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Table of Contents

Biblical Leadership Metaphors and Contemporary Management Theory:

Or, St. Paul, Meet Messrs. Bolman & Deal

By Dr. Kenneth C. Harper[1]
Pastor-Head of Staff, Central Presbyterian Church, Miami, Florida
Adjunct Theological Faculty, Barry University, Miami Shores, Florida

Leadership: The Importance of the Topic

Few topics command more attention than Leadership.[2] The Wall Street Journal’s most-recent list of best-selling books contained at least nine titles pertaining to leadership.[3] Biographies and autobiographies of great leaders are held up as models for our lives. And some of the greatest classics of management literature, from Max Dupree’s Leadership Is An Art[4] to Peter Drucker’s The Effective Executive,[5] focus on the topic. Nor has Christian literature been lacking. In the United States , where no state church survives by virtue of a protected and tax-supported status, entrepreneurial impulses have been the norm rather than the exception. In an environment of religious competition, seeking an edge through superior leadership takes on spiritual significance. John Maxwell’s The 21 Indispensable Qualities as a Leader[6] and Leadership 101: What Every Leader Needs To Know[7] stand as just two examples of an attempt to combine biblical insights with management psychology. Christian psychologist and spiritual writer John White analyzed the book of Nehemiah as a paradigm of faith-infused leadership.[8]

The sheer profusion of texts is enough in itself to suggest that the topic is multifaceted and complex. Original attempts to define leadership potential by identifying so-called “leadership traits” foundered on the twin realities of annoying exceptions and inconsistent performance. For example, though early studies suggested that leaders tend to be taller than average, Napoleon was short. And though early leadership theory suggested that leaders were more intelligent than average, Chicago’s 1960’s-era Mayor, Richard Daley, was cunning but not intelligent. Furthermore, leaders who had been extremely successful in one field were sometimes ineffective in other settings. Military leaders, for example, who’d been extremely successful in battle, found the transition to civilian politics daunting–one thinks of Ulysses S. Grant or Douglas MacArthur.

This paper will proceed in three segments. In the first, we will examine the metaphors of Christian leadership used by Paul in his Thessalonian correspondence. Segment two will examine the “Four Frames of Leadership” developed by Lee Bolman and Terrence Deal. The third segment will endeavor to interrelate the two and suggest areas where churches might incorporate such concepts.

Paul’s Leadership Among the Thessalonians

The Apostle Paul visited Thessalonica on his second missionary journey in AD 49 or 50, the record of which is found in Acts 17:1-9. Following his prudent departure, first to Beroea, thence to Athens, and finally to Corinth, Paul heard words of criticism, probably from Timothy (see I Thessalonians 3:6-8). The criticism centered first on Paul’s failure to return and continue his ministry (implied in I Thessalonians 2:17-18) and secondly, impugned his motives for ministry (see I Thessalonians 2:5-6). First Thessalonians is written with a view to correcting certain errors of which Paul has been aware, and to provide an apologia and explanation of his ministry.[9] As he writes, Paul uses four metaphors to describe his spiritual leadership in Thessalonica:[10]

1. Steward.“On the contrary, we speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts” (I Thessalonians 2:4 [NIV, emphasis added]). Although the usual Greek term for steward oijkonovmo~, is not found in this text, the concept certainly is. Just as an owner entrusts the management of property to another, just so, Paul describes himself as having been entrusted (a cognate of pivsti~ and pisteuvw, i.e, one in whom the owner can place his faith) by God with the message of the gospel. The two terms are found side-by-side in Luke 12:42, “And the Lord said, ‘Who is the faithful and prudent manager (oJ pisto;~ oijkonovmos oJ frovnimo~) whom his master will put in charge of his slaves...’” Likewise in I Corinthians 4:2, Paul puts the words in proximity when he writes, “Moreover, it is required of stewards (oijkonovmoi~) that they be found trustworthy (pistov~).”

Stewardship involves the careful utilization of resources. God has given the church two resources for the accomplishment of her mission–His Word and His people. The task requires faithfulness to God and a certain commitment to the details of the responsibility. A good steward will be familiar with all the master’s assets under his care, and will attempt to maximize the effectiveness of each. In the church, too, good stewardship requires a careful utilization of the financial resources entrusted to the church (the usual meaning of the word “stewardship” in congregational life), but also the physical plant, real and professional property, and the utilization of staff and volunteers. All the time, talents, and energies of God’s people are covered.

