Monday, July 28, 2008

The "Herculean Effort" of Christian Leadership

The subject of my M.Th. thesis is Christian transformational leadership. With this in mind, it is interesting that Christian transformational authors consistently emphasise that such leadership requires a superhuman effort: it requires a “Herculean effort” (Blackaby H and Blackaby R 2001:7); it requires courage “of the highest order” (Sanders J O 1994:59); it comes with a high price (Gibbs E 2005:173; Hunter J C 2004:144; Sanders J O 1994:19); it involves heavy struggles (Engstrom T W 1976:14); it requires a great deal of motivation (Hunter J C 2004:19), and enormous efforts (Hunter J C 2004: 157); it demands personal suffering (Thrall B, McNicol B and McElrath K 1999:128), in fact “more than sacrifice and suffering” (Wofford J C 1999:164); it may face incredible odds (Munroe M 2005:209); it represents a daunting challenge (Gibbs E 2005:26); it requires a ribbon of steel running through one (Jinkins M 2002:30); and it demands superior spiritual power (Sanders J O 1994:28). In future posts, I hope to focus on the personal impact that such demands have on leaders. QUESTION: Is the above true of all Christian leadership? or is it something specific to certain types of Christian leadership? For those not familiar with “transformational”, this is possibly the most popular leadership model in the USA.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

"Strengths and Abilities"

Henry and Richard Blackaby, in their book Spiritual Leadership, quote the promise of God to Joshua in Josh 1:5-9. This includes the famous words: “Be strong and courageous!” Then they add this comment: “God did not flatter Joshua, nor did he encourage Joshua to draw courage from his own strengths and abilities. Rather, God made it abundantly clear to Joshua that he need not fear his own inadequacies because God would be in control. Joshua could lead the Hebrew nation with absolute confidence, not in his own leadership skills, but in the assurance of the Lord’s presence” (Blackaby H and Blackaby R 2001:95). QUESTION: Does this mean that our “own strengths and abilities” are not needed? What is the meaning of “the Lord’s presence”?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Transformational: Mods to the Theory

Following on from my previous post, my academic supervisor has emphasised that my critique of transformational Christian leadership should propose constructive modifications to current theory. How, therefore, would I modify current theory if I could? High on my list, I think, would be to seek to break the causal link between influencer (the leader) and influenced (the followers), and to restore the direct influence of God on followers (an aspect which is de-emphasised in the literature). In other words, rather than the horizontal relationship between influencer and influenced (which in my view leads to a constellation of serious problems), there would be a triangular relationship between influencer and God on the one hand, and God and influenced on the other. QUESTION: Would this be in keeping with Biblical emphasis? Could leadership realistically function without the purpose of influencing others?

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Transformational: What Is It Really?

Elsewhere on this blog, I suggest a definition of transformational Christian leadership. This might, however, give a different impression to what it really is. Each of the quotes which follows is drawn from a stock of many more: Transformational Christian leadership holds that leadership is personal influence. This influence is based on character (in the sense of “integrity”, but also “persistence”): “Character is foundational if a leader is to influence people ...” (Clinton J R 1988:74). The purpose of such influence if to fulfil a vision: “If you want to become a leader, vision is not an option [i.e. it is mandatory]” (Barna G 1997:47). Such vision tends to be what defines a Christian leader’s calling, and it needs to be seen through. This, however, tends to place an extraordinary burden on the Christian leader: “Perhaps the greatest trial for the transforming Christian leader is in challenging the status quo ... [i.e. is in] values and visions” (Wofford J C 1999:85,86). In the literature, there is a marked de-emphasis of the Triune God in exegetical passages, and of faith in the sense of the human response to God. This would seem to fit with transformational Christian leadership’s emphasis on personal influence. QUESTION: Assuming you are familiar with this leadership paradigm, how might the above be modified or enlarged? The picture (from Senge P M 1990:151) illustrates the “vision tension” particularly well.

NOTE: “Transformational” may have a very different meaning in Southern Africa. What is referred to here is a popular Global North leadership paradigm.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Definition of Religious Persecution

I have been closely involved in discussions surrounding the establishment of the World Evangelical Alliance’s (WEA’s) International Institute for Religious Freedom (IIRF). At the same time, an academic publisher hired me to proofread a text: Re-Examining Religious Persecution. Here is the author’s definition: “Religious persecution should be understood as an unjust action of varying levels of hostility directed at a believer or believers of a particular religion or belief-system through systematic oppression or genocide, or through harassment or discrimination which may not necessarily limit these believers’ ability to practice their faith, resulting in varying levels of harm as it is considered from the victim’s perspective, each action having religion as its primary motivator” (Tieszen C 2008:42). I’m not sure, though, about religion as the primary motivator. Is this doing justice to what happens “on the ground”? Some examples (both of these actual): a pastor reveals corruption discovered through counselling, and is framed; or a Church dismisses an employee for unchristian practices, and is summoned. I might try a definition like this: “Religious persecution is suffering at the hands of others for religiously grounded practices”. Of course, there might be religiously grounded practices for which one deserves to suffer. QUESTION: Can religious persecution be restricted (Chambers Dictionary) to suffering for “religious or political opinions”? Are such definitions adequate? What about the suggested one-liner?