What the Bible Says About Church Leadership and Humility

by Jack Wellman · Print Print · Email Email

What does the Bible teach about church leadership and humility?

Moses’ Example

What does the Bible teach about church leadership and humility? Moses was said to be the meekest man on the face of the earth (Num 12:3-5), but he would have been the last one to say that publically. If someone says, “I am so humble,” it’s not really humility talking, but pride. And “I” is right in the middle of pride! Moses was very meek, but wouldn’t it seem out of character for him to say, “I am Moses…the meekest man on earth.” At that point, I believe he’d give up that title, but he doesn’t. Moses is an excellent example of humility, even though he was Israel’s main leader and judge. His authority did not diminish his humility. I would imagine he would admit to making mistakes, and he did to his father-in-law, Jethro (Ex 18:1-25).

Pride, Then the Fall

Pride could have caused Moses to rise up and tell him father-in-law, “God appointed me leader and I’m going to do what I’m going to do!” We know that’s not Moses’ style. We read that “Moses listened to the voice of his father-in-law and did all that he had said” (Ex 18:24). That’s a critical lesson for church leadership. They are not above listening to others for advice. They can be wrong. They too will make mistakes, but staying humble before others and before God will make for strong leadership that is respected. They didn’t all agree with Moses at times, but they did respect him. Having humility before others, even if you have authority over them, is pleasing to God, and certainly pleasing to others. It really is cause and effect where “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Prov 16:18). We must get off our high horse or get knocked off it. We must humble ourselves, or God may do it for us. And guess which one is more painful?

What to Say

A truly humble Christian will not have a filthy mouth, so “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Eph 4:29). Our words can come back and haunt us. We cannot take back words once they’ve gone out to others ears. Jesus warned that “on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak” (Matt 12:36). What our Lord is saying is that “by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matt 12:37). We must guard our tongue, the most wild of all our members, and tame it as best we can, but a good dose of humility will help. Remembering whence we have fallen helps a lot (Rom 5:6-10). We have no biblical reason to be filled with pride except in boasting of Christ’s work on the cross (Gal 6:14).

Esteeming Others

Our natural, fallen state is to do for ourselves first and esteem ourselves as better than others. We justify our sins by sometimes thinking, “Well, as least I don’t …,” but that’s thinking too highly of ourselves than we ought. That’s the whole reason there is so much road rage out there today. People are ready to kill (and have!) if someone pulls out in front of them or are going too slow. Its like, “My time is more important than yours so get out of the way!” That driver might get home earlier…perhaps 3 minutes, but is it worth all that rage just to get home a bit earlier? God’s says to those who believe that we are to “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves” (Phil 2:3). That means our time is not more valuable than others. Others should be put before ourselves, particularly in the house of God.Bible Lessons About Forgiveness

Resisting God

Dr. John MacArthur once said, “We are never more like God than when we forgive,” and of course, he’s right. God has forgiven us for what is unforgivable without Christ. God did not give us what we truly deserved (His wrath) but gave us what we needed (grace), so we must give people what they need and not what we think they deserve. That means we should be forgiving of others as Christ has forgiven us. Put more precisely, we are to “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Eph 4:32). Naturally, God has forgiven us much more; in fact, infinitely more than we could ever forgive someone else. God says that “he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6).

At-War With God

The Greek word for “opposes” means “to range in battle” or to “be at war” with God, and that’s a “lose-lose” situation. The final score will be God: 1, You, 0. Whoever is proud is resisting God, but the humble He regards. Remember from where we have fallen (Rom 3:23; 6:23). “For though the LORD is high, he regards the lowly, but the haughty he knows from afar” (Psalm 138:6), meaning the Lord is far from us if we are haughty and have no regard for the lowly, but He has regard for us if we kill the enemy of pride.

Christ’s Example

Look at the magnificent example of humility in Jesus Christ, for there is none better anywhere in human or biblical history. Forthough he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped” (Phil 2:6). Rather than remain in His previous state of glory in heaven, our Lord Jesus Christ “emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” (Phil 27). Why? It was for our sakes (2 Cor 5:21). Even more incredible, Our Lord and our God, the Great Son of God, Jesus Christ, “being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil 2:8). Is there any greater example of someone having great authority and yet, great humility? No, it is Jesus Christ alone Who is our example of humility. There is none better.


It is to our advantage to remain humble, but we shouldn’t tell anyone about it. That would seem to ruin it, right? We best remember that God “leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way” (Psalm 25:9). There will be a day to be exalted, but we have nothing to do with that. We must remain humble. Our Lord says to us, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you” (James 4:10). If we get this backward and exalt ourselves, then the Lord will humble us! I pray our nation humbles itself before God and repents before the coming Day of the Lord (2 Chron 7:14). Today is the best day to choose to live; choose life, eternal life, by trusting in Jesus Christ.

Here is some related reading for you: How Pride Hinders the Christian Life

Resource – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), Crossway Bibles. (2007). ESV: Study Bible: English standard version. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Bibles. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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