Kingdom-Shaped Leadership

Screen Shot 2016-08-20 at 7.53.41 AMEvery theory of leadership derives from a worldview, a theology, and a systemic location. This is why John Nugent in his Endangered Gospel can say these things that show correlation of kingdom theory and leadership theory:

Heaven-centered and world-centered churches gravitate toward certain forms of leadership. For example, when churches focus on preparing people for a better place somewhere else (heaven centered), their leaders concentrate on getting people into the church and getting them ready for heaven (131-132).

When churches focus on making this world a better place (world centered), their leaders must discern what is wrong in the world around them and which of these wrongs their church is best suited to make right. They have to be strong in the areas of assessment and management (132).

These visions of the church’s responsibility call forth specific sorts of leaders. Since the goal of the heaven-centered view is to draw people in and keep them in, attractive and magnetic leadership is ideal (132).

Since the focus of the world-centered view is identifying, prioritizing, and meeting needs, its leadership style is highly administrative. The ability to evaluate, plan, and execute is central (132).

Which leads him to ask questions provoking a kingdom-as-church-as-better-place understanding of leadership:

What would change if the church’s first priority were to be the better place that God has already begun? What if the church’s mission were to embrace, display, and proclaim the kingdom? What kind of leadership would the kingdom-centered view require? Does it matter that the church is called to be a certain way and not to do a certain thing. depends, of course, on what the church is supposed to be like (132-133).

Thus, he sketches a bit of the kingdom’s nature: “It is a kingdom that unifies through diversity, operates by the wisdom of the cross, and has only one head: Christ. The kingdom is empowered and guided by God’s Spirit, which has been given to all members. Each member needs all others because God organized the body in such a way that each part would be incomplete without all the others” (133).

Those attributes so often mentioned today in leadership theory get this pushback from Nugent:

We just do not find any of the attributes of “take-charge,” worldly leaders commended in the New Testament. We are never told that church leaders should be attractional, charismatic, decisive, persuasive, commanding, accomplished, or even educated. Despite the fact that he embodied many of these attributes, the Apostle Paul publicly renounced them. To him this was necessary so people would see what Christ has done and not what he was doing (1 Cor 2:1-5) (134).

Instead of a NT job description of leadership, we get a NT exhortation to servanthood:

We do find many Scriptures that emphasize how leaders must serve others rather than control them (Luke 22:25-27; John 13). We also hear that leaders must be examples to the body (Heb 13:7; 1 Pet 5:3). Since the body must embrace, display, and proclaim the kingdom, its leaders should embrace the kingdom like a gift, display it in their home life, work life, and community life, and proclaim it to others every chance they get (134).

A parting word about worldliness in leadership in the church:

Worldly leadership relies on the extraordinary ability of superior people. It elevates exceptional people, gives them power, trusts that they will use their power responsibly for the good of the organization, and expects them to get things done. Quite simply, this is not how Jesus framed leadership (135).

The congregation doesn’t elevate the leaders so they can get the work done; leaders elevate the members so they can do the work of the body (135).

Kingdom centered leaders focus on empowering the people of the church to become the better place the church is designed to be.

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than fifty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.