A Biblical Theology of Christian Leadership Applied to College Campus Ministry
Satan is attacking God’s Kingdom. He employs myriad tactics in his attacks. In twenty-first century America, Satan is attacking by way of the secular universities. His forces staged a coup by which they wrested control of the universities away from the church toward the end of the nineteenth century (Keller 2018, 92). The satanic forces have gained strength in the ensuing years. The church needs to fight back. As Francis Schaeffer advised, “The Christian must resist the spirit of the world in the form it takes in his own generation.” (1982, 11). The church will resist the devil at the universities to the extent that it views the American universities as a mission field. The ministry to the universities will require effective leadership. The effective leader in campus ministry will be called and developed by the Holy Spirit, will integrate biblical principles of leadership, and will incorporate secular leadership research that does not conflict with biblical precepts. This work will describe the development of the Christian leader in five stages, beginning with a biblical theology of leadership emergence, transitioning to a description of biblical images of leadership, followed by sections devoted to the what, how, and why of Christian leadership. Each section will include an application to campus ministry.
Affirming the Role of the Holy Spirit in the Emergence of the Christian Leader
A biblical study of leadership yields four important points regarding the method by which God develops leaders, as this section will elucidate. God (1) selects leaders (2) for a specific purpose (3) for which he equips them with spiritual gifts and (4) develops them over time. Leadership researchers combined biblical theology with empirical research into a theory of leadership development called leadership emergence theory, which will receive critical evaluation at the end of this section.
The first point that emerges in a biblical study of leadership is that God sovereignly selects leaders. When Israel needed a king, God did not take applications. He instructed Samuel to anoint Saul for the position (1 Sam. 9:15–17 ESV). When Israel needed a new king, God sent Samuel to anoint David (1 Sam. 16:12–13). This pattern of God’s anointing, which began in the Old Testament (OT) continued in the New Testament (NT) (Elliston 1992, 45). Jesus selected His apostles. In the words of Matthew, “While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men’” (4:18–19).
This quote from Jesus leads to the second biblical principle regarding leadership development. God selects leaders for a specific purpose (Shawchuck and Heuser 2010a, 14). Jesus told Peter and Andrew that he would make them “fishers of men” (Matt. 4:19). Jesus had a vision and a purpose for all twelve of His apostles to disseminate His gospel and recruit disciples (Luke 24:47; Matt. 28:19–20). In fact, God had a specific vision for every leader that He called in the Bible (Shawchuck and Heuser 2010a, 14). God commissioned King Saul to save Israel from the Philistines (1 Sam. 9:16). God elevated David to give Israel rest from their enemies and to inaugurate the messianic lineage of Jesus (2 Sam. 7:10, 12–13). When God called Isaiah to lead Israel back into their covenant relationship with the Lord, He gave Isaiah a revelation to align Isaiah’s sight with His vision. As Isaiah related the episode, “I saw the LORD sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up...And I heard the voice of the LORD saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ Then I said, ‘Here I am! Send me.’ And he said, ‘Go’” (Isa. 6:1, 8–9).
Third, the biblical data suggests that God equips the leaders He calls. Leaders need God’s provision to meet the call. Norman Shawchuck and Roger Heuser pointed out, “The madness of the call is that it most often takes us along paths we may not choose and assigns us duties for which we feel most ill-equipped” (2010a, 22). Many of the leaders in the Bible expressed a similar sentiment when God called them. When God called Moses from the burning bush, Moses responded, “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue...Please send someone else” (Exod. 4:10, 13). Did Moses’ successor Joshua respond differently? The first nine verses of the book of Joshua contain three commands from Yahweh for Joshua to be strong and courageous (1:6, 7, 9). Does a confident leader need three subsequent commands to model courage? The pattern continued in the NT. Peter told the Lord to get away from him because he was “a sinful man” (Luke 5:8). Paul called himself “the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle” (1 Cor. 15:9).
