When you think of a great leader, what words come to mind? Courageous? Kind? Visionary? How about love?

As believers, our Christian lives are to be marked by the example of Jesus, who leads us to a sacrificial love. To help us wrap our minds around what it means to lead in love, Dr. Peggy Banks, the TWR Women of Hope global ministry director, wrote down a few of her thoughts.

We often associate love with romantic or warm, fuzzy feelings. How is that similar or different from the definition of love in Scripture?

This is a complex question that takes time and space to really discuss but I will begin by saying that when we think of God’s love we must remember that the Bible tells us that “God is love” (1 John 4:8). It is important to understand that God does not only love but God is love. Everything that God does flows out of a heart that loves everything and everyone.

Our love for others comes from God.

"Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love." - 1 John 4:7-8

God’s love is poured into our hearts.

"And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us." - Romans 5:5

God loved the world that he sent Jesus, His Son, to the world to rescue us and give us eternal life with Him.

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." - John 3:16

"But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." - Romans 5:8

One of the greatest definition of God’s love is found in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8.

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails."

Like the church in Corinth, we value the gifts that God gives to each of us more than the fruit of love that the Holy Spirit puts in us when we become children of God.

I know myself, that it is hard to love others without knowing God’s love for me. In my own heart I have judgements, criticism, expectations, pride and selfish ambition. But when I think about God’s love that is patient, kind, does not envy, does not boast is not proud, I’m convicted to surrender my own thoughts and yield to the Holy Spirit to work in my heart this kind of love.

How is love connected with leadership?

I believe that love is one of the major pillars in the foundation of biblical leadership. Jesus’ leadership reflected pure love and all the fruits of the Holy Spirit. So, if we are truly followers of Jesus, in our leadership, we must seek to allow His Holy Spirit to grow the fruits of the Holy Spirit.

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other." - Galatians 5:22-26

In my life and leadership, I have seen God work in amazing ways. By the power of His Spirit, I have been able to love others with His love when I’m not able to love them in my own flesh.

God has convicted me when I’m not kind to others because they may think differently than me or oppose my ideas. It is by His Spirit that I’m able to find patience when I want things done now and will not wait for someone to grow in their understanding and ability to accomplish a task given. Every day I try to remember the grace and mercy that God shows to me so I can show the same mercy to others (Lamentations 3:22-23).

Biblical love in leadership is evident in the Bible and aligns with many principles of leadership. Here are just two ways:

A biblical leader loves like Jesus.

The greatest commandments in the New Testament are about love. We are called to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and love our neighbors as much as we love ourselves.

"Jesus replied: 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments'.” - Matthew 22:37-38

A biblical leader sacrifices because Jesus sacrificed for us.

God gave His Son for us to have eternity. He sacrificed His Son for our freedom. Biblical leaders sometime must sacrifice their time, their desires and their dreams for other leaders to prosper. They work hard to make their team and the ministry look more and more like Jesus to the world.

Where do you see love in Scripture that would be applicable for leaders?

Being a leader takes tremendous bravery, courage, discipline, faith, mercy, and hope. While a great leader can do great things for God, it also comes at the cost of being judged, overwhelmed and discouraged. Yet, there are many Scriptures where we are encouraged by God as we take that step of faith and choose to influence others as a biblical leader.

"Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." - Joshua 1:8-9

"Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up." - James 4:10

"As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all." - Ephesians 4:1-6

"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
before you were born I set you apart;
I appointed you as a prophet to the nations." - Jeremiah 1:5

"He must become greater; I must become less." - John 3:30

"Jesus called them together and said, 'You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many'.” - Matthew 20:25-28

"Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others." - Philippians 2:1-4

"I can do all this through him who gives me strength." - Philippians 4:13

What are some practical tips that you have for loving others better?

Biblical leadership is not easy. We see in many places examples of biblical leaders who had to deal with difficult people: Moses, Joshua, Nehemiah, Paul and of course, Jesus. But every day, we can decide to lead with love, compassion and purpose that brings glory to God.

It requires us, as leaders to:

Examine the motivation of our hearts.

