How God Chooses A Leader

By David L. Flowers

Key Verse: “…I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven.” (Nehemiah 1:4)

Leadership Qualities: Prayerful, Spiritual, Compassionate, Faithful, Responsible, Self-Disciplined, And Loyal         

How does God choose a leader?  How does a person become the leader God wants him to become?  What qualities must be cultivated to become a spiritual leader?  It has been said that to be a good leader you must be a good follower.  When is one being a good follower?

How Leadership Begins

One day, as Nehemiah was in the palace in Shushan, he met one of his brothers named Hanani along with certain others of the men of Judah. Nehemiah inquired concerning the welfare of the Jews who were in Jerusalem.

In response, Hanani and the others began to describe the great affliction and reproach of the people of Jerusalem. They further described the broken walls and burned gates of the city.

Concern For People

At this point one of the great traits of Nehemiah becomes obvious.  He was concerned about people.  Notice that Nehemiah was not seeking for a “position” or a “career”.  He was compassionate.  Genuine concern for people and their needs, or compassion, is one of the first requirements of a leader.  A true spiritual leader will not enter his work with selfish motives.

When Nehemiah heard the report of his brethren concerning those in Jerusalem, he took time to consider their needs.  He responded with weeping and mourning.  Further, he prayed and fasted until he saw the urgency of their condition.  He began to see the hopelessness of his people as they faced their future.

Many people never stop to consider the needs of others.  In the spiritual work of today’s church, a leader must consider the eternal destiny of his people.  So many have never heard the truth that will save them from hell.  A spiritual leader must clearly see the eternal destiny of the unsaved.  It is then that he will see why Jesus died on the cross.  Only then can he understand the true nature and work of the church.


Nehemiah already had a job with responsibility. He was the cupbearer to the King.  God chooses people who are responsible and know how to accept responsibility. 

God usually does not choose to use a lazy person or someone who constantly complains.  He will not choose to use someone who is habitually late or always blames other people for his own failures.  God’s choice for a leader is to use a person who has already demonstrated self-discipline, faithfulness and loyalty. 

A responsible person can see a problem and take steps to do something about it.  He knows how to initiate steps of action within his sphere of activity.  He will be found busy in the areas that have been assigned to him.

Examples For Discussion:

  • Moses: shepherding his father-in-law’s sheep.
  • Joshua: serving Moses
  • David: shepherding his father’s sheep
  • Elisha: plowing in the field
  • Peter, Andrew, James, and John: fishing in the Sea of Galilee

Strong In Faith

Many years before, Nehemiah’s nation was taken into captivity by the Babylonians.  The Persians followed the Babylonians.  Nehemiah had grown up as a captive.  The captive Jews had faced many challenges.  Many times their enemies had tried to destroy them.  However, as a nation they had nurtured a strong faith in God.  It was their faith that had enabled them to overcome and persevere throughout their captivity.  (For an example, see the story of Esther.)  They maintained their worship, the reading of the scriptures and their identity because they adapted to their circumstances and continually built their faith in God.  Nehemiah had learned all these lessons as a captive.

A spiritual leader must be strong in what he believes.  He must know doctrine and be strong in it.  I Timothy 4:16 says, “Take heed unto thyself and unto the doctrine; continue in them:  for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself and them that hear thee.”  A leader must know what is required to be saved.  People are depending upon him to know the truth.  He must preach the whole gospel of salvation:  repentance, baptism in Jesus’ Name for the remission of sins, and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost.  The true leader will have already proven that his life is an example of holiness before he is called to fill any position.

A person who is weak in his faith will be a weak leader.  People who follow a weak leader will not become strong in their faith because their leader’s faith is not strong.  Jesus said that if a person is blind and tries to lead someone else who is blind, both of them will fall in the ditch.  If a weak leader tries to lead, both he himself and the people he leads will stumble and fail.

It is required that a leader be strong in his faith if he is going to be able to lead people.  His faith will become an example to his people.  Hebrews 13:7, “Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken to you the word of God; whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation.”


II Timothy 2:2, “And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.”  Nehemiah had shown himself to be faithful both in spiritual things and in the responsibilities of this earthly life. Now God was ready to promote him to become a leader of the Jews.

In Luke 16:10-13, Jesus described how a leader is promoted in His Kingdom.  He said in verse 10, “He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much:  and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.”

A person should ask himself the following questions:

  • Have I been faithful to God? To my employer? To my pastor? To my wife? To my family?
  • Am I dependable?
  • Do I carry out my responsibilities?  Even if my boss is not present and others are not watching?
  • Am I trustworthy?  Do I cheat someone if I think I can get away with it?  Do I misuse money or property if I think no one will find out?

In Luke 16:11, Jesus said, “If you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon who will commit to your trust the true riches.”  Unrighteous mammon can be defined as the matters that pertain to this world.  Dishonesty and deceitfulness in the use of the things of this world disqualifies a person from being a spiritual leader to whom God can entrust “true riches”.  True riches can be defined as benefits of the gospel, eternal life, fruitful ministry, or even the care for the souls of men.

