What’s the best leadership book you’ve ever read? There are so many great options, written by a multitude of great authors, from a variety of perspectives. But there’s one great book you’ve probably heard of that isn’t usually considered a leadership book. It’s called the Bible.
That’s right. The Bible is more than a source of healing and spiritual teaching. It’s not just a way to know yourself and God better. It’s also a valuable resource for leadership development. The Bible is the best leadership book that no one considers a leadership book.
Scripture is full of some of the best leaders in history. Moses lead his people out of slavery. David ushered a nation to military greatness. And Jesus was a pretty decent leader, too. There is so much we can learn from their collective wisdom and experience.
This is by no means a comprehensive list of verses of Biblical leadership. That list would be too long for a single blog post. Just Google ‘Bible leadership’ and you’ll find dozens of more examples. This is just a quick overview of some of the most important leadership lessons any church leader can learn from God’s word.
Each of the major biblical leaders went through some rough times. They endured persecution, slavery, invasion, poverty, and plagues. What separated them from everyone else was their faith. Despite their challenges, they honestly believed God would deliver on His promises and their hard work would pay off.
We can learn from their dedication. We will all face hardships in our leadership—it’s inevitable. To succeed as a leader, you must learn how to stay persistent and determined no matter what. When the going gets tough, the tough get going—that might as well be in the Bible, too, right?
The Bible teaches us to never give up. Because God never gives up on us. Regardless of the situation, we can keep going because God will carry us through.
- “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” —Galatians 6:9
- “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.” —James 1:12
- “What is impossible with man is possible with God.” —Luke 18:27
- “If you falter in a time of trouble, how small is your strength!” —Proverbs 24:10
It’s a misconception that leaders have to be arrogant. Too many examples of modern day leaders—from CEOs to politicians—build their leadership style completely around themselves and their pride. This doesn’t work in the long term, because we’re all people. And people are flawed.
All good leaders have a healthy dose of humility. That doesn’t mean you can’t be confident in your work. It just means you balance that confidence with modesty. Rely on God more than yourself. Place value on other people. Do good for everyone, more than just for yourself.
If you don’t humble yourself, God will be sure to humble you in due time, and on His terms. Do yourself a favor and form a realistic perspective on your self-worth.
- “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”—Mark 10:42–45
- “He must become greater; I must become less.”—John 3:30
- “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.” —Philippians 2:3
Lead By Example
Many of the biblical figures were not stereotypical leaders. Moses stuttered. David was a youngest son. Abraham was an old man. Jesus was a carpenter. None of them were the traditional leaders people expected. But they earned the people’s trust and respect by leading by example.
Leading by example is the first lesson any good manager learns. It’s a little cliché, but that’s only because it works. How can you expect those who follow you to do something you aren’t willing to do yourself? Practice what you preach. Walk the walk. Talk the talk. Embrace the cliché.
- “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” —1 Timothy 4:12
- “You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.” —John 13:13-17
- “In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness.” —Titus 2:7
Learn From the Example of Others
One of the reasons we read the Bible is to learn from the example of others. These biblical figures were wise enough to take a page from the books of those who came before them. David no doubt followed the lead of Moses and Abraham. Jesus was known for his knowledge of history. And Paul quoted from Scripture all the time.
These are not the only people we can learn from. There are so many other leaders around us that we can study and emulate. We’re all influenced by others—but we can choose who these people are and what we get from them.
None of us are the first to live this life or lead a church. Why not learn from those who have done it all before? Perhaps we can avoid some of the pitfalls and progress further with their help.
- “Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.” —Hebrews 13:7
- “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” —James 1:5
- “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account.” —Hebrews 13:17
- “For lack of guidance a nation falls, but victory is won through many advisers.” —Proverbs 11:14
Hold Yourself to a Higher Standard
We are all creations of God and are therefore all important. But God has expectations of those of us who pursue leadership, especially within the church. It’s not a role we should take lightly. Leadership comes with influence, but it also comes with significant responsibility.
As church leaders, we have to hold ourselves to a higher standard. Not because we’re any better than anyone else or more capable, but only because others are looking for us to set an example. We represent the Church and, as an extension of that, Jesus.
Most biblical leaders were different from their contemporaries. Part of this was because they did the right thing, rather than what was expected of them. We can do the same. If we expect to lead others, we first have to make sure we’re heading in the right direction.
- “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.” —James 3:1
- “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.” —1 Timothy 4:16
- “Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life.” —Proverbs 4:23
- “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” —Luke 12:48