Although all of these leaders understood their insufficiency for the task, Paul’s continuation in his letter to the Corinthians demonstrates God’s sufficiency. Paul wrote, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me” (1 Cor. 15:10). Peter followed Jesus despite Peter’s feeling of inadequacy, and he was “clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). Regarding Joshua, God did not merely instruct him to be brave. Instead, God offered His continuing presence as the impetus for Joshua’s bravery (Josh. 1:9). God rectified Moses’ lack of confidence by promising, “I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak” (Exod. 4:12). God also provided Moses with a ministry partner in the form of his brother Aaron (Exod. 4:12, 14). Moreover, the NT contains no less than four lists of spiritual gifts that the Holy Spirit bestows upon Christians (Rom. 12:6–8; 1 Cor. 12:3–7; Eph. 4:11; 1 Pet. 4:10–11).
Finally, God develops leaders over time. God calls leaders instantly, but He develops them over a period of time and over a lifetime. God called Joseph at the age of seventeen (Gen. 37:2–11). However, Joseph did not ascend to leadership until age thirty (Gen. 41:46). Between the time of Joseph’s anointment and Joseph’s appointment, Joseph received leadership training from the Lord in Potiphar’s house and in the Egyptian prison (Gen. 39–40). Moses, set aside for leadership from birth, did not attain his position as the leader of Israel’s deliverance until after his eightieth birthday (Acts 7:20, 23, 30). Peter received three years’ worth of training from Jesus before he “stood up among the brothers” after Jesus’ Ascension (Acts 1:15). Plus, Peter continued to learn leadership lessons throughout his life, especially regarding cultural bias (see Acts 8:14; 10:28; Gal. 2:11–14).
Leadership development generally included some sort of test of the leader’s faithfulness to the call. Jesus’ temptation by the devil in the wilderness represents the most well-known of these types of leadership development tests (Matt 4:1–11). Perhaps, some Bible students miss the fact that “Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil” (Matt. 4:1, emphasis added). God initiated this test of Jesus’ commitment. God tested David’s faithfulness during his flight from Saul. Twice, David had an opportunity to assassinate Saul and assume the kingship. Twice, David refused to succumb to the temptation (1 Sam. 24, 26). When God grants emerging leaders an opportunity to pass this type of test of their commitment, they should count it as joy (James 1:2).
Christian scholars have combined the biblical data as well as empirical insights into a theory of leadership emergence, which they claim follows a general pattern (Elliston 1992, 77). Robert Clinton highlighted five important phases in the timeline of leadership development: (1) Sovereign Foundations, (2) Inner-Life Growth, (3) Ministry Maturing, (4) Life Maturing, and (5) Convergence (2012, 26). During the Sovereign Foundations phase, the Holy Spirit puts the future leader into a position which develops that leader’s personality in a manner that will make the leader effective later in life when he enters his position of leadership. This phase ends either with the leader’s conversion to Christianity or his calling to leadership (Clinton 2012. 26). Edgar Elliston remarked, “In reflection a person can often see God at work even before birth to prepare the way for a person’s ministry” (1992, 80).
The Inner-Life Growth phase includes specific training, which may involve seminary or some type of apprenticeship for the Christian leader (Clinton 2012, 27). The Ministry Maturing phase begins when the leader’s ministry begins. Although the leader may engage in some effective ministry during the Ministry Maturing phase, this phase has more to do with the leader gaining practical leadership experience (Clinton 2012, 27). During the Life Maturing phase, the leader begins to minister out of who she is. The ministry flows from who the leader is, not what the leader does. The leader begins to master her spiritual gifts (Clinton 2012, 28). In the Convergence phase, “the leader is moved by God into a role that matches gift-mix, experience, temperament, and so on.” During this stage, the leader becomes highly effective (Clinton 2012, 28).
