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Elias Perez
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A Review of Spiritual Leadership by J. Oswald Sanders: How to Influence Others Toward God's Purposes

Spiritual Leadership by J. Oswald Sanders: A Book Review

If you are looking for a book that will inspire you to grow as a leader in God's kingdom, you might want to check out Spiritual Leadership by J. Oswald Sanders. This classic book, first published in 1967, has been updated and revised several times to address the changing needs and challenges of leaders in different generations and contexts. In this book review, I will give you an overview of what the book is about, who the author is, why you should read it, and what are some of the main points and lessons that you can learn from it.

Spiritual Leadership Oswald Sanders.pdf


What is spiritual leadership?

Spiritual leadership is not just a position or a title, but a calling and a lifestyle. It is not based on human skills or abilities, but on God's grace and power. It is not motivated by selfish ambition or worldly success, but by love for God and people. It is not measured by numbers or results, but by faithfulness and obedience.

Sanders defines spiritual leadership as "the ability to influence others toward God's purposes". He says that spiritual leadership is not reserved for a few elite individuals, but is available for anyone who is willing to pay the price and meet the qualifications that God requires. He also says that spiritual leadership is not optional for Christians, but is a duty and a privilege that we all share.

Who is J. Oswald Sanders?

J. Oswald Sanders (1902-1992) was a Christian leader, missionary, teacher, and writer from New Zealand. He served as the general director of Overseas Missionary Fellowship (OMF), formerly known as China Inland Mission, from 1954 to 1969. He traveled extensively around the world, preaching, teaching, and mentoring leaders in various countries and contexts. He wrote over 40 books on Christian topics, including The Incomparable Christ, Enjoying Intimacy with God, and Spiritual Maturity. He was also a friend and colleague of other well-known Christian leaders such as Billy Graham, John Stott, and Hudson Taylor.

Why read this book?

This book is one of the most influential and widely read books on Christian leadership ever written. It has been translated into more than 20 languages and has sold over one million copies worldwide. It has been endorsed by many prominent Christian leaders such as Rick Warren, John Maxwell, Charles Colson, Bill Hybels, Ravi Zacharias, and others.

This book is not just a theoretical or academic treatise on leadership, but a practical and biblical guide that draws from the examples of leaders in the Bible and in church history. It covers various aspects of leadership such as character, vision, skills, challenges, principles, and practices. It also addresses some of the common pitfalls and temptations that leaders face such as pride, compromise, discouragement, isolation, burnout, etc.

This book is not just for pastors, missionaries, or church leaders, but for anyone who wants to grow in their relationship with God and their influence on others. It is suitable for personal study, group discussion, or mentoring. It is also relevant for leaders in different spheres of society such as business, education, government, media, arts, etc.

Summary of the main points

The profile of a spiritual leader

In the first part of the book, Sanders describes the profile of a spiritual leader. He outlines some of the essential qualities, costs, responsibilities, tests, and challenges that a spiritual leader must have and face.

The essential qualities of a leader

Sanders lists 12 qualities that are indispensable for a leader: discipline, vision, wisdom, decision, courage, humility, integrity, sincerity, enthusiasm, love, empowerment, and faith. He explains what each quality means and how to cultivate it in one's life. He also gives examples of leaders in the Bible and in history who demonstrated these qualities.

The cost and responsibilities of leadership

Sanders warns that leadership is not easy or cheap. It involves paying a price and bearing a burden. He says that a leader must be willing to sacrifice his time, energy, resources, comfort, popularity, and even his life for the sake of God's kingdom. He also says that a leader must be accountable to God and to others for his actions and decisions. He must be faithful in fulfilling his duties and obligations to God, to his family, to his team, to his followers, and to his mission.

The tests and challenges of leadership

Sanders identifies some of the common tests and challenges that a leader faces in his journey. He mentions the test of motive, the test of pride, the test of criticism, the test of rejection, the test of failure, the test of success, the test of loneliness, the test of delay, the test of suffering, and the test of death. He advises how to overcome these tests and challenges with God's help and grace.

The principles of spiritual leadership

In the second part of the book, Sanders discusses the principles of spiritual leadership. He focuses on three key areas that are vital for a leader: the Word of God, prayer, and the Holy Spirit.

The leader and the Word of God

Sanders emphasizes the importance of the Word of God for a leader. He says that a leader must love, study, meditate on, obey, apply, teach, and preach the Word of God. He says that the Word of God is the source of truth, wisdom, guidance, power, authority, correction, and encouragement for a leader. He also gives some practical tips on how to read and understand the Word of God better.

