Foolish Development

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In this newsletter, I have frequently recommended a variety of books on leadership as helpful resources. Many of these, though not all, come from the business world. At times, I have worried and waited expectantly for someone to call me out, and to point out that we are seeking to develop leaders for the Church, not for a business. Graciously, no one has done that to date.

The challenge came instead, from another book—“Servants and Fools: A Biblical Theology of Leadership” by Arthur Boers. In this book Boers points out some of the shortcomings of much of today’s leadership wisdom when applied within the Church. While recognizing the value and contributions made, he nonetheless cautions us against simply accepting current definitions of leadership and the practices associated with them. He invites us to reflect biblically on what leadership is all about.

A key point that Boers makes, is that leaders, in a Christian sense, are called more to be servants and fools than endowed with the take charge and “get it done” attributes and skills we often associate with leaders. In this sense, Christian leaders are less empire builders than Kingdom participants. This sort of leader seems somewhat foolish, and at the least counterintuitive. Boers reminds us, however, that we are called to follow One who has been described as the fool on the hill.

I recommend you pick up a copy of this book and read it carefully, hopefully in discussion with others who are also seeking to develop good leaders within our Christian communities. In reading and reflecting on Boers words, you will learn of his idea of spheres of leadership, and the parallel he draws with the Apostle Paul’s use of body imagery to describe the Church. He names seven spheres, and suggest that none should be seen more valuable than another, for all have a contribution to make:

  • community faithfulness sphere
  • support roles and “doers” sphere
  • guides and coming alongside sphere
  • creators, innovators, and entrepreneurs sphere
  • dissent, prophetic witnesses, and martyrs sphere
  • movement organizers sphere
  • managers and rulers sphere

This more fully orbed (sorry!) and Biblically rooted understanding of leadership gives a breadth and depth to our leadership understanding and practice.

What do we end up with if we pursue this sort of leadership understanding and development? May I suggest that we end up with a feast of fools? That we end up joining in God’s mission, participants in the Kingdom of God so that, in the words of Bruce Cockburn,

“At the feast of fools
People's hands weave light
There is a diamond wind
Flowering in the darkest night”

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  • Leadership Development > Multiplying Leaders/Disciples
  • Blog
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Amen! 

Hi Mark,

I like Boer's idea of spheres of leadership and the church as the body in which all parts are servant leaders without a hierarchical structure. Hope I have opportunity to read it and continue learning about leadership. Thank you.

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