A couple of thoughts on faith and leadership.
The first comes from something Andrew Wilson (no relation) posted this morning on the Think Theology blog. He has been looking at a book called UnCorinthian Leadership: Thematic Reflections on 1 Corinthians, and asks the question whether Christians’ emphasis on ‘leadership’ actually comes from the Bible. He quotes several paragraphs from the book where the author discusses the growing interest in ‘leadership’, noting that ‘in the early 1980s an average of three books on leadership were published each year; by the end of the decade that number was twenty-three. By now, of course, the number of leadership books (and other related materials) is somewhere in the stratosphere (a Google search of leadership books returns more than 84 million results).’
And yet, when you go looking in the Bible, you realise pretty quickly that it’s a word that can hardly be found there at all. The Bible certainly contains a host of concrete instances of individuals, tasks, offices, and images that you might want to connect in some way with the category of leaders and leadership: mothers, fathers, shepherds, sages, prophets, judges, priests, kings, messiahs, apostles, pastors, elders, overseers … the instances are everywhere. But the abstraction, the umbrella term “leadership”, hardly rates a mention.
Interesting stuff – and pause for thought for anyone in the Christian leadership business!!
In addition, in their book Reviewing Leadership (which I mentioned earlier this week), Robert Banks and Bernice Ledbetter spend some time looking at the teaching and modelling of Paul in the New Testament. They write that ‘if we begin by looking simply at the basic word Paul uses in speaking about these issues, what strikes us first is the infrequency of terms related to those at the top, to formal power, and to organization.’ They note Paul’s preference for metaphors and analogies relating to family life.
That is certainly another interesting perspective.
Not that we should abandon all talk of ‘leaders’ and ‘leadership’ in Christian circles (at least not before I get my thesis written!!); after all, Romans 12 refers to the gift of leadership (as Bill Hybels has often reminded us), and Hebrews contains several references to leaders and a church’s attitude towards them.
But I guess there is something of a challenge for us to examine how much of our leadership thinking in a church context is framed and shaped more by our culture than by the Bible!