During each phase, the Holy Spirit initiates process items that build aptitudes necessary for the leader’s calling (Clinton 2012, 28). Just as the Lord prepared David for his kingship during his time as a shepherd, then a general, then a leader of a band of outlaws, the Holy Spirit provides opportunities for emerging leaders to develop the skills they will need in the future (1 Sam. 17:34–36; 18:30; 22:2). As leaders finds success in the smaller tasks, the Holy Spirit will lead them to greater tasks (Clinton 2012, 30). As Jesus stated, “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much” (Luke 16:10). Hence, emerging leaders should commit fully to every task the Lord provides, no matter how insignificant the task may seem. Sometimes, the leadership development process may stretch longer than the leader thinks necessary. When it comes to leadership development, “God is not in as big of a hurry as you and I are” (Clinton 2012, 31).
This writer has certainly wished for God to accelerate his development at times. Although the Holy Spirit follows predictable patterns in the development of Christian leaders, He personalizes the pattern for each individual (Elliston 1992, 77). I can look back upon my life and see how the Holy Spirit has been preparing me for leadership in a pattern similar to what the leadership emergence theorists described. My father must have intuited the leadership anointment upon my life because one of his favorite maxims for me growing up was “be a leader not a follower.” The Holy Spirit continued to prepare me for leadership in high school and college through extracurricular activities such as athletics and Greek life. Time in prison has ushered my leadership development into the Ministry Maturing and Life Maturing phases (this was the part where I wished God would accelerate the process). Although the Holy Spirit consistently provided ministry opportunities throughout my incarceration, the advent of COVID- 19 forced me to amplify my role. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the Department of Corrections ceased all prison visitation, including outside ministry, in March 2020. The Holy Spirit led me to facilitate more services at Coweta County Prison to fill the gap and meet the needs of the prison population. As my incarceration draws to an end, I see how the Holy Spirit has been preparing me for a position of leadership in campus ministry to the American secular universities. The biblical writers have described what that leadership position might look like.
Biblical Images of Leadership for Church Leaders
The NT writers made use of three images for leadership, which are applicable to campus ministry. The authors of the Gospels described how Jesus taught and modeled a distinct type of leadership called servant-leadership (Tidball 2012, 31). In contrasting servant-leadership with the worldly models of His day, Jesus told the disciples, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave” (Matt. 20:25–27). Jesus’ paradoxical instructions led Derek Tidball to the question, “How can one simultaneously be a leader and a servant?” (2012, 31).
Tidball resolved that servant leadership requires having the attitude of a servant, not functioning as a servant (2012, 39). The leader view himself as a servant to the people under his care. He meets their leadership needs. Hence, leaders in campus ministry must understand the needs of the students under their care, as well as their fellow workers. More importantly, the leader views herself as a servant of Jesus. She leads at Jesus’ pleasure.
Accordingly, the servant-leader is also a steward. Paul explained that the church should regard leaders “as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God” (1 Cor. 4:1). Jesus entrusts leadership roles to certain individuals in the church as stewardships. Their authority derives from Jesus, rather than ensuing from their talents. Regarding campus ministry, the leader should remember that he occupies the role of campus minister to prepare students for their position in God’s Kingdom, not to win a culture war or gain fame and recognition. God will hold leaders to account as stewards of the followers He gives them (Elliston 1992, 159).
As those held accountable for a group, the NT writers described leaders as shepherds. Peter instructed leaders to “shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock” (1 Pet. 5:2–3). Sheep follow the shepherd. As students become involved in the campus ministry, they will look to the leader as an exemplar of Christian leadership. Thus, the leader must model Christian behavior. This modeling takes on special importance in the milieu of secular American universities, which are shaped more by books such as I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell than by the Bible. To the leader that sets a good example for the flock, Peter promised, “When the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory” (1 Pet. 5:4).
