Characteristics of Effective Spiritual Leaders

A few weeks ago, we visited our sending church in Pennsylvania, where I was asked to share a greeting. Since our last visit, I have begun to serve with the Global Research Team of One Challenge. Our mission is to assist spiritual leaders to gather and analyze information to develop ministry strategies.  I’ve yet to see that merely mentioning this simple statement stirs much excitement in people. That’s why I like to refer to use an illustration from the Old Testament, found in 1 Chronicles 12, to explain what we do.

I Chronicles 12 provides an account of how David became king of all Israel roughly one thousand years before Christ.  After the death of King Saul, Israel’s first king, David was anointed as king of the tribe of Judah, just one of the 12 tribes of Israel (2 Samuel 2:1-7). On the other hand, Abner, the commander of Saul’s army, took Saul’s son Ish-bosheth and made him king over the other eleven tribes of Israel.

These were unstable times. Civil war broke out between the David’s followers and those of Ish-bosheth.  After a few years, Abner switched sides, who made Ish-bosheth king, switched sides and supported David, to make him king of all Israel (2 Samuel 3:9-10). Then Abner, the commander of the northern army, was assassinated (2 Samuel 3:26).  Ish-bosheth was also assassinated while resting in his house (2 Samuel 4:1ff). Thus there was no one left in Saul’s household who could rule as king. In all, this time of transition lasted seven and a half years. (2 Samuel 2:11).

This is the background of what transpires in 1 Chronicles 12:23-40, where representatives of all the tribes come to David at Hebron, “to turn Saul’s kingdom over to him, according to the word of the Lord” (NASB).  The following verses  list of the number of leaders from each tribe to came to make David king and follow a similar pattern – until we come to verse 32, which says:  “of Issachar, men who understood the times and knew what Israel should do—200 chiefs, with all their relatives under their command” (NIV). Here the Chronicler highlights two distinctive characteristics of the leaders from Issachar: first they understood the times; second they knew what Israel should do.

I find this description of the leaders of Issachar very useful in explaining what we in the Global Research Team do.

First, we assist the Body of Christ to understand the times. This often involves gathering and analyzing data about the church, or as we refer to it, the Harvest Force, and also the church’s context or the Harvest Field, which may be an entire country, a community or a particular people group or the whole world.  This might involve library research, taking surveys, performing  interviews or hosting focus groups. We present our analysis through maps, info-graphics, reports, books and short videos or presentations.

Second, we help Christian leaders to understand what God’s people should do. This involves developing effective ministry strategies based on understanding times and what God wants to do in that particular context.

As we work through this process, we often find that one of the first things that God’s people should do is pray (1 Timothy 2:1-8). For example, one leader we assisted this year sought to mobilize a million people to pray for the country of Turkey during Ramadan this year based on his “understanding of the times”.

Our goal in the Global Research Team is to help spiritual leaders become like the leaders of Issachar, to understand the times and to know what God’s people should do.

As I have been reflecting on this passage, a number of other insights for spiritual leaders have become apparent, which I intend to feature in an upcoming blog. If what I’ve written here raises your pulse, you may wish to subscribe to not miss the deeper insights for spiritual leaders.


3 thoughts on “Characteristics of Effective Spiritual Leaders

  1. Dear Russ,

    This blog is great. I think we will harvest it for an upcoming prayer letter (humbly, with your permission 🙂 ). Thanks for articulating these principles so succinctly!

    Love, Stephanie

  2. Pingback: The Process of Missiological Thinking is as Easy as One, Two, Three | Disciple All Nations

  3. Pingback: Pursuing God’s Agenda | Christianity 201

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