It needs to be said, as a way of preparing the way for another section of this paper, that “the gospel,” which God entrusted to Paul, was much more than the kergyma--as though the substance of Paul’s teaching could be compressed to a minimalist “Four Spiritual Laws.” The gospel included not only justification, but sanctification as well, the whole world coming under the Lordship of Christ.

2. Mother. “But we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children. We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us” (I Thessalonians 2:7-8 [NIV]). The Greek word here is trofo;~, rather than the more typical mhvthr, hence the translation “nurse” in the New Revised Standard Version. The New International Version’s “mother” is preferred due to the presence of ta; eJauth~ tevkna, “her own children.” A wet nurse may care for other children, but only a mother nurses her own children.

Further, Paul describes himself as qavlph, “tenderly caring.” The role of the mother is nurturing, an interpretation reinforced by the image of nursing and by the act of tender caring. The mother’s care is focused on the individual child. That intimacy of care is a source of nurture. In the church, both in first-century Thessalonica and in twenty-first century America , there are Christians who need the gentle presence of a pastor who will comfort, who will guide, who will teach, and who will ease troubled consciences with the healing words of grace and forgiveness.

3. Father.“For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory” (I Thessalonians 2:11-12 [NIV]). Although a father also shares a parental love for his children, there is a fundamental difference between paternal and maternal love. Although both are designed to aid children on their road to adult maturity, the father’s love (at least as it has been traditionally understood), is sterner and more challenging. At the risk of simplistic stereotyping, a child who has come home from the losing end of an encounter with the neighborhood bully will likely receive a comforting hug from his mother, but a pep talk and lesson in self-defense from his father.

The role of father in the first century embodied at least two aspects. The first was the role of provider. A father typically shows his love for his family by seeing to their needs. Paul himself links the image of “father,” to the task of bread-winning by inserting verse nine, “You remember our labor and toil, brothers and sisters; we worked night and day, so that we might not burden any of you while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God” (I Thessalonians 2:9 [NRSV]). The role of breadwinner gives the father power in the family—as it is sometimes baldly stated, “If you sit at my table, you abide by my rules.” The second aspect of paternal power was the absolute authority which Roman law gave to the father. Scottish commentator William Barclay describes the patria potestas, the father’s power, as follows:

A father had absolute power over his children as long as he and they lived. He could sell his child as a slave or even kill him. Dion Cassius tells us that “the law of the Romans gives a father absolute authority over his son, and that for the son’s whole life. It gives him authority, if he so chooses, to imprison him, to scourge him, to make him work on his estate as a slave in fetters, even to kill him. That right still continues to exist even if the son is old enough to play an active part in political affairs, even if he has been judged worthy to occupy the magistrate’s office, and even if he is held in honor by all men.” It is quite true that, when a father was judging his son, he was supposed to call the adult members of the family into consultation, but it was not necessary that he do so. There are actual instances of a father condemning his son to death. Sallust (The Cataline Conspiracy, 39) tells how Aulus Fulvius joined the rebel Cataline. He was arrested on the journey and brought back. And the father ordered that he should be put to death. The father did this on his own private authority, giving as his reason that “he had begotten him, not for Cataline against his country, but for his country against Cataline.” Under Roman law a child could not possess anything; and any inheritance willed to him, or any gift given to him, became the property of his father. It did not matter how old the son was, or to what honors and responsibility he had risen, he was absolutely in his father’s power.[11]

Yes, power. Power and authority are the keys to understanding the leadership metaphor of “father.” Paul had authority derived from his apostolic status, his special commission from the risen Lord Jesus Christ. And, as we will see, he used it judiciously.

4. Herald. “We also constantly give thanks to God for this, that when you received the word of God that you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word but as what it really is, God's word, which is also at work in you believers” (I Thessalonians 2:13 [NRSV]). Just as the herald doesn’t bear his own message to the people, but serves as mouthpiece for the monarch, Paul says that his message came from God’s word and not Paul’s own. The herald does not have leave to change the monarch’s message. If, for example, he was sent forth with the unpleasant news that the king was going to raise taxes in the coming year, and if he saw the want and hardship of the ordinary people, he still would not have leave to change or soften the king’s decree. Although the word khvrux, “herald,” doesn’t appear in verse 13, Paul has used the verbal form, ejkhruvxamen, in verse nine, so the concept was not far from his thoughts.

