A BIBLICALLY SOUND PERSONAL PHILOSOPHY OF LEADERSHIP
Presented to Dr. Rusty Ricketson
Luther Rice Seminary
In Partial Fulfillment
of the Requirements for the Course
LD 511 Leader/Follower Theory and Practice
Justin Z. DuBose
The area of leadership is perhaps one of the most written about topics in Christianity. What makes a Christian leader? There are multiple theories in existence that attempt to describe what qualities make for a good Christian leader. This paper will examine the biblical mandates of Scripture on those who seek to lead. When the Bible is examined as the primary piece of evidence, certain key elements materialize. The Christian leader is called to be a follower who yields their life to the will of God. Several biblical models will be examined, the words of Christ will be analyzed, and a clearer picture of the biblical philosophy of leadership will emerge.
THE BIBLICAL MODEL OF LEADERSHIP
When addressing the issue of leadership within the organization of the church, many would agree with Harold L. Fickett who stated that, “There are three requirements for a good program within the church. The first is leadership, the second is leadership, and the third is leadership.”  Much of the literature of today’s religious societies emphasizes, perhaps to a fault, the essential role of leadership in the church. Like Fickett, many agree that without leadership church programs are doomed before they even leave the printing press of great ideas. Many would expand this from church programs to include the church at large. That is to say that without good leadership, it is simply a matter of time before the doors of the church close permanently and a real estate sign is placed in the front yard. In asking the fundamental question, “What is the greatest struggle of the church today?”, many pastors, scholars, and theologians would respond similar to Frederick J. Finks. “In many churches across America today there is a lack of effective leadership.”  If this truly is the greatest struggle for churches, the Bible should be the first place visited in order to discover what the Scriptures have to say about solving this potentially deadly problem.
Primarily, the person of Jesus Christ should be studied for what He has to say about leadership. If the number of followers one accumulates determines the measure of leadership, Christ Himself would likely be the greatest leader who ever lived. In studying the words of Christ in Scripture it is very interesting to note His words as quoted in John 6.38 when He says, “For I have come down from Heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of Him who sent me.”  The depth of this statement is worthy of further examination. Christ Himself, the founder of the Judeo-Christian religion, says that He is simply executing the will of the Father who sent Him. The implications of this simple statement are that Christ Himself, perhaps the greatest leader to ever grace the planet, was nothing more than a simple but exemplary follower. All of the marvelous things that Jesus Christ did or said were simply following the directives of the Father who sent Him. This puts the leadership of Christ in an entirely different perspective. In this regard, it is actually the followership of Christ which creates and leaves the greatest impact on those who follow Him. What then is the greatest benefit of studying the leadership of Christ if His greatest characteristic, and in fact His self-stated purpose for existence, was His followership? Mark Schmitz, Senior Pastor of Summit Baptist Bible Church in Pennsylvania has stated that, “Finding the definition of good leadership will lead to a discovery of good followership.”  In the opinion of Schmitz, the greatest benefit of studying Christ’s leadership is that we learn about His followership, His greatest characteristic. Let us examine a couple of the prominent theories of leadership and then we will return for an examination of followership.
In today’s leadership fascinated society, there are many theories as to what make the most effective type of leader. The most prominent are the transformational leadership theory and the situational leadership theory which will be discussed briefly and put into biblical context.
The most prominent theory of approximately the last three decades is the transformational leadership theory. This theory epitomizes the idea that everything rises or falls on leadership. At the heart of this theory is the visionary leader, without whom the theory cannot exist. If you remove the transformational, visionary leader from the center of the equation, nothing else can self-sustain. Richard Parrott, Executive Director of the Sandberg Leadership Center at Ashland Theological Seminary, has stated of transformational leadership that, “It is a process of leadership in which the motives, needs, and humanity of followers is given full consideration. At the heart of the process is the visionary leader.”  Notice that, as Parrott himself states, everything in this process hinges upon the visionary leader. If one reads between the lines, it becomes evident that Parrott believes that this theory is the only one in which the “motives, needs, and humanity of followers is given full consideration.” The status of “follower” is automatically relegated to something undesirable, as they cannot possibly exist without their transformational, visionary leader. According to this theory, the followership of anyone, including Jesus Christ, seems to not be worthy of examination.
Situational leadership theory is the second most prominent leadership theory in existence. This theory of leadership states that specific leaders are raised up for specific situations for a specific time period. William D. Dobbs, Pastor of First United Methodist Church in Holland, Michigan, cites Moses as a biblical model of situational leadership. “God’s authentication is visible in the continual demonstration of God’s power from the court of Pharaoh to the top of Mount Sinai. God authenticated Moses’ leadership in the sight of the people.”  Dobbs seems to grasp biblical leadership better than Parrott in that he cited God the Father as the center, rather than Moses. However, notice that the status of those who follow has not changed. They are still relegated to being portrayed as mindless machines incapable of accomplishing anything substantive. Rusty Ricketson, Chair of the Leadership Department at Luther Rice Seminary and University, has noted that, in actuality, “Leadership is an interdependent relationship between a leader and a follower in which there must be cooperation or leadership does not exist.”  Notice the difference in the role of the follower with both Parrott and Dobbs to that of Ricketson. Parrott and Dobbs portray the leader as the center of everything, and that the follower is, for all practical purposes, useless. Ricketson, however, highlights the importance of both, but particularly that of the follower. With this differentiation, let us jump back into the biblical example of Jesus’ followership as it pertains to Christian leadership.
