Monday, March 31, 2008

Definition of the Call/Calling

Dr. George N. Malek must be one of South Africa's most abstruse theologians. Among his many publications is a fourteen-page booklet titled The Calling to the Priesthood. A common view of calling is that it is to see what will be, i.e. it is synonymous with vision. It is "a vision from the Lord" (Halcomb J, Hamilton D and Malmstadt H 2000:65). In contrast, Malek considers that the calling is to see what is not -- in fact, to see what cannot be through human agency. He introduces "the nature of the calling" with the well known passage Isaiah 6:3-8. This includes Isaiah's words: "Woe is me! For I am lost ..." Malek writes: "The nature of the calling begins not by 'hearing a call from God', but by seeing, perceiving the condition of man without God" (Malek G N 1997:1). This includes the condition of ministry without God. He warns of the call that departs from this, and "turns into ethics" (:11). The calling is about "the point of banishment" (:9) -- again, to see what is not, and cannot be through human agency -- and therefore the calling has to be "involved in the reality of God" (:8). "A call is the total poverty of man in the hands of Almighty God" (:7). QUESTION: How is such theology applied?

Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Absence of God

My researches have brought me to the “absence of God” in the Global North leadership literature. This is by no means a universal feature of the literature, but it is a common one. Here are some examples: Paul D. Stanley and J. Robert Clinton (1992:130) consider that Numbers 27 describes “Moses’ sponsorship of Joshua”. Yet the Scriptural emphasis is absent: “So the Lord said to Moses, ‘Take Joshua the son of Nun ...'” J. Oswald Sanders (1994:73) considers that Joshua “used wonderful tact” in dividing up the Promised Land. Yet the Biblical perspective is missing: “So the Israelites divided the land, just as the Lord had commanded ...” Viv Thomas (1999:33) considers that David found his strength through “organic friendship”. Again he fails to note the Scriptural theme: “David found strength in the Lord his God.” Doug Murren (1997:200) states that Jeremiah was “a biblical change agent”. Again the Biblical perspective is missing: “The word of the Lord came to him.” Ted W. Engstrom (1976:34) comments on Nehemiah’s leadership ability: “How great he was ...” And again the Biblical emphasis is absent: “The God of heaven [gave him] success”. Myles Munroe (2005:106) considers that, when Jesus sent out the Seventy, He was excited because “he saw humanity exercising power”. Yet he omits the Scriptural theme: “in your [Christ’s] name”. Similar examples cover several pages of my thesis. While some such examples might be dismissed as being overly critical, the “weight of evidence” is considerable. QUESTION: Why this “absence of God”? What does it signify? What implications does this have for Christian leadership theory? The photo shows Ted W. Engstrom’s classic, The Making of a Christian Leader.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Aim to Read Something Different

J. Oswald Sanders, in Spiritual Leadership, quotes Muriel Ormrod: “We should always aim to read something different -- not only the writers with whom we agree, but those with whom we are ready to do battle ... their point of view challenges us to examine the truth and to test their views against Scripture” (Sanders J O 1994:105). QUESTION: If you are a student of leadership, do your required reading lists include “something different”? Something so different that one may “do battle”? Should they?

Monday, March 24, 2008

Tipping a Hat to the Global South

From time to time, the leadership literature of the “Global North” (the former “sending” nations) refers to the vibrancy of the Church in the Global South. Alan Roxburgh and Fred Romanuk (The Missional Leader) state: “In sub-Saharan Africa, where AIDS and drought abound, Christian life and witness are vibrant. With few resources, the church is growing and vital; it is addressing the dire needs of its peoples ...” (Roxburgh A J and Romanuk F 2006:39); Andrew Kirk (Global Good News) refers to the “missionary effectiveness” of the Church of the South, and its “ability to inspire people to be agents and embodiments of the life of God’s new creation in Jesus Christ” (Snyder H A ed. 2001:130); while Eddie Gibbs (Leadership Next) considers: “We can learn valuable lessons from the Southern Hemisphere” (Gibbs E 2005:20). Yet curiously, this is as far as it goes. The “vibrant life”, the “missionary effectiveness”, the “valuable lessons” are kept under wraps. There is a perfunctory tipping of the hat to the Church of the South, then a near complete disregard for the views and ethos of the South. QUESTION: What are the reasons for this state of affairs? What is the meaning of such “tipping of the hat”? The photo shows Alan Roxburgh and Fred Romanuk.

