Toward a Biblical Model of Leadership
The most obvious and glaring aspect of biblical leadership drawn from this study is what is not discussed. There is no discussion of how the church should be run (with perhaps the exception of the management of care for widows in 1 Timothy 5:9-16), no discussion of leading board meetings or managing a church building. Paul never mentions many of the aspects of leadership that are most highly valued and sought after in today’s world of mega-churches: vision, charisma, management, or a broadcast-friendly face and voice. These are all artifacts from the business and political world, the expectations and paradigms of the consumer world’s pursuit of success finding their way into the body of Christ.
Integrity and Righteousness.
Key to the biblical model of leadership Paul is giving to Timothy and Titus, themselves young leaders in young churches, is the importance of personal integrity and righteousness. In both letters to Timothy, Paul gives almost the same command: flee from sin and pursue righteousness (1 Tim. 6:11; 2 Tim. 2:22). In Titus, Paul provides a similar list of those qualities that determine a godly leader for the church: “live sensibly, righteously, and godly” (Titus 2:12). Throughout each of these letters, Paul continuously exhorts Timothy and Titus to be mindful of their spiritual state, so as not to disqualify themselves from their positions (1 Tim. 6:14; 2 Tim. 2:15) and to serve as an example for the believers whom they are serving (2 Tim. 4:12). This emphasis on personal blamelessness extends to how they handle their homes, as this proves to be a strong indicator for their ability to lead and manage the lives of others (1 Tim. 3:4-5). One who seeks to follow the biblical model of leadership must first and foremost be a model for others, reflecting the righteousness and peace given to them by the grace of Christ through His gospel. To seek such leadership apart from this leads to a life not unlike the negative examples Paul provides throughout his letters.
In addition to being a model of godliness to others, the biblical leader is one who seeks to live at peace with everyone. This is not a “feel-good” peace where everyone is happy and gets along, but a peace that has biblical righteousness and justice in mind as it seeks to bring people together under the reign of Christ. Whenever Paul is not talking about the personal lives of Timothy and Titus in these letters, he is talking about how they should live and deal with the people with whom they are serving in their churches. Understanding that they are serving and leading a gathering of sinners (2 Tim. 3:2-4, 13), biblical leaders must be able to navigate the conflicts and trials that arise over personalities, opinions and doctrine for the sake of maintaining love, peace and truth within the body of believers. In light of this, the biblical leader must be able to be firm on matters of truth and doctrine (2 Tim. 3:14-17; Titus 1:13, 2:15), correcting not for the sake of proving the truth of his position, but for the sake of restoration and preservation of the unity of the body (1 Tim. 1:5; 2 Tim. 2:25). A biblical leader pursues peace among believers, maintaining the love and respect due to one another while also preserving the truth and importance of the Gospel within the community.
Perhaps most surprising of the characteristics of biblical leadership is that the biblical leader suffers. Suffering is not something that is highly valued in the contemporary model of leadership, where suffering is perhaps equated more with failure than with success. However, Paul frequently encourages Timothy and Titus to suffer well (1 Tim. 4:7-8; 2 Tim. 2:1-3, 4:5), fully acknowledging that suffering will come their way if they are preaching the Gospel (2 Tim. 3:12). This suffering can come as a result of persecution for their proclamation of the Gospel from outside the body of believers (2 Tim. 2:9) as well as from within, from those who will not put up with discipline and biblical truth (2 Tim. 3:12-13). Biblical leaders also join with others in their suffering, coming alongside for support, encouragement, and advocacy on the behalf of the oppressed (1 Tim. 5:1-2; 2 Tim. 1:8, 2:3). This suffering gives rise to the hope that is given in Jesus Christ, and it is the responsibility of the leader to point people to the hope in Him in the midst of suffering (1 Tim. 1:14-19; 2 Tim. 1:8-11; Titus 2:11-15). The biblical leader suffers alongside his/her flock, joining in their suffering for the sake of Christ, pointing believers to the grace and hope of Jesus Christ and His promised appearing.