The leadership theologian can glean some leadership principles from these three images which are applicable not only to campus ministry but to all leadership situations. The first important principle is that leaders exist to help other Christians find and employ their spiritual gifts. All Christians are stewards of some measure of God’s grace; all are called to serve in the kingdom of God (1 Pet. 2:9). Leaders help others serve. Second, leaders require character and competence to lead effectively (Beebe 2011, 20). Followers need to know that they can trust their leader. Absent character, they cannot trust the leader’s motives. Absent competence, they cannot depend on the leader to get the job done. Third, as Elliston noted, biblical “values provide both the guidelines and constraints for making judgments at every juncture” (1992, 44). Leaders should look to the Bible for guidance when making decisions. Finally, as Clinton suggested, “One ministers out of what one is. God is concerned with what we are” (2012, 27). All the leadership tricks in the world will not make up for lack of Holy Spirit-led sanctification in the leader’s life. With these biblical principles in hand, this study now turns to leadership praxis.
The WHAT of Leadership
Many scholars have sought to define what a leader is. From the results of a lifetime of leadership studies, Robert Clinton probably met the challenge most adequately. According to Clinton, “A leader is a person with God-given capacity and God-given responsibility who influences a group of followers toward God’s purposes for the group” (2012, 110).
God-given capacity and responsibility have to do with how a leader leads effectively. God-given purpose describes what a leader is. Christian leaders implement God’s purpose. They implement God’s vision. As Shawchuck and Heuser observed, “Where there is no vision, ministry perishes” (2010b, 29). That was the writer’s lament during the period of the Judges. Since there was no leader, there was no vision, and “everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judg. 21:25). A leader with godly vision leads the group toward God’s purpose for that group.
This leader’s vision for campus ministry includes wresting control of the secular universities back from the devil. At their inception, American universities aided the spread of the gospel through the development of future Christian leaders (Moreland 2007, 69). However, around the end of the nineteenth century, a shift occurred. Following Charles Darwin’s lead, university leaders posited an inherent conflict between science and religion. Tim Keller suggested, “The conflict model of the relationship of science to religion was a deliberate exaggeration used by both scientists and educational leaders at the end of the nineteenth century to undermine the church’s control of their institutions and increase their own cultural power” (2018, 92). To return the universities back to their God-given cultural mandate, the campus ministry organization will establish a network of churches attached to secular universities for the purpose of evangelizing and discipling university students. Although this might sound like an impossibly difficult task, James Plueddemann rightly described Christian vision as “a faith- picture of what could happen in the lives of people if God were to pour out his blessing” (2009, 192). If Christian leaders truly serve a God of infinite resources, they should dream big.
An important part of visionary leadership includes the deployment of human resources. As discussed above, the NT contains lists of the types of gifts that the Holy Spirit provides to the church. According to Plueddemann, “Good leaders...use their gift of leadership by taking initiative to focus, harmonize and enhance the gifts of others for the sake of developing people and cultivating the kingdom of God” (2009, 171). This task requires the leader to figure out how to apply what individuals do well to the purpose of the group (Shawchuck and Heuser 2010a, 38). Secular scholarship has begun to match the biblical principles regarding enhancement and deployment of gifted individuals. The “StrengthsFinder” literature pointed to the effectiveness of building upon strengths rather than trying to remove weaknesses (Beebe 2011, 73). All people, including the leader, are flawed vessels; however, all people have spiritual gifts that can contribute to the kingdom of God, despite their personal flaws.
In order to deploy their human capital effectively, leaders need to set up some type of organizational structure. Contingency theories represent a diverse new field of leadership literature which began to emerge in the latter half of the twentieth century (Clinton 1992, 87). Despite the danger of oversimplification, the researcher can condense the field of contingency theories into two schools of thought, represented first by the Fiedler model and second by the Hersey-Blanchard model. On the Fiedler model, leaders’ personalities constrain their leadership style. Although their style may be effective in some settings, it will be ineffective in other settings. Therefore, leaders must either seek or be assigned to a leadership situation which fits their style (Clinton 1992, 95). Conversely, on the Hersey-Blanchard model, successful leaders adapt their style to the situation. Leaders remain effective in direct proportion to their ability to adapt to their leadership context (Clinton 1992, 97).
