Leadership is necessary and it is everywhere. Little boys display leadership when they pick teams to play a game of basketball. Teenagers show leadership when they decide who will be the president of the student council. Leadership is present in business, the arts, church, and every other arena of life.
As church leaders, we want people to operate as leaders in a Christian manner. To do so, we look to the Bible for guidance. The temptation that we must guard against is twisting a verse out of its context or original meaning in order to make a leadership principle out of it. Here are eight ways to teach leadership from the Bible.
1. Remember that the Bible is not a leadership manual. The Bible is God’s revealed truth about all subjects but it is not singularly trained on this subject.
2. It contains explicit and prescriptive principles. The passages that describe the character and work requirements of leaders should be followed as prescriptive. One such passage is 1 Timothy 3 that describes the requirements for elders in the church.
3. It has many more descriptive illustrations. We need to understand that the passages that describe leaders and what they did is not the same as those passages that direct what leaders must do. Looking at the life of Nehemiah allows us to learn about a leader. But it does not necessarily deliver prescriptive principles that apply universally to all leaders.
4. Stop proof texting moralisms and clichés from the Bible. In a world of sound bites, Twitter, and (even) blogs, we are tempted to boil everything down to the least number of words possible. But leadership is an involved and complicated endeavor. It is not about behavior modification for ourselves and others. Rather, it begins with gospel transformation and then pervades every arena of the leader’s life.
5. Understand the goal of leadership. The goal of Christian leadership is the same as the goal of all other parts of the Bible. We exist to glorify God and enjoy the benefits of His salvation. As the church, we must know how secondary issues such as personal development and fulfillment can serve the primary goal.
6. “Servant leadership” is a real thing but not the only thing. Setting up dichotomies such as proactive/CEO leadership versus servant leadership is great for writing books and holding debates. But then you actually have to lead people. We must value the idea of serving everyone but not allow it to make us passive in decision-making and disciple-making. Jesus certainly served the apostles and others in a multitude of ways. But he also made a whip and drove out the money changers from the temple.
7. Urgency is a hallmark of spiritual leadership. Christians are people who understand that the end is near. We have an urgency about the destiny of men’s souls. Leadership among Christians is not about being an alarmist but about urgency for decisions to be made that align with God’s kingdom. Looking into books like Peter’s epistles remind us of the need to live with the end in mind.
8. Christian leadership is both offensive and defensive. We must both protect the flock and attack the impact of sin in the world. Temptations abound in both of these arenas. We can fall prey to creating a subculture for believers to hide but then we ignore the mission of God. We can also become social activists in such a way that we overlook the needs of our congregation. Christian leaders must remain attuned to the Scriptures to learn how we are called to confront sin in people’s lives and protect the hurting among us.