A Biblical Framework for Leadership

A pastor decides to teach a course in his church on leadership. Immediately numerous questions rise up to confront him. Where does he go to get the ideas and concepts to include in the course? Does he rely totally on scripture for the course content? Does he draw on the volumes upon volumes of secular material on leadership?

Thankfully the Bible does not leave us without direction on these and related questions. Click here for an explanation of a biblical framework to be used in sorting out the insights on leadership taught by the Scriptures.

A Foundation for Understanding Biblical Passages on Leadership

A thorough analysis of both the Old and New Testaments reveals that all the passages in Scripture pertaining to leadership and the actions of leaders can be categorized under four headings:

  • ”Mental

    The Conceptual Understanding or Definition of Leadership is that of a servant shepherd

    Matthew 23:10-12 Servant
    Nor are you to be called ‘teacher,’ for you have one Teacher, the Christ. 11 The greatest among you will be your servant. 12 For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

    Mark 10:42-44 Servant
    Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 43 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.

    Luke 22:24-27 Servant
    24 Also a dispute arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest. 25 Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. 26 But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. 27 For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.

    Psalm 77:20 Shepherd
    You led your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.

    Psalm 78:70-72 Shepherd
    He also chose David His servant, And took him from the sheepfolds; 71 From the care of the ewes with suckling lambs He brought him, To shepherd Jacob His people, And Israel His inheritance. 72 So he shepherded them according to the integrity of his heart, and guided them with his skillful hands.

    Jeremiah 3:15 Shepherd
    … I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will lead you with knowledge and understanding.

    Jeremiah 10:21 Shepherd
    The shepherds are senseless and do not inquire of the LORD; so they do not prosper and all their flock is scattered.

    Acts 20:17, 28 Shepherd
    17 From Miletus, Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church. 28 Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.

    1 Peter 5:1-4 Shepherd
    1 To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ’s sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed: 2 Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; 3 not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. 4 And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.

  • ”Motive”

    The driving motive of the heart that forms our core or our moral spring

    Ezekiel 14:1-4
    1 Some of the elders of Israel came to me and sat down in front of me.
    2 Then the word of the LORD came to me: 3 “Son of man, these men have set up idols in their hearts and put wicked stumbling blocks before their faces. Should I let them inquire of me at all? 4 Therefore speak to them and tell them, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: When any Israelite sets up idols in his heart and puts a wicked stumbling block before his face and then goes to a prophet, I the LORD will answer him myself in keeping with his great idolatry.

    Jeremiah 17:9
    The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?

    Ecclesiastes 9:3
    This is the evil in everything that happens under the sun: The same destiny overtakes all. The hearts of men, moreover, are full of evil, there is madness in their hearts while they live, and afterward they join the dead.

    Mt 15:19
    “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders.

    Mk 7:21
    “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries,

    Lk 16:15
    And He said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God.

    Ro 8:27
    … and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

    1 Co 4:5
    Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God.

    2 Cor 4:6
    For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.

    1 Th 3:13
    … so that He may establish your hearts unblamable in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints.

    Heb 10:16
    … I will put My laws upon their heart, and upon their mind I will write them…

    Heb 10:22
    … let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.

    Mt 5:8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

    Lk 8:15
    “And the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance.

    Col. 3:12
    And so, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience;

    Col. 3:15
    And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.

    2 Th 3:5
    And may the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the steadfastness of Christ.

    1 Tim.1:5
    But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.

  • ”Manner”

    The way we relate to others, our interpersonal style

    John 15:15
    I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.

    Matthew 26:50
    Jesus replied, “Friend, do what you came for.” Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him.

    John 13:34 “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another…

    Rom. 12:10 … give preference to one another in honor…

    Rom. 12:16 Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind

    Rom. 14:13 …Don’t put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way.

    Rom. 14:19 So then let us pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.

    Rom 15:7 … accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us …

    Gal. 5:13 For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another

    Phil. 2:3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself…

    1 Thess. 5:13 Live in peace with one another.

    Eph. 4:32 And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.

