Jesus’ leadership characteristics versus the leadership characteristics of Christian leaders today.  

Times magazine (Dec. 06, 1999), designated Jesus Christ as the “man of all millenniums.” I’m sure certain Christians we shocked too! Among the contestants (not that Jesus has any rivals) were Mohammed,  Mohandas Gandhi, Freud, Hitler, Ho Chi Minh, Lenin, Mao Tse-tung, etc… Time’s polls, attempted to judge the acts and works of leaders who acquired great power and changed the lives of millions. The polls also attempted to judge the acts in which “men render unto Caesar”, not expressions of faith.

Judging from a secular criterion, the humble Galilean, Jesus Christ of Nazareth, “won” their title, hands down! “It would require much exotic calculation, however, to deny that the single most powerful figure–not merely in these two millenniums but in all human history—has been Jesus of Nazareth,” said the editor Reynolds Price. What exactly is it about Jesus that makes Him the greatest leader of human history?

The Leadership Characteristics of Jesus 

Though not a complete list, Dr Bert Watson examines seven leadership characteristics that were evident in the life and ministry of Jesus (Watson, 2019). Though impossible for any of us too perfectly emulate the leadership style of Jesus, some of His traits are not only possible but essential for emerging Christian leaders (2019).

1) Consecration—Jesus never acted independently (John 5:19-20; 6:38). In the kingdom, leadership starts follow-ship. We follow God first and the authority that God sets over us (Hebrew 13:17-25). My experience as a pastor has shown me that very few children of God are willing the pay the price of consecrating their lives, desires, decisions motives to serve God.  The law of consecration shows us, To Lead, You Must Follow!

2) Connection—Jesus lead out of relationship (John 17:3-4, Mark 1:35-39, Luke 6: 12-13).

In the kingdom, relationships trump profit. One of the most striking attributes of Jesus’ leadership was that He never placed connection (with His Father) over crowds (Watson, Bert. 2019).  Even during the busy and fruitful periods of His ministry, Jesus still maintained a vibrant prayer life. It was during these moments of intimate fellowship that He received, fresh direction and wisdom for both life and ministry. Unfortunately, many leaders today forsake this intimacy for productivity or even worse busyness!  The evidence of usually manifests through fatigue, burnouts, depression and other kinds of moral sin, such as sexual perversion and divorce.  The law of connection shows us, To Lead, You Must Be Connected to God!

3) Character—Jesus demonstrated character through service (Matthew 18:1–5; Mark 9:33–37; Luke 9:46–54).

In the kingdom, the way up is down. The lowest ranking person in the Greco Roman world was a child. Yet Jesus said, whoever receives (welcome, consider) one child like this in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me does not receive Me, but Him who sent Me.” He was speaking this in the context of “greatness.” Unfortunately, in today’s church leadership,  we use the least (poor) only to window-dress our real hearts motives. This is evident in the fact that we “welcome” only those who can advance our agenda. The law of character shows us, To Lead, You Must Welcome the Least To Sit On Our Laps!

4) Compassionate—Jesus leads with compassion (Matthew 9:35–38, Mark 1: 40–42, John 8:3–11).

In the kingdom, leaders touch lepers, leaders don’t quarantine them. This is so because it is all about people and things. Love, care, compassion are traits synonymous to Jesus, more than any other leader in human history. In contrast to the judgemental, legalistic and militant styled of leadership that is so prevalent within the church, Jesus’ leadership was marked with great compassion.  The law of compassion shows us, To Lead, You Must Touch Hearts With Compassion.

5) CompetenceJesus was skilled (John 5:17–20, Proverbs 22:29, John 7:14–18). 

In the kingdom, leaders become competent by sharping their skills continuously.  Without training, we cannot become efficient. Jesus trained as He observed His Father (John 5:17-20). He never emulated himself, nor did he rely on his own wisdom or abilities. He was not only a competent communicator before the crowds but a skilled trainer within his inner circle. Modern-day church leaders can learn how to engage transformational leadership by conversing, modelling, equipping, delegating, and empowering. Our bible school curriculum and often our preaching caters mainly for equipping people for the five-fold ministry when a larger part of the church is called into other sectors of society. Thus, they remain ill-equipped to effectively lead in secular spheres like the Joseph’s or Esther’s of our times.  The law of competence shows us, To Lead, You Must Touch Hearts With Compassion.

