The Triperspectival Content of Biblical Leadership

November 20, 2013 — Leave a comment

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.

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The Tri-Perspectival Content of Biblical Leadership

Once a leader has listened to where an individual is, the next step is communicating where Jesus wants the person to go in a gracious yet challenging way.  Leadership is helping to provide doctrinal and biblical content, processing through the appetites and affections of the heart, and then tangibly giving steps of obedience forward to an individual or organization.  The primary role of a leader is that of a teacher, of a shepherd, and of a coach – leaders instruct in doctrine, help form character, and give practical wisdom to foster action.

Equipping the Whole Person

Primarily, the task of the biblical leader who has an understanding of the individual is to equip the whole person—their head, heart and hands.  The biblical leaders adopts the role of teacher in communicating the truths of God’s word, of shepherd in helping a person understand the affections and emotions of the heart, and coach in providing practical steps toward obedience to Jesus.  Biblical leadership does not simply content itself with singular attention toward one particular role, but seeks to be faithful to lead through all the faculties of a human.

Ephesians 4, verses 14 through 20 offer a compelling vision of Paul’s desire for the Ephesian church being rooted in the Trinitarian God.  The words he uses to exhort the church involve “being strengthened in Spirit in the inner man”, Christ “dwell[ing] in your hearts through faith”, “strength to comprehend…and know the love of Christ” and that would ultimately produce God’s greater glory.  Paul has a great understanding that humanity is composed of several faculties, and biblical leadership involves leading in all facets.  These faculties are often summarized tri-perspectivally as “head, heart and hands”.

Instructing the Head

“Head” knowledge is rooted primarily in the intellect. This is the type of knowledge that is associated with recalling facts, doctrine, and teaching. Head learners typically have a love for Scripture or knowledge and are able to affirm truths based on propositions or argumentation.  Doctrine rooted in the Word of God is the primary content of biblical leadership, as it is “breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV)

Shepherding the Heart

“Heart” knowledge is rooted primarily in the desire, will, or emotions. This is the type of knowledge that is often associated with shepherding, character, or relational care. Heart learners are often guided by feelings and are typically wonderful at shepherding the souls of those who are under their care. Things like worship environments make them feel closer to God and whenever they read the Scriptures, they typically are attracted to verses that speak of positive things, with more difficult truths being bypassed.  To simply teach something as true ignores that most decisions of a human are driven by desire, not simply by reason.  The biblical leader helps a person to understand what drives their affections, both positively and negatively, and thereby cultivates strong character rooted in sound doctrine.

Coaching the Hands

“Hands” knowledge is rooted primarily in action, or tasks. This is the type of knowledge that would most closely be related to coaching, skills, or assessment. It is the application of the knowledge from the head and the heart toward actually seeing change. Where Head and Heart learners simply feel or think about doing things, Hands learners actually execute them.  The role of a biblical leader is to not only teach the mind and shepherd the heart, but to equip and hold accountable to active obedience.

Conclusion

Biblical leadership recognizes that different situations demand different modes of leadership, and ultimately that obedience, affection and intellect are intricately interwoven.  Every leader has a bent towards one particular faculty, but the biblical leader values and understands all three faculties, employing them as Christ did throughout His earthly ministry.

Ultimately, discipleship and leadership is not simply meeting once a week over breakfast to have Bible study or calling the shots for an organization. Rather, discipleship and leadership is continually pointing the disciple to Christ in variety of contexts, situations, and locales with the hope of seeing them be turned more into the likeness of Christ over time. If your discipleship and leadership is not happening in a variety of contexts and various kinds of conversations, you’re not biblically leading.

Todd Engstrom

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Although I was raised in the church and had a knowledge of God, I didn’t embrace Jesus until I heard gospel preached and lived out by some Young Life leaders. God has proven faithful and good to me since that day, even in great suffering and loss. I have learned to treasure Romans 8:28 as a wellspring of hope and truth. God has blessed me with an amazing wife (Olivia), three sons (Micah, Hudson and Owen) and a daughter (Emmaline). Growing up in the northwest, the thought never crossed my mind that I would have four children who are native Texans. Despite landing in the south, I still watch Notre Dame games with my children every Saturday in hopes they will land at my alma mater.

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