Christian Leadership, Antithesis: Do the boxes really exist? (Part 2)

<— Click here for Part 1 Click here for Part 3 —>
Christian Leadership, Christian Leadership Theory, tags, leadership style, McBride, Dr Kurt Lewin, Traditional Leader, autocratic, authoritarian, participative, democratic, laissez-faire, free rein, Psychology, Jean-Léon Gérôme, The Christian Martyrs' Last Prayer

The image of Christian leadership which springs to mind (after that of Christ) is this classic depiction of Christian Martyrs by Jean-Léon Gérôme (1824–1904) entitled The Christian Martyrs’ Last Prayer. It’s the man standing in the middle who haunts me. Click image to enlarge.

I’m quite comfortable with tags. I wouldn’t mind being called a Dispensationalist or a Calvinist, a Pretribulationalist or a Premillennialist, a Cessationist or even a Fundementalist. The tags do not scare me and yet prescribing to a specific leadership style does. Why?

It dawned on me as I tucked into McBride’s content that he had borrowed heavily from Psychology 101. As early as 1939 Dr Kurt Lewin (271-301) and his colleagues postulated that the Traditional Leader is a person who exercises either autocratic or authoritarian, participative or democratic, laissez-faire or free rein leadership traits. Leadership theory finds a more solid footing in first semester Psychology textbooks than it does in Systematic Theology handbooks.

Which leaves me asking the question, “Unless these tags are shown to be clearly Biblical do I even want to associate myself with one?”

Was thinking about this in response to a comment by Thomas and wrote this: I’m concerned that Christian Leadership Theory and secular Leadership Theory look so similar. I think what I’d like to see is a work which considers Christian Leadership systematically or historically or even narratively. What I don’t want to see is warmed up secular concepts dressed in cassocks and prefixed with the word “Christian”. Know what I mean?

<— Click here for Part 1 Click here for Part 3 —>

6 thoughts on “Christian Leadership, Antithesis: Do the boxes really exist? (Part 2)

  1. Yeah – I’m glad you got to this question straight off from the blocks. I can’t help getting the feeling that there is a “cult of leadership” afoot in the world that seems to have infiltrated the Church, too. In fact it is a massive industry with books and seminars and conferences and gurus and experts who make their living from telling us all that we have to be leaders and how to do it.

    I fear it is sometimes like a higher class of believers – there are the “Leaders” then there are the rest of us; but I don’t see the requirements for a leader to be any different from the aspirations of any genuine disciple.

    That was my first thought when I saw what you were being asked to do.

    Jesus said, “Call no man leader for One is your Leader, even Christ,” (Matt. 23:10) – this seems to have got lost somewhere. Have we found good reasons to ignore it or rationalise it away?

    In the Kingdom we should be able to substitute the word “leadership” for “servanthood” without missing the sense of either word but I don’t hear this mentioned much, even by Christians. I am sure that you will be able to keep your head as you navigate the psychobabble, but I’ll be praying for you and watching with interest.

    Big respect,

  2. Thank you. All this is quite live for us at the moment as my wife is doing a masters in theology and ministry and currently sitting amid piles of leadership books, I keep tripping over them and trying not to put my coffee cups on them! I do admire people who care to grapple with the stuff I won’t touch with a bargepole but I also worry about them sometimes :-)

  3. sometimes I think the term “Christian Leader” is an example of tautology and sometimes I think the term “Christian Leader” is an example of oxymoron but mostly I think the term “Christian Leader” is a paradox.

    We’re family. And there is only one Head… and yet St John does refer to (spiritual) children, young men and fathers…

    I think the real question is which one are you?

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