2004, Vol. 1, No. 2
Editorial: Is Christian Leadership
Earl Creps, Ph.D., D.Min.
Director of Doctor of Ministry
Visiting Professor of Leadership and Spiritual Renewal
of God Theological Seminary
Most people spend their lives trying to find answers.
I usually prefer the questions because, if we get them
right, almost everything else follows.
As someone responsible for teaching leadership to others,
I wrestle with one question constantly: What do Christian
leaders have to offer that an equally talented atheist
cannot? When this issue first started plaguing me, I
quickly found myself hung up on two smaller questions:
1. If unbelievers have little to say on the issue, why
do we read their leadership books? A simple search on Amazon.com turns
up 17,176 hits for “leadership.” Adding the
modifiers, “business leadership” results
in 10 times more hits than “church leadership.” After
all, we attend corporate conferences to learn how to
lead, but few CEOs attend church conferences to do the
same. I find some believing leaders are intimidated by
the degree to which we are beholden to the business community,
feeling we would never figure out what to do without
the help of the Harvard Business School. Others resent
these secular intrusions so much as to condemn them publicly.
Neither of these attitudes seems like the path to an
2. What about the unbelieving leader who is more “effective” in
her/his context than many believing peers? We wish this
were never the case but we all know that it is sometimes.
Aren’t Christian leaders supposed to be, well,
Christians? Shouldn’t that be enough to make us
the equal of any well-intentioned atheist? While the
difference between darkness and marvelous light is quite
stark both in Scripture and in life, I am painfully aware
that being a Christian does not guarantee leadership
effectiveness any more than it guarantees that I can
play middle linebacker in the NFL (which I don’t,
by the way). Both Scripture and life teach us that there
simply is more to it than that. If this were not the
case, the gift of teaching would not be in the church,
because learning would be unnecessary.
So then, if both Christian and non-Christian leaders
- possess ability in some form,
- have access to the same resources and training and
- experience “success” and “failure” in
what do believers uniquely bring to the leadership table?
Of course, being in a redemptive relationship with Christ
makes a difference. And, of course, being gifted by the
Spirit makes a difference. And, of course, revering the
Word of God makes a difference. And, of course, our definitions
of “success” make a difference. But I have
concluded that there is something more that is the foundation
upon which all of the other differences rest:
Christian leaders have access to the Cross in real time.
Unlike our secular counterparts, we can be “crucified
with Christ” (Galatians 2:20)1 by
walking up Calvary to a place where our egos can die,
our ambition can be executed, our self-dependence can
expire and our tendency to substitute pretense for integrity
can be nailed to the tree.
The unbelieving leader has no place to die to her/himself.
In seeking to save her life, she will lose it. However,
Jesus said, “Whoever loses his life for me will
find it” (Mark 8:35). Christian leaders know that
the only way to live and lead is to “die every
day” (1 Corinthians 15:31) so that we can be renewed
in the life of the Spirit.
While our corporate counterparts trumpet their power
for all to hear, we listen for a still, small voice.
While they keep score by accumulating high-tech toys,
we store treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:20). While they
put their accomplishments on their resumes, we put ours
on the Cross.
Excellent training and relevant resources are extremely
important in today’s organizational climate. Recognizing
the giftings the Spirit imparted to us is even more important.
In the end, however, a Christian leader must walk up
Calvary to the place of surrender and death. His willingness
to take this walk is one of the things that made Jesus
so worth following (Philippians 2: 5-12). It will make
us worth following as well.
1. Biblical citations
are from the New International Version (NIV).
Friday, June 16, 2006 10:22 AM