Leadership, Covenant and Holiness: Reflections as I Read Moses Pava

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We often look around for material on leadership that might inspire us our imagination. Reading Moses Pava helped me, in part because he used two words hardly ever used at the same time as the word leadership, namely, covenant and holiness.

Here is the quote:

My point, rather, is that if holiness is to exist anywhere (including in the house of study) it must potentially exist everywhere in this world. I show the Mamet movie to my business class not because his vision of business is the last word but because I trust that there is a more humane, and therefore godly, alternative.

I would like to suggest that it is more meaningful and pragmatic for leaders to think of organizations generally, from businesses to universities, as being less like machines than like covenants, shared agreements among equal partners.

And then he asks the question:

What are the characteristics or traits of good leadership? How is our understanding of good leadership related to the structure of the organization? Examining the spiritual resources that we have inherited can generate meaningful and useful answers to these questions.
(from Leading with Meaning, Moses Pava, Introduction p XIV)

It got all the more interesting for me when he went on to describe in his second chapter that leadership needs to take seriously what God takes seriously. After quoting Heschel on the theology of covenant he writes

Focusing here on Heschel’s first sentence, if it is true that God “takes man seriously,” how much more so should this apply to man himself? In the context of covenant, leadership that purposely brackets its own wonder and radical amazement in facing the world is a severely constrained brand of leadership. Leadership that is not grounded in an explicit theory of what it means to be human is no leadership at all.

For me this ties in well with Dennis Bakke’s thoughts in his book Joy at Work. Bakke believes that for a business to thrive it needs to respect how God created Adam and Eve. They vested with creativity, power, and love. And in the work environment their humanity needed to be celebrated and fostered.

Leadership in the church context needs to take each person seriously. Loved and gifted by God, we are invited by our Creator and Redeemer to shepherd each person into their full humanity. This requires deep respect, wonder and tears, and the covenant obligation to embrace them on the journey to wholeness. Tasks, committees, programs and goals are all necessary and good. But leadership that fails to “take man seriously” fails to honour the God who so loved us that he gave His Son for us. There is no honour in getting the work done if along the way we have dishonoured those loved by God.

In the marriage vows at the back of the hymnbook, the groom and the bride say “I will serve you with tenderness and respect, and encourage you to develop the gifts that God has given you.” The call of the elder invites us to shepherd the people whom God loves. It seems to me that one part of this vow is to serve with tenderness and respect, and to encourage you to develop the gifts that God has given you.”

Leadership – worth its salt – seeks to take our covenant with God and people seriously.

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