  • ”Methods”

    The procedures or routines that we use to accomplish the various tasks of leadership

    Exodus 18:13-27 Method for judging the people
    13 And it came about the next day that Moses sat to judge the people, and the people stood about Moses from the morning until the evening.14 Now when Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he was doing for the people, he said, “What is this thing that you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge and all the people stand about you from morning until evening?”15 And Moses said to his father-in-law, “Because the people come to me to inquire of God.16 “When they have a dispute, it comes to me, and I judge between a man and his neighbor, and make known the statutes of God and His laws.”
    17 And Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “The thing that you are doing is not good.18 “You will surely wear out, both yourself and these people who are with you, for the task is too heavy for you; you cannot do it alone.19 “Now listen to me: I shall give you counsel, and God be with you. You be the people’s representative before God, and you bring the disputes to God,20 then teach them the statutes and the laws, and make known to them the way in which they are to walk, and the work they are to do.21 “Furthermore, you shall select out of all the people able men who fear God, men of truth, those who hate dishonest gain; and you shall place these over them, as leaders of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties and of tens.22 “And let them judge the people at all times; and let it be that every major dispute they will bring to you, but every minor dispute they themselves will judge. So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you.23 “If you do this thing and God so commands you, then you will be able to endure, and all these people also will go to their place in peace.”
    24 So Moses listened to his father-in-law, and did all that he had said.25 And Moses chose able men out of all Israel, and made them heads over the people, leaders of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties and of tens.26 And they judged the people at all times; the difficult dispute they would bring to Moses, but every minor dispute they themselves would judge.27 Then Moses bade his father-in-law farewell, and he went his way into his own land.

    Leviticus — The OT book of Leviticus reveals key methods for the worship leaders to follow as they conducted tabernacle sacrifices, purity rituals, festivals, offerings and other standards for daily living.

    II Samuel 6:1-23 Improper Method for moving the Ark of the Covenant
    1 NOW David again gathered all the chosen men of Israel, thirty thousand.2 And David arose and went with all the people who were with him to Baale-judah, to bring up from there the ark of God which is called by the Name, the very name of the LORD of hosts who is enthroned above the cherubim.3 And they placed the ark of God on a new cart that they might bring it from the house of Abinadab which was on the hill; and Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, were leading the new cart.4 So they brought it with the ark of God from the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill; and Ahio was walking ahead of the ark.5 Meanwhile, David and all the house of Israel were celebrating before the LORD with all kinds of instruments made of fir wood, and with lyres, harps, tambourines, castanets and cymbals.
    6 But when they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah reached out toward the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen nearly upset it.7 And the anger of the LORD burned against Uzzah, and God struck him down there for his irreverence; and he died there by the ark of God.8 And David became angry because of the LORD’S outburst against Uzzah, and that place is called Perez-uzzah to this day.9 So David was afraid of the LORD that day; and he said, “How can the ark of the LORD come to me?” 10 And David was unwilling to move the ark of the LORD into the city of David with him;

    1 Chronicles 15:1-15 Proper Method for moving the Ark of the Covenant
    1 NOW David built houses for himself in the city of David; and he prepared a place for the ark of God, and pitched a tent for it.2 Then David said, “No one is to carry the ark of God but the Levites; for the LORD chose them to carry the ark of God, and to minister to Him forever.” 3 And David assembled all Israel at Jerusalem, to bring up the ark of the LORD to its place, which he had prepared for it.4 And David gathered together the sons of Aaron, and the Levites: 5 of the sons of Kohath, Uriel the chief, and 120 of his relatives; 6 of the sons of Merari, Asaiah the chief, and 220 of his relatives;7 of the sons of Gershom, Joel the chief, and 130 of his relatives;8 of the sons of Elizaphan, Shemaiah the chief, and 200 of his relatives;9 of the sons of Hebron, Eliel the chief, and 80 of his relatives;10 of the sons of Uzziel, Amminadab the chief, and 112 of his relatives.11 Then David called for Zadok and Abiathar the priests, and for the Levites, for Uriel, Asaiah, Joel, Shemaiah, Eliel, and Amminadab,12 and said to them, “You are the heads of the fathers’ households of the Levites; consecrate yourselves both you and your relatives, that you may bring up the ark of the LORD God of Israel, to the place that I have prepared for it.13 “Because you did not carry it at the first, the LORD our God made an outburst on us, for we did not seek Him according to the ordinance.”14 So the priests and the Levites consecrated themselves to bring up the ark of the LORD God of Israel.15 And the sons of the Levites carried the ark of God on their shoulders, with the poles thereon as Moses had commanded according to the word of the LORD.

