Twelve Ways to Be a Godly Leader

By Chuck Lawless

This blogpost was not easy to compose. Writing about godliness is never easy, for to do so is to imply you’ve figured out how to walk in holiness. I make no such claim here. I struggle like everyone else to be pleasing to God in all I do. So I write these words to myself as much as to anyone else.

Charles Spurgeon is one of my favorite writers, even though his writings often challenge me deep in my heart. These words (first directed to preachers, though applicable to all Christian leaders) are especially gripping:

It is a shocking state of things when good people say, “Our minister undoes in the parlor what he has done in the pulpit; he preaches very well, but his life does not agree with his sermons.” . . . God help us so to live that we may be safe examples to our flocks![1]

If you’re a Christian leader, think about these ways to be a “safe example” to the flock:

  1. Prioritize the Word in your personal life. The Bible is God’s inspired Word, written by men carried along by the Holy Spirit as they wrote  (2 Tim. 3:16-17, 2 Pet. 1:20-21). Through His Word, God equips you to do His work. You simply cannot live a godly life apart from knowing and following the Bible.
  2. Make prayer a part of your DNA. Prayerlessness is idolatry of the self—a decided danger for leaders. Pray in the morning over your calendared events for the day. Never lead a meeting without praying. Pray quickly when you hear about needs of people you lead. Pray without ceasing throughout the day.
  3. Never outgrow accountability. We never reach the point to no longer need accountability to holy living. Godly leaders open their lives to somebody, realizing that how we live privately is just as important—if not more so—than what we do publicly. Find someone today who can spur you on toward godliness.
  4. Genuinely believe the Kingdom is larger than you. I know no leaders who state otherwise, but sometimes we live that way. God’s work becomes “my church, my ministry, my glory.” When we think the kingdom is about us, we set ourselves up for the fall that comes with pride. Ask God to show you when ego takes control in your life.
  5. Live in urgency. More than 1.7 billion people have little or no access to the gospel. Thousands die without Christ every day. Jesus is still the only answer for sin. Spreading the gospel to the nations remains God’s only plan. Understanding this urgency makes the temporary pleasure of sin pale. Live as if today really is all God gives you.
  6. Guard your speech. Avoid crude jokes. Determine not to talk poorly of others. Use your words to build others up, not to tear them down. Talk more about God than about yourself. Speak the truth in love. Trust that Someone is always listening.
  7. Mentor someone. When you invest yourself in another, you make yourself vulnerable to someone else’s eyes. A mentee watches you, seeking a guide and example of Christian faith. Knowing he will be disappointed if you fall should encourage you to fight for godliness.
  8. Share the gospel with non-believers. Doing evangelism is not only basic Christian obedience, but it is also a call to holiness. Faithfully and consistently share the gospel with others, and you will want to model genuine Christian faith before them.
  9. Keep learning. Godliness is characterized by humility, and humble leaders never stop learning. Read the Word. Study biographies of godly leaders. Take classes with professors who walk with God. Admitting you don’t know everything is a step toward godliness.
  10. Be a person of integrity in all matters. Do not exaggerate statistics. Pay your bills. Take necessary steps to avoid pornography. Be honest with your spouse in all matters. Confess your sin. Stand before God’s people with no hidden areas of disobedience.
  11. Take care of yourself physically. Our evangelical trust in the promise of resurrection gives us no permission to abuse the body God has given us. The Spirit of God dwells in you, and your godliness cannot be separated from your commitment to take care of your physical body.
  12. Meditate on your conversion experience. Think about your lostness apart from God’s intervention. Consider deeply God’s mercy grace toward you. Remember those who shared the gospel with you. Let your gratitude for yesterday’s grace compel you toward today’s obedience.

I suspect that nothing here is revolutionary—but that’s the point. Godliness is simply living daily for God. Take time to examine your life today. And as you do, say a prayer that I, too, will be a godly leader.

[1] Charles Spurgeon (2009-08-19). An All Around Ministry (Kindle Locations 2586-2590). BookAndSuchNW. Kindle Edition.

Lifeway_Blog_Ad[1]Chuck Lawless currently serves as Professor of Evangelism and Missions and Dean of Graduate Studies at Southeastern Seminary.

You can connect with Dr. Lawless on both Twitter and Facebook.


  1. says

    Thanks Chuck. This is a solid list of attributes of a godly leader. As a twenty-something Christian, this is absolutely imperative for us to be salt and light of this world. I resonate strongly with number five. This generation lives like they are kn auto-pilot and sadly have thrown away their defining decade in their twenties. I recently started going through Kerry Shook’s One-Month-to-Live challenge which has helped me learn how to live intentionally. I wrote more about it here. Thanks Chuck!

  2. says

    Thanks Chuck for these truths.
    Our church is currently working through the Spiritual Warfare study you co-authored with John Franklin. It is impacting our church greatly!

    Thanks again,
    I posted this to out church’s fb page so they can all use this!

  3. Susan inUK says

    A while back I posted on Facebook that I was thinking about use the word parlour in a book title just to see what the reaction was. A Christian lady from Nigeria was horrified at the idea. For her a parlour was not the best room in the house where you would entertain visitors but a place to avoid. It was rather like the saloon portrayed in films about the wild west complete with drink and women. Imagine if Charles Spurgeon had known that use of the word parlour! There again you often find computers in today’s equivalent of a parlour and those without accountability measures on them have discovered just how easy it is to fall into sin. Its not just the illicit activities but the time spent on entertainment rather than building the Kingdom of God. I know I need to make more use of a timer!

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