Leadership, Biblical

This is a fast bunch of excerpts from my other blog post Leadership, Biblical and Imperial. I just strip out all of my commentary here, leaving only Gary North’s words. The quotes are all taken from The Five Pillars of Biblical Leadership.

Who’s in charge here?
To whom do I report?
What are the rules?
What do I get if I obey? Disobey?
Does this outfit have a future?

The Five Pillars of Biblical Leadership, Introduction
Gary North

[After quoting Matthew 6:25-34]

The conclusion is crucial for the completion of the mission: “Therefore, do not be anxious for tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Each day has enough evil of its own.” This describes the psychology of the ideal Christian leader: a highly long-term planner with highly short-term fears.

The Five Pillars of Biblical Leadership, Pillar 1: Mission

This brings me to a fundamental principle of biblical leadership: a leader needs self-confidence. This is not autonomous confidence. On the contrary, it is confidence based on the Christian leader’s belief that he has been specially called by God to exercise institutional authority in a specific office or position.

The Five Pillars of Biblical Leadership, Pillar 1: Mission

Joseph was elevated to leadership, but not in a straight line. He was put in a pit. He was sold to slave traders. He was placed in bondage. He prospered as a slave, as did his owner. He gained operational authority in the family’s hierarchy. He was then put in prison. He prospered as a prisoner, as did the warden. His responsibility increased with each seeming setback. The more he submitted, the higher he rose. This is the essence of the process of redemption in history. The model is Christ.


Leadership is a process. It requires subordination to lawful authority. “Do not act as a master over the people who are in your care. Instead, be an example to the flock. Then when the Chief Shepherd is revealed, you will receive an unfading crown of glory. In the same way, you younger men, submit to the older men. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility and serve one another. For God resists the proud, but he gives grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:3–5). Leadership also involves finding a place of service: a mission field. Then the leader must await positive sanctions. Negative sanctions are deceptive. They are tests. The biblical pattern is this: positive sanctions are more powerful than negative sanctions as sources of historical causation . . . for obedient covenant-keepers. This is not the pattern for covenant-breakers.

The Five Pillars of Biblical Leadership, Pillar 1: Mission

Here is my point. History reflects eternity. The pattern of the sanctions in eternity is reflected in the pattern of sanctions in history (Deuteronomy 28).

The Five Pillars of Biblical Leadership, Pillar 1: Mission

Point 5 of the biblical covenant model is succession. Men die. They are succeeded. Institutions also die. They are succeeded. This is not true of the institutional church, the bride of Christ. It is unique in this respect. It extends into eternity. The kingdom of God is also eternal. This is the civilization of God. It is the extension of the work of covenant-keepers. It will never be succeeded.

The Five Pillars of Biblical Leadership, Pillar 1: Mission

Leadership is hierarchical: upward and downward. An individual owes allegiance to his superior in a chain of command. He also acts as an agent of those under his authority. Most people can understand this arrangement by considering the structure of leadership in a military chain of command. A second lieutenant owes allegiance to his first lieutenant, who in turn owes allegiance to his captain. But the second lieutenant also must consider the needs of his men. A wise second lieutenant in battle recognizes that he has three priorities, in this order: (1) completing the mission assigned by his superior officer; (2) getting his men back to camp safely; (3) getting himself back to camp safely. This is a hierarchy based on honor. It is based on the principle of sacrifice by the leader.

The Five Pillars of Biblical Leadership, Pillar 1: Mission

The hierarchy of command is simultaneously a system of concentric circles. We speak of someone being at the top of a pyramid of power. We also speak of him as occupying the center of the inner ring. We use both metaphors: pyramid and ring. We understand that someone who occupies a high position in a chain of command also occupies a central position in a circle of influence. Power is transmitted downward. It is also transmitted outward.

