The Bible & Team Leadership

Written by Victor Stanley Jr.

The leadership theory often associated with Christianity tends to be servant leadership. Jesus is often held up as a perfect example of the servant leader, and scripture implores Christians to follow his example. However, the leadership theory that seems to permeate the governing bodies of the people of God throughout scripture is team leadership. Team leadership is grounded in the Trinity, and also seen in the theocracy of ancient Israel and the government of the Church.

John 14-17 provides a very in depth look into the Trinity from the mouth of Jesus himself. Here Jesus speaks of the unique roles of each member of the Trinity as well as how each member submits to the other. John 14:15-17 says:

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.” (John 14:15-17 ESV)

Here Jesus shows that he submits to the Father by requesting things of him rather than acting on his own. In addition to this he shows that it is the Father who sends the Spirit, and the Spirit obeys, In John 13:20 Jesus says that anyone who receives him receives the one who sent him, namely God the Father. Again this shows that Jesus submits to the will of the Father, yet each member of the Trinity is equal to each other. John 14:13 says that Jesus in in the Father and the Father is in him; John 14:23 says “we will make our home with him [the believer]” (my emphasis); John 14:26 says that the Father will send the Holy Spirit in Jesus name. All of these passages in which Jesus is speaking demonstrate that the Trinity functions as a team.

Each member serves differing but vital roles, the Father sends the Son and the Spirit and glorifies them (John 13:31-32); the Son testifies of the Father and glorifies him (John 13:31-32; 14:6); The Spirit testifies of the Son, and by the transitive property,[1] testifies of the Father, and provides knowledge and understanding of both (John 14:26). Thus Jesus functioning as the servant leader is actually more accurately understood in the larger context of his role within the Trinity which points to team leadership. It makes sense then that God has his people implement a team leadership model in ancient Israel and in the Church.

In Exodus 18:13-27 Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law advises Moses to set up judges over the people. He tells him to put in place “…chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens” (Exodus 18:21). In Exodus 28 God establishes the priesthood through the line of Levi and his descendant Aaron. While the Levites served in the temple in lesser roles such as musicians and gatekeepers, the Levites descended through Aaron specifically served as priests and high priests. What is important here is that Moses through the chiefs he put in place, and Aaron through the Levitical priesthood both, via God’s guidance and directives, established large teams to oversee the people to govern in judicial and spiritual capacities.

Furthermore, both King David and Solomon set up administrative teams to govern different regions of the nation, as well as advisory teams to serve the king as they ruled the nation. While these various people and their positions were organized in a hierarchy and had to submit to the authority over them, they were all equally representatives of God’s justice and his spiritual laws to those over whom they presided; this is very reflective of the Trinity.

The Church has two very prominent systems of polity within its tradition: the episcopal form of government, and the congregational form of government. The former is seen in Anglicanism, Presbyterianism (which is often considered a separate form), Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, etc.; the latter is seen most prominently is the Baptist tradition, but also in many non-denominational churches. Despite these different systems of church governance both systems have within them various teams that govern the churches. In episcopal forms of governance there are various groups that essentially function as leadership teams over the church such as the College of Cardinals, presbyteries, or synods, and so on.

In congregational churches there exists a board of elders and/or deacons and even local associations and national conventions. Elements of both of these forms of church governance can be seen in the New Testament and early church. In the book of Acts there is the council at Jerusalem that hands down decisions to the other churches throughout the world and Paul instructs Timothy and Titus to have elders and deacons help them lead the churches. In both of these situations there are teams of equals that submit to the authority of those teams over them, yet again each stands as a representative body of God’s divine law. This too pictures the Trinity.

Team leadership is prevalent throughout scripture as seen in the few examples given here, and ultimately can be seen as deriving from the Trinity. The Trinity functions as a team and provides a model for Christians in general, and Christian leaders in particular, to base their leadership strategies. The Trinity demonstrates how to balance submission and equality in order to lead.

 

[1] Transitive Property: if a=b, and b=c, then a=c. Thus if the Spirit testifies of the Son, and the Son testifies of Father, then the Spirit also testifies of the Father.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s