9 Principles for Biblical Leadership

Posted by
José Bernardo

I’m grateful to be working alongside incredible leaders like José  Bernardo who is a Vice-President at OneHope overseeing all of our Lusophone countries. He is one of the greatest organizational leaders and strategic thinkers I have ever met. Of course, he shares our passion and vision to engage the next generation with God’s Word. This is a powerful biblical expository on the leadership principles necessary to influence and impact the next generation, especially for those who have committed to helping fulfill Vision 2030.

When Jesus announced that His journey to Jerusalem would lead Him to suffering, death, and resurrection, the mention of His resurrection prompted two of Jesus’ disciples to ask how they could play a larger part in the coming glory. This question produced a reaction of indignation in the other ten disciples. Jesus, in His divine wisdom, read the room and responded with a basic teaching on leadership. From this teaching, we can gather nine principles of leadership that should guide us as disciples of Jesus.

From Mark 10:42-45 (NIV):

  1. Principle of universality: “Jesus called them together and said” — Even when the disciples were divided between two who wanted to be the most important and ten who were outraged by it, Jesus called everyone to Himself.
  2. Principle of disparity: “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them.” — Jesus emphasized that the world has a particular way of thinking about leadership. Biblical leadership is incompatible with that which is worldly. We must lead in a way that supersedes what the world expects.
  3. Principle of integrity: “Not so with you.” — Jesus used two words that indicated the idea of ‘coming upon’ or ‘against’ in conjunction with the concept of lord, or owner. It is also highly associated with the exercise of personal influence, as in the cult of personality. In opposition to this unhealthy idea of leadership, three times Jesus emphasizes a word meaning ‘inside’ or ‘within,’ wanting listeners to picture something that operates from the inside. From it, we learn that leadership demands integrity in cooperation with the leader from within the group, and within the larger body of Christ.
  4. Principle of utility:Instead whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant…” — Here, Jesus indicates a positive desire for something that is reasonable, worth longing for. Jesus is not rebuking the desire to become important (great), but He explains that the correct way to do this is to be a servant. The term used here is meant to illustrate the idea of someone so diligent that they raise dust when doing anything. Thus, among the disciples of Jesus, to be important is to be diligent and truly useful.
  5. Principle of availability:…and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.” — The concept of slave used here is that of one who has no rights, but belongs entirely to another, who is a personal servant living at the disposal of someone else. When it comes to the Kingdom, the followers of Jesus hustle to be the first to arrive in order to serve others.
  6. Principle of reproducibility:For even the Son of Man did not come to be served…” —  Jesus used the title, “Son of Man” to emphasize his humble humanity while painting a picture of His glory. This phrase could be interpreted as ‘I did not humble myself intending to be served.’ Paul explained it, “in your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness” (Phil 2:5-7, NIV). Jesus models servant leadership — implying that we should do the same.
  7. Principle of humility: …but to serve…” — Jesus affirms the purpose of His coming to be a diligent servant doing effective work in favor of other people. In the the Scriptures, we often see the call for disciples of Christ to submit, to stand below, to humble themselves. Only those who are in the same position, or even over, can choose to humble and position themselves below. In the Kingdom of God, leadership demands one to regard others as superior to oneself.
  8. Principle of generosity:…and to give his life..” — In addition to choosing the position of a servant when He was Lord, Jesus chose as His purpose to give His life. That is extreme generosity, to live for the good of others. The emphasis of this expression was not on vicarious death, but on the life that Jesus had lived until that moment. He was not setting Himself up as a model for what He would do, but for what He was doing, for the way He was living.
  9. Principle of productivity:…as a ransom for many.” — The Greek term, literally translated, means “the price paid for the liberation of a slave.” Jesus lived to produce deliverance. “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” John 8:31,32 (NIV). Jesus dedicated His life to preaching, and His preaching freed us from the slavery of sin. Jesus’ life and leadership beautifully illustrates that leadership always results in precious fruits for the Father for whom He led.