Thursday, June 12, 2008

Primacy of Character

Here’s something from my M.Th. thesis (considerably abridged). Faith receives an uncommonly strong emphasis in the New Testament. This uses the term “faith”, and related terms, some 500 times. The centrality of faith is frequently self-evident, e.g. “Without faith, it is impossible to please God...” (Heb 11:6). The New Bible Dictionary observes: “In the New Testament faith is exceedingly prominent.” This includes those epistles which specifically deal with leadership. In 1 Timothy, for instance, the word “faith” has a 100% “relative density”, i.e. the highest density in Scripture. The Christian leadership authors I have studied (forty or fifty in all, and all of the Global North) typically prioritise a single leadership quality. However, not in one case do they advance faith as such a priority. In all cases, it is character, or aspects of character. Wofford (1999:107) states: “For a church leader, no attribute is more important than character”; Jinkins (2002:36) considers: “The minister’s activities are grounded, first, in the minister’s character,...”; Blackaby and Blackaby (2001:53) consider: “The first truth in leadership development is this: God’s assignments are always based on character”; De Pree (1992:10) states: “Integrity in all things precedes all else”; Clinton (1988: 75) states: “Character is foundational if a leader is to influence people for God’s purposes”; and Gibbs (2005:114) summarises the Pauline requirements for leadership as “character first and foremost”. QUESTION: So what happened to “faith”? Should it be there? Is it properly excluded as the priority for Christian leadership? And what is it?

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