6) Clarity of PurposeJesus had eagle vision (John 6:38, 17:4, Luke 19:10).

In the kingdom, leaders cannot lead by having a high definition visual of what and where? The elements of vision and clarity are indispensable! Jesus was clear about His Father’s directives, to the point of dying for it. Jesus came with an agenda that extended beyond redeeming man but redeeming the earth. It is not likely that one hears a leader empowering others not only for eternal life but how to live effectively as God’s stewards on earth. The law of clarity shows us, To Lead, You Must Have A Holistic Vision to Develop People.

7) CredibilityJesus had a magnetic pull (Matthew 4:18–22,  Luke 5:1–11).

 In the kingdom, leaders cannot full God’s agenda without credibility. There is no question that one does not need to be credible to have a crowd but to have the impact that Jesus had, it requires credibility! How can leaders build credibility? Based on Dr Watson’s analysis, church leadership must focus on relationship authenticity,  purity, consistency, inspiring hope,  loving people, teaching with authority, modelling kingdom culture, leaning on God’s power, pursuing excellence, empowering leaders, operating in truth and doing the impossible! The law of credibility shows us, To Lead, You Must Have Fruit.


Transformational Strategies and ministry focus of Jesus and Paul.

Unless one understands that leadership is not about breath but depth, not much distinction can be traced between authentic Christ-centred leadership and worldly styled leadership. The modern-day church is obsessed with reaching the masses, “the lost at any cost” is a phrase that I think needs urgent reevaluation. At what cost are we actually referring to? Sure, there is nothing wrong with larger auditoriums, TV and social media ministry with the aim of expanding a leader’s influence (Hyatt, 2010). But when the prevalent “hyper styled evangelistic” or “materialistic centred-gospel” leadership is measured back to the leadership canonicity of Jesus, Paul and Peter, is breath all there is to leadership? Is “success” all there is to leadership?

Michael Hyatt and Dr Bert Watson, outlines some transformative leadership fundamentals between Jesus and Paul that we can contrast to the leadership in the church.

Leadership starts with self.

Self-leadership precedes team leadership and public influence (Hyatt, 2010). Jesus displayed a vibrant personal prayer life with His Father. Him defeating temptation in the wilderness when no one was there watching is a sign of the quality of character.  Paul was head-bent around his calling. He managed His life and ministry accordingly. The Pauline writings are distinguished by Christology and Pneumatology. Revealing the depth of Paul’s fellowship with Christ and the Spirit through the Word. It was from this place, Paul led, and set the example for others to emulate.

Today, many leaders have little concept of self-leadership, that is rooted in a deep experiential relationship with Christ and the Spirit. They can’t even arrive on time for a meeting. Their “disciples” are more head-bent around them and their church branding than Jesus and His Kingdom.

Leadership is relationship.

Jesus and Paul both practised what I refer to as the 1, 3, 12, 60 principles. They occasionally spoke to the crowds (60) but their focus was on smaller groups, including individuals (12, 3, 1). Teaching and reaching many, discipline and training a few approaches (Watson, 2019) was an essential key to transformative leadership. The lasting impact that each of their disciples had, long after Jesus and Paul were no longer present, is evident in the effectiveness of this strategy.  Personally, this has strategy has given me great hope and determination to not only continue to. concentrate on smaller key leaders but to adopt the “4H” holistic method of development (Watson, 2019).


Why Peter’s Leadership touches me? 

I think am a lot like Peter and a lot not like him. I have no formal education, but like Peter, I’m blessed with natural leadership abilities.  The story that always struck me a Peter was when he walked on water.

Most of my life and ministry,  metaphorically, has been a series of walking on water, purely based on what I’ve heard Jesus say to me. Having been a first-generation Christian, from Roman Catholic, I can also identify with Peter, who was the first in his family to follow Christ from Judaism. Usually, the first generation pays the dearest price for laying the foundation for the next to follow.

Still, the love for the Lord, and His will,  word and people that I see in the life of Peter is the spiritual fuel that keeps my engine running.


Work Cited

  1. Price, Reynolds. 1999. “Jesus at 2000.” Time Magazines, Dec 1999,33009,992745,00.html

  2. Hyatt, Michael. 2010 (24 March). “The Leadership Strategy of Jesus.” Michael Hyatt.
  3. Watson, Bert. 2019. PRA1124 Biblical Leadership Study Guide (ver. 4.3). Johannesburg: South African Theological Seminary.

