July 23, 2007- The Example and Teaching of the Apostle Paul

A guiding principle from Paul that I see as undergirding my view on leadership derives from 1 Corinthians 1:28: "God has chosen the things that are not, that he might nullify the things that are." God does this in ways that take us in through the back door. He moves circumstances and even heaven and earth to form the leaders He chooses to use. True leaders cannot manipulate themselves into that role. In Paul’s life it took almost thirty years before he clearly became a leader of leaders (Hoehner 1965, 381-2). It took time and suffering. Paul’s commission in Acts 9:15-16 says "I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake."

When defending his qualifications, Paul most consistently eschewed his accomplishments in favor of his sufferings as a source of authority. His catalogues of hardship (1 Cor 4:9-13; 2 Cor 6:3-5; 11:23-30) demonstrated his authority and influence were not tied to position or office. His favorite designation of himself was "fellow worker", an uniquely Pauline term.

Paul led by example. Secular writers recognize that leaders lead by examples set forth in daily acts that demonstrate their vision (Kouzes and Posner 2002, 43-108). In God’s economy, respect, power, and influence are not based on education, accomplishments, or position, but most often upon persevering in work that often has no earthly privilege or accolades. Every time Paul told people to "imitate me", it was in terms of suffering, humility, and hardship. Don Carson believes that the "best Christian leadership cannot simply be appointed. It is forged by God himself in the fires of suffering, taught in the school of tears. There are no shortcuts" (Carson 1990, 90). Therefore, I believe suffering is not to be sought after, but is also not to be avoided out of fear. Fear is the opposite of faith, and a holy boldness is required of godly leadership.

The notion of calling pervades Paul’s writings, and a sense of calling has led me to pursue Leadership studies. Richard J. Leider emphasizes the role of "calling" in the life of a servant leader (Hesselbein and Goldsmith 2006, 289-295), but his notion of calling is self-generated and thus sub-biblical. Others make a similar point (Kouzes and Posner 2002, 112). Os Guinness has influenced my thinking on vocation both by his writings and his teaching ministry.

Oswald Sanders has many good things to say about leadership, but he lacks a coherent theology of failure, always demanding strength and one’s personal utmost, which leaves little room for leaders who exhibit power which is perfected in weakness. Rather he points to the Spirit as the one who "lifts" one’s natural abilities if one is "Spirit filled" (Sanders 1967, 82-83). All the while, the author does this against a backdrop of defining spiritual leadership in terms of servanthood, selflessness, and spiritual formation, leaving a conflicted and daunting picture of what a biblical leader is. His take on the role of failure is lacking.

The Extraordinary Leader incorporates a very helpful chapter (Zenger and Folkman 2002, 157-175) on learning from one’s mistakes, though it falls short of biblical repentance and transformation. The authors show the way to turning failure and flaws into learning experiences that strengthen the leader’s competencies.

Paul, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, further ascertains the qualifications of leadership in 2 Timothy 2 by referencing the leadership metaphors of a teacher (2:2) who is also a diligent student and faithful equipper of others; a soldier (2:3-4) who is aligned with God’s plans, willing to accept hardship and hopeful to gain Christ’s approval; an athlete (2:5) who is self-disciplined and who is motivated by the hope of future reward; a farmer (2:6) who toils diligently and yet nurtures his own spirit; a workman (2:15) who is accountable to God and who seeks God’s approval on his work, and accordingly handles God’s Word carefully; a vessel (2:21) who purifies himself from error and contamination; and a slave (2:24-25a) who is in submission to the Master’s will and who displays a compelling disposition and conduct. This composite view may not be exhaustive, but it is indeed compelling in regard to leadership qualities required for effective service (Hiebert 1976, 213-229).

Kotter (Kotter 1996, 182-183) points to lifelong learning and the importance of establishing a sense of urgency and the communication of change vision as crucial attributes of a leader. The ongoing, progressive nature of the illustrations in the 2 Timothy passage are in alignment with this. Kotter’s eight stage process could be said to mirror the approach of the early missionary journeys in critical ways. As an aside, Kotter also offers one of the most helpful differentiations between management and leadership this writer has read to date.

Collins has helpful guidance in pointing to the focus focused consistency of great companies on excellence in non-reactionary terms in his "Hedgehog Concept", and building greatness over time in his concept of the "Flywheel and the Doom Loop" (Collins 2001, 110-119, 165-170). Excellence takes time. Focusing on one thing and doing it well allows passion, talent, and effectiveness both feed and benefit from the process.

The key attributes one observes in the Apostle Paul’s model of leadership are humility and will. These are the same qualities that characterize Jim Collins’ "Level 5 Leader" (Collins 2001, 35-38). Unfortunately, Collins associates this with fanatical drivenness (Collins 2001, 39). Gangel paints a realistic portrait of the tenacity of will, teachableness, and humility Paul evidenced (Gangel 1997, 83-85).

Harry Potter Spoilers ahead!

I have to say I was not disappointed with the conclusion of the Potter series. It is always a bit gratifying to see that you have figured out major issues the books have presented as subjects of debate...

I almost figured out Snape, expecting Rowling to have a redemptive version of Judas up her sleeve in this character. I had not foreseen the Dumbledore of clay feet depicted in the final book. I fully expected the Christological parallels in Harry, as they have been alluded to from the start. Note that I said parallels; Rowling is too good a writer not to create complex points of departure where the symbolism fails if you push it too far.

Among the overt examoples that are difficult to deny are when Harry walks alone as a lamb to the slaughter, gives himself sacrificially to save his friends, comes to the King's Cross where he has a choice of going on to his eternal destiny immediately or returning to the world to finish his off the evil enemy.

An excellent site to direct readers to a deeper literary reading of the books resides at:


Voldemort invests his soul in six "objects" deliberately and one by accident: this forms a sevenfold deadly sin counterpoint the the threefold hallows.

The hallows- or holy objects are a wooden wand (a rod or rood),   a resurrection stone, and an invisibility cloak ( a covering that protects. Christian symbolism is obviously present, but   exhaustive identification with the biblical models are not evident.

The elder wand heals Harry's broken wand that contained the phoenix feather, itself a symbol of resurrection. The hero becomes sin by taking on pat of the evil one's soul which is put to death by the hero's "death".

Much more to come, after time for discussion...

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From the personal weblog of Anthony Foster @http://anthonyfoster.com/blog/