The Five Pillars of Biblical Leadership, Pillar 1: Mission

There is an inescapable link between leadership and personal responsibility. This responsibility is innately hierarchical. Someone owes allegiance to those above him in a chain of command. He also has obligations to those people under his authority. God judges everyone in terms of a performance standard: upward and downward.

The Five Pillars of Biblical Leadership, Pillar 1: Mission

The New Testament warns against the pursuit of both power and riches. Jesus’ reply to James and John made clear what the basis of power should be in Christian circles: service. The New Testament does not describe an explicitly Christian means of attaining riches, but in a free market economy, the means is also service: service to paying customers. Service is therefore the key to accumulating both power and money. As for fame, Peter warned: “For all flesh is like grass, and all its glory is like the wild flower of the grass. The grass dries up, and the flower falls off, but the word of the Lord remains forever” (1 Peter 1:24).

The Five Pillars of Biblical Leadership, Pillar 2: Service

Point 2 of the biblical covenant model is authority. Authority is always delegated from God, who is sovereign (point 1). All authority is hierarchical. All authority involves representation. A leader represents those under his authority to those over him. He also represents those over him to those under him. Leadership is therefore always mediatorial.

How does this apply to biblical leadership? I begin with God. (In theological matters, as well as all other matters, always begin with God.) God created man to lead. He also created man to obey. Mankind must obey God. Individuals must obey those who possess lawful authority over them. God requires this (Romans 13:1–7).

Authority is always delegated from God, who is sovereign (point 1). All authority is hierarchical. All authority involves representation. A leader represents those under his authority to those over him. He also represents those over him to those under him. Leadership is therefore always mediatorial.

Our lives begin as infants in need of assistance. We begin under parental authority. This means that parents possess lawful authority on this basis: service to their children. They are stewards before God. God owns everything, but He owns it covenantally, meaning hierarchically. He has delegated to parents the responsibility of bringing up their children “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” as the King James Version puts it (Ephesians 6:4). So, with respect to parental authority, there is a covenantal link between sacrifice and leadership. When their financial support of their children ceases, so does their parental authority to command their children’s obedience.

I find it helpful to distinguish between trusteeship and stewardship. Trusteeship is a legal category. A trustee has been granted legal authority by a trust document to act in the name of a beneficiary. A civil court upholds this legal authority. But the court reserves the right to intervene on behalf of the beneficiary if the trustee abuses his authority by not acting in the best interests of the beneficiary. The trustee must act on behalf of the beneficiary. So, I speak of trusteeship as acting in the name of the beneficiary. I speak of stewardship as acting on behalf of the beneficiary. The two activities are linked, but they are conceptually separate.

The Five Pillars of Biblical Leadership, Pillar 2: Service

Parents are legal trustees. Trustees act legally in their children’s names. Parents are also economic stewards. They act on behalf of their children. Point 2 is authority. Authority is always hierarchical. Hierarchy involves representation. Representation is two-way: upward and downward. So, parents act in the name of God as legal trustees of their children, and they act on behalf of God as economic stewards. Covenant-breaking parents may not acknowledge their legal position as legal trustees and economic stewards of God, but they are nonetheless. This covenantal arrangement is hierarchical: God> parents> children. This is a stewardship structure.

The Five Pillars of Biblical Leadership, Pillar 2: Service

There is another important distinction: the distinction between power and influence. If I possess the legal authority to impose sanctions on someone, I possess power. If I do not have institutional authority over someone, but that person is willing to do voluntarily what I recommend, I possess influence. Both power and influence are forms of leadership. Power involves greater responsibility than influence. A person with power can impose sanctions. He represents the institution that possesses the power to impose sanctions. He therefore acts in the name of the institution. In some cases, he can be held legally liable by a civil court for what he commands and the effects of these commands on those under his authority.

