The responsibility of spiritual leadership requires more from a leader than from someone who does not have the added responsibility of leadership. For a leader to be truly successful there are three areas in which success is necessary.

1. First, we need to lead ourselves into maintaining a consistent personal relationship with Jesus Christ. We mortal humans are limited, as the Bible declares:

We do not know how to go out or come in (I Kings 3:7).

The blind lead the blind Matthew 15:14).

Man can be double-minded (James 1:8).

We should not trust in ourselves (Proverbs 3:5).

These verses demonstrate that we need help because we are not self-sufficient. Since we are not, if we do not lead ourselves to nurture a consistent personal relationship with God, how can we lead
others? We must maintain a personal relationship with God for ourselves and for our own needs.

Acts 2:40 implies personal responsibility when it says, “Save yourselves from this untoward generation.” Can this not mean that we have a personal responsibility to cultivate and maintain an intimate relationship with the One who saved us? This relationship will help ensure that we not become spiritually insensitive or cold and that we do not stray off the straight and narrow way.

The born-again experience of Acts 2:38 is not the end but a beginning; the Christian life is not just coasting downhill to the finish line. We must endure to the end. When we receive the Holy Ghost, we are not instantly made perfect, but we should continually improve upon our imperfections as we travel through the Christian life.

We are responsible for having a desire for Jesus to mold and shape us. This is not God’s responsibility or others’. Others can help and God can do the work if He is given the opportunity, but it is our responsibility to ask, seek and knock. A continuous personal relationship with God will not automatically develop by default. It requires a conscious effort on our part.

We should try to avoid becoming so occupied in the work of the Lord and so busy doing things that we have insufficient time to seek God and to give Him time to work in us. We need carefully to nurture a personal relationship with Jesus Christ–it is essential for successful spiritual leadership. He is our strength and our rock, and we should be successful in leading ourselves to a consistent personal relationship with Him.

2. Next, we must lead our a” family. To be successful in this second area, it is necessary to be successful in the first. If we are not successful in leading ourselves, we probably will not be very effective in leading our families.

God has some clearly stated responsibilities for men and their families:

The home should be in order (I Timothy 3:4).

A husband should treat his wife properly so his prayers will not be hindered (I Peter 3:7).

Fathers should have a good relationship with their children (Colossians 3:21).

One who does not provide these things as well as others for his family is worse than an infidel (I Timothy 5:8).

Why worse? Perhaps because an infidel with a carnal mind cannot understand the things of God and is ignorant about family responsibilities. But a Christian should know better; if he knows but
still does not do right, he is worse than an infidel who knows no better.

Before there were children in the family, there was the wife, and she should always occupy a place of priority in the husband’s life. If the husband-wife relationship is not what it should be, the parents’ relationship with the children will suffer. For some leaders, this area of husband-wife relationship is more difficult than for others because of more extreme or dramatic personality conflicts, differences in levels of spiritual maturity, differences in burden (or lack of a burden), different priorities, etc.

Time dedicated just to the wife and genuine, sincere conversation with her can help tremendously. If this is not made a priority, it will most likely get pushed aside, because other things will always be more important or urgent. A wife will notice and can feel neglected, even unloved, if her husband always has time for everything else but her. To be what our families need for us to be and to lead them successfully usually does not just happen automatically. We will have to work at it and make time for it.

Leaders who are also fathers must not forget that role either. Children need and deserve time and attention from their own fathers, just like a wife needs and deserves time and attention from her
husband. In fact, the wife needs some time with her husband without the children, and children can benefit by being alone with the* father. People always appreciate someone who dedicates some time and attention just to them individually.

When leaders are with their families they need to he in the role of husband and father and not concentrate on the role of spiritual leader or pastor. We never, of course, should forget to be a good
example and consistent in Christian behavior and ethics. But there are times when children need the pastor just to be their daddy and the wife needs the spiritual leader just to be her husband. Children as well as a wife can become very hurt and resentful of their daddy or husband who always has time to be a pastor and do all the things ministry and leadership require, but never has sufficient time to be with them.

What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own family?

3. Third, we must lead those in our responsibility. Just as success in leading ourselves is a requirement for success in leading our family, success in the first two areas is necessary to be truly
successful in the third. How can God fully bless leadership if the leader fails in biblical admonitions about himself and his own family?

The responsibility of leading others is an added responsibility beyond the first two areas. It does not replace the first two but becomes another area of responsibility for the person in leadership.

Success in the first two areas will certainly bring direct benefits to ourselves and our families. Successful experience in these areas also will help prepare the leader to assist others in the same
areas. If someone has never traveled the road to a particular destination, how can he help someone else reach that destination?

God expects pastors and leaders to:

Preach and teach (II Timothy 4:2; Matthew 28:19).

Exhort with patience and correct doctrine (II Timothy 4:2).

Watch for the souls of those in their responsibility (Hebrews 13:17).

Oversee the flock and feed the church (Acts 20:28).

The idea of all this is to meet needs. Levels of leadership are different, and responsibility can be varied: a pastor of a church who fulfills different roles, a missionary in charge of part of a country
or the entire country, a district superintendent or presbyter with responsibility for administration and guiding pastors, an assistant pastor with limited responsibility, etc. However, in all levels of
leadership, there are people for whom the leader is responsible and for whom the leader should provide.

Although we may feel inadequate in leadership, this feeling is not uncommon, because other leaders have felt the same way. Moses considered himself unqualified, Peter changed some incorrect personal concepts while he grew as a leader, and Paul relied on Jesus for help: “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13).

If these outstanding leaders relied on God for help, then we can too! It is possible to fulfill our responsibility to ourselves and our families. If we do, then with confidence we can believe that God will help us in the third area. In spiritual leadership, it is necessary and possible to be successful in all three areas.

Brother Lassetter is field superintendent in Ecuador and coordinator of Leadership Development International for South America.