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REFLECTION ON HOW CHRISTIAN LEADERS WALK OUT THEIR FAITH
Christian Leadership is defined by the Christian Leadership Center of Andrews University as ‘a dynamic relational process in which people, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, partner to achieve a common goal – it is serving others by leading and leading others by serving’ (Andrews-University, 2021). The principle of serving as a leader is the cornerstone of Christian leadership as it emulates the example Jesus Christ gave as he washed the feet of his disciples. Henri J.M. Nouwen’s ‘In the Name of Jesus’ reflects rather challenging corners of Christian leadership and helps us reflect on how Christian leaders walk out their faith in the community.
I can summarize Nouwen’s book in seven points. He reflects firstly that a Christian leader is called to be irrelevant, with nothing to offer but the vulnerable self. He means that a Christian leader should accept to be human who has weaknesses. Secondly, he says that a Christian leader must know the heart of God. This removes human will for God’s will. Thirdly, a Christian leader must have a discipline of dwelling in the presence of God. He says a Christian leader must be prayerful to remain in the will of God. A Christian leader must also have a discipline of confession and forgiving. He/she must acknowledge his/her shortfalls and ask for forgiveness as he/she forgives other people’s shortfalls. Again, a Christian leader must lead with love rather than power. This means accepting to be led and to lead. A Christian leader must know his/her context. This means understanding the political, financial, and geographical influences of the area the leader is. Lastly a Christian leader must lead with sound theology that is not just about defending what is right or wrong, or winning arguments, but that comes from emulating the leadership of Jesus.
Christian leadership is being professed in many institutions here in Malawi. Different Christian non-profit ministries, Christian high schools and colleges, Christian hospitals, and even some Christian politicians claim to follow Christian leadership. But surrounded by a world which is at the peak of secularism and the media that promotes such, many of the Christian leaders find themselves sugarcoating secular leadership with some bible quotes to make it look like biblical leadership. Many find themselves struggling to walk in their faith because their positions seem to force them to do ungodly things or make ungodly decisions. Perhaps the big question we must ask ourselves is ‘who is a Christian leader in a secular world?’ What about leadership positions that you have to fight for to make an impact? Many Christians here in my country rejoice to see Christians rising to the top leading positions yet for the leaders themselves to keep their position must struggle every day to make decisions that compromise their faith. Nouwen’s call is that these leaders must ascend to a leadership of their calling, stay in God’s will by prayer, and give themselves wholeheartedly to serve.
In ministry I think Christian leadership looks easier as the leader serves the needs of his/her team and those he/she ministers to. A Christian leader’s right place is in the fields working with Jesus. It must dwell in the leader that he/she operates from the corner of love, truth, and peace. Living in a constant prayer life will ensure that the leader is not swayed with the influence of the secular world. It won’t mean leading in hiding from the world, but leading by the spirit of God that knows all.
In summary, Christian leaders indeed are called to know the heart of God. This enables them to remain in God’s will and remove the stress of relevancy and impact. Malawian Christian leaders face continuous struggle to make ungodly decisions or do ungodly things. This forces them to Christian-coat secular leadership with biblical verses. A Christian leader’s right place is in the fields working with Jesus in love, truth and peace. This is through consistent prayer life for the leader to lead with love and not power.
Andrews-University. (2021). The Christian Leadership Center. Retrieved from Andrews University.
Nouwen, H. (1989). In the Name of Jesus; Reflections on Christian Leadership. New York: The Crossroad Publishing Company.