Servant Leadership: Pathways
“Spiritual Gifts for Servant Leaders Today” (SL#57)
by Lloyd Elder, Th.D., adapted from SkillTrack® 1:2 - Following Biblical Patterns

Every spiritual gift empowers each of Christ’s followers in the consistent practice of servant leadership! The cluster and variety of gifts contribute to the health and ministry of the whole body of Christ. Little wonder we are encouraged to desire, excel, and express gifts to build up the church, not to neglect them! (See also SL#56)

The ten gifts discussed in this article--out of the 22 to 24 usually identified--are selected for special focus on servant leadership. As you study each one of these leadership-focused spiritual gifts, think about your own leadership behavior, how you follow biblical patterns. Then thoughtfully evaluate the level your leadership consistently demonstrates that gift.

Reflection Survey: After you finish reading through each one, come back to this page and assess the way in which your leadership practice demonstrates the listed spiritual gifts--from 1 (low) to 5 (high). When you have finished, the elements you rated with a 1 or a 2 could be referred for future review and development.

1) Leadership - Focus on the Mission (Reflect/Assess ____)

  • This spiritual gift empowers believers to work within the body of Christ, motivating them to pursue the goals, objectives and strategies of the Church’s kingdom mission.

    . . . if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.--Romans 12:8

  • Romans 12:8 “. . . if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; . . .” (see also 1 Tim. 3:13; 5:17; Heb. 13:7).
  • Leadership = (literally) “the one standing in front”; “the one taking the lead”; to be a protector, guardian, to give aid; to be put before, to have charge; to be set over, superintend, rule, preside, govern, exercise authority; “with diligence” = with haste, zeal, correctness.

2) Administration - Focus on Organization (Reflect/Assess ____)

  • Some are gifted by the Spirit to lead the church body to organize its ministries, resources, and tasks to move forward together toward the larger purpose.

    And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues.--1 Cor. 12:28

  • 1 Cor. 12:28 “. . . those with gifts of administration. . .” (see also Acts 6:1-7; Luke 14:28-30; Matt. 9:35-37; 10:1-4; Mark 6:30-44).
  • Administration = governing, governments, wise counsels, organizers, wise guidance, those with power to guide, or to get others to work together, managers.

3) Pastor/Shepherd - Focus on Spiritual Caring (Reflect/Assess ____)

  • Some are gifted with disposition and skills to understand and care for the spiritual welfare of the “flock of God,” and to do so in the pattern of Christ, our good and great Shepherd.
  • Ephesians 4:11 “. . . and some to be pastors and teachers . . .” (see also 1 Peter 5:1-4; John 10:11-16; Acts 20:28).
  • Translations: (from the word meaning “to protect”) shepherds, pastors, the ability to guide and teach others; a pastor is a shepherd with the essential function of protection patterned after Christ the Great Shepherd; overseers of Christian assemblies.

4) Faith - Focus on Bold Expectation (Reflect/Assess ____)

  • Faith as a grace gift is to boldly claim the presence and promise of God to do mighty things; to trust God with servant conviction as you live your life in relationship to God; such faith also encourages others to attempt the impossible in human strength.
  • 1 Cor. 12:9 “. . . to another faith by the same Spirit . . .” (see also 1 Cor.13:2; Matt. 17:20; 21:21; Heb. 11:1).
  • Translations: “a grace gift,” “special faith,” “wonder-working faith,” a faith-to-move-mountains.

5) Prophecy/Prophet - Focus on Proclamation (Reflect/Assess ____)

  • This spiritual gift empowers some to interpret, proclaim, and foretell the saving message of God with insight, boldness, and passion, calling hearers to believe, to be transformed and the church to be built up.
  • 1 Cor. 12:10 - “. . . and to another prophecy . . .;” 1 Cor. 12:28 - “. . . secondly prophets. . .;” Romans 12:6 - “. . . whether prophecy, according to the proportion of the faith. . .;” Ephesians 4:11 - “. . . some prophets. . .”
  • Translation: prophets, “one who speaks forth”; one moved by the Spirit who becomes a spokesman for God, especially regarding matters of His kingdom; inspired preachers, not always one who predicts the future.

6) Teaching - Focus on Discipleship (Reflect/Assess ____)

  • Some are gifted by the Spirit with an ability to communicate God’s truth with clarity through example and instruction to point the way to salvation, to instruct in the way to live, and to build up the body of Christ.
  • Eph. 4:11 - “. . . pastors and teachers. . .”; 1 Cor. 12:28 - “. . . thirdly teachers. . .”; 1 Peter 4:11 - “If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. . .” (see also Matt. 28:19-20; Acts 13:1; James 3:1).
  • Interpretation: Teacher = (literally) one who teaches, instructs, discourses with others; those gifted with the special assistance of the Holy Spirit to do so.

