Discerning Good and Bad Spiritual Leaders

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. — John 10:11-13

So I will do a couple of passes at this section because there is so much good stuff in it. What Jesus is explaining to us here is the difference between good and bad spiritual leaders. Which I think is vital information for us today.

So looking back on the previous story, Jesus described the spiritual leaders of Israel as "thieves and robbers." But here, he uses a new title. He describes them as "hired hands." He adds this new contrast so that we can see some new qualities that illuminate their deceptive leadership. And remember, he is not having a side conversation with his disciples. He is saying these things to the people he calls "thieves and robbers" and "hired hands."

So what bad qualities is Jesus touching on with this new designation?

Well, he tells us. There are at least three qualities referenced here. First, they only see their role as a means of making money. Second, money is their primary concern, so they don't own the mission. Third, because they don't own the mission, they will passively allow the brutalization of the people when the pressure is on. And this reveals one thing — that they only care about themselves.

So now, if we compare the previous designation, "thieves and robbers," with this one, "hired hand[s]," we will see a subtle difference. We see two types of bad spiritual leaders. Those whose selfish intent is easily seen and those whose selfish intent is not easily seen. Both end up brutalizing the people of God. They do it in two different ways.

So let's get practical. How do we spot a genuine good spiritual leader? So let me give you some things to look for. First, if your spiritual leader selflessly talks about Jesus as the Good Shepherd, and he talks about him a lot, that's a good sign. But I would be cautious if he talks about their church, pastors, programs, and agendas more than you hear the name of Jesus. Second, if your spiritual leader shows some level of transparency in his public addresses about his wayward heart, desires, and motivations, that's a good sign too. Because bad spiritual leaders are not in touch with their dark side, they will suddenly abandon the mission and the people and leave a wake of devastation. Third, if your spiritual leader reads, studies, and teaches scripture with absolute ownership of the mission of Jesus and selflessly cares for people, this is a good sign. But if you sense he has his own mission or agenda that stems from selfish desires, then watch out because nothing good happens when man's mission conflicts with the Great Commission.


  1. How can I discern the motives and qualities of the spiritual leaders in my life? What are some signs that indicate whether they prioritize the well-being of the community or are primarily focused on personal gain?
  2. In what ways can I cultivate a sense of ownership and responsibility in my own role as a leader or within my spiritual community? How can I ensure that I prioritize the mission and the needs of others over personal agendas or desires?

DO THIS: Assess your spiritual leadership this week.

PRAY THIS: God, help me to have a discerning spirit that can recognize authentic spiritual leaders who selflessly prioritize Your mission and the well-being of Your people. As I navigate my own leadership journey, please instill in me a humble and selfless heart, always keeping Jesus, the Good Shepherd, at the center of my thoughts, actions, and community. In His name, I pray. Amen.

PLAY THIS: Good Good Father.

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Read through the Bible daily with Vince Miller.

21 thoughts on “Discerning Good and Bad Spiritual Leaders

  1. Frannklin Lovell II says:

    I need prayer today for a healing touch from the Great Physician. My sugar goes only as high as the 60’s. I am loosing weight at a rapid rate. I cannot seem to keep food down. I am also suffering from migraines.Thanks for all your prayers ( Even though I am a day late.)

  2. Chris Caliguire says:

    How about Vince CRUSHING it with Bill Arnold yesterday. You had (have) the spiritual excitement that I used to have!!! Very inspiring, you could hear it in your voice. Way to not grow weary in doing good. I only have one current, close relationship whereas I can share sportual items throughout the week. Even some people from my former Church just don’t get it…..After I REALLY believed the literal resurrection, I went to a spiritual warfare class and realized, “My goodness!, the brunt of Jesus ministry was addressing spiritual issues and the Spirit illuminated the Bible in a whole new way! I consider that Baptized in the Spirit??? Thanks for you relentless effort in leading us men. So glad to be a tiny part of God’s mission.

  3. Michael Knoll says:

    Please pray for my brother Kevin who has been experiencing neurological setbacks [partial vision loss] and limited use of his upper body. He was also just informed that he’ll never drive again either. Although his faith is strong, it seems it is being tested as of late. May God bless us all

  4. David says:

    I am a believer–All In for Jesus. My problem is that I dont know how to share the message.
    I ask for prayers–fill me with the Holy Spirit, abundant and overflowing so that I may share the message of
    Grace and Salvation with my friends, family, and others.
    Blessing to you Vince and the entire Prayer Team!

  5. Caruso Brown says:

    Please pray for the healing of my brother-in-law who was recently been diagnosed with brain cancer.

  6. Randy Mulchi says:

    Please pray for the salvation of my 83 year old step father that has cancer and unless God heals him, his time is limited here . Also pray for the salvation of my son Andrew, he accepted Jesus as a little boy but as he hit the teens years and own he has turned away from God . We have very little comminication and see each other 1 or twice a year . Thanks for praying !

  7. Don Rigazio says:

    Please pray for me concerning a struggle I’m having about going into ministry full time. I’m already leading our mens ministry at church and also have been sending out a scripture and devotional to 38 men every morning . I’ve been blessed with losing my right leg above the knee coming up on a year the end of this month. God has used this to reach many people and I give him all the glory… it’s allowed me to spend more time in scripture and serving others. However , I’m battling Satan with having the knowledge to take any steps further in this ministry.

    • Paul P says:

      Just sent up prayers for you Brother. 🙏🏻 I encourage you to check out Ps 91 and proclaim the promises over yourself.

  8. Tom Waller says:

    Sums it up “Does a leaders mission conflicts with the Great Commission?.

  9. Colin Brock says:

    Please pray for me and my family to find the right Church spirit filled Church that we can get involved in, I do know the church starts with us and in our hearts but so much more can be done in unity and commitment of the ongoing of God’s kingdom

    • trent says:

      Prayers sent, be ready. Be looking for direction and not just “I like this one”. My family is currently at a church where none of us wanted to go. Once we gave in and started going there, we have all been blessed.

  10. William says:

    Pray for my friend Anthony. He’s 63 years old and been searching for a job for over a year now. He has gone through all his savings and is depressed.

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