"May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart
be pleasing in your sight,
Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer." - Psalm 19:14

I must determine every day that not only the words coming out of my mouth, but the thoughts in my mind and heart must be pleasing to the Lord.

Every day, take a few minutes to give your heart and thoughts over to the Lord about your team. Clean out all the doubts and distrust and allow God to show you ways that you can encourage your teams, so they can thrive and accomplish all that God is calling your team to do in ministry.

Pray for one another.

"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." - Philippians 4:4-7

Paul shows us a great way to love others better. It starts by rejoicing with others to accomplish the tasks given to us by God.

Yet, there are times when difficult situations arise and challenging people give us some anxiety or worry. In those times, we can take the worries and challenges to the Lord in prayer and God promises that he will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

I know when I’m troubled in areas of leadership if I just stop and seek God’s wisdom and guidance, my worries become worship and the pressure becomes praise. I’m able to love and lead more with a heart of gratitude and patience.

Sometimes, we try many other things to relieve the stress and pressures before we stop and pray. Yet, I have learned that when I pray first I find God giving me a loving heart and attitude to deal with every situation and difficulty.

Find ways to build up and not tear down.

"Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing." - 1 Thessalonians 5:11

All leaders need encouragement. As biblical leaders, we must find ways to encourage our team so they know they are valued and matter to God each day. Teams don’t need to be hearing something profound or new all the time, but they do need to be reminded of who they are in Christ and how God has gifted them for leadership and influence.

Just recently I was I encouragement by a group of friends that ministered to my heart in ways that reveled God’s amazing love. I’m so thankful that they were intentional to take the time to write notes and speak to each other.

Love sustains leaders to continue in the work that God has assigned to us. Each day, every day, think of a way that you can encourage another leader. Then take a step of faith and make a call, write a note, or send a text to let someone know you are thinking of them and praying for them in their role in leadership.

Think the best, first!

"If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails." - 1 Corinthians 13:1-8

Sometimes it’s hard to always think the best of things as our first thought. There are times when we see things moving slowly, tasks being overlooked and forgotten, excuses for projects not being completed and we experience set-backs that can disturb us deeply in leadership.

Yet, if we will begin with believing the best first and exploring all that is going on within the leader and project, disappointment turns to development of a new plan, excuses to explanations and opportunities for growth.

I remember many times when I experienced a tremendous amount of grace from leaders who took the time to really understand what was going on in my life before making judgements on the task or assignment that was delayed or overlooked. Many times, leaders will not accomplish a task and withdraw from the work if they don’t have enough information or are confused on the expectations.

Today, it is only because of the grace shown to me when I have failed that I try to remember to show to others when mistakes are made or decisions fail.

Show compassion and care.

Lastly, compassion and care are what makes a great biblical leader. It takes time, wisdom and complete dependency on God.

Compassion is knowing how to help someone who is struggling with a task or project and lending a hand to accomplish the task or inviting others to help on the project. Listening to the team and really assessing what is going on and seeking God for guidance and wisdom before jumping to judgements or conclusions can reveal compassion for the real problem.

Care for one another is an important quality of a biblical leader. Listening to each other and recognizing when someone needs some time off or a reassignment to prevent burn-out is so essential to leading a healthy team.

Inviting the team to share openly how they are doing and what is working and not working on the team helps to create a safe and authentic place to share burdens and challenges.

Giving guidance and help on self-care for each leader on your team will provide a safe place for leaders to live and function in a healthier environment. Living as an example of self-care will also encourage the team to see that what we are saying with our words is lived out in our lives and an example to follow.

In conclusion, what is one key takeaway that you think all leaders should remember about love?

Don’t do leadership alone. Invite trusted friends to help you process all that is going on in your leadership roles and responsibilities. Pray together with colleagues and trusted friends so you can lead and influence in a way that reveals God’s love for your team and the ministry.

We hope you enjoyed these leadership insights from Peggy. If you want more content like this, check out last month’s installment about vision and mission.

Further Reading

  • Bailey, Brianna (July 2017). “God is Love.” Link.
  • Banks, Dr. Peggy (Jan. 2018). “Vision and Mission for Christian Women." Link.
  • Banks, Dr. Peggy (Feb. 2018). “How Do We Define Love?” Link.