Numerous articles and books have been written on Biblical Leadership. The topic of our conversation is whether culture and context in different part of the world speak into and shape the expressions of Biblical Leadership? Would Biblical Leadership expression among the church leaders in the US differ from the expressions of Biblical leadership demonstrated by the church leaders in Japan or Thailand? Or in a smaller scope, would the expressions of Biblical leadership among the church leaders in Korean churches be different than the expressions of Biblical leadership among the Javanese Christians? And if so, in what way they are different?
One even argues that Jesus’ and the New Testament’s idea of leadership is a significant departure from the leadership concept in the Old Testament, let alone the contemporary understanding of leadership in the surrounding nations. So when we talk about Biblical Leadership, we might be referring more of the Jesus’ and the New Testament’s idea of leadership.
So, what are some new leadership concepts Jesus introduced? First, when Jesus compared His idea of leadership with those of the world, he emphasized radical servanthood, service instead of dominion.
“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:25-28)
Second, Jesus associated leadership with love, extreme love, love till the end, love that sacrifices the leader own life for the followers (Mark 10:45), love instead of fear.
Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end (John 13:1c)
For three years Jesus showed His disciples how one should make disciple of other people, the key phrase for the Jesus’ disciple making is “follow me” (Matthew 4:19, 8:22, 9:9, 10:38, 16:24, 19:21, John 21:22). Just before Jesus left the world, at the end of His last 40 days with His disciples, he revolutionized leadership concept and practice, when he commanded His disciples to make disciples of all people (ta ethne), wherever they go (Matthew 28:19).
Every Christ’s follower who obeys His command, ‘to make disciple,’ that is to invite other people to follow her/him, is a leader. So, third, Through the Great Commission Jesus has democratized leadership. Leadership is no longer belonged only to the ‘blue blood,’ or certain tribe, or certain class in society (caste). Anyone who obeys Christ, and disciple others in the same way Jesus made disciple of the first disciples (follow me), is a leader.
If disciple making is leadership, its core must be radical servanthood, extreme love and modeling of a total obedience to God (follow me).
How would Christian leadership in Indonesia, or Thailand or Korea translate these three into the local and national context, both at the church and in public sphere?
Bambang Budijanto, Ph.D.
Asia Evangelical Alliance – Associate General Secretary