Leadership, Apostle, Teaching, Counseling, Shepherding

In this article about Spiritual Gifts, we focus on gifts of leadership, which predominate in the Commitment Dimension (red). To say that those with an Evangelical faith background (because they tend to concentrate on Jesus in the Trinity) are the only ones who possess leadership gifts would be an error.  However, Jesus is the primary biblical example of a great and committed leader for all Christians, regardless of their personal “color” compass.

Before describing spiritual leadership gifts, it will be helpful to expand on the qualities of leadership.  The worldview of a great leader is often more about the highly visible aspects, or “trappings,” of leadership, such as wealth, fame, size of organization, speaking skills, or personal charm, than it is about less apparent qualities, such as vision, experimentation, capacity, strategy, training, or progression.  The former (fame, etc.) is at best a list of secondary virtues, while the latter (vision, etc.) is actually the primary list of virtues for leadership (these can be quantifiably measured, but that story is not the purpose here).

Most critically, the foundation of effective leadership is in the character of the leader.  The world has no shortage of examples on the failure of character in its leaders, often from among those who displayed extravagant accomplishments from the list of secondary virtues.  Many failed leaders (and perhaps those who live in fear of failure) have been trained on/rewarded by their focus on development of the external appearances of leadership, rather than on their qualities of being one.  For all Christians, there are two primary ingredients of character development, which come from an authentic, personal effort: connecting with God and building trusting relationships with others (Jesus is the model for us).  While good character is the major and exclusive criterion for leadership, it alone will not make an effective leader.  Though foundational, character must be augmented by gifts and training to result in effective leadership.

Serving God to our fullest potential requires us to train the gifts given us by the Spirit.  Because of your sincere faith, wrote Paul to Timothy, “fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you . . for the Spirit . . gives us power, love and self-discipline.” (2 Tim. 1:6-7)

The gift of Leadership is present in one whose trademark is that others follow her/him of their own free will, and who doesn’t need to stress their “authority” or their appointment to the leader role.  Scripture basis is 1 Timothy 3:1-7; and also Ex.18:13-27, Rom.12:8, 1Thes.5:12-13, 1Tim.5:17-22.  Church leaders (pastors, elders, worship and committee leads) will want to study biblical statements for spiritual leading and figures such as Abraham, Joshua, Moses, David, Elijah, Elisha, Samuel and Paul.  Among Christians with this gift, about 68% also have the gift of organization, a wisdom gift noted in an earlier article in this series.  Empowering leaders will want to develop new leaders as their fruit.  A danger for leaders is spiritual isolation; they need mentoring and accountability checks.  Some leaders may find it hard to remain humble (see 1 Peter 5:5-6), and earthly temptations can accompany the secondary virtues previously mentioned for leaders.

Many of the same scriptural standards and concerns for Leaders also apply for the spiritual gift of Apostle, with the additional distinguishing perspective of a far-sighted vision, as might be needed for church planting or consulting, or denominational or foreign mission responsibility.  Yet they are not the same (Apostleship is a New Testament role), and the two may be mutually exclusive for any individual’s gift set.  Scriptural basis is 1 Corinthians 12:28-29; and also Matt.10:2-15, John13:12-17, Acts8:14-25, Acts14:14-15, Rom.16:7, 2Cor.12:12, Gal.1:1, Eph.4:11.  Christians with this gift need to be flexible about their residence and responsibility preferences while being led by the Spirit to the need.

Church School Class

Teaching a Church School class is a wonderful way to use the Gift of Teaching.

The gift of Teaching is characterized by others actually learning from them.  Knowledge alone (a wisdom gift) is not sufficient for teachers, who must be additionally concerned with the questions and concerns of their students.  While teachers must be able to impart knowledge in interesting and stimulating ways, they also must remain life-long learners to remain of practical value in the use of their gift.  The great responsibility for this gift is set in its primary scriptural basis, James 3:1 (teachers judged more strictly, and must practice what they teach).  Also see Acts18:24-28, Rom.12:6-7, 1Cor.12:28-29, Eph.4:11-14.

Counseling is a gift of the ministry of short-term relationships with people for admonition and encouragement (in the Greek, parakaleo) about personal or spiritual questions or troubles.  About 41% of Christians with this gift also have the gift of Hospitality (a wisdom gift).  Scripture basis is 1 Thessalonians 5:14; and also John4:1-42, Acts14:21-22, Rom.12:6-8, 2Cor.1:3-7, 1Thes.2:11, 1Tim.5:1, and the Psalms for mood and applications.

In contrast with Counseling, the gift of Shepherding is a long-term commitment to a group of fellow Christians, and 43% with this gift also have the gift of Teaching.  It is not a given assumption that Pastors have this gift, but it is widespread, appearing in 12% of all gift mixes among all Christians.  Scripture basis is John 10:1-15; and also Acts20:28-31, Eph.4:11, 1Thes.5:12-13, 1Tim.4:11-16, Heb.13:7,17, 20-21, 1Pet.5:1-5.  Leaders of small groups, children’s, and youth ministries and pastors of small churches are more likely to have this leadership gift because they want to maintain close relationships, as did Christ.

Another group of commitment gifts will be featured in the next article.  If you think/know you have a spiritual gift summarized in these articles, save it for reference, or better yet,  discover more about your gift by signing-up for a small group study (at Connection Point).

Originally publish in The CHIMES as, “SPIRITUAL GIFTS – WHAT ARE THEY (Part 5)?