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Exercising Global Biblical Leadership - Contemporary Insight from Paul in Romans

Paul Hoffman
 


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There are dozens of texts to scour for the basic and earliest known writings on leadership. Many, if not most, leadership theorists accept that the industrial revolution in Great Britton is the starting point in the study of modern leadership.

However, let us consider an even earlier event recorded for all humanity to read. Without identifying the leader or event, consider these four leader/leadership skills: 1. Do not withhold problems of the people from your higher authority. 2. Be a mentor and teacher to the people. Train them to perform their work well. 3. Carefully select subordinates capable of trust, honesty, and sharing the vision and mission of the organization. 4. Empower subordinates to make general decisions and bring more important decisions to upper echelon leaders.

Most leaders will not deny the importance of these four principles of leader responsibility. The visionary leader was Moses and the text is Exodus 18:19-22.

This essay examines Pauline writings seeking to discover how the Apostle Paul used these four principles to guide and grow Christianity in a region that was culturally diverse, politically and socially diverse, and economically diverse. With this examination, this essay then shifts to how contemporary leaders can use these principles to guide and grow global leaders.

The Historical Paul
Achieving the connection between contemporary leadership and the Christian leadership of Paul in the early church requires knowing Paul. Paul was a man of the known world. He was a Greek artisan and businessman, well educated in Greek philosophy. Paul was a Roman citizen and well aware of privileges of Roman citizenship. Latin was the language of the Roman Empire; we can expect that Paul spoke Latin and his native Greek. Paul had a third element to his worldly nature; he was a Jew taught in the rabbinical tradition in Jerusalem. We may conclude he was fluent in Hebrew as well.

Paul was a figure well known to followers of the new Jesus movement. Acts 9 portrays Paul as having “murderous thoughts against the disciples of the Lord” (9:1), carrying to Damascus letters authorizing him to apprehend followers of the new movement (9:2). The chapter relates that Jesus, Himself, intervened in Paul’s activities, causing Paul to become blind. What was the nature of the blindness? It was a physical blindness as well as sensory overload, a significant emotional event happen so fast that he could not assimilate it. Because of this overload, his belief system underwent a significant change.

Paul worked as an itinerant leader of the early Church. He traveled throughout known territory preaching, teaching, and establishing Church communities. By the time he wrote the letter to the Romans, Paul knew he had completed his work in the eastern Mediterranean. Resident leaders of local Churches replaced itinerant travelers. This marked the first transformation of Christianity – transferring leadership to local control.

Romans and Christian Leadership

Zweifel writes that in less than a century, people have gone from identifying themselves within national borders to being global citizens. Television and the Internet with all its resources instantly unite the world with 24-hour instant news. Yet, Paul was of the world, identified himself as a follower of Jesus. Goettsche relates how Paul wrote of himself as a servant of God, a servant of the Church, and a servant of the Word. Nolan offers the view that Paul’s conversion and early teaching show his concern for people and is a collaborative ministry.

The introduction to Romans provided in the New American Bible explains Jesus’ supremacy and his (Paul’s) faith in Jesus. It is Paul’s plea to the faithful to remain strong in the faith and resist pressure against them. Paul begins his writing in the traditional manner of the day (praescriptio). He identifies himself, names the addressee, and offers greetings. He takes this a step further acknowledging Jesus as Messiah and he (Paul) the servant of God. Paul does not claim a leader role within the group to whom he writes. Rather, by introduction, he begins building a relationship. Through acknowledgement of their practices, he respects their culture and practices. Paul uses relationship building and personal evangelism as he establishes networks of relations in cities he visits. Paul writes to his beloved brothers in Romans, Colossians, Ephesians, Thessalonians, and his other letters.

Acknowledging Culture

Paul explains (Romans 9:6-24) that Jews are God’s people; however, God may choose (Ex. 33:19) whom He wills. Paul makes clear that not “all of Israel are Israel” (9:6, Nm. 23:19). This opens the minds of Jews to accept gentiles and tells contemporary leaders to coalesce with what others do and say, see the potential in others, preserve traditions, and promote individual freedom and dignity among multicultural global elements.

Paul appears to have an urban strategy for church planting. He concentrated his efforts in urban settings, capitols of communication and commerce. These metropolitan centers of politics and religion were also centers of culture. The Church in these areas was strong and growing because of his discipleship.

Romans 14:1 teaches that Christians greet one another openly regardless how strong their faith may be or for their different ideas. Verse 10 admonishes against looking down on or criticizing a fellow Christian.

