An honourable ambition

Most Christians have reservations about aspiring to leadership. They are unsure about whether it is truly right for a person to want to be a leader. After all, is it not better for the position to seek out the person rather than the person to seek out the position?

No doubt, Christians must resist a certain kind of ambition and rid it from their lives.

But we must acknowledge other ambitions as noble, worthy, and honourable. The apostle Paul urges us to the work of leading the church, the most important work in the world. When our motives are right, this work pays eternal dividends. And so Jeremiah gave Baruch some very wise and simple counsel.


The prophet was not condemning all ambition as sinful, but he was pointing to selfish motivation that makes ambition wrong — “great things for yourself”.

Ambition that centres on the glory of God and welfare of the church is a mighty force for good. The word ambition comes from a Latin word meaning “campaigning for promotion”.

The phrase suggests a variety of elements:

●Social visibility and approval


●Peer recognition

●The exercise of authority over others

Jesus had no time for such ego-driven ambitions. The true leader will never “campaign for promotion”. To his ambitious disciples, Jesus announced a new standard of greatness.

True service is never without cost. Often it comes with a painful baptism of suffering.

●The search for leaders

George Liddel said, “Give me a man of God — one man, one mighty prophet of the Lord, I will give you peace on earth and bought with a prayer and not a sword”.

Real leaders are in short supply. Constantly people and groups search for them. Throughout the Bible, God searches for leaders, too.

The Bible shows us that when God does find a person who is ready to lead, to commit to full discipleship, that person is used.Such leaders still have shortcomings and flaws, but despite them, they become spiritual leaders.

Such were:




And the church history:

●Martin Luther

●John Wesley

●William Carey

To be a leader in the church has always required strength and faith beyond the merely human. Many people regard leaders as naturally gifted with intellect, personal forcefulness and enthusiasm. Such qualities certainly enhance leadership potential, but they do not define spiritual leadership.

True leaders must be willing to suffer for the sake of objectives great enough to demand their wholehearted obedience. Spiritual leaders are not elected, appointed or created by synods or church assemblies. God alone makes them. Samuel Brengle, a gifted leader who served for many years in the Salvation Army, outlined the road to spiritual authority and leadership.

He states: “It is not won by promotion, but by many prayers and tears. It is attained by confession of sin, and much heart searching and humbling before God; by self-surrendering, a courageous sacrifice of every idol, a bold uncomplaining embrace of cross, and by an eternal, unfaltering look unto Jesus crucified. It is not gained by seeking great things for ourselves, but like Paul, by counting those things that are gain as loss for Christ. This is a great price, but it must be paid by the leader who would not be merely a nominal but a real spiritual leader of men, a leader whose power is recognized and felt in heaven, on earth and in hell.”

God wants to show such people how strong He really is. This price must be paid, before any public office or honour.

●Characteristics of great leaders — a must for every leader

Be responsible

Whatever the enterprise, the leader is responsible for the success or failure of the mission. But how hard it is for most leaders to accept the responsibility for what happens in their organisations or departments. If a group gets the feeling that their leader is not doing his job — or is not taking full responsibility for what is happening in the enterprise or department — the members will often become resentful, cynical or fearful. As they grow dissatisfied with their relationship, motivation and morale will plummet.

Although several factors affect motivation and morale, one of the key factors is responsible leadership. The leader who takes full responsibility for his own actions, and for the people over whom God has placed him, will command their loyalty and respect.There are numerous areas where a leader needs to accept responsibility. Solomon addressed five important responsibilities which belong to the leader.

●Rebuke or correct

The leader must accept the responsibility to rebuke sin in the ranks or to correct an important course of action taken by someone under his charge. At times a leader sees an improper course of action and refuses to correct it because he is afraid he will lose the power of the people.

●Act decisively

When the opportunity arises to do something of noble worth and profound consequence, the leader must accept the responsibility to act decisively.

Solomon said if a person excuses unjust behaviour by saying he didn’t know about it, he will still answer to God who weighs the heart and renders to every man according to his works.

To see a fellow human being in imminent danger, on the brink of disaster, and do nothing is a crime in the sight of God and man.The people will look upon such a leader as heartless and uncaring or as a coward.

However, if a leader spots a need, rolls up his sleeves, steps in, and does whatever he can, his followers will be motivated to join in as well.

●Listen to criticism

The leader should accept responsibility to listen to criticism from the ranks. The leader must be open to good counsel and wise, constructive criticism.
●Be honest

The leader should accept responsibility to keep everything open and above

board. A leader is often tempted to lie to cover up a mistake or failure.

●Be fair

The leader should accept responsibility to deal fairly with his people. Apparently there was a widespread custom of having different weights of means of measurement for buying and selling- one stone too heavy and another too light.

To take advantage of the unsuspecting to an abomination to God and a crime against mankind.

●Colin Nyathi is a senior pastor and founder of Harvest House International Churches. email

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