The previous post “Leadership, What?” referred to Brian Dodd’s remarks about what the Apostle Paul writes about spiritual leadership in the church community.  Dodd also cites probably the most common phrase Paul uses in his letters to demonstrate the mark of genuine Christian leadership: “in Christ.”[1] This is the crux of Pauline theology and marks the whole of the Christian life and not simply leadership.  This phrase characterizes the beginning, ongoing, and end of true Christian redemption and maturity.  Unless the believer recognizes this mark and becomes ensconced in and enraptured with it, he or she will exhibit fleshly leadership.  Dodd writes, “What was striking about Paul’s leadership…was the uniquely Christ-centered and cross-reflecting style of leadership that he exhibited.” [2] These two traits reflect the true meaning of in Christ.  In his commentary on the calling and character of the Christian leader, William Willimon expands on the meaning of in Christ,

We being ‘in Christ’ and being a’ new creation,’ are those who don’t just know about the righteousness of God, or believe in the righteousness of God; we are to be God’s righteousness. If you want a Scriptural basis for Christian ethics, make it this one. [3]

Biblically stated, being God’s righteousness begins with core expression of the gospel: justification by faith through which God imputes Christ’s righteousness to the sinner so that one stands in the right before Him.  The phrase “in Christ” reflects an identity and a moral stance for the believer and serves as the basis for Christian leadership. In a sense, this is a new way to equip saints and release leaders in two ways. First, the modern era of people alienated from Christ knows little of it, and it has no place in a secular society. Second, it is new in that the abiding life of Christ has its roots in the new commandment. Spiritual leadership is about caring for people and loving them in and toward the kingdom of God. It is for this reason Dodd made this phrase and the Holy Spirit the foundation of all he wrote throughout the book. [4]

According to Dodd, the Apostle Paul would have failed every human litmus test for leadership.  He suggests Paul’s failures as one of the reasons God chose Him to lead.  The key to Paul’s leadership, according to Dodd, is Spirit-empowerment.  1 Corinthians 12:4-13 repeats this truth.  There Paul emphasizes that the Holy Spirit sovereignly leads the Church and provides its leaders with all the resources needed to guide and mature God’s chosen people.  A. W. Tozer wrote, “There was hardly a great leader from Paul to the present but was drafted by the Holy Spirit for the task.” [5] Developing spiritual leadership requires a spiritual source and mandate or it will scatter the sheep.  However, even in leadership failures, we must remember God remains faithful and will accomplish His redemptive purpose among those He saves.  He also redeems fallen leaders so that He is glorified not only in the Church but also in all the world.

[1] Dodd, Brian J., Empowered Church Leadership: Ministry in the Spirit According to Paul (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 14.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Willimon, William H., Character and Calling: Virtues of the Ordained Life (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2000), 129.

[4] Dodd, 15.

[5] Sanders, J. Oswald, Spiritual Leadership (Chicago, Moody Press, 1994), 29.

Copyright (c) 2014, Action Faith Books Press.  All rights reserved.  Not to be used without expressed written permission.

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