    Esther 3:7-15 Haman’s evil Methods for destroying the Jews
    7 In the first month, which is the month Nisan, in the twelfth year of King Ahasuerus, Pur, that is the lot, was cast before Haman from day to day and from month to month, until the twelfth month, that is the month Adar.8 Then Haman said to King Ahasuerus, “There is a certain people scattered and dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom; their laws are different from those of all other people, and they do not observe the king’s laws, so it is not in the king’s interest to let them remain.9 “If it is pleasing to the king, let it be decreed that they be destroyed, and I will pay ten thousand talents of silver into the hands of those who carry on the king’s business, to put into the king’s treasuries.”10 Then the king took his signet ring from his hand and gave it to Haman, the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, the enemy of the Jews.11 And the king said to Haman, “The silver is yours, and the people also, to do with them as you please.”12 Then the king’s scribes were summoned on the thirteenth day of the first month, and it was written just as Haman commanded to the king’s satraps, to the governors who were over each province, and to the princes of each people, each province according to its script, each people according to its language, being written in the name of King Ahasuerus and sealed with the king’s signet ring.13 And letters were sent by couriers to all the king’s provinces to destroy, to kill, and to annihilate all the Jews, both young and old, women and children, in one day, the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month Adar, and to seize their possessions as plunder.14 A copy of the edict to be issued as law in every province was published to all the peoples so that they should be ready for this day.15 The couriers went out impelled by the king’s command while the decree was issued in Susa the capital; and while the king and Haman sat down to drink, the city of Susa was in confusion.

    Psalm 78:72 David used wise and skillful Methods
    72 So he shepherded them according to the integrity of his heart, And guided them with his skillful hands.

    Matthew 18:15-20 Methods of Discipline and Reconciliation
    15 “And if your brother sins, go and reprove him in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother.16 “But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY FACT MAY BE CONFIRMED.17 “And if he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax-gatherer.18 “Truly I say to you, whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.19 “Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven.20 “For where two or three have gathered together in My name, there I am in their midst.”

    Matthew 28:19; Acts 2:41; 8:12,16 Baptism, a Method to signify faith
    19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, Acts 2:41 So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and there were added that day about three thousand souls. Acts 8:12 But when they believed Philip preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were being baptized, men and women alike. Acts 8:16 For He had not yet fallen upon any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.

    1 Corinthians 11:24 Method for Communion observance
    24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it, and said, “This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 25 In the same way He took the cup also, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes. 27 Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. 28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup.

    1 Timothy 2:1-15; I Cor. 14:26-40 Methods associated with worship
    1 FIRST of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men,2 for kings and all who are in authority, in order that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.3 This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior,4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.5 For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,6 who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony borne at the proper time.7 And for this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying) as a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth. 8 Therefore I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension. 9 Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments;10 but rather by means of good works, as befits women making a claim to godliness.11 Let a woman quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness.12 But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet.13 For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve.14 And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being quite deceived, fell into transgression.15 But women shall be preserved through the bearing of children if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint. our brother, I encouraged him greatly to come to you with the brethren; and it was not at all his desire to come now, but he will come when he has opportunity.
    1 Corinthians 14:26-40 26 What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.27 If anyone speaks in a tongue, it should be by two or at the most three, and each in turn, and let one interpret;28 but if there is no interpreter, let him keep silent in the church; and let him speak to himself and to God.29 And let two or three prophets speak, and let the others pass judgment.30 But if a revelation is made to another who is seated, let the first keep silent.31 For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all may be exhorted;32 and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets;33 for God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints. 34 Let the women keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but let them subject themselves, just as the Law also says.35 And if they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church.36 Was it from you that the word of God first went forth? Or has it come to you only?37 If anyone thinks he is a prophet or spiritual, let him recognize that the things which I write to you are the Lord’s commandment.38 But if anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized.39 Therefore, my brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak in tongues.40 But let all things be done properly and in an orderly manner.

