Kingdom Leadership

Written on: April 1, 2024

Article by: Immanuel Velasco

Kingdom Leadership vs Worldly Leadership

The character of leadership depends largely upon the authority from which it arises and the goals which it pursues. Therefore, leadership in the Kingdom of God is not the same as leadership in human affairs. And as we come to understand the differences between them, we conclude that the two cannot coexist in God’s church.

How is leadership in the church different from leadership in the world?

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Leadership in the church, or God’s spiritual Kingdom, must be different from leadership in the world, or any other human institution. This is because the church has a different nature, purpose, and mission. The church is not a human organization, but a divine organism. The church is not a social club, but a spiritual family. The church is not a business, but a ministry. The church is not a building, but a body. The church is not a human invention, but a divine creation.

Therefore, leadership in the church must reflect these differences, and must not conform to the patterns of the world. Leadership in the church must be based on the word of God and not upon the wisdom and examples of men. Leadership in the church must be guided by the Holy Spirit through scripture, focused on the glory of God, and driven by the love of Christ.

An Example from the Nation of Israel

1 Samuel 8 tells the story of how the Israelites demanded a king from God, despite Samuel’s warning. Samuel prayed to God, who instructed him to grant their request. But God’s approval came with a warning. A human king them would cost them dearly. That which had been free, would be free no more.

Samuel relayed God’s message to the people. He describing how a king would oppress them and take their sons, daughters, lands, and crops. But the people persisted in their demand, and God instructed Samuel to appoint a king over them. You can read through following Israelite History under human Kings (e.g. Kings and Chronicles) to see how God’s warning came true. Many caused physical and spiritual suffering. And even those who heeded God’s word were a financial drain on the country.

What are Some Principles of Kingdom Leadership?

Kingdom Leadership is based on the principles and values of God’s Kingdom, as revealed in the Bible and exemplified by Jesus Christ. Kingdom Leadership is not the same as leadership in an earthly kingdom, a corporation, or any other human institution. Kingdom Leadership differs from Worldly Leadership in several aspects, such as:

  • The source of authority: Kingdom Leaders recognize that Christ is the ultimate authority and the head of the church (Ephesians 1:22-23). They submit to His will and follow His commands, not their own preferences or agendas. They also acknowledge that they are accountable to God for their actions and decisions, and that they will be judged with greater strictness (James 3:1).
  • The model of leadership: Kingdom Leaders follow the example of Jesus, who did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). They do not seek to dominate or control others, but to serve them with humility and love. They do not use their position or influence for personal gain or glory, but for the benefit and edification of others. They are not motivated by fear or pride, but by faith and gratitude.
  • The goal of leadership: Kingdom Leaders aim to advance God’s Kingdom and His will on earth, as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10). They do not pursue worldly success or recognition, but seek to please God and honor Him. They do not measure their impact by numbers or results, but by faithfulness and obedience. They do not store up treasures on earth, but invest in eternal things (Matthew 6:19-21).

What are Some Principles of Worldly Leadership?

Worldly Leadership on the other hand is based on the principles and values of the world. While there’s a place for this type of leadership, we must recognize the differences and the appropriate application of each.

Worldly Leadership is found in earthly kingdoms, corporations, and other human institutions that typically do not overlap with God’s Kingdom. Worldly Leadership differs from Kingdom Leadership in several aspects, such as:

  • The source of authority: Worldly Leaders rely on their own wisdom and power, or on the authority of other human beings. They do not necessarily submit to God or His word and don’t account for eternal consequences of their actions and decisions. In the worst cases, they may deny or escape earthly accountability.
  • The model of leadership: Worldly Leaders pursue specific agenda without interest or consideration of it’s impact upon God’s kingdom. They choose whatever model best achieves their goals and do so at best within the letter of the law and the spirit of the age. They do whatever it takes to improve performance, to win at sports, to retain talent, to make money, and gain any advantage deemed necessary.
  • The goal of leadership: When we think of the scenarios where Worldly Leadership comes into play, we recognize that the goals are often not aligned with those of God’s Kingdom. This type of leader might pursue worldly success and recognition, and seek to exalt himself as an end in itself. They may measure their impact by numbers or results, and by the praise of men. They store up treasures on earth, but neglect eternal things (Luke 12:16-21). Many (not all) of the schemes on social media appeal to our desire to create our own ‘mini-kingdom’ so that we can do whatever we wish. The Kingdom of God and eternal impacts are nowhere in sight.

What are some applications for leadership in the church?

Based on the principles and values of Kingdom Leadership, here are some applications for leadership in the church:

  • We all have roles that we must and should not shy away from what we can and should do (Ephesians 4:11-16; 1 Corinthians 12:12-27). God has given each of us different gifts and abilities, and He expects us to use them for the common good and the building up of the church. We should not neglect or despise our roles, but embrace them with joy and gratitude. We should also not compare or compete with others, but cooperate and complement each other. We should not be influenced by worldly standards of status or success, but by God’s standards of service and stewardship.
  • Elders, deacons, ministers, and other leaders in the church should continue to serve with humility and respect (1 Peter 5:1-5; 1 Timothy 3:1-13; Titus 1:5-9). Those who are entrusted with leadership positions in the church should not abuse or misuse their authority but exercise it with care and compassion. They should not lord it over those under their charge, but lead by example and persuasion. They should not seek to enrich or exalt themselves, but to sacrifice and humble themselves. They should not be arrogant or domineering, but gentle and humble.
  • As the church today, we need to maintain Christ’s Lordship, and not allow worldly ideas of leadership to seep into God’s Kingdom (Colossians 1:15-20). Christ is the head of the church, and He alone has the right to rule and reign over it. His model and goal is different from the World, so we need to be mindful of allowing alternate ideas of leadership to influence God’s Kingdom. We should not always seek, adopt or adapt to the trends, but should be dependent on our Lord and remain holy.
  • We should remind ourselves of the beauty of the Kingdom, and that submission to Christ is the path to reconciliation well worth the cost (Matthew 13:44-46) God’s Kingdom is the most precious and valuable treasure that we can ever find and possess. It is worth giving up everything else – for it.

Kingdom leadership begs us to pursue Christ as King and Head of the Body, and for us, as part of his body, to seek to understand, and embrace our role. In everything, Kingdom leadership comes from the hope that all may know, be reconciled to, and honour the eternal truths the He has revealed. Through God’s grace, demonstrated through Jesus sacrifice, God’s Kingdom can show the world how to live, to lead, and be led, differently.

Stouffville, ON