Just read today:
If you Google “leadership development” you get 7.5 million results. If you search on Amazon you get over 65,800 books. Type in “leadership development” into YouTube and you have access to over 5,000 videos.
We live in a leadership crisis. Who can lead a nation out of war, when the war is against unseen foes who are not as concerned about taking “territory” as they are about taking “minds?” Who can lead selflessly when most people have such great deeply ingrained self-interests? And what does real 21st Century leadership look like anyway?
And how do you develop leaders?
In the Church we have a leadership crisis too. Or maybe it’s a “follow-ship” crisis – depending on where you stand. There is a great divide in the minds of many between those “in leadership” and those – who by definition – are “out of leadership.” So for many, “leadership” is an elite status. Which causes problems when we think in terms of “priesthood of the Believer” – which is a very NT concept. But all that is another story. (I’m writing about this “Man Up the Mountain” idea in my in-process book which will come out sometime before Jesus returns. I hope.)
Maybe it’s because many “in leadership” have sold their birthright/inheritance as leaders for a “mess of pottage.” Moving from being a spiritual leader actively engaged in God’s Mission and the spiritual formation of others to become CEO of “Church Inc.” – the purveyor of religious goods and services – has left many “leaders” stranded, alone and hungry while the church – those “out of leadership” – is stymied, impotent and weak.
Perhaps the CEO mentality came into play when churches set up boards to meet 501c3 non-profit requirements. Perhaps it’s about power. Perhaps it’s about management of multi-million dollar empires that include bank accounts, property, investments, electricity bills, staff salaries, retirement fund, Social Security and legal parking lot sizes. Nonetheless, it’s there and can present a problem when attempting to be “spiritual.”
Leadership is always a hot-button topic when I comes to church, but leadership is indeed biblical. Even if “leading” means leading people who are told to follow the Holy Spirit on their own…
Some years ago while teaching on another subject at a seminary in Cairo, Egypt (where there was no concept of managing a "church parking lot”), I was asked if “leadership” is even a biblical concept, since we are all “priests.” My reply was to look at a passage from Hebrews:
Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you. (Heb 13:17 KJV)
I said we can call them an assortment of things: rulers, watchmen or accountants. But I said, “I choose the word “leaders” as a sort of 20th Century compromise.” Sorta like the NIV does.
Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you. (Heb 13:17 NIV)
In his letter to the Romans, Paul says that leadership (proistemi) is a gift (charisma):
We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully. Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. (Ro 12:6-9 NIV)
Here Paul gives a grocery list of all sorts of things he characterizes as charismata – grace gifts who by Christ have been formed into a Body:
- Giving mercy
Here the definition is one who “stands before” and is to be received by grace, exercised in faith evidenced by governing diligently (spoude).
From my vantage point there are at least three types of leadership:
- Positional – a matter of title, position, placement or hiring that give the privilege of speaking, ruling and decision-making
- Relational – a matter of developed relationships that give authority to speak and lead
- Spiritual – a gift from God
Each of these function in the church. Each of these are useful and some are culturally defined.
The latest definition that I’ve found is from Ken Blanchard’s Leading at a Higher Level:
Leadership is the capacity to influence others by unleashing their power and potential for the greater good.
It sounds like a Bible-kind of leadership and carries the idea of empowerment with it.
So here’s my brief take:
- Leadership is a biblical concept and the kind of leadership given is very important… both to the People of God and to God Himself.
- Church leadership must be shaped by the values of the Christ and not completely shaped by the culture.
- Leading is part of a gift mix acquired by grace.
- Leadership is about keeping watch of people’s souls not about position.
- The Greek word used here means to stay awake – to be sleepless – and results in giving an account of that watchfulness either with joy or grief…
- Jesus is the example. Anyway you cut it. And if you read the Gospels looking carefully at Jesus’ leadership style, it might mess up the whole CEO mentality.
More later… maybe.