A third theory of leadership is that of servant leadership. Contrary to transformational and situational leadership, servant leadership places the role of the follower at the heart of leadership. In addition to the words of Christ quoted earlier from John 6.38, He says in Matthew 20.26-28, “Whoever desires to become great among you, let Him be your servant.” Jesus Himself here is addressing this issue of servant leadership and citing it as the proper biblical model of leadership. He continues on to say that, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”  This line of thinking aligns perfectly with the purpose of Jesus as He stated it in John 6.38, that Christ came to serve and to carry out the will of the Father. This is clearly emerging as the proper model of leadership for those who seek to lead others in a church setting. Laurie Pederson, upon reading these verses in Matthew, stated that, “The kind of authority and leadership that Christ modeled and taught always found expression in servanthood.”  God is established as the leader, and all others are followers. Paul the Apostle expounds on this theory when he writes in Ephesians 1.22-23 that, “He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.”  William D. Lawrence very aptly stated that, “Christian leadership is different from other kinds of leadership because no Christian leader can assume the position of being ‘number one,’ that is, the leader.” He goes on to say that, “This is true because those who believe in Christ know there is only one ‘Number One,’ namely, the Lord Jesus Christ.”  Again, the role of the leader as portrayed in both the transformational and situational theories of leadership is very different from this biblical model of servant leadership. The role of the leader becomes much more subjugated, to the point of simply being the head follower.
Other scholars and theologians have included in this servant leadership theory the specific role of the head follower. There is agreement among some that the essential role of the head follower never changes. Kenneth O. Gangel stated that, “Christian leadership is 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 toward the end of glorifying Christ.”  According to Gangel, the role of the Christian leader is simply to discern the will of God for a group of people using spiritual gifts to the glory of Christ. Robert Clinton seems to agree with Gangel. He states that, “Leadership is a dynamic process in which a man or woman with God-given capacity influences a specific group of God’s people toward His purposes for the group.”  These two men seem to be combining all of the above types of leadership into one. This Christian leader must be a servant of Christ, following Him. However, this leader must also be a visionary directing the people toward the will of God for them. Additionally, this leader, much like Moses, has been given certain spiritual gifts for a specific time and place. Can these leadership theories be combined to make for a biblically sound philosophy of leadership?
There certainly seems to be an element of transformation in leadership. However, the discrepancy seems to come when deciding on the agent of transformation. According to Richard Parrott and others who subscribe to the transformational theory of leadership, it is the human leader who is the agent of transformation in those who choose to follow. By virtue of his or her charisma, personality, or some other human characteristic, others are transformed. However, Gangel and Clinton seem to be arguing that the human leader is simply a vessel used by God in deciding how God wants to transform those who choose to follow. This second theory certainly aligns more with biblical principles than does the first. Romans 12.2 states that Christians should, “not be conformed to the ways of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” So then, the Bible is clear that transformation should take place, but from whom? For this clarification, the preceding verse provides the answer. Paul encourages the Romans to, “present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.  Notice the simple phrase “to God”, which, transliterated from the Greek as “theos”, literally refers to the Trinitarian Godhead of the Bible.  Thus, He is the agent of transformation in the lives of the Christian leader, who is simply another follower. Theologian and scholar Dallas Willard has written of this transformation that, “If I am Jesus’ disciple that means that I am with Him to learn from Him how to be like Him.” 
The biblical agent of transformation is clearly God, not man, and the Christian leader is simply instructed to pursue God and yield himself or herself to the spiritually transforming work that God wishes to accomplish in their lives. This being established, is there a biblical model of how we are to respond to God? What type of Christian leader is God looking for?
The example of Moses has been discussed briefly. In Exodus 3 God calls Moses to yield himself to the transforming work of God in order that God may use Moses to free the Israelites from slavery to the Egyptians. Moses reluctantly does so and God goes on to do some incredible works through Moses simply because of his yielding of his body to the service of the Lord. Another example is that of the prophet Isaiah. Isaiah 6.8 records God asking the question, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Isaiah’s response was, “Here am I! Send me.”  Again, the Christian leader whom God used to accomplish His purposes was a man who yielded himself and bent his will to that of God. Daniel Smith says of Isaiah’s leadership that, “God continued His divine initiative of leadership by instructing Isaiah where to go, what to say, and what to expect in the process.”  Thus, the Christian leader is responsible only for the yielding of himself to God. He is not even responsible for what to say or where to go, this is all the work of God, the true leader. The Christian leader is simply called to follow, just as Christ Himself did. From the New Testament there is perhaps no greater human leader than the Apostle Paul, from whom we can learn much about Christian leadership. In Acts 9, as Saul was on his way to Damascus he encountered the Lord. When the Lord spoke to him, his response was simple, “Lord, what would You have me to do?” This is the proper response for a Christian leader. Later in the chapter, God calls to Ananias, and his response is eerily similar to that of Isaiah. He says simply, “Here I am, Lord.”  The Christian leader, in all walks of life, is called to yield their bodies to the Lord for His purposes and God will do the rest.
