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Pitfalls in ‘Biblical’ leadership

Volker Kessler

Verbum et Ecclesia; Vol 34, No 1 (2013), 7 pages. doi: 10.4102/ve.v34i1.721

Submitted: 17 February 2012
Published:  14 March 2013


This article is about the pitfalls involved in writing a Christian handbook on leadership. By analysing some elements of the Rule of Benedict it is argued that it is impossible to write such a handbook without using non-Biblical sources. Moreover, there are typical pitfalls when authors attempt to develop a pure Biblical leadership theory. The first pitfall is typical of Christians representing Niebuhr’s type of ‘Christ against Culture’. As early as 1951, Niebuhr claimed that in the field of leadership in particular the radical exclusive Christians reintroduced rules from non-Christian cultures. Examples from the last decade support Niebuhr’s observation. The second pitfall, referred to as reconstruction, is typical of those authors who are open to secular sources but who seek to give Biblical evidence for their leadership theory. This pitfall is illustrated by analysing the process in which the secular concepts of transforming leadership and vision statements found their way into evangelical books on Christian leadership. Reconstruction typically consists of four steps: Perception (a secular model of leadership becomes popular), Acceptance (this model is examined and accepted for the context of the church) Assimilation (it is claimed that leaders in the Bible worked exactly as described in the model, books are written about Biblical leadership, exemplifying the model. The secular source becomes obsolete.) and Standardisation (this model of leadership is declared to be the Biblical norm for every Christian leader). I argue that step 3 is at least problematic and step 4 is a fatal error.

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Author affiliations

Volker Kessler, University of South Africa Akademie für christliche Führungskräfte, Germany


Christian Leadership; Niebuhr; Transforming Leadership


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ISSN: 1609-9982 (print) | ISSN: 2074-7705 (online)

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