My wife in the kitchen coordinating her other priorities strikes me as leadership. President Volodymyr Zelensky driving his courageous historical stance against the nationalistic tyranny of Putinism (Washington Times, 2007) struck the globe as leadership!

Characteristics that strike as most important for ministry  

Doubtless, there are more interpretations and characteristics of leadership than there are shades of grey. Matt Barney’s definition, “Leadership is the behaviour that brings the future to the present, by envisioning the possible and persuading others to help you make it a reality” – now this strikes me! (Newman, 2007). As a pretext, may I include a concise observation as a precedent, to why Barney’s definition intrigues me?

In the modern church, sure enough, the rapid numerical growth has by far superseded her spiritual maturity. David Cousins (2008), stated that “many church leaders today do not focus on the equipping of all church members for service but focus on those who can help them in building their own ministry agendas.” Massive auditoriums, larger following snapping up everywhere… but how does this “growth” measure up against indexes of societal transformation? Here are a few social indexes by which the Church has limited the Great Commission in, the political and economic transformation indicators, the remedy for the polarization between denominations, the healing from the corrosion of the family structure, the reversal of the doctrinal illiteracy of the Church, the building of an apologetical defence against the infiltration of postmodernism within our ranks, the growth of spiritual immaturity and worldliness that exist in the church, etc. It is possible to have some of the largest churches in a city, yet still, have the least transformed city? I think an honest introspective analysis is required. The Covid-19 pandemic has revealed the Church’s strength and relevance. The President deemed the Church as a “nonessential,” shouldn’t all this beg the question: what is the church missing? We observe the lessons from the European Church. Large empty cathedrals, together with the practical non-existence of Christianity in Europe, strongly should suggest that the Gospel mission is not locked in building beautiful edifices. Exegetically, the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization (2010) highlights that the keys to effective evangelism and nation impact is not in numbers, but in “growing people” or developing Christ-centered leadership both within the clergy and laymen. I believe urgent dialogue is required, pointing out “growing people” means what exactly, “equipping the saints for the work of the ministry” means what exactly?

On a personal level, as a visionary leader of a local church, with a heart for apostolic transformation, Barney’s definition intrigues me the most. His definition highlights the leadership of the “tension” that exists between what the leader “sees” (future) and the reality of what is happening (present) and the tension to align the people and resources to God’s agenda, to accommodate the needed transformation, to facilitate greater kingdom impact.

What kind of leadership is evident in most churches and ministry today? 

The late American political-historian and leadership expert, James MacGregor Burns, outstandingly contrasted the theory of leadership across the ages, from ancient times to modern-day context. Burns stated on leadership, saying, “Leadership is one of the most observed and least understood phenomena on earth” (Barns 2012, 2). Burns, speaking from a secular perspective, mentioned that there is a reservoir of data and analysis and theories that have developed but there is no central leadership concept that has emerged (Barns 2012, 3). Willis Newman’s definition (2007) noted, “The uniqueness of Christian leadership is that the entire process happens within the will, plan, priorities and purpose of Almighty God as revealed in the Bible and is grounded and operates under the lordship of Jesus Christ.” In observing the biblical interpretation of the theory of leadership clearly, the Christian perspective is clear!

As one clarifies and defines Newman’s definition, as a consideration on how the church could align herself more to the biblical mandate, one could include the following observations;

First, biblical leaders do not seek to further their own purposes. Nor do they seek to move people toward the fulfilment of their own vision. By contrast, how of what we observe in the vision of the modern church, is the Great Commission and how much is just growing your “customer base”? How much of the strategy is to reach the world and produce organic growth through the power of the Spirit, compared to just merely recruiting Christians from other denominations in the name of revival or church growth?

Second, biblical leaders are submitted to the lordship of Jesus Christ and seek to glorify God in all that they do. By contrast, has the rise of the gusty modern Church culture, who seems totally fine with soaking up the spotlight and getting the lion’s share of the glory, while leaving Jesus as only a runner-up, miss the plot?