Rome and Westward

Chapter 15:20 presents the Romans with a sense of Paul’s future intentions, the strength of Christian growth in the Eastern Mediterranean now motivated Paul to come to Rome and prepare for a mission to Spain. Paul claims he feels the need to go where the “name of Christ has never yet been heard, rather than where a church has already been started by someone else. ” Leadership – Leading - Leader

Paul is not content to convert new followers only, he teaches and mentors. Acts 20:31 provides a sense of Paul’s teaching and mentoring, “… remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one…” Within Romans 12, Paul continues to teach early Christians at Rome. Contemporary leaders learn that Paul did not see himself or his disciples as leaders or better than other people. He taught that Jews and gentiles, Greeks, Romans, Syrians, and all people are parts of creation and entitled to their share of God’s kingdom. Paul clarifies in 12:4 that all are members of the same body. Therefore, contemporary leaders recognize the inherent value of each person to a team and each team to the organizational whole. Complex interactions among parts contribute to the strength of the whole in a way that promotes and values listening, sharing and collaboration.

Finding good people to fill vacancies in an organization is critical for success. A person with the ability to see economic trends, political trends, and consumer trends is valuable when attempting to predict future business. Paul tells contemporary leaders that some people have gifts; one is prophecy, a divine vision for the future, similar to seeing future business trends. Another gift is teaching and mentoring. Teaching and mentoring helps inexperienced people obtain experience and become organizational disciples upon whom an organizational future resides. Paul advises encouragement and counsel to shape and motivate people.

Public Behavior

Part of Paul’s instructions, Romans 13, is obedience of government authorities. Verses 3 and 5 say law enforcers do not frighten people doing good, only those doing evil, therefore, obey the law to avoid punishment and because it is right. Pay taxes (6), pay debts (8), and do not cheat a neighbor (9).

Contemporary Leaders

Many contemporary texts present leadership traits and styles in terms of how a leader leads. Often, words like power, influence, and leverage define what a leader uses to achieve a goal. However, this picture of leaders is undergoing significant change in the 21st Century. Leaders are becoming a collective, a collaborative of participating leaders across industries and cultures. With business becoming more global and less national or regional, leaders begin concerning themselves with people rather than programs, having patience, being more concerned with responsibilities of leadership than the rights of it.

With leaders beginning to collaborate, they are less likely to hide problems of workers from leaders in upper echelons. When leadership is collaborative and participative, leaders learn from one another seeking mentoring and coaching relationships with those who want to teach; the result is deeper understanding of vision from the leader, sharing of the vision, and sharing of the mission. Passing vision and mission to subordinates helps assure future vision and growth of the organization. Collaborative leadership transforms subordinates and empowers them to make decisions. Other leaders are now free to focus on the important big decisions.

Leading in a global arena requires many skills generally missing when organizations leave the national arena. Zweifel suggests studying the people, their history and folkways; learn their government, religions and practices. Their language may not be yours, learn theirs. Like Paul, all leaders face acknowledging it is time to move on. Paul was unable to do more in his familiar eastern Mediterranean. He had to move on. Contemporary leaders who perform well the task of mentoring can sense when the protégé becomes the new disciple ready to take control. Moral Leadership across Cultures

Contemporary global leaders are also discovering the importance of “[a] set of moral principals that would provide a common center for the peoples of the world, ” a global ethic. This principal appears simple enough; however, how to attain it is elusive. Who decides what the common global ethic is? Will everyone want to embrace it? Is it enforceable? Achieving a worldview or set of common principals must involve science, religion, and philosophy.

Serious writers in the study of leadership express their concern that leadership lacks clarity when defining leadership in terms of morals and ethics. Many studies define morals and ethics in philosophical and scientific terms; however, religion is often missing. Even though leaders study Greenleaf’s concept of servant leadership, they often do not reach beyond study to practice.

However, there are leaders in the academic arena who strive for their students to take the concept of servant leadership from concept to understanding and to implementation. One such academic leader, Winston wrote a piece that secular leaders could understand although they may not have a deep biblical background. In his text, he uses the Beatitudes taught by Jesus as the core source for being a servant leader. Further, Winston includes Paul’s writing in Romans 12:6-8 to provide a moral compass for leaders. Winston writes these spiritual gifts are functional gifts. The analogy he provides for clarification simply says, “In our organizations, each person performs different functions in concert with other people to comprise the body of the organization. ” This secular translation of Paul’s assertion that the Christian Church consists of many people providing to the whole helps contemporary leaders recognize the need to place the right person in the right place at the right time.

Conclusion

This essay concludes with an acknowledgment that more discussion and more consensus building will occur before true global leadership emerges. Finding the core moral code that all accept and building a global community that benefits all humanity is a lofty goal. Reaching that goal requires answers to difficult questions.

Biblical leadership of church community builders like Paul offers a multicultural perspective of organization building. However, do leaders welcome others into their community with openness as Paul teaches? How willing are contemporary leaders to acknowledge their disciples and release control to them? Are leaders willing to recognize when it is time shift focus from one area to another?

Leaders, acting alone, may not achieve great things. Leaders, acting in collaboration, speaking and acting in concert can achieve like Paul, the apostles in Jerusalem, and the host of disciples who continue the great commission.

(2026)

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