Recently, I had a seminary assignment to write out a personal philosophy of leadership. The process of clarifying and writing my thoughts was very helpful for me, and I thought I would share it as a series here on the blog.
- What is Biblical Leadership?
- Where Jesus Wants Us To Go
- Meeting People Where They Are
- The Triperspectival Content of Biblical Leadership
Where Jesus Wants Us To Go
For the purposes of clarity, the second half of the definition of leadership will be analyzed first, as it provides the foundation for the first portion of the definition. Theologically, leadership cannot be understood apart from the revealed Word of God and the perfect life, atoning death and resurrection of Christ. To lead biblically, a person must first submit to the Word of God, the work of Christ, and the power of the Holy Spirit. Often, discussion begins on philosophical and value-based grounds, but biblical leadership must primarily be rooted in a worldview grounded in the Scriptures.
Leadership in Light of the Story of Redemption
Biblical leadership, therefore, looks first to the story of redemption in the Scriptures for a beginning and endpoint. The metanarrative of Scripture puts leadership squarely in the purpose of God to exalt Himself. God the Father has accomplished the exaltation of Himself through the person and work of Christ, and leadership therefore is ultimately Christocentric. Finally, the Holy Spirit is intimately involved in effectually carrying out this work of the exaltation of Jesus in the world through applying God’s word into the hearts and minds of believers. This redemptive activity of God to exalt Himself in the person and work of Christ by the power of the Spirit is the fundamental reality of the Christian life, and therefore any activity within the Christian life, like leadership, must fit within this overarching story and purpose.
The Great Commission as the Fundamental Command of Leadership
Having a firm grasp on the story of redemption, the next step in defining biblical leadership is to answer the question “what is the primary task of the leader?” Surveying the Scriptures, it appears that the primary way in which Jesus desires his followers to lead is expressed in the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20:
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
The primary command of a leader grounded in the redemptive plan of God is to make disciples through the means of baptism and teaching obedience. This is the basic command for biblical leadership because it is the foundational commission for all followers of Jesus. To define leadership without the great commission is to build a house without a proper foundation. Biblical leadership therefore is founded on helping individuals publicly identify themselves with Christ through the means of baptism, and submit the entirety of their lives to obedience to Jesus the King through obedience to His word.
Jesus is the Model of Biblical Leadership
If obedience-based discipleship is the foundation for leadership, it seems wise to search the Scripture to see a tangible demonstration of this model. Fortunately, we have the perfect example of this kind of leadership in Jesus and his investment in the first disciples. From selection to commission, the life of Jesus presents us with a compelling illustration for biblical leadership. Jesus met his disciples in the context of their everyday life (Matthew 4:18), called them to radical obedience (Matthew 4:19), demonstrated the power of God (Matthew 4:23-24), revealed to them the authority of His word (Matthew 7:28-29), shepherded them through their sin and disobedience (Matthew 18:1-5), provided them a vision for their lives (John 21:18-19), and commissioned them to do the same in the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8).
The Method of Jesus Provides the Pattern of Biblical Leadership
If Jesus perfectly obeyed God the Father in His time here on earth, then He presents a faithful representation of how God desires for leadership to be done. Through the life of Jesus as recorded in the gospels, God has provided the church a tangible model for faithful leadership that makes disciples for the glory of God. Robert Coleman, in his classic work “The Master Plan of Evangelism”, outlines the process and methodology of Jesus with simplicity and detail.
In short, Coleman’s work details discipleship as eight overlapping principles; selection, association, consecration, impartation, demonstration, delegation, supervision, and reproduction. From a process standpoint, I do not think there is much to improve upon, and this book has served as a foundational resource in my own leadership.