Archives For Christian leadership

Many people in American culture see Ronald Reagan as one of the best Presidents and leaders of the 20th Century.  He led our country during a crucial time of economic uncertainty in America and the Cold War. Because of these circumstances and the way Reagan led our country, he is considered to be an exceptional leader.

pic of Reagan giving a speech

Flickr Photo Credit: US National Archives

In 2009 my family and I visited the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. While touring the facility I took almost five pages of notes about Reagan, his life, and the way he effectively led his country. Reflecting on those notes led me to see four distinct leadership lessons Christian leaders can practice from Ronald Reagan.

1. He was a great communicator. (In fact, he was often called The Great Communicator.)
Ronald Reagan personally wrote many of his speeches and he often took time to personally write responses to letters he received as President. In fact, his favorite place to write letters was on Air Force One with his cup of Jelly Beans near by. When Reagan was asked about the way he communicated and how he was so effective, Reagan said that he never felt he was the one writing his speeches, but instead the speeches were being written with the hearts and minds of the American people. He was simply trying to give a voice to the people of America.

2. He had the courage to take an unpopular stance when necessary.
Even though Reagan was considered a charismatic leader he often had the courage to take a position that was unpopular. The main example of this is when the Air Traffic Controllers went on strike in 1981. Because the american country and economy almost came to a halt when this occurred, Reagan and his legal team had to do something to fix it. They were able to craft a case based on the fact that because Air Traffic Controllers were sworn federal public servants they were not allowed to strike. Reagan took this information and issued a firm ultimatum that any traffic controllers who did not report back to work within 48 hours would be fired. Taking a position such as this and broadcasting it to the American people was a very unpopular position and could have had legal ramifications (especially when you consider the power Unions might have had to retaliate).

3. He took responsibility.
There is not a specific example of this leadership lesson observed, but it was obvious throughout my travels of the museum that Reagan rarely, if ever, passed the blame of something wrong onto others. In fact, when things went well he often passed that credit onto others. He once said, “There is no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he doesn’t care who gets the credit” (I thought President Lincoln was the first to say this, but the quote was attributed to Reagan at the library). The proverbial “buck” truly stopped with President Reagan.

4. Reagan’s most important work was done outside of the Oval Office.
Legendary stories always circulate about the famous Presidential Oval Office, but Reagan rarely showed the Oval Office’s importance because he traveled so much. In eight years of presidency Ronald Reagan traveled to 26 counties and logged 661,708 miles. He went “to” the people where they were. Reagan traveled so much that he often joked that Air Force One was his partner in foreign policy. Perhaps the best result of his foreign policy and extensive travels was the relationship he built with Mikhail Gorbachev in Russia. Numerous meetings took place between the two of them in an effort at appease the tension during the cold war years.

These are the four basic leadership lessons I observed while touring the amazing Ronald Reagan Presidential Library which you and I can also implement into our lives as Christian leaders.

Question: What leadership lessons have you observed from Ronald Reagan’s service as our President?

Today’s post is the fifth part of a six-part series exploring the question: What makes Christian leadership distinctly “Christian” and what makes Christian leadership distinctly “leadership?”. This week we will study this question and I hope to receive feedback from you in the comments section.

What makes Christian leadership 'Christian' and what makes christian leadership 'leadership'

KNOWING THE DARK SIDE

The fourth distinction of Christian leadership is acknowledgement of the dark side.

What is a dark side? “The dark side . . . is actually a natural result of human development. It is the inner urges, compulsions, and dysfunctions of our personality that often go unexamined or remain unknown to us until we experience an emotional explosion.”[1] Downfalls and pitfalls of a dark side can provide a stumbling block for any leader regardless of her faith. However, because much of Christian leadership rests on a leader’s moral character, the negative impact of the dark side of a Christian leader is greater. Christian leaders are not perfect (and they should not be expected to be), but the simple fact of acknowledging the dark side and working to combat it will help to prevent a leader from the potential downfall and failure a dark side might bring.

Because the dark side is a natural result of our human development (mostly during childhood when we had to navigate experiences we had no control over), Christian leaders must actively acknowledge the dark side and combat it. Knowing about the dark side is extremely important for biblical Christian leaders because much of their influence comes from strength of moral character. If they lose that moral character and the influence that comes with it, they lose all ability to lead. Part of acknowledging the dark side of Christian leadership is to know “the chief characteristic of a Christian leader must be submission to Christ, and only those who have learned that submission is the key to power can be effective Christian leaders.”[2] Submission to Christ and identity based on him help to shed the dark side because “when the leader learns to submit to Christ as the Leader, that is, when he learns to fly ‘the white flag of victory,’ that he becomes an authoritative Christian leader.”[3] Once a Christian leader has learned to submit to Christ, overcoming the dark side is easier.

