Ideal (Distinctive) Characteristics of Christian Leadership

Culture and Leadership

Ideals: Challenge of Cultural Models

Christ and Leadership

Ideals: Christ's Critique of Two Cultural Models (Jewish and Greek)

Church and Leadership

Ideals: Pauline Models of Leading - Matt 20.25-28; 23. 1-12; Lk 10.45; Acts 20;

Philippians 2.5-8

We are living on the brink of the 21st century. The enormous size (10 to 11 billion by 2000 A.D.) and complexity of the coming world demands that we reevaluate the received models of leadership. Leadership is the capacity to affect others' actions or attitudes in a dynamic manner. - It entails an interplay between Christian leaders and every single disciple and is always biblically directed toward the fulfillment of the purpose of God, the redemption of the fallen universe and the evangelization of all the 'ethnics' (Matt 28.l6f; Mk 15; Lk 21; Jn 20; Acts 1). In attempting to address this project, I will discuss three areas of concern to our thesis:

A. Cultural Images and Leadership Potential, i.e. the fact of conflicting/contradictory leadership paradigms.

B. Christ's Critique of Two Leadership Ideas.

C. Church and Leadership Ideals with emphasis on Pauline Leadership Models

There are at least five leadership models exposed in the New Testament scriptures:

1. Situational Leadership, i.e. variety of styles.

2. Charismatic Leadership is based on the utilization of the gifts of the Spirit (Eph 1; I Cor 12; Rom 12).

3. Prophetic Leadership which challenges, confronts and encourages the Christian Community in terms of strong theological convictions and ultimate goals.

4. Servant Leadership mediates authority and ministry and encourages total participation (cf. Priesthood of all believers).

5. Moral Leadership is transforming leadership. This leadership style will be addressed in the third section of this essay, i.e. Pauline Leadership Models.

Training For the Kingdom and Leadership Ideals

Matthew 13.52 — "Therefore, every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who produces from his storeroom things new and things old."

II Corinthians 3.18 — "And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart."

II Corinthians 1.7-10 — "But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, to show that the transcendent power .belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that-the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies."

"In the beginning—well, maybe not quite at the beginning, but near the beginning—there was a scribe. At least, very early in Israel's national experience the office of the scribe arose, and to be a scribe in those days meant to be able to write. And "to be able to write meant that one held a very special place in the power structure of the nation, for in those days very few persons had such treasured skills. Because of this the office of the scribe became inseparably associated with the wisdom and insight of the culture. The scribe was the person instructed in law, knowledgeable of national and social interaction, skilled in documenting the history of his people, and wise in the ways of God and of man." (Source unknown)

Throughout the course of Israel's history, the scribe grew in prestige and honor, as is indicated by Sirach written in the second century before Christ.

On the other hand he who devotes himself to the study of the law of the Most High. Will seek out the wisdom of all the ancients, and will be concerned with prophecies; and will preserve the discourse of notable men and will penetrate the subtleties of parables; he will seek out the hidden meaning of proverbs and be at home with the obscurities of parables. . .He will set his heart to rise early to seek the Lord who made him, and will make supplication before the Most High; . . .He will reveal instruction in his teaching, and will glory in the law of the Lord's covenant. . . . (Ecclesiasticus 1.11)

Matthew 13.52 begins with diatouto meaning "therefore" or "for this reason." Such a tiny little phrase is of utmost importance because it always links what follows with that which has already been said, and makes what has been said the causal force of what is going to follow. What has already been said is recognized as the reason for, the cause of, that which Christ is now about to say about the role which he is spelling out for His disciples. In the present case, we have to look all the way back to 13.11 if indeed we are going to come to an adequate understanding of how our Lord was spelling out the ministry of the Christian scribe:

"To you. he said, it has been given to know the secrets of the Kingdom of heaven, but to them (that is, the people) it has not been given."

This is then followed by a long series of parables about the kingdom and concludes with Christ's question as to whether the disciples had understood all that he was saying in these parables. To be given the privilege of knowing the secrets is what it means to be discipled, to be trained, to be educated for the kingdom of heaven. And our Lord would have us recognize that we are so to work at understanding that we finally, by the grace of God and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, begin to surpass the wisdom of the scribes trained for the religion of the kingdom of Israel. Christ's kingdom is set over against that kingdom as his scribes will be set over against those scribes. The scribe prepared for the kingdom of heaven is not tied to things old—that was, after all, a preoccupation of the scribes in the time of Christ. One of the things which most bothered them about him was that he was constantly saying new things about God and they wondered where he had found his authority. What was his documentation? From what source did he obtain this kind of information?