Friday, March 21, 2008

The Tautology of Calling

What is it in Christian transformational leadership that distinguishes leaders from followers? A recurring answer is: Calling. However, “calling”, on closer examination, would appear to be a mere tautology. That is, the word merely represents a substitute for other key terms in the literature. Calling may be a substitute 1. for vision: “God-given vision” (Gibbs 2005:191) “a vision from the Lord” (Halcomb J, Hamilton D and Malmstadt H 2000:65), “a kingdom vision” (Hybels B 2002:37). It may be a substitute 2. for vision’s goals: “ambition” (Engstrom T W 1976:29), “purpose” (Boa K 2006:60), “contribution” (Banks R and Ledbetter B M 2004:92). Or it may be a substitute 3. for integrity: in contrast with a mere “role one plays” (Munroe M 2005:20), “an occupation” (Blackaby H and Blackaby R 2001:xi), “functional competencies” (Barna G 1997:25). Yet vision, vision’s goals, and integrity are already integral to Christian transformational leadership theory. The use of the word “calling” reveals nothing essentially new or different, nor would anything change if it were dropped from the literature. QUESTION: What, therefore, can it mean? Does it serve merely as a term of legitimation? Do we have a genuine problem here? Or does it matter not? The photo shows George Barna’s Leaders on Leadership, which contains one of the clearer statements on calling.

Transformational: Synonyms

This one’s for information rather than comment. It lists various synonyms for transformational leadership. Note that this does not necessarily mean that the synonyms will always apply. However, in the following instances they do. I would welcome any additions to the list:

connective leadership (Gibbs E 2005:27)
courageous leadership (Halcomb J, Hamilton D and Malmstadt H 2000:185)
relationship theory (Van Wagner K 2007:1)
spiritual leadership (Daman G 1997:1)
servant leadership (Hunter J C 2004:20)
ternary leadership (Banks R and Ledbetter B M 2004:96), and
transforming leadership (Wofford J C 1999:19)

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Transformational: My Experience

The first time I came into close contact with transformational leadership, at Fuller Theological Seminary, I didn’t know what it was. I experienced it as being highly authoritarian -- yet the talk was continually of equality, consensus, dialogue. Since then, I have found these apparent opposites explicitly described and (some might say) reconciled in the literature. Perhaps Robert Banks and Bernice Ledbetter state it most clearly. It is a leadership model which “navigates between” hierarchical (top-down) and egalitarian (leaderless team) styles. This implies that the egalitarian aspect lies in its teamwork, not in “the structure of decision-making” (Banks R and Ledbetter B M 2004:86). J. Oswald Sanders similarly states that, while leadership seeks “common purpose” among those who are led (Sanders J O 1994:27), it is nevertheless “always from the top down” (:113). Jerry C. Wofford perhaps describes it most concisely as “directive consensus building” (Wofford J C 1999:68). This surely explains how the language may appear to emphasise equality, while the experience is one of authoritarianism. QUESTION: Has this been your experience at an institution in the U.S.A.? What are the manifestations of “top-down” style? What would alternatives look like?

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Principle or Faith?