The Hersey-Blanchard model best fits the biblical principle of servant leadership, as well as the demands of campus ministry. The situation on a college campus changes on a yearly basis. It would not be pragmatic to move leaders from one campus to another on a yearly basis. Although Fiedler contingency theorists would deem the yearly movement necessary, Hersey- Blanchard theorists and the apostle Paul would differ. Paul reminded the Corinthians,
Though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews...To those outside the law I became as one outside the law...that I might win those outside the law. To the weak, I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. (1 Cor. 9:19–22)
Apparently, Paul was the first Hersey-Blanchard contingency theorist. Paul adapted his leadership style to his followers. How can Christian leaders follow suit?
The HOW of Leadership
The how of leadership refers to how the leader executes the vision God has provided, which includes concepts such as strategy, leadership style, and organizational structure. To execute the God-given vision for their organization, the leader must implement the correct strategy. The difference between a leader and the other members of an organization is the difference between strategy and tactics. The vision comes from God; the strategy comes from the leader, as guided along by the Holy Spirit; and the tactics come from the workers who implement the leader’s strategy. As stated by Plueddemann, “The primary job of the leader is to make sure that the strategy fits the situation and contributes to the vision” (2009, 191).
Without an effective strategy, workers can work extremely hard yet not move an inch closer to God’s vision for the group. Shawchuck and Heuser labeled this type of work “the logic of task pursuit” (2010c, 37). If the leader has given the workers the wrong task, they can work as hard as they want and still fail to actualize the organizational vision. Hence, leaders focus on results rather than just activities (Beebe 2011, 60). Top leaders assign the correct tasks; others in the organization help the workers to become efficient at the tasks. It is not the job of the top leader to make people efficient; the leader selects tasks that will make the organization effective. Gayle Beebe noticed, “We are often tempted to ask how can we do something better when we should be asking whether it should be done at all” (2011, 50).
Although a detailed discussion of the strategy for campus missions lies outside the scope of this study, some things deserve consideration here. The church can regain influence in the universities by following Pauline mission principles as presented in the book of Acts. First, the church should follow the Spirit’s leadership to opportunities for evangelism and even confrontation with adversaries. These events could take the form of chance encounters, organized debates with the secular university influencers, or evangelistic conferences. Second, the ministry should foment the creation of a community of believers who engage together in worship and biblical exhortation. Third and finally, the ministry should apply indigenous church principles by creating independent discipleship groups within existing campus organizations such as Greek life, athletics, and other interest groups.
The strategy will only be as effective as the people implementing it. Hence, leaders must learn how to delegate effectively. Leaders assume the responsibility of putting people in positions where they can perform effectively. Proper delegation also serves a discipleship role for the delegate. A large part of ministry involves placing individuals into roles that will help them to grow, while they also engage in ministry to help others grow (Osei-Mensah 1990, 46).
An organization requires various types of leaders to function effectively. Elliston distinguished five leadership Types based on the size of their sphere of influence (1992, 27). Type I leaders influence the fewest amount of people, while Type V leaders influence the largest amount of people. As a leader’s sphere of influence increases, the intensity of her influence diminishes (Elliston 1992, 27). For example, in a national campus ministry, the Type V leader would be the one who decides where to start various ministries based on the needs of the institutions. Type IV leaders would probably decide which ministers go to which region. Type III leaders would take charge of the ministry at a given university. Type I-II leaders would lead small groups and worship services. The Type I small group leader has an intense influence over a small group of students, while the Type V national leader has an indirect influence over a large group of students.
Leaders must utilize the appropriate leadership style for their followers and their situation (Clinton 1992, 97). Hence, leaders should apply the contingency theory of leadership discussed above. Clinton remarked, “Conflict in ministry often hinges around the leadership style of the leader” (1992, 9). When the leader leads with a style that does not motivate the individual(s) under his charge, conflict ensues (Shawchuck 1981). Leadership style ranges from highly directive to highly non-directive and from high task orientation to high relationship orientation (Clinton 1992, 41, 30). Highly non-directive leadership involves assigning jobs and allowing workers to complete jobs by their own devices. Highly directive leadership involves instructing workers what to do and how to do it. The other part of leadership style refers to the relative value a leader places on task completion versus harmonious relationships.
