How to be a good Christian leader – learn from David’s mistake


Whether you were recently being appointed as a leader in your church (one of the elders, a cell group leader, or an event coordinator) or you have been one for a while, it does not matter. Our attributes and values can change any time and it is important to keep them in check. To keep them focused on God and God alone.

A good leader is kinda different from a good Christian leader. You can find lots of tips from books or secular leadership seminars on how to become a good leader. For example, to be a good leader, you need to lead by examples, inspiring, motivating, positive thinker, and so on. If you stop there, then Osama bin Laden, Napoleon, or Hitler was a good leader, right? They even had followers who were loyal to the death.

You don’t want to be a Hitler or Osama bin Laden. You want to be a good CHRISTIAN leader. Yes, there is a difference. How, then, can you be a good Christian leader? Let us learn from King David’s mistakes in 2Samuel 24 (go ahead and read it).

Before we start, you do need to read 1Chronicles 21 as well. It explains that it is Satan, not God’s doing (though God, in a way, gave permission to Satan in His Sovereignty like in Job’s) but I won’t go into much details in this article.

How to be a good Christian leader

[1] Have the right motivation

Motivation is important, because it is what drives us to do what we do. If your motivation as a leader is acceptance so that people recognise, accept, and praise you, you might as well stop being a leader. You WILL be disappointed. Because when no one praises you or when a certain group dislike your decision, you will get angry, disappointed, and depressed. You may even withdraw from the ministry or church altogether.

Our sole motivation should be to glorify His name alone. Though it sounds easy to do, it is not. You’ll know your true motivation when bad things happen (no praises received, miscommunications in the team, etc). If your motivation is pure for God, you will rejoice no matter what happens, because you know that you are doing the will of God, not man’s.

David’s motivation in doing the census here was wrong (read my observation about this in detail).

Our motivation may change too. We may start with pure motivation but it gets corrupted along the way. Sins, temptations, situations, failures, and successes can sway us away.

When our ministry is a “success”, our true motivation will surface. If your motivation is to glorify yourself, you will become arrogant (and at times, you don’t even realise it). You’d start to think “I’ve done well here”. “I’ve worked hard for this”. You’ll start enjoying the praises and acceptance from the people around you, including your followers or the members in your team. Your ministry will not be successful without you. You are irreplaceable.

Nebuchadnezzar mosaic By: grahamc99

We all know that God hates the arrogant; Remember God’s punishment to King Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 4) and King Herod (Acts 12) for their arrogance? I’m sure you can name others. Which is why the next point to be a good Christian leader is to:

[2] Be humble before the Lord

When we lead a successful church, a successful cell group, or a successful event, we can get over our head. We start comparing ourself to the other leaders, that we are better than them. That we know better than them. We even know what they have to do (and must do) in their ministries. While it’s good that you can give feedback on how to improve their ministry, check your heart first. Is it because you want to show that you are better than them, deep down in your heart? To prove something? Does that feedback come after your “successful” ministry? What do you feel when they don’t take your suggestion well?

David was known as “a man after God’s own heart”, yet he fell into this sin of arrogance. You are no different than David, or any other human beings on the planet under sin. Be vigilant and stay humble before the Lord! Without God, you are nothing. Without God, your ministry will not go anywhere. Only by His Grace you are appointed to lead and produce fruit.

When you are humble, it allows you to listen to advice too. In 2Samuel 18-19, David listened to Joab’s advice (despite of the rudeness of Joab’s words, considering David was his king). This time, he didn’t (see verse 3-4). When a man is desperate and depressed, he needs all encouragement and advice he can get. But when a man is on top of the ladder of success, the only thing that comes into mind is “Who are you? Do you think you know better than me?”.

While it is true that Joab is no spiritual person (if you look at his history, you’d understand what I’m talking about), as a good Christian leader, you should listen to any advice from anyone. Doesn’t mean that you need to follow it, but at least listen, ponder about it, and bring it to prayer if need be. Sometimes, an advice from a non-Christian can be used by God to rebuke you. We all have a blind spot somewhere.

Only after 9 months and 20 days (when the census was completed), David realised what he did. Nine months and 20 days. That’s how long it took for David to realise what he had done.

3) Fear the Lord

I was quite shocked when I read about this passage for the first time. How shockingly big is the responsibility of a leader! Because of David, God punished the Israelites. Obviously, they were worthy to be punished and God was using David’s arrogance to fulfill His plan. However, it is clear in the passage that it is through David’s mistake that God punished the Israelites. What a scary thought!

This doesn’t mean that every time you do a mistake, God punishes your team or followers. However, when a leader falls, it will have a big impact. That is because people look up to you, follow your examples and principles. If you are a teacher, people will follow your teachings. Which is why being a leader is a big responsibility. Don’t be afraid, however, because it is also an honor and privilege if God entrusts you to be one.

How to have fear of the Lord?

  • Confess our sin (2Samuel 24:10)
    David did not run away or activated his self-defense mechanism! When he knew that he sinned, he confessed it right away to God!
  • Take responsibility
    David took full responsibility for what he’s done (read verse 10 again and also 17). A good Christian leader is no coward. He/she must have a big heart, to admit his/her mistakes and take full responsibility of it! Stop finding someone or something to blame.
  • Repent
    God is holy and therefore, you need to repent from your sins. David repented (see verse 18-25) and wanted to pay for the offerings. What he paid to Araunah was not much, I’m sure. After all, he was king and he was rich. However, the motivation is more important here. He wanted to pay the cost for his repentance and set it right before God.

Of course, there are more than these to be a good Christian leader. But we’ll leave it for another day.

What is your motivation in serving Him right now? It is the right time to reflect again, whether you are a leader or not. Have you grown weary? Are you dwelling with the sin of being the “most righteous” and “best leader” in your church? Only when you realise how sinful you are and that what you have now is purely a grace from God that you can be a humble leader, a true leader that can be used by God.

David’s heart struck him after the census. How pure is your heart, that when you sin, you get scared and ask God for forgiveness? Or has it become dull?

We are not born to become a great leader. We learn from the Bible, from our mistakes and from others’. Let us learn from David and be an awesome Christian leader in His eyes, not man’s!


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Michael Aulia is a Christian blogger who lives in Australia. He is the owner of and also

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