Joseph’s Faithfulness

An example of someone who was faithful in the things of this world (unrighteous mammon) and was then given true riches is Joseph, the son of Jacob and Rachel.  He was faithful to his father and was chosen to be the one who wore the coat of many colors that meant he would become the leader of the family.  He was faithful to Potiphar, and Potiphar promoted him to become steward of his house and all his property.  Joseph was even faithful while he was in jail and became one of those who cared for the other prisoners.  He had proven beyond any question that he could be trusted in almost any situation.  It was then that God promoted him to become ruler over all Egypt second only to Pharaoh.  By being faithful Joseph was in the right position at the right time to be used of God to save his family and the nation from which the Messiah was promised to come.

God And Mammon

Only by faithfulness in earthly things can one prove that he is qualified to be a leader in God’s kingdom.  Only then will God give  “true riches” to him.

Consider the following questions:

  • Can God trust me to do what I should for Him without being watched?
  • Can God trust me to become what He wants me to become?
  • Why do I want to be a leader?
  • Do I look at the ministry of pastor or evangelist as a job or a career by which I may receive a good income?
  • If I had a church averaging one hundred in attendance, which could adequately support me, would I continue to put the same effort into soul winning as I did when I started ministering?

Luke 16:12, “And if you have not been faithful in that which is another man’s, who shall give you that which is your own?”

  • Can my employer trust me with his things and know that everything will be handled properly?
  • Am I trying to build the Kingdom of God even though I am not a pastor now?
  • Do I work with my pastor in the winning of souls?

In Luke 16:13, Jesus stated a rule about service:  “No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other, or else, he will hold to the one, and despise the other.  Ye cannot serve God and mammon.”  In other words, God requires whole-hearted devotion and commitment to Him and His work.  To be an effective spiritual leader, a person’s service to others must be as though he is serving God alone.

To gain money cannot be a leader’s motive. If he really wants to serve God, he will do so with or without money.  If he makes money, he will serve God with his money by paying tithes and giving offerings.  He will do this first.  He will not wait to see if there is anything left.  He will put God first.

To have a position cannot be a leader’s motive.  If he puts God first, he will serve God whether he has a position or not.  He will make himself a servant to those who have positions and try to help them become successful.

The reason this is true is that the leader is serving God.  By serving others he is serving God.  By giving to others he is giving to God.  Seeing the Kingdom of God grow and advance is reward enough within itself.

Character In Men

It has been said that men always look for better methods, but God looks for better men.  When God chooses a leader, He looks for a man of character.  He is not concerned with what we look like, how much money we have, or what our talents or abilities may be.  A person can use these to serve God, but they do not qualify him to be a servant of God.

 A man can focus on things like position or place. He may focus on external circumstances such as money, equipment or the lack of these things.  He may allow himself to be hindered by problems real or imagined. Or, he can always blame someone else for hindering his service to God.

God will focus on things like a man’s prayer-life, faithfulness, or personal values.  He will examine how well a man accepts responsibility and his concern for people.  He will want to know if that man is determined to serve Him or not.  Or, is that man the kind of person who is here today and gone tomorrow?  Is he the kind of person who can follow God-given leadership?  A man will be required to follow before he can lead.  God will know his character.  He will know what he is really like.


How can a man become a leader?  Here are some suggestions:

  • Identify a need.  Nehemiah did this through hearing the report of his brethren.
  • Look at the need and study it.  Learn all that can be learned about it.  Ask questions.  Find all the information possible about it.
  • Study the Word of God with the need in mind.  Find out what God says about the need.  Particularly, study what God says about the leader’s role in meeting the need.
  • Get involved with the need by prayer.  God does nothing except in answer to prayer.  Keep fellowshipping that need by prayer.
  • Pray until you have something you can give to meet the need.  Pray until you can see that need in the same way God sees it.
  • Commit yourself to pray until the need is met.
  • Get involved at some level with working for God about that need.

Until you can become involved in this way, you will not be able to be a leader.

What Have You Learned?

1. Describe Nehemiah’s response to the news concerning the conditions of Jerusalem and the Jews.                                                                          

2. How is Nehemiah an example of a spiritual man?                                                                                               

3. Discuss the role of “prayer” in the call that Nehemiah received from God.                             

4. How did Nehemiah demonstrate “compassion?”                                                                                   

5. Describe a “responsible” person.                                   

6. What is “loyalty?”                                                 

7. Give three reasons a leader must be strong in the faith.                                                                       

8. Describe the danger of following a weak leader.                                                                                   

9. Write completely the verses found in Luke 16:10-13 thinking of yourself as you do so.                     

10. Give a definition for the term “unrighteous mammon.”                                                             

11. What are the things that a man must be faithful in before God will give him “true riches?”                                                                          

12. Give a definition for the term “true riches”.      

13. What is the key idea for a person who wants to be an effective spiritual leader?                                

14. How does a spiritual leader serve God?             

15. Men search for better _____________ while God searches for better ______.                

16. What is “self-discipline?”                                     

17. List six things that men tend to focus on when they discuss leadership.                                               

18. List eight things that God focuses on when He considers potential leaders.                                      

19. List seven things you can do now which will allow you to be involved with a need and will help you to prepare to be a leader.