10 Signs of A Bad Spiritual Leader


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