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It was certainly not my plan to write about spiritual leadership, but somehow I came across this topic on the internet and here you are. Having read some deliberations from T.A. Sparks on how God, not man (!), makes spiritual leaders, I thought I could arbitrarily excerpt some characteristics from his article and share them with you. Since God’s way is not man’s way, a spiritual leader is not necessarily a theologian who graduated from college and has been pastoring a church for many years. Most probably, you won’t find God’s man or woman tarrying with a crowd of clerics, all of them decorated with titles and honors. No, the man of God is not a prince in shining armor, just as his Lord Jesus Christ in His time on earth did not push himself to the fore. Quite the contrary. It was always the people that so often pressed around Him because they would be drawn by the Holy Spirit in Him. Let’s hear now what Sparks had to say as to what a spiritual leader who was called by God needs to go through and how he eventually sees God, himself, and his work for God.

  • When the Lord is making spiritual leaders, He very often cuts them off from others, does not allow others to come along and help them.
  • We must ever remember that one characteristic of a true spiritual leader is always a deep humility born of a deep sense of dependence. A leader is not one of those people who is very sure of himself; he is very often someone who is not at all sure of himself, but sure of the Lord.
  • It is necessary for a spiritual leader to have suffered in the same trials as those being led; to have known the same depths of misery, to have been in the same complicated circumstances, to have passed through those very problems, and to know what it is to emerge from a dark, dismal and wretched state. All that makes a leader, but that also represents the cost to begin with.
  • Before we ever come to spiritual understanding we shall have all our own understanding pulverized, ground to powder, so that we do not understand anything, and we know it. If we are asked to explain we can give no explanation. It is not in us to explain. All understanding has gone. God breaks down the natural to make way for the spiritual. That transition is through death, through the grave. Then presently we emerge, and we are seeing things now from God’s side, we are understanding with a faculty and capacity that we never before possessed. Somehow or other a resurrection work has been done; that is, something has been quickened which we never had before. […] There is all the difference between natural understanding and spiritual understanding, and the difference is between death and life, and a grave is between. Oh, those dark days, when we lost all natural understanding and there was no light. It is a terrible cost.
  • There was a time when some of us were most sure. Oh yes, we knew, no one could tell us. We were the most sure people. We could lay down the law to anybody as to what they ought to do. The Lord has taken in hand and has ground to powder, made pulp of all that assurance. We have lost all self-assurance. We have come to the place where we feel that we could question everything in ourselves, doubt everything about ourselves.
  • The time through which we pass is a time when we lose all. There are times when we feel that the bottom has fallen out of everything. What have we to rest upon? Faith. Where is our faith? If God is not merciful to us it is a poor lookout for us. If this whole thing depends upon our faith today, the Lord help us!
  • Yes, these are dark, strange experiences, things you may not say to the unconverted. They are not bound up with our salvation, our acceptance before God. It is another side, the side of our usefulness to the Lord, the measure of our spiritual value to the Lord for the sake of others. The cost of spiritual leadership and a faith of this true, pure kind is borne out of a grave. It grows like a new child; it is quiet, steady faith in God. You have been through the depths, and you have found the Lord faithful, and you have had to say, “It was not because of my wonderful faith in God, not because of my saying I am able to hold on, to persist! God was faithful to me when I had nothing of faith as far as I was concerned.” That comes back from the grave. It is the cost of leadership.
  • Look back over the history of all who have really been used of God in the lives of His people. Very rarely has their life borne fruit until they have gone. They have laboured, and other men have entered into their labours. It means that there is to be no present glory, nothing for self, no present reward. It is a Moses leading through the wilderness, up against the real hard, tough side of things, and then passing out without seeing the fruit. That is the price of leadership so often; selfless disinterestedness, being willing to labour, to give one’s life, to suffer, to come to a place of value for others and never see the full result of it.


Although this list of features is not exhaustive (if you want to read more, just follow the link above), we might have realized that the cost of spiritual leadership is losing one’s old natural life in order to gain a completely new spiritual life that no longer depends on us but fully on God. Do we want this?