Cross-Shaped Leadership, Pt. 2

The Bible has much to say about leadership generally, but two specific texts contrast God’s aims for leaders of his people with corrupted forms of leadership—Mark 10:42-45 and Deut. 17:14-20.

Deuteronomy 17:14-20

When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you and have taken possession of it and settled in it, and you say, “Let us set a king over us like all the nations around us,” be sure to appoint over you a king the Lord your God chooses. He must be from among your fellow Israelites. Do not place a foreigner over you, one who is not an Israelite. The king, moreover, must not acquire great numbers of horses for himself or make the people return to Egypt to get more of them, for the Lord has told you, “You are not to go back that way again.” He must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray. He must not accumulate large amounts of silver and gold. When he takes the throne of his kingdom, he is to write for himself on a scroll a copy of this law, taken from that of the Levitical priests. It is to be with him, and he is to read it all the days of his life so that he may learn to revere the Lord his God and follow carefully all the words of this law and these decrees and not consider himself better than his fellow Israelites and turn from the law to the right or to the left. Then he and his descendants will reign a long time over his kingdom in Israel.

Mark 10:42-45

Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Taking a cue from these texts, over the next bunch of posts I will sketch cross-shaped leadership in broad strokes by contrasting it with worldly leadership practices.  This may help us discern how perverted ambitions, hidden idolatries, and destructive practices subtly affect how leadership works in Christian communities.

To begin, I’ve come up with these alternative descriptions:

Worldly leadership: A desire to increase in prestige, status, and influence and a willingness to do whatever it takes to achieve these things, even if it means neglecting or hurting people who do not appear to be means of one’s own personal advancement.

Jesus-shaped leadership: An unrelenting commitment to the delivery of the love and grace of God into the lives of others (or, the life of another), and taking the initiative to see to it that this happens.

I’ve drawn these up from reflection on biblical texts and my own experiences in ministry.  I’ll elaborate on these two forms of leadership as our discussion progresses.

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4 responses to “Cross-Shaped Leadership, Pt. 2

  • Andrew T.

    ‘Worldly leadership as you define it, is not an example of “leadership” the secular world admires. At best is an example of “bad leadership”. Even non-Christians are able to recognize Jesus-like leadership (non-self serving decisions, lack of motivation in the pursuit of acclaim, care and concern for others, etc) as ‘good leadership’, and worldly leadership, as you describe it, as ‘poor leadership’.

    The poor worldly leadership you describe is mere evidence that worldly leaders are fallen. If you look carefully at what defines a good (secular) leader from a poor one, from a secular perspective, it is no different than what constitutes ‘good biblical leadership’ … which is the point that was made in your previous post.

    Jesus shaped-leadership, is good leadership whether or not we apply it to exhibiting leadership in the Church, or leading men into battle because it reflects the attributes of God. The idea that a good leader in the Church is different from a good leader in a secular setting is silly. Good leadership is good leadership, and I would argue a projection of Christlikeness (which appears to be what you are getting at).

    A step further though, poor leadership is poor leadership because it exhibits the falleness of humanity Self centred-ness; the pursuit of the acclaim of men rather than justice, righteousness etc; doing the easy thing rather then the right thing; the application of rules in an inconsistent manner; all define poor leadership both in and out of the Church, and are all hallmarks of our fallen state.

    David was a great leader in a secular sense because of he reflected the attributes of God well. His leadership would have been good in and out of the Church.

    So, shouldn’t the dichotomy about leadership recognize good from bad based upon how much of the Character of God (Christ)) is reflected in the person of the leader? Even if the secular world doesn’t recognize that the attributes they admire in a ‘good leader’ are the attributes of God reflected in a human, they still use the same standard to distinguish one from the other.

    • timgombis

      Thanks, Andrew. There are indeed many things that must be said about leadership in general. I can’t say them all. And what I’m saying may indeed intersect with other good things that can be said about leadership. But I’m just trying to capture an emphasis I find in Scripture on servant-leadership as opposed to corrupted tendencies in leaders in those sorts of positions.

      • Andrew T.

        Well, yes .. it is an altruism that before one can learn to lead one must also learn to follow (or serve). In nearly every great leader can be seen an even better servant.

        Even here, your point about servant leadership implies the pursuit of good leadership is best served through the pursuit of Christlikeness, which includes acquiring a servants heart.

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