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.

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