Lincoln Leadership Lessons Applied to Christian Ministry

June 27, 2012

It is said by others that Abraham Lincoln is the greatest leader the United States of America has ever had. There are many things that I can learn from Abraham Lincoln’s life as it applies to me and my work as a Christian leader. There are four distinct leadership lessons Abraham Lincoln shows that can be directly applied to my own work in Christian ministry and leadership. The first of the four is about the necessity of reading the Bible and using it as a guide.

Linconl Leadership Lessons Applied to Christian Ministry


One of the three books which Mr. Lincoln often read and memorized sections of during his youth was the Bible.[1]

Later on as Lincoln became President many people witnessed that he always kept a Bible on his desk and read it often.[2] In fact, as the Civil War began and caused increased stress and tribulations he often read it more and focused on specific stories that would encourage him and help with the situations he was in.[3] In Lincoln’s Philadelphia Speech at Independence Hall in 1861 he showed what a solid biblical foundation does for a leader when he needs to stand up on an issue. Lincoln made a speech about how the “weights [of slavery] should be lifted from the shoulders of all men, and that all should have an equal chance.”[4] In the speech Lincoln also explained that the only way there would be bloodshed and war was if it was forced upon the government. Then Lincoln boldly declared his commitment, “I have said nothing but what I am willing to live by, and, in the pleasure of Almighty God, die by.”[5] One of the important things for Christian leaders is to have conviction for what they are doing that is founded in biblical principles.

Additionally, a careful reading of Lincoln’s speeches reveals that he used Bible based scripture imagery and literal quoting on a regular basis when appropriate such as “let us judge not, that we be not judged”[6] and “the Almighty has His own purposes. Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh.”[7]

As a Christian leader I too must read the Bible often and memorize chunks of it. To lead people in an authentic way I must know what God’s word says and use it to guide others that way. Knowing God’s verses and stories allows me to pull those out when I need them as I interact with people who are going through difficult circumstances and or I myself am going through difficult circumstances. And perhaps the greatest way to be a well formed Christian leader is allowing God’s word to marinate in my life in a way that molds and forms me into a great leader.

Thus far in my ministry I have kept my New Living Translation (NLT) Study Bible on my desk while at home doing schoolwork and other work, but I have not applied this to my professional life at work at the United Way of Stanislaus County. One of the next steps is to bring a Bible I can set on the corner of my desk and read it when facing difficult circumstances and situations.

As Lincoln was witnessed to always keep a Bible on his desk and to read it often, it is a leadership example that if it helped to end slavery and gave him the strength to stand up against it, then I too should do the same. Perhaps some of Lincoln’s relationship to the Bible helped him develop another leadership quality worth noting which will be discussed next: his ability to stand firm.

                [1] Ronald D. Rietveld, “Was Abraham Lincoln a Christian?” Bibliotheca Sacra (January 1960): 59.

                [2] David Grubin, Abraham and Mary Lincoln: A House Divided, DVD (American Experience and PBS, 2005).

                [3] David Grubin, Abraham and Mary Lincoln: A House Divided, DVD (American Experience and PBS, 2005).

                [4] Abraham Lincoln, “Philadelphia Speech” (speech, Independence Hall, 1861).

                [5] Abraham Lincoln, “Philadelphia Speech” (speech, Independence Hall, 1861).

                [6] Abraham Lincoln, “The Second Inaugural” (speech, Washington, D.C., 1865).

                [7] Abraham Lincoln, “The Second Inaugural” (speech, Washington, D.C., 1865).

Christopher L. Scott

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Christopher Scott is Small Groups Pastor at Rocky Hilly Community Church in Exeter, CA. He has more than ten years of experience leading volunteers, running nonprofit programs, and teaching the Bible in small group settings. He holds a bachelor's degree from Fresno Pacific University and master's degree from Dallas Theological Seminary.

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