Leadership, like most of life, is comprised of process and content. The process of leadership is what we do, say, think, etc. The content of leadership is the principles, teachings and practices that have been collected and handed down over millennia—which should inform what we do. Just as process is shaped by content, so too for Christians, Christian leadership is to be informed by specific Christian content.
The English term “orient derives from the Latin word oriens meaning "east," and thus “oriented” is to be facing east. Our contention is that complete and historic Christian leadership principles require “orientation” because of a range of historic realities. Prior to the Great Schism of 1054 there was essentially one Christian Church with Eastern and Western parts; the Apostolic and Patristic periods were at the beginning of this millennia; all of the major Christian doctrines were debated and formulated in this millennia; all of the Ecumenical Councils took place in this millennia; the forms of liturgical worship were defined in this millennia; the majority of the Theologians of the Church lived and worked in this millennia; the majority of the Saints that the Church honors lived in this millennia, etc. The theologians and philosophers of this millennia had not gone through the Enlightenment (which, for the record, did contribute many good things to human civilization!). Within this body of content we find the core elements of historic Christian leadership:
What is that content and where does one find it? Much of it is in the Bible, but not all by far, in as much as no Old or New Testament writer dedicated a chapter to leadership—that was not their task. In the Gospels and Epistles there are descriptions of the leadership style of Jesus, but most of the leadership content comes from somewhere else: it comes from the faith and practice of the Church developed and documented in its doctrine and theology.
For instance, two core theological concepts of Christianity are the Doctrine of the Holy Trinity and the Doctrine of the Incarnation. From the Holy Trinity we can, in fact, describe an organizational model that should characterize all “Christian organizations,” and ipso facto since organizations have leaders, and also describe how leaders should operate within those organizations. The Incarnation not only tells us about the Person of Christ, but also strongly informs our understanding of personhood, and by extension how “persons” should be valued and treated in Christian organizations.
The sad reality is that most Christian leaders don’t lead in a way that is consistent with the core principles of historic Christian leadership. Their leadership needs to be “reoriented,” as to a greater or lesser degree, does that of us all. Most contemporary Christian leaders fall (broadly speaking) into tyranny or narcissism or both! Find that hard to believe? Need a current reference? Read the Nativity Message of Pope Francis to the Curia of the Roman Catholic Church delivered in December of 2014.
How can we make such a bold assessment? Because, simply put, any form of leadership that imposes something upon the followers, which overrides the will of the individual, which makes them second class citizens is a form of tyranny—it is an authoritarianism that devalues and destroys the person. Further, any form of leadership that is not based on the revealed and accepted historic precepts of the faith is a self-selected one—that is to say, it is a form or style of leadership that one chooses to fit ones agenda, shortcomings or goals—and therefore it serves the self rather than the Kingdom.
What, then, are those core historic principles of Christian leadership that demonstrate the practitioner is properly oriented?
First among equals
Unique yet inseparable
Unity as a communion of love