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"He shall feed his flock like a shepherd; he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young" (Isa. 40:11).

One characteristic of godly leadership which many of us miss is gentleness. The reason I missed it for so long is that I was raised with the idea that a man has to be a tough guy. He cannot show any emotion. He cannot show any concern or compassion for people. He has to be a hard-liner. He can't mince words with people just because he cares about them. He has to make them tow the line! So as a man and a leader, discipline was the name of my game. And if someone missed it, I felt I had to get on their case hard so they would not miss it again. As you can see, I had some real changing to do when I began to learn more about godly leadership.

Gentleness is not an unmasculine trait; it is not a sign of weakness for a man or a woman. As a matter of fact, properly understood, real gentleness springs from confidence in your strength and in the ability of Jesus which resides in you by the power of His Holy Spirit. It is confidence which comes from walking in the knowledge that you need not feel threatened that somebody might usurp your power or your authority. On the other hand, shouting loud, abrasive directions is a sign of insecurity and perceived inferiority. Many leaders possess an unshakable firmness, but gentleness is a sign of strength that can come only from God. It is a characteristic of true godly leadership.

God Is a Gentleman
God will never override your will, even if it means seeing you go unsaved. You are a free moral agent, and you can go to hell if you choose to. But this would grieve Him. It tears God's heart apart when someone rejects Him. He would rather rejoice over the sinner who comes into the Kingdom. But He will not impose on your will in order to bring you into His Kingdom. Even though He gave Jesus for you, He will allow you to live a life totally opposed to the principles He has set forth in His Word. And He will ultimately allow you to go to hell if you make that choice. He respects your free will that much.

We see this same gentlemanly trait in the apostle Paul. Now, Paul carried a lot of clout with the churches where he ministered. But even so, he followed the biblical example - he would not coerce a brother into doing something he did not want to do. As touching our brother Apollos, I greatly desired him to come unto you with the brethren: but his will was not at all to come at this time; but he will come when he shall have convenient time (1 Cor. 16:12).

Strong leadership - godly leadership - does not override someone else's will.

Concerning Sin
Thus far, I have been describing situations in which sin is not involved. Paul dealt with sin in an entirely different fashion. He was not tolerant of sin or the devil. He was not tolerant of situations where someone's disobedience could affect other people. Neither is God. You can do anything you want as far as God is concerned as long as it does not affect others negatively. In other words, you can send yourself to hell, and God will not stop you. However, when your behavior begins to influence others to go along with you, He takes action.

For example, if you have a rebellious child, you cannot force him to quit smoking pot. You can wear out his rear end all you want; you can ground him for life; but you cannot force him to abstain if he has a mind to do it anyway. The same is true with any other form of disobedience. So what do you do? Well, if you have other children and one child's disobedience and rebellion is affecting the others negatively, you have to take strong steps to stop the one, even though it might be against his will.

Just know that God doesn't allow other people to be affected negatively either. A friend of mine actually had to put his 16-year-old out of their home because of the terrible effect his behavior was having on his younger brothers and sisters.

There must be a balance. Paul did not wink at sin. Neither does God, and neither should you.

But within the parameters of managing or leading others who are your responsibility, leadership by force is not the way to do it.

Imitating God's Style
What is God's style? How does He draw you to Himself when you are behaving badly? He does it by sending laborers to witness to you, to change you with the Word by bringing light and understanding into your life. And that is precisely what a godly leader will do; he will use the Word of God. In the case of my friend's son, it was a godly grandmother who changed the rebellious boy's behavior.

If you are a leader, whether it be a family or a large corporation, your leadership success will come only in obtaining the voluntary and willing support and service of those whom you lead. This was certainly the case with another of the Bible's successful leaders - Gideon.

Judges 8:22 tells us, "Then the men of Israel said unto Gideon, Rule thou over us, both thou and thy son, and thy son's son also; for thou hast delivered us from the hand of Midian."

Gideon was a just, godly man. His actions resulted in blessing and deliverance for the entire nation of Israel. They wanted him to rule over them. A characteristic of godly leadership will always be that those whom you lead will voluntarily submit to your leadership. Gideon's response to the people was, "I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you: the Lord shall rule over you" (Judg. 8:23).

