The Beginnings of Leadership

Written By Victor Stanley Jr.

Most Christian leaders would agree that they should look to Jesus as the example of a perfect leader. However, to truly understand what it means to lead like Christ, one must consider the theological implications of several doctrines. Three such doctrines that should inform a person’s idea of leadership are: man and the imago dei, the kingship of Christ, and the Trinity. While many begin a discussion on leadership by discussing the character traits of great leaders, how to cultivate those traits, and strategies for putting those traits to work, the Christian should start with two questions: who is God, and who is man.

The answer to the question “who is God,” would fill a book, but a brief look at the Godhead and the members thereof will suffice to show how the doctrine of the Trinity relates to leadership. The Trinity is best described in the Athanasian Creed:

“…we worship one God in trinity and the trinity in unity neither blending their persons nor dividing their essence. For the person of the Father is a distinct person, the person of the Son is another, and that of the Holy Spirit still another. But the divinity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is one, their glory equal, their majesty coeternal.”[1]

So all members of the Trinity are equal, yet throughout Scripture they are shown submitting to one another in various ways. In the garden at Gethsemane Jesus explicitly says to the Father “not my will but your will be done,”[2] showing that even though he himself is God he still practices humility and models for others what it is to submit to authority even when one is in a position of authority.

The Holy Spirit and the Father can most times be seen submitting to Jesus when he performs miracles. Jesus often prayed to the Father before carrying out a miracle, and then executing the miracle through the Holy Spirit. Thus the Father is seen answering Jesus’ requests, and the Holy Spirit obeying Jesus command to heal a person or cast out a demon. In the Trinity one sees perfect submission, unity in purpose, and humility even in authority. Learning to operate with these three things would be of great benefit to any leader.

When probing the question of who God is, one must consider the kingship of Christ and how this too relates to leadership. Philippians 2:1-11 speaks to the humility of Christ, but also of his Lordship. Dr. Ben Gutierrez points out that in this passage verses 2, 3, and 4 each show a specific trait that Christians should have. Verse 2 speaks to unity, verse 3 to humility, and verse 4 to selflessness. The passage goes on to say that Christ exhibited these very traits, and that even though he was God he reduced himself to the position of a slave and submitted to the will of the Father, yet he is exalted on high and Lord of all.

One must see that in being the Lord and sustainer of the entire universe[3], Christ still practiced humility and selflessness. Any leader, and any Christian for that matter, should seek to imitate Christ in those behaviors.

Finally, when discussing leadership, a person must ask “who is man?” The answer to this question lies in the phrase ‘imago dei’ meaning image of God. Genesis 1:26-27 says that God made man in his image and likeness, Psalms 139:13-14 speaks of God carefully forming man in his mother’s womb, and Matthew 6:26-30 speaks of how much God values mankind. These verses show that people have inherent value because: 1) They are created by God and in his image, and 2) God is greatly concerned with the well being of man.

Leaders must then realize that if God values people they must also value people, that if God shows great concern, care, and compassion for people, they must do the same. Humility should stand as the greatest virtue of a leader.

[1] http://www.crcna.org/welcome/beliefs/creeds/athanasian-creed

[2] Luke 22:42 (ESV)

[3] Colossians 1:16-17 (ESV)

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