Leadership Style…Just Different or Sinful?

Sinful leadership or simply different leadership? Which is it?

I honestly admit that I am an incurable “thinker.” I’m always thinking about something…processing something…trying to resolve something…trying to get my head and heart around something.

Those of you who are subscribers (and those who are not, but frequent this blog site) know that I’m all about leadership: leadership in the home, in the church and in the market place.  I’m thinking, reading and processing ideas about leadership almost 24/7. I even dream about it. That’s how incurable I actually am.

I have been in, and served at, fifteen different churches since becoming a Christian 59 years ago.  I have read about, been acquainted with and served with lots of different kinds of leaders of all ages, personalities and backgrounds.

As many of you know, I served as an Elder at Mars Hill Church for eight years. While at Mars Hill, I experienced and learned a lot–some good and some not so good.  I won’t go into any of that here since I have already shared most of it in two prior blogs.

Before I get to the issue I have been thinking about recently, let me give a disclaimer.

Some who read my blogs think most of what I’m saying about church leadership is based on, and refers only to, my time at Mars Hill in one way or another–especially when I deal with things that are not right at churches and with their leadership.

Stop…This is not the case!

I am writing out of experience and knowledge of lots of churches over a period of 50 years. I spent thirty-seven years on staff with The Navigators and many of those years were with the Church Discipleship Ministry–a department within The Navigators that works exclusively with local churches and their leadership teams.

I have also coached around 300 leaders from a variety of churches in my role as a professional life and leadership coach. I am blogging on leadership issues from the aggregate of all these churches, coaching relationships and experiences over many years.

I share Paul’s sentiment expressed in 2 Corinthians 11:28 (ESV): “There is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.” And for me, I am especially deeply concerned about the leadership, or lack of leadership, in churches. This is why I have written three books on the subject of leadership, blog weekly on leadership issues, conduct leadership seminars, and currently coach leaders.

So here is the question…the issue that I have been thinking about and wrestling with for quite a few years:

When you, or I, encounter, experience or work with a leader who is leading in a way that you don’t agree with and/or uses methods in his/her leadership that you are struggling with, how do you know if it isn’t just a different way of leading as opposed to a sinful way of leading? 

This is a critically important question with significant ramifications depending on your answer.


  • Is the leader in question simply a very strong personality type, with a tough- love mind-set and leadership style, but not necessarily sinful per se?
  • Is the leader in question violating the clear teaching of scripture in the way they lead, make decisions, work with people, or resolve issues?
  • Is the leader in question clearly wrong or just different in the way they are leading?
  • Is their leadership style just a preference that fits their gifting, passion and vision, or is it truly sinful?


1.  If you come to the conclusion (after lots of thoughtful study of scripture, godly counsel and prayer) that what you have seen, experienced or been a part of is sinful and harmful, what responsibility do you and others have to do something about it, and what is the biblical way of going about that?

2.  If you come to the conclusion that it is different, but not necessarily sinful, what options might you have in dealing with it?

I would value your feedback on this. Use the comment section below to share your ideas/comments, etc.