Bible Question:

Is there a difference between a church leader and a spiritual leader in the church?

Bible Answer:

A man or a woman can be a leader in a church and not be spiritual. Many would accept the statement that “a man or a woman can be spiritual and not be a leader.” The opposite is also true, “one can be a church leader who is not spiritual.” That is not God’s plan or desire for church leaders, but that is what can happen.

Spiritual Leadership

Spiritual leadership does not happen just because one is asked to be a church leader. A man or woman can teach the Word of Truth and yet be in sin. That is true of false teachers, for example. We find ourselves in a world that models the very thing Jesus warned His disciples about. So it is no surprise that it happens. Here is Jesus’ warning.

But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave . . .” Matthew 20:25-27 (NASB)

Jesus warned His disciples to not be as the Gentiles. There are men and women in the church today who are “lording it over” the church. There are some who are seeking “spiritual” greatness in the church. They want to be in charge – in control. Outwardly, they may look humble, but inside they may be angry that they are not in control or they may be maneuvering to be in control. This is probably more common than we know.

Leadership Qualifications

God has given us spiritual requirements for church leaders –elders and deacons. These qualifications are found in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 (elders or overseers), 1 Timothy 3:8-12 (male and female deacons) and Titus 1:7-9 (again elders or overseers). The qualifications for an elder are amazing. Here are a few significant ones: he must be a male, not be a new Christian; he must manage his house well; he must have his children in control; he must be hospitable and must be a good teacher. Some have said “able to teach” is the same thing as being able to teach children, but that is not the meaning of the Greek word. The Greek word means “skillful in teaching.”


The point of all of this is that God has given us the standards which will help us know who would be a spiritual leader and those leaders who are spiritually qualified. This is God’s standard. Unfortunately, many elders (males) and deacons (males and females) are not qualified according to God’s standard. So the churches suffer. A man or a woman can be a leader and not be qualified to serve as well as not be spiritual. A person can hold the title and not be praying, reading the Word of God, confessing his or her sins, nor being filled with the Spirit. If these things are not true of them, they may be leaders but they are not spiritual. God’s blessing is not flowing through them to the church they attend and oversee.

Suggested Links:

Who are the elders?
What are the qualifications of an elder?
God's Design For The Church
Marks of Spiritual Maturity
How should I go about teaching my congregation about church leadership?