In summary, Paul utilizes four metaphors to characterize his ministry in Thessalonica: Steward, Mother, Father, and Herald. Two of the metaphors are focused on persons, mother and father. Two of the metaphors are impersonal. Faithfulness, not feeling, are required of stewards and heralds. The four images bespeak the twin emphases of ministry: God’s Word and God’s people. It is remarkable that Paul sees himself as doing justice to both aspects of ministry. Typically, those who are gifted in biblical understanding and teaching (the steward and herald), are less gifted in the personal dimensions of ministry (mother and father). Conversely, those who gifted in attending, parent-like, to their flocks, may be less inclined to include in their ministrations the “stern command” of discipleship.[12]

Bolman and Deal’s Four Frames of Leadership

Enter Lee G. Bolman and Terrence E. Deal. The website of the University of Missouri-Kansas City, has this biographical summary of Lee Bolman:

Lee Bolman is an author, scholar, consultant and lecturer who currently holds the Marion Bloch Missouri Chair in Leadership at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

He has written numerous books on leadership and organizations with co-author Terry Deal, including Reframing Organizations: Artistry, Choice, and Leadership (1991, 1997, 2003); Leading with Soul: an Uncommon Journey of Spirit (1995; 2d ed., 2001); Reframing the Path to School Leadership (2002); Escape from Cluelessness: a Guide for the Organizationally-Challenged (2000); Becoming a Teacher Leader (1994); and Modern Approaches to Understanding and Managing Organizations (1984). Bolman and Deal’s books have been translated into ten languages.

Lee consults and lectures worldwide to corporations, public agencies, universities and schools. He holds a B.A. in History and a Ph.D. in Organizational Behavior from Yale University. Prior to assuming his current position, he taught for more than twenty years at Harvard University.

He lives in Kansas City, Missouri, with his wife, Joan Gallos, the two youngest of his six children, Christopher and Bradley, and an orthopedically-challenged Dalmatian, Vincent Van Gogh of KCMO.[13]

And for Terrence Deal, this biographical summary comes from Reframing Organizations:

Terrence E. Deal is professor of education at Peabody College of Vanderbilt University. Before joining Peabody, he served on the faculties of the Stanford University Graduate School of Education and the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He received his B.A. degree (1961) from LaVerne College in history, his M.A. degree (1966) from California State University at Los Angeles in educational administration, and his Ph.D. degree (1972) from Stanford University in education and sociology. Deal has been a policeman, public school teacher, high school principal, district officer administrator, and university professor. His primary research interests are in organizational symbolism and change. He is the author of fifteen books, including the best-seller Corporate Cultures (with A. A. Kennedy, 1982).

He has published numerous articles on change and leadership. He is a consultant to business, health care, military, educational, and religious organizations both domestically and abroad. He lectures widely and teaches in a number of executive development programs.

Bolman and Deal’s works have earned a level of acceptance seen in their inclusion on the curricula of many business schools and theological seminaries.[14]

Bolman and Deal approach the complexity of leadership in organizations through four frames of reference. They are:

1. The Structural Frame.[15] Although the highly structured and inflexible complexity of the modern assembly line factory has been parodied, either viscously by Charlie Chaplain in “Modern Times,” or comically by Lucille Ball in the “Chocolate Factory” episode of “I Love Lucy,” the structure of modern organizations is hugely useful and efficient. The structural frame of leadership traces its history to the original studies of human efficiency carried out by Frederick W. Taylor (1911), the father of time-and-motion studies, and to the sociological theories of Max Weber.[16] The structural frame of leadership looks at the task which must be accomplished, breaks the task into discreet segments, and prescribes a method for doing each in sequence. Quality assurance makes sure the process is done competently and completely.

In addition to the obvious assembly line application of the structural frame, there are other areas where precision in repetition is valuable. The first is the military. The need for all soldiers to do tasks “by the numbers,” is essential for uniformity and predictability of performance–crucial in combat settings. And in aircraft maintenance, precision in repetition is an essential ingredient for aircraft performance and passenger safety.