And therein lies the most important key to understanding godly leadership: It is not the person standing up in front who is ultimately leading you. He or she is only a vessel chosen of God for the Lord's power to flow through, so God can impart direction to your life. God is the one who is ruling over you through that person. As Gideon said, "God is in charge, not I."

This is a truth every leader must recognize and embrace. It is not by the might or the strength or the power of your hand that you rule. You "rule" by your obedience to the Lord, the One who leads through you.

Qualified for Leadership
In 1 Timothy, Paul outlines the qualifications for godly leadership. If you have not yet been separated by God to a greater level of responsibility and authority in the body of Christ, you will want to check this list and see if you fall short in some area.

Remember, God will not promote you until you are qualified. This list will give you something to work toward, change or improve so that the Lord can move you higher.

In 1 Timothy 3, we discover the qualifications for being a bishop. Qualifications for leadership in general can be extracted from these same verses of Scripture: A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife (v. 2). Now, this does not mean (as some have claimed) that those who have been divorced cannot be leaders, nor does it mean a woman cannot qualify for a leadership position. The Word is telling us that in a universal sense, a leader - man or woman - if married, must be married to only one person.

This verse has been used to keep a lot of church people from serving God. They say, "Hey! You can't be an usher. You can't be a deacon. You can't be anything in the church because you've been divorced." That is not what Paul is saying. Polygamy was commonplace in his day and time, so Paul was simply saying, "If you are going to be a leader and you are married, your marriage must be right before God."

This, however, isn't the only qualification Paul mentions here.

A bishop then must be...vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; one that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride, he fall into the condemnation of the devil (1 Tim. 3:2-6).

There are a lot of interesting terms in this list. Let's examine each one of them.

  • The word vigilant means watchful. A leader cannot be lazy.
  • To be sober means to not be given to foolishness.
  • The phrase Of good behavior means one always acts becomingly.
  • Given to hospitality means one must be able to be with people for fellowship as well as for ministry.
  • Apt to teach simply means one is able to teach.
  • Not given to wine means one avoids the pitfalls of alcohol consumption.
  • No striker is an old English term that means one does not make hasty covenants for the purpose of gain.
  • Not greedy of filthy lucre means one is not unduly motivated by financial gain.
  • To be patient means to be steady in the face of adverse circumstance.
  • Not a brawler means not losing your temper or getting in fights.
  • Not covetous means not wishing you had what belongs to someone else.
  • One that ruleth well his own house. As I have already pointed out, you can't lead an organization if your own family is out of control.
The phrase "not a novice" means not a new believer. If a person was born again two months ago, God isn't going to make him a pastor next month. Nor will He put him in a position of authority in the body of Christ until he has had time to grow and mature in the Lord. And when he has grown up in the things of God, if he is prideful, God still will not put him in a position of authority.

First Timothy 3:7 continues, "Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without." The term "without" refers to those outside the body of Christ - the unsaved world. Someone who has a terrible reputation with "them that are without" may get gloriously born again, but that report must change before the person is elevated to a position of authority. It always saddens me when I see people who have just come out of a life of crime or depravity elevated to a position of importance in the local body, simply because of their marvelous testimony. God warns against that. He says their testimony must be proven and established over time, lest he fall into reproach, and the snare of the devil (v. 7).

Now let's examine the qualifications for being a deacon, so you can see the importance of having strong, personal development before entering a leadership role. "Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. For they that have used the office of a deacon well, purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus" (1 Tim. 3:12-13).

That "great boldness" gives you even more opportunity to influence people through your leadership. Paul is very specific in his teaching on the qualifications for leadership. Meditating on those qualifications will help you determine whether or not you are ready for promotion to greater responsibility or show you why you might not be getting promoted as you think you should.

Above all, we need to remember that godly leadership requires gentleness.

Author Biography

Mac Hammond
Web site: Mac Hammond
Mac Hammond is senior pastor of Living Word Christian Center, a large and growing church in Brooklyn Park (a suburb of Minneapolis), Minnesota. He is the host of the Winner’s Minute, which is seen locally in the Minneapolis area and can also be viewed at He is also the host of the Winner’s Way broadcast and author of several internationally distributed books. Mac is broadly acclaimed for his ability to apply the principles of the Bible to practical situations and the challenges of daily living.

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