Thankfully there are several things Christian leaders can do to actively combat their dark side in addition to submitting to Christ. Two practical steps taught by Ronald A. Heifetz and Marty Linsky are “Transitional Rituals” and “Rekindle the Sparks.”[4]

  1. Transitional rituals are practical things Christian leaders can do to separate themselves and their identity from the professional work they do. This goes back maintaining one’s identity in Christ. Christian leaders are able to keep their identity based on God and not wrapped into their job when they have a transitional ritual such as a drive from work to home, intentionally changing clothes when they arrive at home, or exercising after work. All of these are intentional “transitional rituals” that allow a Christian leader to transition from mission focused work to resting into the person she is.
  2. “Rekindle the Sparks” keeps the relationship at home with a spouse strong. The best way for a Christian leader to guard his heart is to keep it close to his wife. Too many times a Christian leader has led himself into destructive habits of adultery, pornography, or money laundering because he allowed his heart to drift way from his wife.

McIntosh and Sima also provide some great steps for Christian leaders to practice to “redeem their dark side.” Those steps are: acknowledge your dark side, examine the past, resist the poison of expectations, practice progressive self-knowledge, and understand your identity in Christ.[5] When Christian leaders know their dark side they are able to positively work on it. Even if they do not actively work to combat their dark side, the knowledge of it will help them prevent it from taking over their life and causing moral failure in the future.

Question: What is your dark side and how do you work against it?


                [1] Gary L. McIntosh and Samuel D. Rima, Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership: How to Become an Effective Leader by Confronting Potential Failures (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group, 2007), 28.

                [2] William D. Lawrence, “Distinctives of Christian Leadership,” Bibliotheca Sacra July—September (1987), 318.

                [3] Ibid., 318.

                [4] Ronald A. Heifetz and Marty Linsky, Leadership on the Line: Staying Alive through the Dangers of Leading (Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review, 2002), 184-186.

                [5] Gary L. McIntosh and Samuel D. Rima, Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership: How to Become an Effective Leader by Confronting Potential Failures (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group, 2007), 170-218.

Today’s post is the fourth part of a six-part series exploring the question: What makes Christian leadership distinctly “Christian” and what makes Christian leadership distinctly “leadership?”. This week we will study this question and I hope to receive feedback from you in the comments section.

What makes Christian leadership 'Christian' and what makes christian leadership 'leadership'

SERVICE AND SACRIFICE

Perhaps the strongest distinctions of Christian leadership are service and sacrifice.

The concepts of service and sacrifice go back to Jesus who served and sacrificed for the people he led. In his article, “Leaders as Servants: a Resolution of the Tension,” Derek Tiball writes, “Christian leadership is meant to be different from other forms of leadership because Christian leaders are called to be servants.”[1] Serving others while in leadership is definitely different than the world where power and influence are held closely by those who have it and desired and envied by those who do not have it. This concept of serving others is difficult because “our fallen human instincts seek power, wealth, status, and influence. Servant leadership is thus quite unnatural for fallen human beings. Thinking like a servant-leader requires a new mindset; acting as a servant-leader requires empowerment by the Holy Spirit.”[2] Continue Reading…

Today’s post is the third part of a six-part series exploring the question: What makes Christian leadership distinctly “Christian” and what makes Christian leadership distinctly “leadership?”. This week we will study this question and I hope to receive feedback from you in the comments section.

What makes Christian leadership 'Christian' and what makes christian leadership 'leadership'

PART OF THE FLOCK

The second distinction of Christian leadership is that Christian leaders are part of the flock.[1]

Contrary to that, American culture has “come to believe that good leadership requires a safe distance from those we are called to lead.”[2] Often it is said, “It’s lonely at the top,” or “Leadership is lonely,” or “Don’t get too close to those you lead.” That is the view American culture has about leadership, but it is very different than Christian leadership. In his article, “Distinctives of Christian Leadership,” William D. Lawrence comments, “Christian leadership is different from other kinds of leadership because no Christian leader can assume the position of being ‘number one,’ that is, the leader. This is true because those who believe in Christ know there is only one ‘Number One,’ namely, the Lord Jesus Christ.”[3] It is interesting to note that the Apostle Paul, who is well known for his leadership in the young Christian church, “never describes pastors as leaders of congregations, presiding over church activities and services and as being the head of a complex organization.”[4] Instead, the imagery of a shepherd is a much more biblical representation of what a Christian leader should be. In an article titled, “Shepherd or One of the Sheep: Revisiting the Biblical Metaphor of the Pastorate,” through careful exegesis Quentin P. Kinnison, Ph.D. shows that Christian leadership it is not being a shepherd over a flock of people; it is being a shepherd within the flock.