In Courageous Leaders (see photo), James Halcomb, David Hamilton, and Howard Malmstadt state: “Through the Ten Commandments, God the Master Teacher trains His people how to think, ...” (Halcomb J, Hamilton D and Malmstadt H 2000:223). The important thing, they write, is “to train oneself in implicational thinking”. They make no reference to the first four commandments (the so-called “first table”, which deals with humanity’s responsibility to God), but plunge straight into the next six: “Let’s consider the final six commandments ...” They consider that all of these commandments have to do with the principle: “life is valuable” (:223). So, for instance, murder is forbidden because human life is “of immense worth” (:224); theft is forbidden because “objects represent [the investment of] life”; and so on. Yet consider another possibility. Given a faith in the God of the first four commandments, which includes a belief in His sovereign power over human circumstance, there then remains e.g. no need to remove troublesome people through murder, and no need to acquire more than one has through theft, as one is assured that every circumstance of life is under God’s good care. What does this have to do with Christian leadership? Following Halcomb, Hamilton, and Malmstadt, Christian leadership is about “implicational” principles which “drive every courageous leader” (:228). Following the second option, Christian leadership is about trust in a sovereign God. QUESTION: Should the Christian leader be driven by “implicational” principles, or by faith in a sovereign God? Does faith generate behaviour as suggested? Might the principle “life is valuable” be a mere “idol” in the presence of God Himself?

Saturday, March 15, 2008

The Meaning of Conflict

What is the meaning of conflict? The answer of Christian transformational leadership tends to be: “God uses conflict ... to develop the leader” (Clinton J R 1988:145). It is “for the development of personal resources” (Jinkins M 2002:20). It is “for holiness of heart” (Sanders J O 1994:120). Therefore, in the event of conflict, leaders “need to face their own inner wars” (Ford 1991:258). They need to ask: “What is it about me?” (Barna G ed. 1997:250). QUESTION: While it COULD be about me, wouldn’t it seem like too much navel-gazing, or self-absorption? Isn’t there the well-being of a Church out there? The photo shows J. Robert Clinton.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Enduring in Ministry

It would seem to receive only passing attention in Bill Hybels’ Courageous Leadership, but here is, I think, a vital ingredient to enduring in ministry. He states: “Optimists expect to experience God’s greatness and love, even when they’re facing bleak circumstances” (Hybels B 2002:200). It is, I think, a loss of optimism that often “kills” ministers. True optimism, as Hybels suggests, is based upon who God is and how He acts, regardless of how many people are in the pews, regardless of the state of the Church’s finances, regardless of human failings and faithlessness. But does Hybels go far enough? In his book, he applies this optimism to specific challenges. Yet does it not apply every minute in every way? He states that God “might” do something, is “able” to do something, “can” do something. Yet does He not do something every minute in every way? In fact, is it necessary to “expect to experience” God? Can He not be depended upon unconditionally? QUESTION: In what ways is God the ground for optimism from day to day? How can He be relied upon?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Change Course or Hold On?

Oliver Cromwell said: “No one rises so high as he who knows not whither he is going.” This is a quote that Brendan Simms of Cambridge University uses to sum up the finding that great leaders “have transcended their origins”, i.e. have the ability to change course through the duration of their leadership (Swain H ed. 2005:17). Yet Christian authors James Halcomb, David Hamilton, and Howard Malmstadt (Courageous Leaders) consider that leaders “always, in every circumstance, and against all difficulties hold on to the God-inspired vision” (Halcomb J, Hamilton D and Malmstadt H 2000:185). It seems, that is, that there should be NO change of course. QUESTION: So which is it? Was Cromwell mistaken? And how might authors reach such apparently opposite conclusions? Thanks to for the picture of Cromwell.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Church in the U.S.A.

A fellow blogger asked me whether I had blogged about the Church in the U.S.A. What were my impressions? My overriding impression (I speak generally) is that the Church over there seems unable to distinguish between faith and values. I see what C.S. Lewis referred to as the kind of faith that is a belief in values: “the belief that certain kinds of attitudes are really true, and others really false” (Lewis C S 1947:29). Frequently, the Church in the U.S.A. seeks to ground such values in the character of God or the life of Jesus. Yet there is little concept of a faith in the Triune God which would source values spontaneously. QUESTION: What is the difference between faith and values? How do they relate to each other? The photo shows C.S. Lewis.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Prototheological Phase

With the previous post in mind, J. Andrew Kirk considers: "All theology should begin with a 'prototheological' phase in which the theologian reveals and discusses all hidden assumptions". (Snyder H A ed. 2001:127). QUESTION: Does theology typically do this? Should it? What would such “assumptions” include? Should an author declare e.g. a bias towards creationism or postliberalism?

