Christ-Based Leadership: Applying the Bible and Today's Best Leadership Models to Become an Effective Leaderby David Stark
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You know what the Bible has to say about leadership. You've read leadership books and heard the experts talk about it. Now, how do you put everything you know together? In Christ-Based Leadership David Stark, a pastor, business consultant, and trainer, has done that for you. In this practical and useful leadership book you'll learn about today's best leadership concepts and how they measure up to the biblical leadership model. Then discover how to put the principles into practice.
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By David Stark
Bethany House Publishers
Copyright © 2005
All right reserved.
Are You Leadership Literate?
This book came to life in my spirit on an
unforgettable day in the early 1990s as I was
reading global forecaster Alvin Toffler's The
Third Wave. Toffler had always been quite
prescient about the future, and his well-known
statement struck me to the core:
The illiterate of the 21st century will not be
those who cannot read and write, but those who
cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.
At that time, well into my first years in
ministry, I longed to learn the essence of good
leadership. I also had a sneaking suspicion that I
might need to unlearn and relearn a few things
along the way. At any rate, energizing my quest
were two different sets of motivations, each based
on a leadership model.
The first bubbled up from my unsatisfying
experiences with a certain model of small-group
ministry. My senior pastor had asked me to apply
it as soon as I arrived, and though I chafed at
its top-down, authoritarian approach, I used the
program "successfully" for a number of years.
Nevertheless, it was exhausting. What enormous
effort just to sustain the leaders' vision! People
weren't enjoying this, I wasn't enjoying it, and
the fruit produced in participants' lives hardly
resembled the fruit of the Spirit. Wherewas the
love, the joy, the peace among us? We settled
instead for much division, consistent strife,
little unity, and feeble enthusiasm.
* * *
I decided to look for a new way to do small-group
ministry. While reading Toffler's book, it
occurred to me that the business community, out of
necessity, was moving into innovative structures
to accomplish its goals in the work force. This
secular marketplace movement, which was starting
to look strangely similar to my own direction, was
crucially based upon a deeper understanding of
leadership. Could I learn from the business gurus
while maintaining a thoroughly biblical philosophy
of ministry? The idea intrigued me.
* * *
Before I continue, please allow me a moment to
review the basic thesis of The Third Wave. Toffler
suggests that civilization has subsisted in three
basic structures, or "waves," down through
The agricultural first wave involved living and
laboring on extended family farms (which is still
applicable for much of the world).
In the second wave, the industrial revolution,
people began working in hierarchical organizations
built around command-and-control models of
leadership. The era of the machine was built upon
Then, around 1955, we entered the third wave: the
information age. Here and now, Toffler says, a new
working structure is evolving: less hierarchical,
interdependent organizations that gather around
communities of commitment. Peter Drucker would
later call these "organic organizations," because
the master image is no longer the lifeless machine
but the living organism.
As I swam around in cutting-edge business
thinking, one day it hit me: the New Testament
uses the organic as its master image: the body of
Christ. However, while we've had this theology of
an organic organization from the beginning, the
business community seemed to be moving from theory
(its "theology") to application with more
determination than the church.
This was out of necessity, of course, to meet the
demands of a rapidly changing, swirling, exciting,
startling world: Globalization. Computerization.
Postmodernism and Gen Y. Talk radio, bloggers, and
eBay. How else would they survive, thrive, and get
their message across? Leaders in every field rose
up ... to lead. They tackled the problem on all
fronts-they had to, for profits must not fall.
We, the church, on the other hand: Have our
prophets fallen? It seemed to me we were holding
on to second-wave forms of leadership and
structure at all costs. We continued to create and
maintain top-down, hierarchical,
command-and-control, mechanistic organizations.
Sound at all like your church?
That very day I committed myself to reading and
digesting as much of the business revolution
material as I could find. I drilled far into
insights about effective leadership and
people-empowering structures. I wanted to learn,
in full detail, what it would mean to lead an
organic organization. And I figured I had an
advantage: My organization is indwelt by the
Spirit of God himself.
HOW DO YOU VIEW YOUR WORLD?
The more I read business literature, the more I
saw two profoundly distinct schools of leadership
thought. In his wonderful book Leading Change,
James O'Toole describes this worldview conflict;
the first is the Realist-relativist-contingency
school, which holds the following assumptions
about the world and people (and therefore
* People are by nature evil and self-interested,
thus they must be controlled;
* Human groups are given to anarchy;
* Progress comes from discipline, order, and
* Order arises from leadership;
* There can only be one leader of a group;
* The leader is the dominant member of the group;
* Leadership is an exercise of power;
* Any sign of weakness will undercut the leader's
* Loyalty, effort, and change can be commanded
* O'Toole spends several chapters showing that
this view doesn't work in the long run because
it's an amoral leadership style that harbors a
Leaders in the Realist School are prone, when
pressed by the inevitable exigencies of public
life, to behave in ways that destroy the trust
of followers. Because people will not follow the
lead of those they mistrust, contingency leaders
will often encounter insurmountable obstacles on
the road to leading change.
By contrast, Rushmorean leaders have remarkably
different assumptions about the world and
people. "Rushmorean" refers to the character and
values of people like Washington, Jefferson,
Lincoln, and Roosevelt. They possess
authenticity, integrity, vision, passion,
conviction, and courage, and they lead by
example rather than coercion. Rushmorean
leadership is moral leadership, and its axioms
* People are by nature a mixture of potential for
great good or great harm, and they thrive in an
environment of trust with accountability.
* Human groups tend toward self-ordering states,
given the right parameters and resources.
* Progress comes from vision and values given as
parameters, where self-discipline, creativity,
and passion are allowed to stretch people
* Order arises from common commitments to mission
and common understandings of values.
