CBN.com As a pastor,
layleader, or leader of a ministry you know what the Bible has
to say about leadership. You’ve also probably read some
leadership books or heard the experts talk about effective leadership.
Now, how do you put everything you’ve heard together?
In Christ-Based Leadership David Stark, a pastor, business
consultant, and trainer, has done that for you. In one of the
most practical and useful leadership books you’ll ever read,
you’ll learn about today’s best leadership concepts
and how they measure up to the biblical leadership model. Then
discover how to put the principles into practice to become a more
effective leader in your church, ministry, or business. Read an
Are You Leadership Literate?
This book came to life in my spirit on an unforgettable day in
the early 1990s as I was reading global forecaster Alvin Toffler's
The Third Wave. Toffler had always been quite prescient
about the future, and his well-known statement struck me to the
The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot
read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.
At that time, well into my first years in ministry, I longed
to learn the essence of good leadership. I also had a sneaking
suspicion that I might need to unlearn and relearn a few things
along the way. At any rate, energizing my quest were two different
sets of motivations, each based on a leadership model.
The first bubbled up from my unsatisfying experiences with a
certain model of small-group ministry. My senior pastor had asked
me to apply it as soon as I arrived, and though I chafed at its
top-down, authoritarian approach, I used the program "successfully"
for a number of years.
Nevertheless, it was exhausting. What enormous effort just to
sustain the leaders' vision! People weren't enjoying this, I wasn't
enjoying it, and the fruit produced in participants' lives hardly
resembled the fruit of the Spirit. Where was the love, the joy,
the peace among us? We settled instead for much division, consistent
strife, little unity, and feeble enthusiasm.
* * *
I decided to look for a new way to do small-group ministry. While
reading Toffler's book, it occurred to me that the business community,
out of necessity, was moving into innovative structures to accomplish
its goals in the work force. This secular marketplace movement,
which was starting to look strangely similar to my own direction,
was crucially based upon a deeper understanding of leadership.
Could I learn from the business gurus while maintaining a thoroughly
biblical philosophy of ministry? The idea intrigued me.
* * *
Before I continue, please allow me a moment to review the basic
thesis of The Third Wave. Toffler suggests that civilization
has subsisted in three basic structures, or "waves,"
down through history.
The agricultural first wave involved living and laboring on extended
family farms (which is still applicable for much of the world).
In the second wave, the industrial revolution, people began working
in hierarchical organizations built around command-and-control
models of leadership. The era of the machine was built upon mechanistic
Then, around 1955, we entered the third wave: the information
age. Here and now, Toffler says, a new working structure is evolving:
less hierarchical, interdependent organizations that gather around
communities of commitment. Peter Drucker would later call these
"organic organizations," because the master image
is no longer the lifeless machine but the living organism.
As I swam around in cutting-edge business thinking, one day it
hit me: the New Testament uses the organic as its master
image: the body of Christ. However, while we've had this theology
of an organic organization from the beginning, the business community
seemed to be moving from theory (its "theology") to
application with more determination than the church.
This was out of necessity, of course, to meet the demands of
a rapidly changing, swirling, exciting, startling world: Globalization.
Computerization. Postmodernism and Gen Y. Talk radio, bloggers,
and eBay. How else would they survive, thrive, and get their message
across? Leaders in every field rose up ... to lead. They tackled
the problem on all fronts—they had to, for profits must
We, the church, on the other hand: Have our prophets fallen?
It seemed to me we were holding on to second-wave forms of leadership
and structure at all costs. We continued to create and maintain
top-down, hierarchical, command-and-control, mechanistic organizations.
Sound at all like your church?
That very day I committed myself to reading and digesting as
much of the business revolution material as I could find. I drilled
far into insights about effective leadership and people-empowering
structures. I wanted to learn, in full detail, what it would mean
to lead an organic organization. And I figured I had an advantage:
My organization is indwelt by the Spirit of God himself.
How Do You View Your World?
The more I read business literature, the more I saw two profoundly
distinct schools of leadership thought. In his wonderful book
Leading Change, James O'Toole describes this worldview
conflict; the first is the Realist-relativist-contingency
school, which holds the following assumptions about the world
and people (and therefore leadership):
- People are by nature evil and self-interested, thus they must
- Human groups are given to anarchy;
- Progress comes from discipline, order, and obeying tradition;
- Order arises from leadership;
- There can only be one leader of a group;
- The leader is the dominant member of the group;
- Leadership is an exercise of power;
- Any sign of weakness will undercut the leader's authority;
- Loyalty, effort, and change can be commanded successfully.
O'Toole spends several chapters showing that this view doesn't
work in the long run because it's an amoral leadership style that
harbors a built-in self-destructiveness:
Leaders in the Realist School are prone, when pressed by the
inevitable exigencies of public life, to behave in ways that
destroy the trust of followers. Because people will not follow
the lead of those they mistrust, contingency leaders will often
encounter insurmountable obstacles on the road to leading change.