But the scribes who will follow him, these scribes will not be so preoccupied with things old but will also be able to bring to all whom they meet things new; fresh, clear understandings of God. How dare we, he would ask us, how dare we believe in a God so small that we could begin to suspect, as the Jewish scribes tended to think, that everything about him had already been discovered? Or that his word, his own self-revelation, had been perfectly perceived? How dare we commit ourselves to a God who would confine himself to what was already understood? Christ says that every scribe trained for the kingdom is one who pledges himself from the very outset to develop the new. However, often received cultural models prevent us from thinking in terms of the challenge of the 'new.'

Cultural Models of Leadership Ideals

A core of common Church leadership problems militate against both the unity of the Church and fulfillment of the purpose of the Church:

1. Growth demands placing unmet demands on some leaders.

2. Non-Growth often frustrates leaders and Church members alike.

3. Over-Functioning Leaders, i.e. those who try to make all decisions and perform all public ministry.

4. Non-Functioning Leaders are largely responsible for the death of Churches.

5. Under-Developed Leaders are not leading to their full potential.

6. Inappropriately Trained Leaders continue to do ail "the right things in the wrong places at the wrong times and in the wrong ways."

7. Drop-Out Leaders continue to fill the ranks of state and federal employment (see E. J. Elliston, "Significant Concerns for Leadership Curriculum Design" -address delivered at Pan African Conference Christian Churches and Church of Christ, Nairobi, Kenya, July l1-17, 1985; and his Current Perspectives in Christian Lendership Development, Lincoln Christian Seminary Lectureship. April 1988). (Stephen R. Covey. The-7 Habits of Highly Effective People, NY, 1989).

In order to evaluate leadership dysfunction, we must take note of the fact that leadership is too often too closely tied to culturally received models. In the past 150 years, five major leadership paradigms have served to explain leaders and leadership:

1. The Great Man Theories (cf. Carlyle's Heroes and Hero Worship, 1841) led to two basic presuppositions: (a) leaders are born; and (b) leaders simply emerge due to the social situation. These theories provide no reliable way either to select leaders or to equip them for kingdom service. At best, these theories explain only how leaders emerge.

2. A paradigm shift occurred in 1904 with the arrival of The Trait Theories (see Bass, 1981, esp. pp. 43-96). The theory runs something like this—persons who consistently lead effectively will possess certain traits. But the traits were not consistent in different types of leadership contexts. The ultimate result of this 'train the traits' thesis proved ineffective in radical changing circumstances. Following the failure of these 'trait' theories, the next stage of scientific studies focused on Behavioral Theories.

3. Behavioral Theories; After Stogdill's 19l8 landmark article, studies began to be conducted around the issues of leadership behavior (Bass 1981: 141-492; compare with Burn's Leadership). None of these models served well to predict leadership effectiveness. In spite of this flaw, many contemporary writers on Christian leadership still seek a balance between a task and relational orientation for leaders. Future research focused on a contingent set of relationships among leaders and followers and the new situation from which emerged a new leadership paradigm.

4. Contingency Theories. The essential element in these theories is the discovery that a leader may have multiple styles (see Hersey and Blanchard, Management of Organizational Behavior (Englewood Cliffs, Prentice Hall, 1982; compare with Helen Doohan's Leadership in Paul (Wilmington, Delaware: Michael Glazier, 1984; see the third section of this study).

None of the above theories have treated the unique issues which highly complex social structures demand. Presently enormous energy is going into the fifth stage of leadership model analysis.

5. Complex Contingency Theories, i.e. multiple model paradigm [cf. see J. R. Clinton, Leadership Training Models (Pasadena, CA: School of World Mission, Fuller Theological Seminary, 1984; D. A. McGavran and W. Arn, How To Grow a Church (Glendale Gospel Light Pub., 197'0; and Lots McKinney, "Leadership;" Key to the Growth of The Church" in Discipling Through Theological Education (V. Gerber, ed.) Chicago: Moody Press, 1980), pp. 179-191].

Christ's Critique of Cultural Ideals of Leadership

Before reflecting on Jesus' severe criticism of both Jewish and Hellenistic leadership values, let us take -note of the relationship of Christian distinctive leadership values to syncretistic relativism apparent in many past mission efforts. The American management model is often reflected by the adherents of the 'name it—claim it gospel.' The American 'democratic model' is too often incorporated into the Christian decision-making process. "In Latin America the Patron Caudillo leadership model plagues many Churches. Among many African peoples the Egalitarian Gerontocracies or Chieftain models restrict the Churches' potential for evangelism. Church planting and nurturing." (Elliston, 1988).

It is here assumed that Jesus' example provides a normative case study for Christian leadership ideals. Servanthood can provide for the "differentiated role" model expressed by Jesus. Jesus describes leaders as (1) servants, (2) shepherds, and (3) stewards. From these models a Christian ideal model of leadership emerges.