* There are many types of leadership and leaders
within an organization.
* Different leadership energies are needed at
different times to keep an organization moving
to its prime.
* Leadership is an exercise of stewardship, where
everyone shoulders the trust given to the
* Weakness and vulnerability on teams create an
atmosphere of trust, where members feel needed
for their strengths as well as needing others
for the areas where they do not have strengths.
In this approach, everyone involved buys into
any change effort as members together craft a
common vision out of various agendas. In this
way they capture the best future for the
organization and take advantage of the
stakeholders' diverse gifts and passions. As
Toffler puts it:
No leader can command or compel change. Change
comes about when followers themselves desire it
and seek it. Hence the role of the leader is to
enlist the participation of others as leaders of
the effort. That is the sum and essence not only
of leading change but also of good management in
general. In reality, such leadership is
extremely difficult because it is unnatural.
As I reflected on these contrasting paradigms
regarding the world, people, and leadership, I
came back to one of Jesus' clearest statements.
He too lifted up a basic leadership contrast-the
difference between leadership that reflects
God's kingdom and leadership that works against
His purposes in the world.
"You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord
it over them, and their high officials exercise
authority over them. Not so with you. Instead,
whoever wants to become great among you must be
your servant, and whoever wants to be first must
be your slave-just as the Son of Man did not
come to be served, but to serve, and to give his
life as a ransom for many."
Peter reinforces Christ's words when writing to
early church leaders:
To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow
elder, a witness of Christ's sufferings and one
who also will share in the glory to be revealed:
Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your
care, serving as overseers-not because you must,
but because you are willing, as God wants you to
be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve;
not lording it over those entrusted to you, but
being examples to the flock. And when the Chief
Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of
glory that will never fade away.
1 Peter 5:1-4
I began to see that the New Testament
establishes a crystal-clear difference between
leadership that "lords it over others" and
leadership that proceeds from the Holy Spirit to
build the kingdom. How similar to James
O'Toole's Realist/Rushmorean distinction! In
fact, how similar to everything I'd been reading
in the business revolutionaries, those who knew
that "business as usual" must radically alter
its approach in order to impact its world.
I was inspired by and excited about the
possibilities. I also thought, Wouldn't it be
great to have a book that shows how scriptural
truths can work hand in hand with the best
insights of business research?
That's what Christ-Based Leadership hopes to do.
We'll explore in detail the differences between
these leadership types, launching into each
theme from a pivotal question appearing in each
chapter title. The questions will drive to the
core of what today's leaders must be asking
themselves in order to choose between the
pathways open to them. Each chapter will also
compare the components of leadership to the
human body, showing by way of analogy the "look"
of health or disease in the organic
A TALE OF TWO WISDOMS
Recall that I had two motivations energizing my
quest for excellent leadership. If the first was
solidly intellectual, the second was much more
emotional and spiritual in nature. In the years
that followed, as I began working as a church
consultant, I constantly observed
amoral-leadership assumptions working themselves
out within congregations.
The result? Pain!
Lots of pain was being created in the church,
manifesting in all kinds of ways. I could
broadly categorize the hurt in three forms of
(1) Missed opportunities for laypeople to live
out their giftedness and callings. They ended up
in disillusionment and often rejected the
institutional church as a place of fulfilling
their life's purpose.
(2) Hurt, confused, abused, and stifled staffers
and layleaders. These folks wanted to give their
best to their leaders, but found the amoral
leadership patterns hindering and obstructive at
least, offensive and destructive at worst.
(3) Divided and diminished congregations. Within
their communities, they never had the impact
they were designed to have.
Alongside such painful situations, though, I
encountered hope-inducing examples of moral
leadership in action. These leaders had the
opposite effect on laypeople, staffers, and
congregations. Where is all the pain? I wondered
at first. Then I realized how very different the
assumptions about people and the world were in
these healthy scenarios. They blossomed with
vitality and ministry, bringing glory to God in
myriad ways. There is something irrefutably wise
about working within Christ's body as if it were
an organic organization. Which, of course, it
Here, then, were two very different "wisdoms,"
those of which the apostle James spoke long ago:
Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him
show it by his good life, by deeds done in the
humility that comes from wisdom. But if you
harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your
hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth.
Such "wisdom" does not come down from heaven but
is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. For where
you have envy and selfish ambition, there you
find disorder and every evil practice. But the
wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all
pure; then peace-loving, considerate,
submissive, full of mercy and good fruit,
impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in
peace raise a harvest of righteousness.
In each chapter ahead, while considering a key
question about effective leadership, we'll look
at (1) the biblical wisdom supporting the
principle involved and (2) the specific business
theory it upholds. Get ready to enjoy "mini-book
reviews" of pivotal volumes; those you don't yet
own may end up on your bookshelves eventually.
My hope is that churches will begin applying
these wonderful principles, along with their
moral bases and structural implications. If this
can ease and eliminate some of the pain caused
by unbiblical, hierarchical leadership patterns,
I will be deeply gratified and grateful to God.
Excerpted from Christ-Based Leadership
by David Stark
Copyright © 2005 by David Stark.
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
What People are Saying About This
Teaching pastor, Menlo Park Presbyterian Church; author, God Is Closer Than You Think
CEO, Habitat for Humanity
Peachtree Professor of Evangelism, Columbia Theological Seminary
Meet the Author
David Stark (davidstarkcollective.com) is president of BusinessKeys International, a consulting practice that serves churches as well as businesses. A former pastor, he has worked with churches for more than twenty years, focusing on strategy, leadership, small-group ministries, and lay empowerment.
For businesses, he specializes in strategy, leadership, and culture issues. David's previous books include LifeKeys: Discover Who You Are and Christ-Based Leadership. He and his family live in Minneapolis.
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