Third, biblical leaders embrace God-given goals as described in scripture and seek to be led and empowered by the Holy Spirit. By contrast, how much of the Acts 1:8-Holy Spirit-lead-ability has been replaced with entertainment and theatrics as a means to cure the unregenerate nature of man, as opposed to “preaching the word” and relying on the Spirit’s power to save, heal and set people free, both within the wall and without? Consider the scriptural mandate to feed both “my sheep and lamb”, to preach both “the meat and the milk of the Word” as a goal to confront and challenge, intending to mature God’s people. Yet, when the Word is watered down, often to prevent offence and accommodate church growth and appease an anti-Christian culture. Has the modern church moved away from its biblical goals?

Fourth, biblical leaders respect the wisdom of heavenly strategies and methods and also recognise the importance of context and culture. On the contrary, the respect for the Word and Spirit-empowered ministry has been lost, as mentioned in the previous point. How often does one hear the pulpit address cultural and racial nepotism within its ranks, including other external issues such as LGBT, abortion, political corruption, religious pluralism, etc…? Perhaps the church is culturally irrelevant? This is clear in the massive exodus of our young people from Christianity to atheism.


Biblical verses secular leaders

The difference between biblical and secular leadership is poles apart. One is driven by kingdom ambition, the other by selfish ambition. Yet, it seems that most people, Christians alike, don’t seem to understand the differences.

Bill Lawrence’s grid specifies six traits that distinguish spiritual and secular leadership.

One, Lawrence outlines the most fundamental trait of leadership MOTIVATION. Why do you want to be a leader? Lawrence’s point out a stumbling block for the Christian who adopts a secular motive for leading. Represented by terms such as self-promotion, striving for first place and so forth (Mark 10:35-45). The problem with this approach, there is already a Number One! Jesus Christ has already taken First place (Philippians 2:9). Today, many leaders define their prominence by how many followers they have under them. I often wonder how many of them would surrender their “busy schedules” to reach out and serve the least among them? Jesus often dislodged from the company of the great, such as Zaccheus, to serve Lazarus, who was the least, without great publicity.

Two, Lawrence states that spiritual leadership differs from secular leadership in PURPOSE! It is not merely sufficient to define a leader as “someone who knows where he’s going and can get others to follow him.” Even the Devil knows where he is going! Biblical leadership is distinguished in its purpose, and here’s why it requires the leader to know where the Lord is going and relentlessly works to get others to follow him as he follows the Lord (1987).

Howard G. Hendricks, helps us to understand that such a leader knows what to do because the Bible tells him so and can do it because the Holy Spirit enables him to do so (1982).

Three, Lawrence helps us to undertand another variant between spiritual and secular leadership, PERSPECTIVE. Or perspective on people. Titles and positions are not a privilege but sacrifice. At least Jesus concludes leadership as a sacrifice (Mark 9:35). In today’s Church, it is difficult to find a leader who is willing to make an investment in anything without it first advancing his agenda. I wonder what Mother Teresa would say about this?

Four, biblical leaders are PRACTITIONERS. They practice both the office and work of the ministry through servanthood. When I think of a worldly practitioner, such a doctor. Even though he serves the people, he does it at a fee. A biblical practitioner is not driven by any earthly incentive. He is a servant of the Lord. This means sacrificial service marks his leadership, under the same authority as the Lord Jesus Christ. The concept of servant leadership may gain more traction in the world, but it is first a biblical concept.

Five, biblical leaders are driven by SIGNIFICANCE. Although Newman uses the word success, I feel more comfortable with the word significance. Almost anyone can be successful, but not everyone attains significance. Success affects your life, but significantly affects the lives of others. Success is all about you. Significance is about others. You cannot live a life of significance without serving or helping others. Secular leadership is obsessed with success. Spiritual leaders are obsessed with serving others.

Six, biblical leaders are driven by two the R’s. Recognition of heaven and by rewards both natural and eternal. Secular leadership loves the honour of man and is content only with earthly rewards. Paul says we do it for a crown that perishes not!


Work Cited

  1. Bennett, David W., ed. 2004. “A Call to Develop Christ-like Leaders.” Lausanne Occasional Paper, no. 41. Lausanne Committee for World.
  2. Cousins D, 2008, Experiencing Leadershift, Colorado Springs USA, David C. Cook Publishers.
  3. Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization, 2010. “
  4. James Macgregor Burns, 2003. Transformational Leadership. USA: Library of Congress in Cataloging in. Publication Data.
  5. Howard G Hendricks, Private conversation with Howard G Hendrick.
  6. Washington times, 2007. “Putanism” The Washington times, 20 September 2007. (L