These three leadership images were in conflict with the dominant models of leadership in Jesus' world: (1) Jewish (Matt 23.1,2) (Jesus criticized any and all leadership models based in power and status. He affirms "do not be called leaders; for one is your leader, that is, Christ." Jesus' lifestyle leadership model is proposed as a Christian lifestyle in Philippians 2.5-8 (see Martin's Carmi Christi) and (2) Hellenistic. The essence of the servant leadership ideal is expressed in four Greek terms:

1. diakonos - a servant viewed in relation to his work so stressing his activity.

2. doulos is a servant in relation to his master underlining his accountability.

3. huperetes is a servant in relation to his superior, thus emphasizing the authority he is under.

4. leitourgos is a servant in relation to the organization that employs him, so highlighting the administration he is part of. (Greenslade, Leadership, Greatness and Servanthood (Bethany House Pub., 1984); articles in TDNT and DNTT; Baur, Lexicon; and Domain Lexicon).

Jesus saw himself as a servant (Matt 20.25-28; Mk 10.45; Lk 22.24-27; Jn 13.15-17). In radical contrast, He said that the "rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them and there great men exercise authority over them. It is not so among you. . ." (Matt 20.25-26) Jesus specifically condemned two Culturally accepted traits of leadership of the Gentiles: (1) 'lording it over others' -‘lording over’ - carries the idea of tyrannizing one's subjects - Baur, p. 422; (2) exercises authority over - means to lord or master over or control - Baur, p. 459) Jesus displaced the rejected leadership models with that of servanthood.

Church Leadership Ideals: Pauline Models of Leading

The last issue which will be raised is the marvelous Pauline example of multiple leadership models (see esp. Helen Doohan, Leadership in Paul, and my work "Magnificent Obsession" in Newness on The Earth, 1969). The leadership ideals of Paul are graphically portrayed in his New Testament letters, especially I and II Thessalonians, Galatians, I and II Corinthians, Romans, I and II Timothy, Titus, Philippians, Ephesians, and Colossians. The present crisis and its challenge can be addressed from this biblical perspective. In his epistles Paul operates from a convinced and committed Christian global perspective, establishing his message on his God given apostleship and authority (see esp. Acts 17 and I/II Thess). In Galatians and Romans we take note of the emergence and development of a major theological issue - the identity and relationship between Jew and Gentile. Through his rhetorical skills he forces the community to assess the implications of the issues at stake, which is an essential leadership characteristic. In his Corinthian correspondence, Paul's spirit guidance and stamina and resiliency is apparent as he reassesses his ministry with and to a congregation with a penchant for both misunderstanding and division.

Although Paul never visited the community, his letter to the Romans expresses new integration and maturity. He urges community responsibility that facilitates their judgment in difficult situations by employing global examples and perspectives.

Paul's apostolic leadership prepares the Philippian Church for his absence. He recognizes leadership in the community and delegates responsibility to colleagues. Mutual love and acceptance enables the Church to grow. His Pastoral Epistles affirm his love for the Churches and their need for responsible leadership at the local level.

Paul expresses an ability to work with a variety of groups, situations, and issues. There are key insights into the appropriate exercise of leadership for committed Christians who deal continually with communities in crisis, challenge, development and change.

The amount of time spent with individuals and with communities is not positively correlated with constructive consequences. Corinth was his place of residence for a long period of time; yet, the theological depth of Romans is not achieved in either I or II Corinthians. The revealing spirituality permeating the Philippian Church is rarely attained in other congregations under Paul's tutelage and care. Perhaps leisure and distance are essential ingredients if a maturity and theological refinement in leadership and vision are to be achieved. The 'burn out' leaders of the Church would do well to pause, to assess and integrate experience and theology. Paul says, "But we beseech you, brethren, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work." (I Thess 5.12-13a) (A Strauch, Biblical Eldership. Lewis and Ruth. Pub., 1986 2nd ed.)

Pauline Leadership Ideals: Distributive Gifts and Functions

Paul emphasized a "distributive" leadership among the people of God based on "gifts" or God-given abilities rather than on an authoritarian hierarchical structure. Leaders are essentially equal though their functions may vary. All 'gifts' and 'functions' were and are for the "building up of the body of Christ" (Eph 4.11; I Cor 12.2-7). The surface tension between functional leadership models discussed in Timothy and Titus and the spiritual gifts lists recorded in Romans 12, Ephesians 4 and I Corinthians-12 are more apparent than real (compare Martin's and Carson's works of I Cor 12-11), particularly the 'gifts' discussions). The ultimate purpose for leadership is consistent throughout the scriptures (see esp. Stig Hanson's, The Unity of The Church in The New Testament, Uppsala, 1946; also note the tension between functional and charismatic leadership' ideals is at the heart of the "Early Catholicism Thesis." The leadership style of elders is brilliantly discussed by Kraft in his Christianity and Culture. Maryknoll NY-Orbis Books, 1979)