Beebe advised leaders to adopt a “human-centered approach,” managing individuals based on their needs (2011, 144). Different people require different levels of direction and management. This type of style flexibility coheres with biblical principles. A servant leader takes on the attitude of a servant by adapting his leadership style to the needs of the individual. Paul used multiple leadership styles depending on the situation he encountered (Clinton 1992, 59).
For example, Paul used an “Apostolic Style” in his dealings with the Thessalonians, which was highly directive (1 Thess. 5:12–13; Clinton 1992, 60). On the other hand, Paul used a consensus style in his dealings with the Judaizing faction of Christians by bringing the issue before the Jerusalem Church and asking for a group decision, which was highly non-directive (Acts 15:2; Clinton 1992, 66). Clinton summarized, “Paul varies his style according to situation, task, and level of maturity of followers” (1992, 69).
Cultural context represents another consideration for leadership style selection. Servant leaders should account for cultural context to the extent that cultural values do not conflict with biblical values. If the culture believes that the leader is the one who wins the fight to the death, the leader should direct the adherents of that culture to the Ten Commandments and petition them to turn from that sinful leadership selection process. However, many cultural aspects are neither proscribed nor supported by biblical principles. These extra-biblical cultural considerations essentially reduce to low-context versus high-context. Low-context cultures focus on ideas and tasks and are generally individualistic. Most low-context cultures value a low power distance, which means that leaders and followers view one another as partners on an equal footing. Alternatively, high-context cultures place relationships above tasks and communicate subtly in ways that low-context people would find ambiguous. High-context cultures generally favor a high power distance which places leaders above followers in status. In a high-power- distance culture, the leader should have the biggest house and the nicest vehicle, while the low- power-distance people would want the leader on the same socio-economic plane as the general population.
In an American campus ministry, most of the vocational ministers will probably come from a low-context culture (Plueddemann 2009, 80). However, many of the students may come from high-context cultures. Presently, there are “more than one million international students studying in the United States” (Chi Alpha 2022). Hence, the leader must manage workers from a low-context perspective while teaching the workers to minister to the high-context students from a high-context perspective. Why is all of this necessary? Why do leaders need to invest so much time in effective leadership? Why does God raise up leaders at all?
The WHY of Leadership
The why of leadership refers to the reason why leaders are needed, why an individual becomes a leader, and the spiritual authority which God provides. At the most basic level, Christian leaders lead because God has instructed them to do so. All of the leaders in the biblical accounts have one thing in common: God put them in their place of leadership. The writers did not always explicate the fact that God placed the leaders, but God’s sovereignty remained implied. For example, God sent His prophet Samuel to David, and God explicitly told Samuel, “Arise, anoint him, for this is he” (1 Sam. 16:12). In the case of some of David’s successors, although the narrative does not include a specific call from God, their selection by God lies tacit in the theology of the narrator, as described in other sections of the biblical revelation. The psalmist summarized God’s sovereign promise of Davidic kingship when he extolled, “The LORD swore to David a sure oath from which he will not turn back: ‘One of the sons of your body I will set on your throne. If you sons keep my covenant and my testimonies that I shall teach them, their sons also forever shall sit on your throne” (Ps. 132:11–12). Hence, even with “evil” kings such as Manasseh, the implication stands that God sovereignly appointed that leader who decided of his own volition to rebel against God (2 Kings 21:2).