When someone accepts a position of leadership, his goal should not be to keep those under his authority in a state of permanent servitude. His goal is to help them increase their productivity. This is especially true in a business. This outlook surely applies to the military, especially on the battlefield. Someone who commands troops wants them to improve their performance on the job. This is how the members of the unit will be able to complete their missions and come back alive. Squad leaders get promoted when those under their command outperform other units. A leader who cares for his men will do whatever he can to improve their performance. Those under his command will perform better when he masters the skills associated with improving the performance of his unit. They appreciate being part of a unit that has a reputation for being the best.

A leader should care emotionally for those under his authority. He should therefore take care of them. Caring is an aspect of stewardship. It is in addition to trusteeship. There is no way institutionally to enforce caring. Caring is emotional. It is subjective. In contrast, trusteeship is objective. It can be enforced. Conclusion: caring is not an inherent aspect of trusteeship. The categories are separate. A leader who sees himself as a steward—someone who is acting on behalf of his subordinates—wants to see them prosper, however the organization defines and rewards increased individual output. He also wants to see the team prosper. He deals with individuals (the many) and the team (the one). He seeks to promote the success of individuals as a way to promote the success of the team. He acts on behalf of the team’s individuals, but always in the name of the team.

The Five Pillars of Biblical Leadership, Pillar 2: Service

Jesus had already announced this principle of sacrifice. “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired servant is not a shepherd and does not own the sheep. He sees the wolf coming and abandons the sheep and escapes, and the wolf carries them off and scatters them. He runs away because he is a hired servant and does not care for the sheep” (John 10:11–13). He made the distinction between a hired servant and a shepherd. We do not expect hirelings to show exceptional courage in defense of those under their authority.

The Five Pillars of Biblical Leadership, Pillar 2: Service

What about day-to-day leadership? The same principle applies. The leader should be willing to suffer the loss of his position on behalf of his subordinates when they are threatened by a corporate policy that undermines the integrity of the organization, and by extension, their moral integrity. Senior managers should take seriously the opposition of any leader who is willing to put his career on the line on behalf of his subordinates. They should be willing to re-think the policy. An organization that is staffed by managers who have this degree of loyalty to those under their command will be highly competitive. The organization will gain the support of the employees, from bottom to top. Such support cannot be purchased with money. This is another reason why the famous bottom line should not be judged solely by profit-and-loss statements and balance sheets. There is more to life than money. There is more to leadership than money.

The Five Pillars of Biblical Leadership, Pillar 2: Service

Two people work better than one; together they can earn a good pay for their labor. For if one falls, the other can lift up his friend. However, sorrow follows the one who is alone when he falls if there is no one to lift him up (Ecclesiastes 4:9–10).

The Five Pillars of Biblical Leadership, Pillar 3: Teamwork

Modern management practices rarely allow for years of team-based training. It assumes that formal classroom training in a graduate school of business can be safely substituted for years of training on a face-to-face basis in a specialized team. Classroom training equips a leader in matters numerical, but it does not prepare him to empower members of a team. Without strong support from members of his team, he will not maximize his team’s level of performance, which means its responsibility. He does not make full use of the efficacy of the division of labor.

The model is God in the garden. On day one, he assigned Adam a task: naming the animals. He remained close at hand until this task was completed (Genesis 2). Then He departed. Adam and Eve were left alone to extend their dominion (Genesis 3). Only after their rebellion did God return to impose judgment. “They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day” (Genesis 3:8a). I call this management by walking away. The same management model was described by Jesus in the parable of the stewards (Luke 19; Matthew 25). The master prepared to go on a journey. He handed out capital to his stewards: coins. He let each of them decide how to invest these coins. He did not assign a specific portfolio to each steward. Two of the stewards turned out to be profitable investors. The third did not. The owner had suspected that this would be the case. He allocated more coins to the two stewards he thought might perform well. The third steward received only one coin. He buried it. He was a loser, just as the owner had suspected. The owner then announced a fundamental principle of biblical management. “For to everyone who possesses, more will be given—even more abundantly. But from anyone who does not possess anything, even what he does have will be taken away. Throw the worthless servant into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth” (Matthew 25:29–30). This principle of rewards in history and eternity is the opposite of equality of economic outcomes. Matthew’s version of Jesus’ parable of the three stewards is the most powerful biblical repudiation of the welfare state’s standard of equality of outcomes through government-imposed wealth redistribution.

