Biblical Theory of Leadership
The last few posts have presented seven leadership theories that find their roots in four separate paradigms: existentialism, pragmatism, idealism, and realism. Each theory (and therefore, each paradigm) offers something helpful for churches, yet each contains a portion of belief that the church must reject. The question remains whether or not the authoritative text for the church, the Bible, offers any insight into an ideal theory of leadership.
Bredfeldt integrates the truths from these four paradigms. A biblical leader values individuals as divine image bearers. He is visionary and anticipates great things for the church. He seeks change and looks for practical ways to bring about progress. He must also be given to the timeless, absolute truths that have guided the faith for centuries and never sway outside their boundaries. In short, the biblical leader understands that progression is not merely pragmatic, mechanistic, or the result of a “great man” leader authoritatively ushering in changer. Biblical leaders understand that it is a dynamic of all these views that brings healthy change (Bredfeldt 2006)
Kenneth Gangel posits there are five essential steps in developing a biblical understanding of leadership: exegesis, hermeneutics, theology, philosophy and methodology (Gangel 1989). Working one’s way through Old Testament narratives, the writings of the poets and prophets, as well as the New Testament gospels and epistles, Gangel defines leadership as “the exercise of one’s spiritual gifts under the call of God to serve a certain group of people in achieving the goals God has given them toward the end of glorifying Christ” (Gangel 1989). This definition has roots in idealism in that it recognizes leadership as a gift from an absolute source, given for a specific reason at a specific time. It has roots in existentialism, recognizing the value of followers and meeting their needs. It is pragmatic and realistic, recognizing that the purpose of the leader is to achieve goals for the glory of God.
The conclusion of these posts, then, is that all theories of leadership have value in terms of helping a Christian leader understand his or her role in church or related ministry settings. An integrationist approach is best, one that recognizes all truth as God’s truth, and filters all things through the Scriptures.