Theology and Christian Leadership
Every Christian leader should see themselves as a practicing theologian. It seems to me that many Christian leaders see theology only as an academic discipline to be exercised in the ivory towers of our seminaries. As a leader, one who is placed in authority, the spiritual and philosophical health of the church depends on proper theology in biblical exposition. A leader’s theology plays out, and has implications, in the practical application of biblical texts to everyday situations and life. Therefore, as a Christian leader, one should prayerfully and articulately think, teach, and practice ministry through a theological lens. The philosophical foundations and presuppositions are the grounds by which people think and act, therefore the Christian leader should labor to uncover the deep truths of biblical teachings.
The very nature of Christian leadership demands theological underpinnings. The Apostle Paul exhorts his disciple Timothy to not shrink back in his testimony about the Lord, because it was God who called him for in to the work of the ministry. Paul even takes his commandments further and asks Timothy to “follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you” (1 Timothy 1:1-14). What is this ‘pattern of sound words’, the ‘good deposit’ that has been entrusted to the Christian leader to guard?
The exhortation to guard ‘the truth’ (‘the pattern of sound words’, ‘good deposit’) is in itself Biblical evidence that proper theology is the foundation of Christian leadership. In Titus 1:9 Paul writes similar word to those he wrote to Timothy, that the Christian “must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it”. Paul makes it clear here that one of the duties of Christian leadership is to refute false teachings. Biblical teaching is theological through and through, there is no place for the Christian leader who is no theologian, in fact I would argue that every Christian is a theologian. With this being the case, every church should aim to sharpen the theological education of the members in order to equip them to answer the hardships of the Christian life with Biblical promises. Theology goes beyond religious philosophy, but reaches into everyday practice.
Beyond the refutation of false teaching, theology enlightens man on sin, and all the issues that pertain to the implications of sin. Therefore, there is no personal problem, no relational problem, no philosophical problem, and no ethical problem that cannot be spoken to by theology (obviously, this is not an all inclusive list). In every dimension there is an inescapable truth that a Christian’s leader’s theology reaches into, and speaks to every area of life and practice in their ministry. The main task of Christian leadership is to lift the veil of sin (through teaching and practice) in order that those who are following you, listening to you, and looking to you for leadership can discern the truth in all situations themselves, philosophical and practical.
There is an inseparability in the pursuit of truth from the task of theology. If ‘all truth is Gods truth’, then as we have shown, all things must be informed by theology in one sense or another. Therefore, building a ‘theological grid’ that will aid in the sifting through the wisdom (and lies) of this world against biblical truth is the task of every Christian, even more so for the Christian leader. Thus, our starting point is Biblical material, and from here we see the need for organization of these materials, thus the exercise of systematic theology. Millard Erickson provides a helpful organizational chart in moving from Bible exegesis to building a theological system systematically (Christian Theology, Pg. 70).
Moving through this process develops a systematic approach in developing a theology that is accurate to biblical teaching, and develops the theological framework which should inform all of the leadership decisions that must be made. Theology informs proper practical application. As R. Albert Mohler once put it, ‘the pastor who is no theologian is no pastor’. It is important to notice that ‘from a proper theology comes a philosophy of leadership’, and out of this philosophy of leadership comes practical everyday application. Theology is the grid work by which we interpret, and validate all leadership decisions.
Therefore, a philosophy of leadership is grounded in the leaders Biblical convictions. All this must start with the leader who allots much time to the study of Gods word through prayer and deep thought to come to theological convictions. All Christian leadership must be rooted in the deep truths of God’s word. The Christian leader’s concentrated attention to biblical texts brings forth a theological vision that is deeply rooted in God’s truth and in the truth about God that forms the very basis of Christian theology, which gives us a vision of ‘how to lead’.