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Do Faith and Leadership Contradict Each Other?

I realize I have lots of different people who read my blog posts — some of whom faith is very important to them and others who would say faith is not an important part of their life. However, I think anyone will benefit from the issue I want to tackle here: Should being a person of faith (or should being a Christ-follower) eliminate the pursuit of leadership roles?

Recently, I read a blog post from a leader in a faith-based school suggest that it isn’t right to teach students to be leaders. The writer said the word “lead” is in the Bible far less than the word “serve.” He felt like there was far too much emphasis on getting kids to think like leaders; that we should spend more time helping them to seek anonymity. We live in a world, he wrote, that swells kids’ self-worth and tells them they will be more important if they are a leader. He went on to say that being a leader means being “superior” to someone else. The article begged the question.

May I respond here?

I do not see leadership as a goal or an end in itself. It is a means to an end. We believe the aim must be to serve; to discover our God-given gifts and serve them up to the world. When we do, we naturally gain influence. However, I believe if we can teach young people to think and act like life-giving leaders, they will be ready for such growing influence.

Jesus taught that when we follow him, one of the natural outgrowths of maturation is influence: Follow Me, He said, and I will make you fishers of men. Sure we can call ourselves servants. No doubt that word is found in the Bible more than “leader.” I am OK with either, but both have trappings that need to be explained. When I use the word leader, I am NOT connoting power, fame or superiority. Again, to me, leadership is the pursuit of service. Everyone will have their own trappings to work though. The author of the blog I mention above has his own stuff to work through. I don’t think he believes that when people call him a “leader” it means he is superior. After all, his title is “Head of Bible Department” at his school. Does that mean he is “superior” to the other Bible teachers?

The reason we teach leadership is because good, healthy, authentic, life-giving leadership is the cry of the world and the need of the hour. I would think no one would argue with that. After working on the Maxwell Leadership Bible for 13 solid months, I also believe leadership is in every book of the Bible. The capacity to lead is part of what makes us in the image of our Creator. We want to help students rethink their definition of leadership, and help them leverage their influence for a worthwhile cause. I think history will end up better if we do this. Servant-leadership is certainly what we believe in, but even that term has accumulated some trappings over the years. So, at Growing Leaders, we use the term: Life-giving leaders. I would hope that paints a picture not of superiority but of service.

For me, good leadership is about leveraging the influence I have in a beneficial way to others. All of us have influence. We will either be ready to leverage it in a healthy way or we will not. Past generations of young people have not been ready, and have demonstrated far too much corruption as adults because they grew into positions of leadership without understanding what healthy leadership really is. We want to help resolve this issue.

Tim

2 Comments

  1. Bacallao_mk on June 28, 2011 at 12:16 pm

    This is true.  I think we are just hung up on vocabulary.  When you see a truly Christian leader, you know it. 

  2. J Coplen on December 15, 2011 at 10:46 am

    Love this and totally agree with you. I can see the point of the school teacher. Serving others is certainly lacking in our world today. Society has somehow produced self-serving individuals. We have taught them that it is all about them! But, you have a great point here. We need healthy leadership. We need youth that understands what true leadership really is. True leadership is service. It’s not greed and power. Our so-called leaders in Washington are NOT the leaders of biblical times. They are not making good decisions that benefit the whole.  Our “leaders” continue to let us down.  Hopefully our leaders of tomorrow will get back to the roots of what it means to lead. So, love the article! 

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Do Faith and Leadership Contradict Each Other?