Bolman and Deal insist that there can be a great variation in how the structural frame is implemented. Communication of the structure to those employing it can take place in round-table discussions. The structures themselves may be modified in feedback sessions with those who employ them.

Six assumptions undergird the structural frame:

· Organizations exist to achieve established goals and objectives.

· Organizations work best when rationality prevails over personal preferences and external pressures.

· Structures must be designed to fit an organization’s circumstances (including its goals, technology, and environment).

· Organizations increase efficiency and enhance performance through specialization and division of labor.

· Appropriate forms of coordination and control are essential to ensuring that individuals and units work together in the service of organizational goals.

· Problems and performance gaps arise from structural deficiencies and can be remedied through restructuring.[17]

2. The Human Resource Frame.[18] In Leading With Soul, Bolman and Deal describe the odyssey of a business executive who has begun to feel burned out, and is urged to meet with a therapist who is in reality a spiritual advisor. In the course of their inaction, which goes on periodically for over a year, the executive comes to understand that leadership is a profoundly human endeavor, and involves sensitivity to colleagues–to people. In essence, Leading With Soul is a hypothetical case study of the Human Resource frame. Organizations are made of people. Employees ask, “How well will this place fulfil my needs?” Employers ask, “How do we find and retain people with the skills and attitudes needed to do the work?”[19] The core values of the Human Resource Frame underscore this interplay.

· Organizations exist to serve human needs rather than the reverse.

· People and organizations need each other: organizations need ideas, energy, and talent; people need careers, salaries, and opportunities.

· When the fit between individual and system is poor, one or both suffer: individuals will be exploited or will exploit the organization—or both will become victims.

· A good fit benefits both: individuals find meaningful and satisfying work, and organizations get the talent and energy they need to succeed.[20]

Just as the Structural Frame evolved from Frederick Taylor’s time-and-motion studies, the Human Resource Frame traces its roots to Douglas McGregor’s “Theory X v. Theory Y” (1960). McGregor argued that most management was based on “Theory X,” i.e., supervisors operated as if their employees were fundamentally lazy and in need of constant oversight in order to ensure productivity. McGregor’s “Theory Y” posited instead that people who feel that their work has value, and who are valued by their employers, will find within themselves the motivation to excel. The task of fitting employees with positions is the task of the Human Resource Frame.

3. The Political Frame. The Political Frame recognizes that in a world of limited resources of money and time, individuals and groups of individuals will vie for those resources that are important to them. And, where divergent goals compete, groups and individuals will vie for the resources that will further their goals. Bolman and Deal begin their chapters on the Political Frame by noting that the Space Shuttle Challenger’s disastrous final flight was the product of competing goals between Thiokol Chemical, NASA, Congressional expectations, and public relations.

Five propositions summarize the Political Frame’s perspective:

· Organizations are coalitions of various individuals and interest groups.

· There are enduring differences among coalition members in values, beliefs, information, interests, and perceptions of reality.

· Most important decisions involve the allocation of scarce resources—who gets what.

· Scarce resources and enduring differences give conflict a central role in organizational dynamics and make power the most important resource.

· Goals and decisions emerge from bargaining, negotiation, and jockeying for position among different stakeholders.

The Political Frame requires organizational leaders to understand the dynamics of power and the political landscape of the organizations over which they exercise leadership.[21]

4. The Symbolic Frame. Viktor Frankl, the well-known proponent of “logotherapy,” was a Jewish psychotherapist caught up in Hitler’s “final solution.” In his oft-told story, his manuscript confiscated, Frankl found the will and purpose to live in mentally rewriting that destroyed work. Along the way, he discovered that those prisoners who were able to “make sense” of their suffering were more likely to survive than those who believed that chaotic randomness had invaded their lives.[22] Those who lived constructed a narrative, a framework of reality, which gave focus to their lives. Children, too, find in the narratives of fairy stories a framework for their fears.[23] Organizations are the same. They need narratives, symbols, rituals, and myths to provide an explanatory context for their efforts. The core assumptions of the Symbolic Frame are:

· What is most important about any event is not what happened but what it means.

· Activity and meaning are loosely coupled: events have multiple meanings because people interpret experience differently.