By contrast, Rushmorean leaders have remarkably different
assumptions about the world and people. "Rushmorean"
refers to the character and values of people like Washington,
Jefferson, Lincoln, and Roosevelt. They possess authenticity,
integrity, vision, passion, conviction, and courage, and they
lead by example rather than coercion. Rushmorean leadership is
moral leadership, and its axioms would read:
- People are by nature a mixture of potential for great good
or great harm, and they thrive in an environment of trust with
- Human groups tend toward self-ordering states, given the right
parameters and resources.
- Progress comes from vision and values given as parameters,
where self-discipline, creativity, and passion are allowed to
stretch people forward.
- Order arises from common commitments to mission and common
understandings of values.
- There are many types of leadership and leaders within an
- Different leadership energies are needed at different times
to keep an organization moving to its prime.
- Leadership is an exercise of stewardship, where everyone
shoulders the trust given to the organization.
- Weakness and vulnerability on teams create an atmosphere
of trust, where members feel needed for their strengths as well
as needing others for the areas where they do not have strengths.
In this approach, everyone involved buys into any change effort
as members together craft a common vision out of various agendas.
In this way they capture the best future for the organization
and take advantage of the stakeholders' diverse gifts and passions.
As Toffler puts it:
No leader can command or compel change. Change comes about
when followers themselves desire it and seek it. Hence the role
of the leader is to enlist the participation of others as leaders
of the effort. That is the sum and essence not only of leading
change but also of good management in general. In reality, such
leadership is extremely difficult because it is unnatural.
As I reflected on these contrasting paradigms regarding the
world, people, and leadership, I came back to one of Jesus' clearest
statements. He too lifted up a basic leadership contrast—the
difference between leadership that reflects God's kingdom and
leadership that works against His purposes in the world.
"You know that the 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 your
slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served,
but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."
-- Matthew 20:25-28
Peter reinforces Christ's words when writing to early church
To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness
of Christ's sufferings and one who also will share in the glory
to be revealed: Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your
care, serving as overseers—not because you must, but because
you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money,
but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you,
but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears,
you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.
-- 1 Peter 5:1-4
I began to see that the New Testament establishes a crystal-clear
difference between leadership that "lords it over others"
and leadership that proceeds from the Holy Spirit to build the
kingdom. How similar to James O'Toole's Realist/Rushmorean distinction!
In fact, how similar to everything I'd been reading in the business
revolutionaries, those who knew that "business as usual"
must radically alter its approach in order to impact its world.
I was inspired by and excited about the possibilities. I also
thought, Wouldn't it be great to have a book that shows how
scriptural truths can work hand in hand with the best insights
of business research?
That's what Christ-Based Leadership hopes to do. We'll
explore in detail the differences between these leadership types,
launching into each theme from a pivotal question appearing in
each chapter title. The questions will drive to the core of what
today's leaders must be asking themselves in order to choose between
the pathways open to them. Each chapter will also compare the
components of leadership to the human body, showing by way of
analogy the "look" of health or disease in the organic
A Tale of Two Wisdoms
Recall that I had two motivations energizing my quest
for excellent leadership. If the first was solidly intellectual,
the second was much more emotional and spiritual in nature. In
the years that followed, as I began working as a church consultant,
I constantly observed amoral-leadership assumptions working themselves
out within congregations.
The result? Pain!
Lots of pain was being created in the church, manifesting in
all kinds of ways. I could broadly categorize the hurt in three
forms of woundedness:
(1) Missed opportunities for laypeople to live out their giftedness
and callings. They ended up in disillusionment and often rejected
the institutional church as a place of fulfilling their life's
(2) Hurt, confused, abused, and stifled staffers and layleaders.
These folks wanted to give their best to their leaders, but
found the amoral leadership patterns hindering and obstructive
at least, offensive and destructive at worst.
(3) Divided and diminished congregations. Within their communities,
they never had the impact they were designed to have.
Alongside such painful situations, though, I encountered hope-inducing
examples of moral leadership in action. These leaders had the
opposite effect on laypeople, staffers, and congregations. Where
is all the pain? I wondered at first. Then I realized how
very different the assumptions about people and the world were
in these healthy scenarios. They blossomed with vitality and ministry,
bringing glory to God in myriad ways. There is something irrefutably
wise about working within Christ's body as if it were an organic
organization. Which, of course, it is!
Here, then, were two very different "wisdoms," those
of which the apostle James spoke long ago:
Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by
his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.
But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts,
do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such "wisdom"
does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of
the devil. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there
you find disorder and every evil practice. But the wisdom that
comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate,
submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.
Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.
-- James 3:13-18
In each chapter ahead, while considering a key question about
effective leadership, we'll look at (1) the biblical wisdom supporting
the principle involved and (2) the specific business theory it
upholds. Get ready to enjoy "mini-book reviews" of pivotal
volumes; those you don't yet own may end up on your bookshelves
eventually. My hope is that churches will begin applying these
wonderful principles, along with their moral bases and structural
implications. If this can ease and eliminate some of the pain
caused by unbiblical, hierarchical leadership patterns, I will
be deeply gratified and grateful to God.
Excerpted from Christ-Based Leadership by David Stark,
Copyright © 2005; ISBN 0764201417. Published by Bethany House
Publishers. Used by permission. Unauthorized duplication prohibited.
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