There are several important implications for our understanding of the [shepherd] metaphor and its practical application to the life of God’s people. First, God reserves sole claim as shepherd of God’s people. . . . Second, the OT and NT both emphasize the Spirit’s presence in the lives of leaders. . . . Third, for pastoral leaders, this means empowering others to hear and respond to God’s promptings as they move onto God’s agenda and become witnesses of God’s missional activity in the world. . . . Finally, pastoral leaders must be embedded participants in the congregation. These primarily lead by example. Shepherd elders are sheep in the flock helping others follow the shepherd.[5]

Kinnison’s definition shows a way of Christian leaders being part of the flock while leading the flock.

God talks about himself as the primary shepherd throughout the Bible and Christian leaders simply as part of his flock. This changes the traditional worldly view of leadership. But how does a Christian leader lead the flock while being part of the flock? Research into the physical practice of shepherding reveals, that shepherds often placed bells on specific sheep who reliably followed the shepherd.[6] According to Kinnison, God is the true shepherd and Christian leaders are undershepherds—those sheep within the flock wearing bells to help guide the other sheep the direction the shepherd (which is God) wants to go.

Having acknowledged oneself as a sheep and part of God’s flock, the Christian leader’s job is to help the other sheep be on God’s plan and move in the direction of God. Since “spiritual leaders understand that God is their leader”[7] they are “someone who knows where the Lord is going and can get others to follow him as he follows the Lord.”[8] This means Christian leaders “don’t get to create the vision, we just get to follow it”[9] because “God’s purposes are the key to spiritual leadership—the dreams and visions of leaders are not.”[10] Henri Nouwen defines this as, “Leadership . . . means to be led.”[11] While being part of the flock as bell wearing undershepherds it is imperative that Christian leaders relinquish their vision for God’s vision in an effort to follow him. Being a Christian leader as part of the flock is leading the way as an example the entire time following God with the hopes that others will see, hear and follow the way. Joshua is a biblical leader who modeled this. Several times throughout the book of Joshua he makes a specific commitment to follow God. The verse often quoted is “Chose today whom you will serve. . . . But as for me and my family, we will serve the LORD.”[12] With that personal commitment to follow the Lord, Joshua also calls others to serve and follow the Lord primarily out of his own example (as an undershepherd wearing a bell) “me and my family, we will serve the LORD.”[13] Joshua is not saying, “I am your leader, follow me.” Instead, Joshua is saying, “God’s our leader, let’s follow him.” Another great example of a Christian leader being committed to God and undershepherding God’s people is the Judah king, Hezekiah.

In the very first month of the first year of his reign, Hezekiah reopened the doors of the Temple of the Lord and repaired them. He summoned the priests and Levites to meet him at the courtyard east of the Temple. He said to them, “Listen to me, you Levites! Purify yourselves, and purify the Temple of the Lord, the God of your ancestors. Remove all the defiled things from the sanctuary. . . . But, now I will make a covenant with the LORD, the God of Israel, so that his fierce anger will turn away from us. My sons, do not neglect your duties any longer! The LORD has chosen you to stand in his presence, to minister to him, and to lead the people in worship and present offerings to him.”[14]

King Hezekiah was not perfect and made mistakes like most Christian leaders. But the important thing to note is that King Hezekiah was committed to being part of the flock and leading God’s people. With part of the flock faithfully following God, he pointed the people he ruled over back to following God.

Question: Do you believe Christian leadership is about being part of the flock?


                [1] Most of the insights and comments on the “shepherd” language derives from Quentin P. Kinnison’s article, “Shepherd or One of the Sheep: Revisiting the Biblical Metaphor of the Pastorate,” Journal of Religious Leadership 9, no. 1 (Spring 2010). I will cite directly when I am able, but please note most of shepherd language stems from his article.

                [2] Henri J.M. Nouwen, In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership (New York, Crossroads Publishing, 1989), 61.

                [3] William D. Lawrence, “Distinctives of Christian Leadership,” Bibliotheca Sacra July—September (1987), 317.

                [4] Derek Tidball, “Leaders as Servants: a Resolution of the Tension,” Evangelical Review of Theology 36, no. 1 (2012), 33.