· Most of life is ambiguous or uncertain—what happened, why it happened, or what will happen next are all puzzles.

· High levels of ambiguity and uncertainty undercut rational analysis, problem solving, and decision making.

· In the face of uncertainty and ambiguity, people create symbols to resolve confusion, increase predictability, provide direction, and anchor hope and faith.

· Many events are more important for what is expressed than what is produced. They form a cultural tapestry of secular myths, rituals, ceremonies, and stories that help people find meaning, purpose, and passion.[24]

In the Symbolic Frame, the leader’s task is to articulate the organization’s vision over and over again, through stories that are handed down, to cheer-leading those who embody the organization’s core values, through the company meetings and parties that have become of the life of the organization.[25]

In summary, the Structural Frame requires the leader to develop, communicate, and enforce policies and procedures which will maximize efficiency and uniformity. The Human Resource Frame requires the leader to know enough about his people and their work to match each in ways that maximize productivity and satisfaction. The Political Frame requires the leader to understand the realities of politics, and negotiate the competition and conflict between differing goals and scarce resources. The Symbolic Frame requires the leader to keep the central focus of the organization ever before it through stories, rituals, and symbolic actions.


Integration: St. Paul, Meet Messrs. Bolman & Deal

This paper’s thesis is that there is a congruence between Paul’s four metaphors of spiritual leadership and Bolman & Deal’s “Frames.” We now turn to each pair in turn, with biblical examples, and suggested applications in current ministry situations.

1. The Structural Frame and the Steward. Stewards care about getting things done well, with a view towards the effective utilization of resources. Those who exercise leadership from the perspective of “The Structural Frame/Steward,” will care about policies and procedures, checks and balances, and will be comfortable with structure and accountability. The steward will make sure that care is taken and policies enforced to protect the church.

The Apostle Paul exercised just such care in his financial ministry. In organizing the collection for the saints in Jerusalem, he set forth procedures for managing the collection. “On the first day of every week, each of you is to put aside and save whatever extra you earn, so that collections need not be taken when I come. And when I arrive, I will send any whom you approve with letters to take your gift to Jerusalem. If it seems advisable that I should go also, they will accompany me” (I Corinthians 16:2-4). The collection and the transportation alike were treated with accountability and sensitivity.[26] Representatives of all the contributing churches accompanied the gift on its journey to Jerusalem. “He [i.e., Paul] was accompanied by Sopater son of Pyrrhus from Beroea, by Aristarchus and Secundus from Thessalonica, by Gaius from Derbe, and by Timothy, as well as by Tychicus and Trophimus from Asia” (Acts 20:4).

Paul’s wisdom is profound. There are few matters so sensitive as finances. Therefore, churches should have financial procedures in place to reduce the likelihood of embezzlement or mismanagement, or even suspicion. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has the following guidelines in its constitution: [27]

4. Church Finances

The treasurer shall be elected annually by the session, if permitted

by the state in which the church is located, and his or her

work shall be supervised by the session, or by specific assignment

to the board of deacons or trustees. Those in charge of the various

funds in the church shall report at least annually to the session, and

more often when requested. The following minimum standards of

financial procedure shall be observed:

a. The counting and recording of all offerings by at least two

duly appointed persons, or a fidelity bonded person;

b. The keeping of adequate books and records to reflect all

financial transactions, open to inspection by authorized church

officers at reasonable times;

c. Periodic reporting of the financial activities to the board

or boards vested with financial oversight at least annually,

preferably more often;

d. Afull financial review of all books and records relating to

finances once each year by a public accountant or public

accounting firm or a committee of members versed in

accounting procedures. Such auditors should not be related to

the treasurer (or treasurers). Terminology in this section is

meant to provide general guidance and is not intended to

require or not require specific audit procedures or practices as

understood within the professional accounting community.

Even such minimal standards instill confidence in donors.

A second area where great mistrust can be alleviated by carefully-considered and thoroughly-monitored policy is sexual misconduct. [28]

The call of God is to careful management of the resources entrusted by God to the church. Those who exercise leadership from the perspective of “The Structural Frame/Steward” will take care to see that all things are done “decently and in order” (I Corinthians 14:40) and will enrich the church thereby.