The biblical model is absentee management of well-trained workers. The apostles after Jesus’ resurrection are the operational model. This will be the management system beyond the grave in the new heaven and new earth. To make a preliminary version of this management system work well in history, the owner must adopt a predictable system of rewards and punishments (point 4). The workers must be highly motivated to produce. They must be self-motivated. The less self-governed they are, the more tightly they must be managed. Micromanaging absorbs a manager’s personal resources that could be put to more productive uses. It does not empower team members.

The Five Pillars of Biblical Leadership, Pillar 3: Teamwork

Do you see a man skilled at his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before common people (Proverbs 22:29).

The Five Pillars of Biblical Leadership, Pillar 4: Mastery

Despite what is obvious in these passages on glorifying God with our work, the vast majority of Christians do not pay close attention to the quality of their work. They are among the 80% of the members of any society who produce about 20% of the output. Among this multitude of negligent servants of God, a few may set aside one area of their lives where they strive to excel, such as a hobby. But they do not strive, from morning to night, to improve their performance in their jobs and callings. They do not adopt a program of systematic self-improvement in even one area of their lives, sticking with it all of their lives.

This is a widespread attitude among Christians. “Jesus died for my sins. He has forgiven me. Therefore, with respect to my mediocre work, you must also forgive me.” They do not say this openly, but it governs almost everything they do. It is a mindset. They do not worry that their work is substandard. They pay little attention to its quality. They assume that it is good enough. But, if challenged by their employers or by their customers, they deeply resent the criticism. After all, they think to themselves, “it’s good enough for Jesus, so it should be good enough for you.” It never occurs to them that their work is not good enough for Jesus, nor is their attitude of just getting by.

The Five Pillars of Biblical Leadership, Pillar 4: Mastery

It is worth noting that the Protestant pietist tradition arose in the English-speaking West, which became the richest culture in the world after 1800. What the typical pietist has regarded as bare economic subsistence, somehow favorable to spiritual holiness, the rest of the world has regarded as great wealth.

In stark contrast to pietism was the founder of Methodism, John Wesley (1703–1791). Here was his advice in Sermon 50, “The Use of Money.” First, gain all you can. Second, save all you can. Third, give all you can. His once poverty-stricken British and American followers believed him. They took his advice. Within a century, they were middle class. Within two centuries, they were upper middle class. This is the biblical pattern.

The Five Pillars of Biblical Leadership, Pillar 4: Mastery

A Christian would be wise to review this passage [Romans 8:28-32] whenever he begins any project or whenever he gets stuck on some aspect of an existing project. Put in modern slang, “God has your back.” We are not in control, but He is. A problem may baffle us, but it does not baffle Him.

God has a program of success that applies to every area of life. I wrote a book on this: The Five Pillars of Biblical Success (2008). This model works. Cause and effect are unified because of God’s providence. We do not live in a chaotic universe. We live in an ordered universe. It is ordered by the Son of God, the Second Person of the Trinity. Paul wrote: “The Son is the image of the invisible God. He is the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, those in the heavens and those on the earth, the visible and the invisible things. Whether thrones or dominions or governments or authorities, all things were created by him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:15–17).

In contrast is a covenant-breaker who denies God’s providence. He denies that the universe is personally controlled by an omniscient, omnipotent God. He believes in cause and effect, but he cannot explain how this system works and how he is able to understand it. He cannot say why he is confident that there is a program of self-mastery that brings success in history, project by project. He may be self-confident, but he cannot defend his self-confidence with a coherent theory of cause and effect. This puts him at a disadvantage when he competes against a Christian who has spent years disciplining himself in order to attain mastery in the same field. This is not to say that he will lose every competition. But, with regard to the issue of mastery, people are looking for a pattern of success. The covenant-breaker who does not accept the Bible’s doctrine of providence cannot plausibly assert that God has his back.