The leader and prayer

Sanders stresses the necessity of prayer for a leader. He says that a leader must pray regularly, earnestly, specifically, faithfully, and corporately. He says that prayer is the way to communicate with God, to depend on God, to align with God's will, to receive God's resources, to intercede for others, and to worship God. He also gives some practical suggestions on how to improve one's prayer life.

The leader and the Holy Spirit

Sanders highlights the role of the Holy Spirit in a leader's life. He says that a leader must be filled with, led by, empowered by, gifted by, and fruit-bearing by the Holy Spirit. He says that the Holy Spirit is the source of life, conviction, guidance, power, gifts, and fruit for a leader. He also gives some practical advice on how to cooperate with and experience more of the Holy Spirit's work.

The practice of spiritual leadership

In the third part of the book, Sanders explores the practice of spiritual leadership. He covers some of the skills and methods that a leader needs to develop and use in order to lead effectively and efficiently.

The leader's vision and goals

Sanders asserts that a leader must have a clear vision and goals for his ministry or organization. He says that a vision is a picture or an idea of what God wants to accomplish through him and his team. He says that goals are specific steps or actions that will help him achieve his vision. He advises how to develop, communicate, implement, and evaluate one's vision and goals.

The leader's influence and authority

the right or the power to command or direct others. He distinguishes between different types of influence and authority, such as natural, positional, moral, expert, and spiritual. He also warns against the dangers of abusing or misusing one's influence and authority.

The leader's delegation and empowerment

Sanders advises that a leader must not try to do everything by himself, but delegate and empower others to share the work and the responsibility. He says that delegation is the act of entrusting or assigning a task or a role to someone else. He says that empowerment is the act of giving someone the freedom and the resources to perform a task or a role effectively. He gives some guidelines on how to delegate and empower others wisely and appropriately.


My personal takeaways from the book

As I read this book, I was challenged and inspired by the insights and examples that Sanders shared. I learned a lot about what it means to be a spiritual leader and how to grow as one. Here are some of my personal takeaways from the book:

  • Spiritual leadership is not about me, but about God and His purposes.

  • Spiritual leadership is not a matter of talent, but of character.

  • Spiritual leadership is not a destination, but a journey.

  • Spiritual leadership is not a solo act, but a team effort.

  • Spiritual leadership is not a burden, but a blessing.

How to apply the lessons from the book

Reading this book is not enough. I need to apply what I learned to my own life and ministry. Here are some of the ways that I plan to do that:

  • I will spend more time with God in His Word and prayer.

  • I will examine my motives and attitudes as a leader.

  • I will seek God's vision and goals for my ministry or organization.

  • I will develop and use my influence and authority for God's glory.

  • I will delegate and empower others to serve with me.

Where to get the book

If you are interested in reading this book, you can get it from various online platforms such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble,, etc. You can also find it in some local bookstores or libraries. You can also visit the official website of J. Oswald Sanders at for more information about his life and ministry.

I hope you enjoyed this book review and found it helpful. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to share them with me. Thank you for reading!

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some of the common questions that people might have about this book:

  • What is the difference between spiritual leadership and secular leadership?

Spiritual leadership is based on God's principles and purposes, while secular leadership is based on human values and goals. Spiritual leadership is motivated by love for God and people, while secular leadership is motivated by self-interest and worldly success. Spiritual leadership is measured by faithfulness and obedience, while secular leadership is measured by numbers and results.

  • Who can be a spiritual leader?

Anyone who is willing to pay the price and meet the qualifications that God requires can be a spiritual leader. It is not limited by age, gender, education, background, or position. It is a calling and a lifestyle that every Christian should aspire to.

  • How can I become a better spiritual leader?

You can become a better spiritual leader by spending time with God in His Word and prayer, by developing your character and skills as a leader, by learning from other leaders in the Bible and in history, by seeking God's vision and goals for your ministry or organization, by using your influence and authority for God's glory, by delegating and empowering others to serve with you, and by being faithful and obedient to God's will.

  • What are some of the benefits of spiritual leadership?

Some of the benefits of spiritual leadership are: you will experience God's presence and power in your life; you will grow in your relationship with God and others; you will make a positive impact on your followers or team members; you will advance God's kingdom and His purposes on earth; you will receive God's rewards and blessings in this life and in the next.

  • What are some of the challenges of spiritual leadership?

Some of the challenges of spiritual leadership are: you will face opposition and resistance from the enemy and the world; you will encounter criticism and rejection from some people; you will experience failure and disappointment at times; you will struggle with pride and temptation; you will suffer hardship and persecution for your faith; you will die to yourself and your own desires.



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