What God Desires in a Christian Leader (or any Christian!)

If we want to understand what God desires in a leader (or any Christian for that matter), we need look no further than the book of Titus.

Near the beginning of Titus, Paul says why he had previously left Titus in Crete. While the book of Acts doesn’t fill is in on the details of when Paul planted a church in Crete, and when he left Titus there, we know from the letter to Titus that Paul saw this venture on the fourth largest island in the Mediterranean as critical. While explaining why he left Titus on the island, Paul gives us a glimpse into his view of Christian leadership, saying:

“The reason I left you in Crete was that you might put in order what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you. An elder must be blameless, faithful to his wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. Since an overseer manages God’s household, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it” (Titus 1:5–9 NIV; compare 1 Timothy 3:1–7).

The 5 Attributes of a Christian Leader

In Titus 1:5–9, Paul tells Titus that anyone who assumes a church office should have five attributes:

  1. be a respectable person
  2. who knows how to teach others in the ways of Jesus,
  3. who knows how to love their family and others well,
  4. who doesn’t do things that are clearly against Jesus’ teachings,
  5. and is not a recent convert to Christianity (i.e., been a Christian for awhile).

It also makes sense for people who have the role of overseer to have the ability to do what Paul calls "discern spirits"—to protect the church from heretical teachings is a critical function of church leaders (see 1 Corinthians 12:10; Titus 1:10–16). This could also be defined as an orthodoxy filter and concern for the church staying on track.

3 Descriptors of Christian Leaders

If I were to narrow the above list to three overarching attributes or principles, these three could cover all of the above: 

  1. Capable and respected teacher (with discernment)
  2. Loving, in all spheres of life (at home and publicly)
  3. Experienced at living as a follower of Jesus (a true disciple of Jesus)

Now what I’m not saying here is that these are requirements for God to call a leader. All leaders depend on the grace of God; and God clearly calls the unexpected (e.g., Paul himself; Moses; David). I'm also not saying that a person who falls outside of these requirements is immediately disqualified—again grace and a repentant heart is central. Instead, these are requirements for someone to actually take a leadership position. These are the general rule we look to.

Live the Christian Principles of Leadership

Shouldn’t we all strive to these principles? Imagine what could occur in our world if we lived as people who were capable and respected, loving in all we do, and who experienced Jesus daily.

If we lived Christian principles of leadership, people would certainly wonder, “What is it that makes this person who they are?” They would ask you about the faith you cling to. You would make a true and lasting difference in our world, living as a true missionary for Jesus in everything you do.

This article is part of our series, "How to Authentically Live as a Christian: Paul's Letter to Titus."

Enjoy this article? Check out my new book, Jesus' Economy: A Biblical View of Poverty, the Currency of Love, and a Pattern for Lasting Change. With simple, everyday choices you can make the world a better place. Learn how to live Jesus' economy, the currency of love.

John Barry
John Barry


CEO and Founder of Jesus' Economy. John is the General Editor of the highly acclaimed Faithlife Study Bible and Lexham Bible Dictionary. His new book is Jesus' Economy: A Biblical View of Poverty, the Currency of Love, and a Pattern for Lasting Change. It is widely endorsed by Christian leaders from around the world.