Friday, March 7, 2008

Puzzling over Sources

I am often flummoxed by apparent parallels between theologians’ statements, unable to trace a connection with any certainty, or to know whether this is merely a case of parallel terms without parallel content. Here’s an example. Shelley Trebesch of Fuller Theological Seminary makes the following statement -- a notion which is not uncommon in the Christian leadership literature: "They [Christian leaders] have adapted to many situations and organizational cultures and have often forsaken their own identity to succeed" (Trebesch S 1997:37). Then consider this -- it is philosopher Kevin Hart summarising Harold Bloom: "We will not be saved by following the Law or by believing in Jesus. We will be saved only if we become ourselves, if we finally recognize in ourselves that which has not been fashioned by culture and society" (Hart K 2004:98). QUESTION: Is Trebesch coming from the same place as Bloom? How should one know the difference? Should one BE ABLE to tell the difference? The photo shows Dr. Shelley Trebesch.

Attractional vs. Incarnational

There is, particularly in the Global North, and among “younger church leaders”, a keen debate surrounding “attractional” vs. “incarnational” forms of Church. This has been described most simply as “come to us” vs. “go to them” ( Attractional is “dedicated to producing an event that pagans will want to come to”, while incarnational is “to ‘go’ to their world and enculturate the gospel there” ( I downloaded the five most viewed Attractional vs. Incarnational articles on the Internet, and compared their various emphases. It is interesting to note that, in a comparison of Church vs. Trinity (each including various terms, e.g. "Church" including "εκκλησία", "community", "Christ-followers", etc.), Church receives 99% and Trinity 1% emphasis in the articles (or 90% and 10% if the Trinity is seen to include Christ in His humanity). By way of contrast, as best I am able to recognise it, there tends to be a greater emphasis in the Global South on the exalted Christ as both the Attraction and the Incarnation. The concepts “attractional” and "incarnational” thus seem to become fairly redundant. QUESTION: What do the above emphases signify? To what extent would one’s Christology generate one’s ecclesiology or missiology? Thanks to for the table.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Digging In

Many authors on Christian leadership, where resistance to leadership develops, endorse what one might describe as a non-negotiable stand-off until victory is won. After a decision has been made, a leader “will not waver” (Blackaby H and Blackaby R 2001:192), and "will not vacillate" (Engstrom T W 1976:20). The “power of mental conditioning” will enable the leader to “overcome incredible odds” (Munroe M 2005:209). Where there is backlash, the leader will “persevere” (Clinton J R 1988:109). He or she is to exercise “obedience” (Guder D 1998:186), and “long-term stamina” (Gibbs E 2005:155). When opposed, “courage is a non-negotiable quality” (Stanley A 2003:34). Or, the leader may simply meet opposition “by not responding” (Barna G 1997:246). Followers must “not be allowed” to hinder a leader’s “visions and purposes” (Wofford J C 1999:155). QUESTION: Might not such an outlook bring extraordinary pressures to bear on a leader? Are there alternatives? What is the source of such an attitude? The photo shows Dr. Myles Munroe.

Emotive Language

It is not uncommon for Christian leadership literature of the Global North to use strong terms to dismiss alternative approaches or attitudes to leadership. Alternatives may be described e.g. as “arrogant” (Barna G ed. 1997:55), “stupidity” (Thomas V 1999:24), “a grave form of mental illness” (Munroe M 2005:176). Not seldom, the views under fire would seem to have much in common with Global South values. For instance, the “arrogant” are those who forego vision-casting, while “stupidity” refers to the leader who is assured. QUESTION: Is such language necessary or justified? Would there still be any basis for dialogue where such views are expressed?