I have unintentionally taken a break from blogging. I don’t have any particular reason, no tales of woe or grand adventures. Just didn’t think I had much of anything to say. But there is taking a break and then there is ignoring, procrastinating, and avoiding. So here goes. I should warn you, I’m mostly thinking out loud in this post. Talking to myself and trying to sort out what I think.
I have been thinking about leadership lately. If you read business articles there is a lot of discussion about leadership. If you read about church growth, youth ministry, young adult ministry and so forth there is a lot of discussion about leadership. We are encouraged by authors, church leaders, and business leaders to be leaders and to develop leaders. But I wonder, exactly how many leaders do we need? What about people who are not leaders? Shouldn’t we spend some time thinking about them, other than how to use them to further our own leadership goals? What do we mean by leadership? Is there a biblical model of leadership, as some claim? What is the point of leadership?
All these questions make it easy for me to talk myself into corners and down rabbit trails. Maybe if I start writing, I’ll find some clarity, but where to focus?
What is the point of leadership?
Well, somebody has to be in charge don’t they?
Really? Does somebody have to be in charge?
Yes, if we want to get things done as a group. More often than not, someone needs to organize and encourage and have oversight of the project. Whether it is getting the family to clean the house, or the factory to run, or Congress to function, someone has to get things started and keep them going.
Okay. There may be a place for leadership. How do we figure out who is the leader? Or who would make an effective leader? Or a good leader?
I know a good leader when I see one. Different situations probably require different kinds of leaders, don’t you think? Or are there characteristics that all leaders have. Do I have to read some books about leadership now?
So not knowing where to start, I mentally wonder off, open a new browser tab and start working on Westminster Reads, a Bible reading blog. I’ve read and written my way through Torah and now Joshua and Judges and getting ready for 1 Samuel. It occurs to me the Old Testament has quite a bit to say about how groups should organize themselves and how leaders should behave.
The perplexing thing about looking in the Old Testament for “best leadership practices” (as the leadership gurus say) is the variety of practices in scripture. Moses was called by God but he was neither a king, nor a priest, and only occasionally a military leader. In fact the task of leading Israel was so great, Moses was ready to quit and God gave the Spirit to 70 elders who helped Moses. Israel is never truly content to be led by Moses. There was a lot of complaining and murmuring in the wilderness.
Joshua was mostly a military commander and we don’t have much else in the way of leadership in his story. Then there was the time of the Judges. That worked pretty well for a while. But by the time of Samson, Israel was descending into chaos. During the last of the judges “all the people did what was right in their own eyes” (Judges 21:25). Then in 1 and 2 Samuel and 1 and 2 Kings we get the story of the monarchy. Israel wants a king to be like the other nations and because the system of judges simply didn’t work well. And so Samuel,guided by God, chooses Saul. And after Saul is David and then Solomon. The time of the kings ends with the fall of Samaria and then the fall of Jerusalem. After the Exile, Israel has better and worse leaders. Nothing really stands out as a clear example of Biblical leadership.
Maybe that’s the point. The ways we think about leadership don’t really work well. All the leadership styles in the Old Testament worked for a while and then they didn’t. Did they just need better leaders or is there something unworkable about our conception of leadership?
I’d like to know, what do you think?
P.S. Next we’ll look at the New Testament and continue to think about leadership.