The First Duty of Leadership
Eli was the high priest of Israel and had two sons who served with him, Hophni and Phineas. But they were wicked. They disregarded the needs of the people, were selfish, and disrespectful to the Lord. Because of their sin, God told Eli that his sons would die on the same day and the mantle of priesthood would be removed from his family. It was a devastating word to Eli. But it followed with a prophetic promise to us.
“Then I will raise up a faithful priest for Myself. He will do whatever is in My heart and mind. I will establish a lasting dynasty for him, and he will walk before My anointed one for all time.” 1 Samuel 2:35
In my book, Habits for our Holiness, I wrote that leadership is a spiritual discipline. I see the spiritual disciplines as missional and practical. Therefore, why we lead and how we lead must be brought under the sanctifying work that God is doing in us. The following is a brief passage from my chapter on spiritual leadership. It gives some of my thoughts on God’s word to Eli and to us about what true leadership looks like for God’s people.
The first duty of leadership is to serve God and His mission. By first turning our hearts toward God, then priorities will be set in their proper order. It does not mean that we will exclude others from the process. But walking before God’s “anointed one” (in 1 Samuel, a foreshadowing of the Messiah) is the primary task. This idea does set leadership in an upside-down manner for us. We think of leadership as guiding humans. But in His declaration to Eli, the Lord says that the leader He raises up will be “for Myself.”
That seems odd to us because God does not need someone to lead Him. It is why we need a clearer understanding of leadership. Our work is not simply to steer people like spiritual traffic cops. We serve God, and by our example of word and deed, God gives direction to people. The deeper your love for God, the more effective your leadership for others. Our worship, ministry, and life of holiness for God will be translated into leadership for others.
– from the chapter “Traveling Together: The Practice of Spiritual Leadership” in Habits for Our Holiness