The Five Pillars of Biblical Leadership, Pillar 4: Mastery

You must not make for yourself a carved figure nor the likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water below. You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God. I punish the ancestors’ wickedness by bringing punishment on the descendants, to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me. But I show covenant faithfulness to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments (Exodus 20:4–6).

The Five Pillars of Biblical Leadership, Pillar 5: Inheritance

I think sin-filled history will end in much less than a thousand generations. Why? Because of my confidence in the long-term expansion of Christianity’s influence in society. The disparity in God’s visible blessings between Christian civilization and its rivals will become immense if the promised compounding process of Christian cultural expansion continues. Such a discrepancy would make ludicrous the final rebellion of Satan at the end of time (Revelation 20). So, because I take seriously the promises of success for covenant-keepers, I prefer to interpret “thousands of generations” figuratively. Another reason is this: the text of the Bible indicates that God created the world around 4,000 B.C. The covenantal story in the Bible took only 4,000 years. Why will it take 120,000 years to work out the implications of sin versus redemption? Finally, how will anyone remember all the important events of 120,000 years? We can barely make sense of the past since Jesus’ time. My conclusion: today’s sin-filled world does not have 80,000 to 120,000 years ahead of it. Then when will time end? Nobody knows.

The Five Pillars of Biblical Leadership, Pillar 5: Inheritance

I hope I now have your attention. I am going to draw a conclusion that will now seem almost self-evident. The Bible says clearly that covenant-breaking societies do not survive intact for long, at least not when compared with how long Christian civilization has survived and will survive. The contrast is between three or four generations versus this (minimum): until the end of time. God has clearly spoken to His people. He has said that, compared to the society that bears His name, all societies are short-lived. They will not stand the test of time. Why not? Because God controls time. He brings negative sanctions against covenant-breakers and covenant-breaking societies.

This time frame is important for understanding the biblical concept of leadership. Biblical leadership is not supposed to last for only one generation. It is not “one and done.” It is inter-generational. It is inter-generational for thousands of generations, say the Ten Commandments. If you do not want to take this number literally, then you had better say this: biblical leadership extends until the end of time.

I will put it differently. Any concept of leadership that does not insist on and plan for inter-generational continuity and also growing Christian influence is not biblical. A Christian leader should not mentally restrict the time frame in which his efforts may have positive effects to his own lifetime, or perhaps at most his grandchildren’s lifetime. Such a short time frame is not biblical for Christians. Why? Because it is the curse that God imposes on His enemies: three or four generations.

The Five Pillars of Biblical Leadership, Pillar 5: Inheritance

Therefore, any group of [unbelievers] has only three or four generations to develop, implement, and extend its collective influence. The group gains the benefits of compound kingdom growth for a brief time: a few generations. Then it fades. In contrast, Christians gain the benefits of compound kingdom growth until the end of time. Compound growth eventually becomes exponential growth: filling the environment, which in this case is the whole world.

How do I know? The Bible tells me so.

The Five Pillars of Biblical Leadership, Pillar 5: Inheritance

Leadership begins with followership. Exercising authority over others begins with obedience to others. The family is the model. Children obey. Then they learn to take greater responsibility in their lives. Biblical leadership outside the family also begins with self-government: control over what you say. James went into detail on this. What he wrote should be the beginning of every church training program. Leadership begins with self-control over the tongue.

[Snipped: James 3:1-12]

This is step one. After training, and after self-control over the tongue, comes the next step: good works.

[Snipped: James 3:13-18]

The Five Pillars of Biblical Leadership, Pillar 5: Inheritance

The ability to teach is a mark of a successful leader. I strongly recommend that you learn how to teach.

The Five Pillars of Biblical Leadership, Pillar 5: Inheritance

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