In the NT, the pattern continued with the manner by which Jesus called leaders such as the twelve apostles and Paul. Although in the case of leaders such as Barnabas, Luke did not recount God’s calling, again, the writer implied the sovereign calling. The writer described how the church sent these leaders out (e.g. Acts 11:22). The church did not decide that these leaders should lead; instead, they ratified what God had ordained (Elliston 1992, 47). Luke described the pattern of the church ratifying God’s ordination in his description of the release of Paul and Barnabas onto their first missionary journey (Acts 13:1–3). Luke stated that “while they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off” (Acts 13:2–3). Thus, when the reader encounters a narrative of the NT church appointing a leader, the reader should assume that the church is ratifying that leader’s God- ordained appointment. The pattern continues today. God calls leaders and sends other people of God to confirm the calling in the leader’s life.
This pattern of leaders being called by God, rather than striving for position, frees the leader to act with spiritual authority. Leaders serve as stewards called by God; thus, they lead with God’s authority. The duly called leader knows that she possesses spiritual authority and can act upon it. However, people under the leader’s care may rightly demand proof of the leader’s spiritual authority. If they choose to follow someone as a steward of God, they deserve to know that the person is indeed God’s steward. Leaders demonstrate their spiritual authority in a number of ways. For one, spiritual authority ensues from continued obedience to the Lord (Elliston 1992, 161). As leaders continue to demonstrate obedience to biblical precepts, followers will perceive the leader as a man of God who deserves to be followed. Spiritual authority also ensues from implementation of a godly vision when believers perceive that the leader’s vision is something that would make God’s Kingdom come. Plus, leaders demonstrate spiritual authority through answered prayer (Clinton 2012, 98). When people see that God has answered a leader’s prayers, people become more willing to follow that leader.
Leaders are necessary. God has chosen to implement His will for earth through the church (Eph. 3:10). For God to work through a group of humans, leaders must arise. Confusion ensued when “everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judg. 21:25). Yet, Paul told the Corinthians, “God is not a God of confusion but of peace” (1 Cor. 14:33). God could lead the church himself in bodily form, but that would defeat the purpose. The church would become unnecessary. As long as God chooses to work through the church, leadership is needed.
Leadership is needed in the field of campus missions. The American universities educate the future leaders of the world. When young people go off to college, they go to have their minds molded. Despite the proliferation of extracurricular activities, students go to college to learn. What are they learning? According to J. P. Moreland, “The universities are now the powerbase for the secular left, and the American university has become an indoctrination center for political correctness and its loathing for traditional values, the Judeo-Christian religion, and conservative ethical, religious, and political thought” (2007, 73). Much of what students learn at secular universities is frankly anti-Christian. It gets worse.
What these future leaders learn in college, they take with them into their positions of leadership in the world. In this manner, ideas begin in the university and spread from there to the general culture (Moreland 2007, 76). That makes the American universities the most strategic mission field in the world (Chi Alpha 2022). If the church can regain influence over the universities, they can disseminate the gospel message to the world, just like Paul did when he established churches in the major cities of the Roman Empire. The church needs to regain a position of influence for the Christian worldview at the university level, and it will do so to the extent that effective leaders enter that mission field.
What should the Christian leader take from this study about leadership? Leaders need to understand their place in the kingdom of God. They play a role. It is an important role. It is a distinct role, but it is no more important than any other role. Every member of the body of Christ has a role to fill. The reason that the leader’s role is important is because the leader helps other believers find their role. What a sacred calling that is. What an impossible calling that is. Thanks be to God that the leader does not have to answer that calling upon her own strengths. The leader serves as a steward of God. Hence, the leader has access to the mind of God through the Spirit of God. To the extent that the leader humbles himself and implements God’s vision, he will be successful. That humility frees the leader to act. The leader does not have to strive to invent the best strategy or lose sleep over the placement of a worker. God provided the gift of leadership. God provided the vision. God will provide the guidance to implement His vision. This knowledge does not free the leader from work, but it frees the leader from worry. When leaders know their role in the kingdom, they can go forth and work hard without worrying about the results. They can trust that although Paul “planted” and “Apollos watered...God gave the growth” (1 Cor. 3:6). And, God will continue to give the growth until Jesus returns.
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