                [5] Quentin P. Kinnison, Ph.D., “Shepherd or One of the Sheep: Revisiting the Biblical Metaphor of the Pastorate,” Journal of Religious Leadership 9, no. 1 (Spring 2010): 90.

                [6] Ibid., 68, 89.

                [7] Henry Blackaby and Richard Blackaby, Spiritual Leadership: Moving People on God’s Agenda (Nashville, TN: B&H Books, 2001), 28-29.

                [8] William D. Lawrence, “Distinctives of Christian Leadership,” Bibliotheca Sacra July—September (1987), 319.

                [9] Quentin P. Kinnison, Ph.D., “When is the leader not ‘in front of’, but ‘in the midst of’?” (lecture, Fresno Pacific University North Center, Fresno, CA, May 31, 2012).

                [10] Henry Blackaby and Richard Blackaby, Spiritual Leadership: Moving People on God’s Agenda (Nashville, TN: B&H Books, 2001), 19.

                [11] Henri J.M. Nouwen, In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership (New York, Crossroads Publishing, 1989). 75.

                [12] Josh. 24:15.

                [13] Josh. 24:15.

                [14] 2 Chron. 29:3-5, 10-11.

Today’s post is the second part of a six-part series exploring the question: What makes Christian leadership distinctly “Christian” and what makes Christian leadership distinctly “leadership?”. This week we will study this question and I hope to receive feedback from you in the comments section.

What makes Christian leadership 'Christian' and what makes christian leadership 'leadership'

IDENTITY IN CHRIST

The first distinction of Christian leadership starts with Jesus Christ.

In the world, men often get their self identity from their work while women often base it on their relationships.[1] However, with Christians “our identity in Christ is that we were created in the image of Christ.”[2] The idea that Christian leaders’ identity is based on Christ is a challenge to “come to the point where we recognize that our value is not dependent on our performance, position, titles, achievements, or the power we wield.”[3]

Christian leaders must remember “that our greatest source of worth as leaders should come from the knowledge that we are known by God and declared righteous in Christ.”[4] When a leader’s view of himself is based on the position he holds or the job he has, this places him at risk for tremendous downfalls in ministry and leadership. What happens when the leader loses his job, is fired, or is demoted to a lower position with less power and prestige? Christian leaders are so much more than what they do. In fact, because of the great gift that God has given to his people by sacrificing himself for their sins, it is an insult to God for a Christian leader to think of himself as someone who is defined by what he does.

For a Christian leader to have an identity in Christ also means distinguishing himself from the role he has at work. No job here on earth is big enough or important enough to completely consume a person. A Christian leader’s identity should be fully and solely founded on Christ.

Question: What does it mean for you to have an identity in Christ as a Christian leader?


                [1] Quentin P. Kinnison, Ph.D., “What is the secret of Christian leadership? How can we survive? What does Jesus teach us?” (lecture, Fresno Pacific University North Center, Fresno, CA, June 7, 2012).

                [2] Quentin P. Kinnison, Ph.D., “How can God transform our weaknesses?” (lecture, Fresno Pacific University North Center, Fresno, CA, May 17, 2012).

                [3] Gary L. McIntosh and Samuel D. Rima, Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership: How to Become an Effective Leader by Confronting Potential Failures (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group, 2007), 213.

                [4] Ibid., 214.

Today's post is the first of a six-part series exploring the question: What makes Christian leadership distinctly “Christian” and what makes Christian leadership distinctly “leadership?”. This week we will study this question and I hope to receive feedback from you in the comments section.

What makes Christian leadership 'Christian' and what makes christian leadership 'leadership' 

Christian leadership is a topic that has been studied and researched in depth for many years. This blog series explores the question, What makes Christian leadership distinctly “Christian” and what makes Christian leadership distinctly “leadership?” I will explore this question theologically, socially, and personally as it relates outside research and my personal experience. The Greek word for leader often used in the New Testament is “hegeomai” which can mean “I lead; I think, am of opinion, suppose, consider; to lead; to lead the way (going before as chief).”[1] In an effort to learn about Christian leadership we must look to the Bible because “the leadership about which Jesus speaks is of a radically different kind from the leadership offered by the world.”[2] That different view of Christian leadership is what will be explored and discussed in this paper.

Question: What do you believes makes Christian leadership important?


                [1] “Strong’s Greek: 2233. Hegeomai – to lead, suppose,” Biblos, http://concordances.org/greek/2233.htm (accessed June 13, 2012).

                [2] Henri J.M. Nouwen, In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership (New York, Crossroads Publishing, 1989), 62.