The Existing Concept of Leadership in the African Church

Ted W. Engstrom and Edward R. Dayton in their christian mysticism churches, “The Art of Management for Christian Leaders” said that leadership can be looked at from many different angels. They went on to state three of these angles from which leadership can be looked at. They are: i ) from the viewpoint of position, for e.g., leaders of companies or organizations; ii) from the viewpoint of action: leaders are known by the leadership acts they perform. Regardless of the different viewpoints from which one could examine leadership, it will always fall under three basic concepts.1

The three basic concepts of leadership identified in the contemporary world are as follows: the traditional concept – from one’s social or ethnic background, the secular concept-from the view point of modern society in general and the biblical concept – from the teachings of scripture. In some cases, the traditional concept. However, in the African context, it is important to make the distinction. From the three concepts mentioned above, all other concepts of leadership have their roots. Therefore in discussing the existing concepts of leadership in the African church, these three concepts were examined. The format followed in this chapter is as follows: the first section was a discussion on the Biblical concept of leadership, the second a discussion on the secular concept of leadership and the third on the traditional concept of leadership. Following these discussions, the existing concept of leadership, within the African church was determined by comparing these concepts with actual practices in the church. From the comparison a conclusion is drawn.

The Biblical Concept of Leadership

The concept of leadership from the biblical perspective has been determined from the teaching of scriptures and from the examples of many who were called to leadership by God. In this section, the leadership teachings of Jesus and the life. The life he modeled as the ideal standard for Christian leaders will be examined. Following that, leadership concepts in the Old Testament will be discussed generally, but also making specific references.

A. Leadership Teachings of Jesus

In his book, “The New Leaders: A Revolutionary Approach”, Mytron Rush stated his purpose of writing as, “to help us rediscover the practices and principles of leadership thought as applied by Jesus”, He said that Jesus Christ was not just content to have followers. By His teachings and practices, He redefined effective leadership as the leader reproducing himself on the followers.2 In the process of reproducing leader, Jesus revealed His basic concept of leadership as that of service. Gottfried Osei-Mensah agrees with Myron Rush when he said, “the model of leadership the scripture consistently command to the people of God is instead what we may call the servant-Ieader”.3 Several passages of scripture can also be cited to support the fact that Jesus’ concept of leadership was that of service. In Matthew 20:25-27, following a request for high position made by the mother of two of Jesus’ disciples, Jesus made this statement: “Not so with you. Instead, whosoever wants to be great must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave.” Also in Matthew 20:28, Jesus said, “The Son of man did not come to be served but to serve”. Osei-Mensah observed that through His ministry, and especially in His relationship with His disciples, Jesus also consistently modeled this type of leadership. For example, when Jesus washed the disciples’ feet, He clearly demonstrated this principle of humble service and show that it does not take away any dignity from the leader. It was this servant concept of leadership, which was epitomized in the life and ministry of Jesus that produced the first group of Christian leaders – the disciples of Jesus. This act of Jesus was also to show the disciples that true leadership is grounded in love, which must result in service.

B. Leadership teachings of Jesus’ Disciples

Scripture shows that long after Jesus had gone, His disciples carried on His concept of leadership. The apostle Peter in I Peter 5:2-5 wrote to other Christian leaders: “Be servant of God’s flock that are under your care, serving as overseers not because you must, but because you are willing. Clothe yourself with humility toward one another.” In this statement of the apostle Peter, it can be seen that his concept of leadership is purely that of service. He did not only accept this concept as that of Jesus but saw it as the norm for Christian leaders. For this reason, he was instructing them to adopt the same concept of leadership. Also, the apostle Paul, in I Thessalonians 2:9 talked about the kind of leader he had been to the Thessalonians. He said he labored night and day among them and that his life and that of his colleagues were examples of holiness, justice and blamelessness before God. Paul’s concept of leadership was exactly that of Jesus – service. The Thessalonians were not serving him, but rather he served them.

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