    1 Timothy 3:1-13; Titus 1:5-9 Methods for identifying elder qualifications
    1 IT is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do.2 An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach,3 not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, uncontentious, free from the love of money.4 He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity5 (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?);6 and not a new convert, lest he become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil. 7 And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he may not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil. 8 Deacons likewise must be men of dignity, not double-tongued, or addicted to much wine or fond of sordid gain, 9 but holding to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. 10 And let these also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons if they are beyond reproach. 11 Women must likewise be dignified, not malicious gossips, but temperate, faithful in all things. 12 Let deacons be husbands of only one wife, and good managers of their children and their own households. 13 For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a high standing and great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.
    Titus 1:5 For this reason I left you in Crete, that you might set in order what remains, and appoint elders in every city as I directed you, 6 namely, if any man be above reproach, the husband of one wife, having children who believe, not accused of dissipation or rebellion. 7 For the overseer must be above reproach as God’s steward, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not addicted to wine, not pugnacious, not fond of sordid gain, 8 but hospitable, loving what is good, sensible, just, devout, self-controlled, 9 holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, that he may be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict.

    1 Timothy 5:17-22 Methods regarding the treatment of elders
    17 Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching. 18 For the Scripture says, “YOU SHALL NOT MUZZLE THE OX WHILE HE IS THRESHING,” and “The laborer is worthy of his wages.” 19 Do not receive an accusation against an elder except on the basis of two or three witnesses. 20 Those who continue in sin, rebuke in the presence of all, so that the rest also may be fearful of sinning. 21 I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of His chosen angels, to maintain these principles without bias, doing nothing in a spirit of partiality. 22 Do not lay hands upon anyone too hastily and thus share responsibility for the sins of others; keep yourself free from sin.

    Titus 2:1-10; II Tim 2:1-2; 4:1-5 Teaching and Preaching Methods
    1 BUT as for you, speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine. 2 Older men are to be temperate, dignified, sensible, sound in faith, in love, in perseverance. 3 Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips, nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, 4 that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, 5 to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be dishonored. 6 Likewise urge the young men to be sensible; 7 in all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified, 8 sound in speech which is beyond reproach, in order that the opponent may be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us. 9 Urge bondslaves to be subject to their own masters in everything, to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, 10 not pilfering, but showing all good faith that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect. II Timothy 2:1-2 1 YOU therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2 And the things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, these entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also. II Timothy 4:1-5 1 I SOLEMNLY charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires; 4 and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths. 5 But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

    Methods regarding the place and role of spiritual gifts
    Romans 12:6-8; I Cor 12:4-11; I Pet. 4:10, Eph. 4:7-16
    6 And since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let each exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith;7 if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching;8 or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.

    1 Corinthians 12:4-11
    4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit.5 And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord.6 And there are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons.7 But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.8 For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit;9 to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit,10 and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues.11 But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.

    1 Peter 4:10
    10 As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.

    Ephesians 4:7-16
    7 But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.8 Therefore it says, “WHEN HE ASCENDED ON HIGH, HE LED CAPTIVE A HOST OF CAPTIVES, AND HE GAVE GIFTS TO MEN.” 9 (Now this expression, “He ascended,” what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth?10 He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.)11 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers,12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ;13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fulness of Christ.14 As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming;15 but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him, who is the head, even Christ,16 from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by that which every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.