Many more examples could be named to include Noah, Abraham, Joseph, David, the apostle Matthew, and a host of others. The common denominator of all biblical Christian leaders is the yielding of themselves to the transformational work of Christ in their lives. Acts 2 records wondrous works of the Holy Spirit in the life of the early church. The final verse of the chapter, verse 47, talks about the agent of this transformation and upon whose shoulders rests the leadership of the church, “The Lord added daily to their numbers such as should be saved.”  The Christian leader is not called to be transformational. The Christian leader is not called to gather followers. The Christian leader is called to be transformed and to become a follower. This is the biblical philosophy of leadership to which we are all called.
Christian leaders are called to give up their own desires and take up the desires of the Father. Like Christ, they are called to execute the will of the Father. In yielding themselves to God to be used for His purposes, they can accomplish far more than if they were operating in secular leadership principles outside of His will. Christian leaders should seek primarily a relationship with Jesus and to conform their lives to His. Once this process is underway, God can use this exemplary follower to accomplish wondrous things for His Kingdom. May all Christian leaders remember the words of Scripture in their leading of others:
“But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence. But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God--and righteousness and sanctification and redemption-- that, as it is written, "He who glories, let him glory in the LORD." 
Blue Letter Bible. "Dictionary and Word Search for theos (Strong's 2316)". Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2012
Clinton, Robert. The Making of a Leader. (Colorado Spring, Colorado: NavPress, 1988)
Dobbs, William D. “For Such A Time As This: A Situational Model of Leadership”, Ashland Theological Journal 33:0 (NA 2001)
Fickett, Harold L. Hope for Your Church: Ten Principles of Church Growth. (Philadelphia: Pilgrim Press, 1969)
Finks, Frederick J. “Leadership Profile – New Testament Style” Ashland Theological Journal 16:0 (NA 1983)
Gangel, Kenneth O. Feeding and Leading. (Wheaton, Illinois: Victor Publishing, 1989)
Holy Bible. New King James Version.
Lawrence, William D. “Distinctives of Christian Leadership” Bibliotheca Sacra 144:575 (July 1987)
Parrott, Richard. “Transformational Leadership – Theory and Reflections”, Ashland Theological Journal 32:0 (NA 2000)
Pederson, Laurie. “Servant Leadership” Priscilla Papers 07:3 (Summer 1993)
Ricketson, Rusty. Follower First: Rethinking Leading in the Church. (Cumming, GA: Heartworks Publications, 2009)
Schmitz, Mark. “The Second Man in Ministry”, Journal of Ministry and Theology 03:2 (Fall 1999)
Smith, Daniel H. “A Theology of Leadership” Emmaus Journal 01:1 (Winter 1991)
Willard, Dallas. The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life in God. (San Francisco, California: HarperSanFrancisco, 1998)
 Fickett, Harold L. Hope for Your Church: Ten Principles of Church Growth. (Philadelphia: Pilgrim Press, 1969), pg. 83.
 Finks, Frederick J. “Leadership Profile – New Testament Style” Ashland Theological Journal 16:0 (NA 1983), 22.
 Holy Bible. New King James Version.
 Schmitz, Mark. “The Second Man in Ministry”, Journal of Ministry and Theology 03:2 (Fall 1999), 77.
 Parrott, Richard. “Transformational Leadership – Theory and Reflections”, Ashland Theological Journal 32:0 (NA 2000), 64.
 Dobbs, William D. “For Such A Time As This: A Situational Model of Leadership”, Ashland Theological Journal 33:0 (NA 2001), 35.
 Ricketson, Rusty. Follower First: Rethinking Leading in the Church. (Cumming, GA: Heartworks Publications, 2009), 102.
 Holy Bible. New King James Version.
 Pederson, Laurie. “Servant Leadership” Priscilla Papers 07:3 (Summer 1993), 1.
 Holy Bible. New King James Version.
 Lawrence, William D. “Distinctives of Christian Leadership” Bibliotheca Sacra 144:575 (July 1987), 318.
 Gangel, Kenneth O. Feeding and Leading. (Wheaton, Illinois: Victor Publishing, 1989), 31.
 Clinton, Robert. The Making of a Leader. (Colorado Spring, Colorado: NavPress, 1988), 7.
 Holy Bible. New King James Version.
 Blue Letter Bible. "Dictionary and Word Search for theos (Strong's 2316)". Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2012. 26 Mar 2012. < http:// www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?
 Willard, Dallas. The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life in God. (San Francisco, California: HarperSanFrancisco, 1998), 277.
 Holy Bible. New King James Version.
 Smith, Daniel H. “A Theology of Leadership” Emmaus Journal 01:1 (Winter 1991), 75.
 Acts 9.6,10. Holy Bible. New King James Version.
 Holy Bible. New King James Version.
 1 Corinthians 1.27-31. Holy Bible. New King James Version.
NG, LR, NCU, USAR
My collection of personal papers written over the years