Leadership has been the most taught and discussed topic in the American church in my lifetime. When I did a search recently on Amazon, there were 15,758 hits on the topic of Christian leadership. It makes sense. It doesn’t take much reading in Scripture to find leadership being manifested in one form or another by notable individuals in the Bible. Yet if we do a word search through the Scripture, we find a paucity of references under that word. Why is that? I think the reason we find so little use of the word “leader” in Scripture is because that aspect, that virtue, is secondary in God’s view. Perhaps not even secondary. Therefore, it’s troubling when we have made it our number one emphasis for so many years. If we read about God’s leaders in Scripture, we’ll find, overwhelmingly, an emphasis on only two traits: godliness and obedient, active faith in the power and ability of God.

Since thousands of books have been written on this topic, it would be foolhardy to attempt a comprehensive study in one chapter. However, if we look at what Moses, Joshua, Gideon and David did as leaders, we won’t find much detail on how they did leadership. Over and over again, the recurring quality in these men is that they heard the words that God said, spoke them and acted upon them. The Lord powerfully did the rest.

It’s that simple.

Simple, perhaps, but not easy.

How did Moses lead? He heard the words of God and spoke them before the king of Egypt. God did the rest. Afterwards, Moses spoke, wrote down and acted upon what God articulated in his ear concerning His tabernacle and sacrificial system. Did some of these tasks require administration? Yes. However, is it administrative ability that Scripture acknowledges him for? Is Moses honored for the size of the group he led? Moses would have been the first to say that it wasn’t he that led them, but God. We’re told that he was a humble man. He stood up and spoke God’s words to a very powerful sovereign, the Pharaoh of Egypt. He interceded for Israel when they were disobedient and grumbling. Again, He did what the Lord told him to do, both in bringing God’s people out of Egypt and leading them through the wilderness.

How did Joshua lead? What military strategy did he use to conquer Canaan? If possible, we could inquire of the people of Jericho to answer that question. Joshua did what God told him to do, and the Lord did the rest. It was an unlikely tactical approach.

The same question could be asked about Gideon. How did he lead the armies of Israel?    Again, a highly unusual method of attack.

How did David lead? How, practically, did he supervise the kingdom of Israel? We know almost nothing about this. We see him doing administrative and organizational tasks, such as in 1 Chronicles 23. However, it wasn’t for how well he did these tasks that David was honored. He is revered in Scripture for being a man after God’s heart, a courageous believer in God, a giant slayer. He was the sweet psalmist of Israel. And, yes, he was a repentant sinner. These are the qualities of David that the Bible emphasizes. How he led in a practical sense is barely noticeable.

How did Abraham lead? What did he do? He believed God, moved and acted in obedience to Him. God did the rest.

Were Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel—all the prophets—leaders? What did they do? They heard and spoke the words of God. He did the rest.

How leadership is done, in a practical manner, is almost totally ignored in Scripture, apart from hearing and doing what God says.

Let’s take a look at Jesus, the almighty God, our Savior and Creator and upholder of all things. Was He a leader? I’m asking a serious question. I am troubled by the possibility that Jesus would not be a leader in the Western Church today. Think with me here. What did Jesus do that has any resemblance to what our pastors and staffs do today? Again, seriously: What did Jesus actually do? He taught. He healed sick people and delivered those who were oppressed. He confronted the religious leadership of His day. He performed miracles. He died for our sins and rose to life. The only similarity between what He did and what we do is teaching, unless you’re one of those in the minority who operate in the gifts of the Spirit.

How did Jesus organize His followers? As far as we can tell, there was almost no organization. He apparently discipled seventy-two men, and he ministered to twelve of them closely and three, intimately. At one point He sent the seventy-two out. How did He organize them? He said, “Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’ And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if not, it will return to you. And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages. Do not go from house to house. Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’” Can you imagine giving such a paucity of leadership instruction to a group that we would send out today?