7) Service/Helps - Focus on Service to Others (Reflect/Assess ____)

  • This special gift is to identify the needs of others, joyfully providing those helps and support, often without recognition, but with rewarding satisfaction, and to the glory of Christ.
  • Romans 12:7 - “If it is serving, let him serve; . . .” 1 Cor. 12:28 - “those able to help others, . . .”; 1 Peter 4:11 - “If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, . . .” (see also 1 Cor. 12:5; Galatians 6:1-2; Matt. 25:34-40; Acts 6:1-6).

    Romans 12:7
    “Serving” (v. 7) is such a broad term that some difficulty attaches to the effort to pin it down. . . . Despite its place between prophesying and teaching, the narrower meaning of service as ministration to the material needs of believers is probable here. NEB and JB translate the word as “administration,” perhaps hinting that the term should be taken as referring to the supervision of the giving of aid to the needy, which was specifically the province of the deacons.--Zondervan Commentary

  • Service: ministry (noun) especially those who execute the command of others; the office of deacon; helps: ministrations, aids, helps mutual acceptance, a laying hold of (to assist); assistants, those who help others.

8) Hospitality - Focus on Belonging (Reflect/Assess ____)

  • This spiritual gift enables believers to open their hearts, homes, and the congregation to generously accept guests, newcomers, and fellow church-members, drawing them joyfully into the larger fellowship and tending their immediate needs.
  • 1 Peter 4:9 - “. . . offer hospitality and tending their immediate needs.” Romans 12:13 - “Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. . . .” (see also Acts 16:13-15; 1 Cor. 16:23; 1 Tim 3:2; Titus 1:8; Heb. 13:2).
  • Hospitable: (literally) love (philos) of guests, friends, travelers, strangers, foreigners, aliens, even friends and members of the body of Christ.

    Although the word occurs only a few times in the Bible (e.g., Rom 12:13; 16:23; 1 Tim 3:2; 5:10; Titus 1:8; 1 Peter 4:9; 3 John 8), the idea appears as early as Abraham (Gen 14:17-19). One might be entertaining angels unawares (Heb 13:2) as Abraham did (Gen 18). . . . Jesus exercised hospitality when he fed 5,000 (Matt 14:15-21). He received loving hospitality in a home at Bethany. Jesus invited himself to Zacchaeus’ house and was shown hospitality there (Luke 19:5-10). The disciples at Emmaus were hospitable to Jesus, even when they did not recognize him (Luke 24:29-32). Jesus taught hospitality (10:30-37) and told his disciples where they would and would not find it (Matt 10:11-15). The NT exhibits and exhorts hospitality (Acts, Philemon, 2 John; 3 John). --NIV Study Bible Dictionary

9) Wisdom - Focus on Understanding (Reflect/Assess ____)

  • Some have the gift of wisdom, the special ability to understand God’s message, to discern the mind of Christ, to recognize the working of the Spirit, and to make this known in practical ways within the body of Christ.
  • 1 Cor. 12:8 “. . . For to one through the Spirit is given a word of wisdom. . .” (see also Luke 21:12-15; 1 Cor. 2:4-6; Eph. 1:8-9; James 1:5; 3:13-17).
  • Translation: wisdom - (that’s it, wisdom!); broad, full, spiritual intelligence.

    The commonest OT words for wisdom are Hebrew hakham and related forms and Greek sophia. In God wisdom is the infinite, perfect comprehension of all that is or might be (Rom 11:33-36). God is the source of wisdom as of power, and wisdom is given to people through the fear of the Lord (Job 28:28; Ps 111:10). . . . Although wisdom literature (Prov; Eccl; Job; Pss 19, 37, 104, 107, 147, 148) often seems to equate right with advantage (profit, Eccl 1:5), there is clear evidence of the controlling hand and moral interest of God in human affairs. The sayings of Jesus, largely proverbial and parabolical, are the crown of biblical wisdom (1 Cor 1:24, 30; Col 2:3). --NIV Study Bible Dictionary

10) Exhortation - Focus on Motivation (Reflect/Assess ____)

  • Some are gifted to stimulate the faith of others, to stir up their enthusiasm, to encourage and challenge them in the life and service of Christ.
  • Romans 12:8 “. . . if it is encouraging, let him encourage; . . .” (see also Acts 4:36-37; 11:23-24; 14:21-22; 1 Tim: 4:11-16; Heb. 10:24-25).
  • Translations: a calling near (alongside), summons (especially for help), supplication, entreaty, admonition, encouragement, consolation, comfort, solace.

Reflecting on Biblical Patterns

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© 2006; hosted and copyrighted by Lloyd Elder & Associates, Inc.
For full citation of referenced works, see Bibliography/Links at
Adapted by Lloyd Elder, Th.D., Founding Director, Moench Center for Church Leadership