(Now that I have begun a PhD program in organizational leadership, I will use my monthly blog to discuss leadership theories and offer practical application in ways that will help the Church accomplish the Mission.)
Caution: This might not be as easy of a project as it at first sounds. Volker Kessler (2013) examined two pitfalls when attempting to write a biblical view of leadership: Christ Against Culture and Reconstructionism.
Pitfall One, Christ Against Culture
The first pitfall, Christ against Culture (Niebuhr, 1951), attempts to find a pure form of biblical leadership without respect to culture, or input from other resources. Those who attempt such an approach to use only the bible, and nothing but the bible, often fail to realize that when the bible doesn’t directly address certain matters, they themselves tend to fill in the gaps with their own cultural experiences of what would be best. Hence, it ends up not really being a pure form of biblical leadership, anyway.
Kessler provided examples of Christian leadership forums from Russian, German, Hungarian, and American perspectives. Have you observed people attempting to find a purely biblical form of Christian leadership, only to fail in the end? If so, what role did culture play?
Pitfall Two, Reconstructionism
The second pitfall, Reconstructionism, attempts to discover modern theories of leadership in the bible and reconstruct what was supposedly really there in the bible all along. Kessler described four phases in this process:
- Perception of what is currently popular in leadership discussions.
- Acceptance of the useful insights for the church, even citing biblical parallels.
- Assimilation through proof-texting and normalization of the freshly re-discovered biblical leadership.
- Standardization of this newly declared biblical view of spiritual leadership as true and good biblical leadership.
He provided an example of the contemporary emphasis on visionary leadership in American evangelicalism. Have you seen this reconstructionist process at work with other leadership theories, ideas, and fads?
What about: leadership as influence, servant leadership, heroic leadership, the leader within, loving leadership, coaching, leading like Jesus, leadership by the book, authentic leadership, laws of leadership, early church leadership, tools of leadership, healthy leadership, heroic leadership, painful leadership, courageous leadership, etc.? (Based on a cursory search of Amazon, there appears to be an almost unlimited supply of Christian leadership books, approaches, ideas, and repackaging of others’ ideas.)
Kessler concluded that: (a) the bible should not be viewed as a leadership handbook, (b) leadership theories are necessary and useful, and (c) the goal is to develop multiple leadership theories consistent within the Christian framework. This seems like a modest and refreshing proposal of a schema that remains tethered to theological and biblical (even authoritative) foundations, and a proposal that calls for awareness of cultural contexts in such a way that they can be appreciated, incorporated, and challenged. Is this proposal sufficient?
Putting the question back to you: If you could put together a biblical model of leadership, what would that biblical model of leadership involve?
Kessler, V. (2013). Pitfalls in biblical leadership. Verbum Et Ecclesia, 34(1), 1-7. doi:10.4102/ve.v34i1.721
Niebuhr, H. R. (1951). Christ and culture. New York, NY: Harper & Row.