2. The Human Resource Frame and the Mother. Mothers care about their children. The maternal spirit is focused on persons—their needs and hurts. When Paul likens his leadership to a mother, he is focusing on individuals. Paul seems to have undergone a development in this dimension of his ministry. At the start of the second missionary journey, Paul seems not to have had much patience with John Mark. “Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark. But Paul decided not to take with them one who had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not accompanied them in the work. The disagreement became so sharp that they parted company; Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus ” (Acts 15:37-39). By the end of his ministry, however, there seems to be a different emphasis. “Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful in my ministry. I have sent Tychicus to Ephesus” (II Timothy 4:11-12).

However, the “Human Resource/Mother” personality par excellence in the New Testament church is Barnabas. Look at this list of activities:

· He responded to human need by selling a piece of land (Acts 4:37).

· He introduced a newly-converted Paul to the suspicious church (Acts 9:27).

· He put together Paul’s need for a ministry with Antioch’s need for a minister (Acts 11:25).

· He recruited John Mark for missionary service (Acts 12:25)

· He accompanied Paul on the first missionary journey (Acts 13:1-2, etc.)

· He stuck up for John Mark at the beginning of the second missionary journey (Acts 15:37).

· He represented Gentile believers at the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15:2).

· He represented the Jerusalem Council to the Gentile believers (Acts 15:22).

As has been stated, one of the resources through which God has ordained to do his work is the church—God’s people. And in the church today there is a persistent need for the effective utilization of lay people. Two tools to help accomplish this are the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and Spiritual Gift Inventories.

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is the most widely administered psychological tool currently in use. Inspired by Carl Gustav Jung’s work on Psychological Type, Katherine Briggs and her daughter, Isabel Briggs-Myers, developed a tool which utilized and expanded Jung’s categories.[29] The tool has a wide variety of applications and is used in vocational counseling as well as spiritual direction.[30] It has been appropriated by evangelical Christians as well, as an effective way of identifying spiritual strengths and weaknesses.[31]

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, though fully compatible with the biblical doctrine of diversity within the body of Christ, is a secular resource. A resource which has been useful to many has been one of the many Spiritual Gift Inventories, which endeavor to discover where a believer’s spiritual giftedness may lie.[32]

The call of God should bring out the best in God’s people. Therefore, leaders who are gifted as “Human Resource/Mothers” are a valuable asset to the Kingdom of Christ.

3. The Political Frame and the Father. Fathers rule their households—or at least they did in Roman society. Paternal authority was power; fathers ruled the miniature political system that was the family. Leadership which brings together the Political Frame and the father metaphor, is leadership which is savvy about the realities of power and comfortable and wise wielding it.

The Apostle Paul certainly understood the realities of political power, and he was not reluctant to use it. On at least two occasions, Paul used his status as a Roman citizen to ensure that he was treated legally. In Philippi, he insisted on a public apology, likely hoping to secure some additional toleration for the fledgling church. “But Paul replied, ‘They have beaten us in public, uncondemned, men who are Roman citizens, and have thrown us into prison; and now are they going to discharge us in secret? Certainly not! Let them come and take us out themselves.’ The police reported these words to the magistrates, and they were afraid when they heard that they were Roman citizens; so they came and apologized to them. And they took them out and asked them to leave the city” (Acts 16:37-39). And again, after the riot in Jerusalem’s Temple precincts, he appeals to Roman law. “The tribune directed that he was to be brought into the barracks, and ordered him to be examined by flogging, to find out the reason for this outcry against him. But when they had tied him up with thongs, Paul said to the centurion who was standing by, ‘Is it legal for you to flog a Roman citizen who is uncondemned?’” (Acts 22:24-25). Paul also exploited differences between factions of Judaism in his appearance before the Sanhedrin. “When Paul noticed that some were Sadducees and others were Pharisees, he called out in the council, ‘Brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. I am on trial concerning the hope of the resurrection of the dead.’ When he said this, a dissension began between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided” (Acts 23:6-7).

Political realities in the church often lead to conflict which inexperienced leaders have difficulty surviving.[33] And naïveté about “Christian” behavior can lead leaders to ignore political realities as “unspiritual.” Fortunately, hard realities are leading to an increased awareness of church conflict and how it may be managed.[34] Those clear-eyed realists who lead from the “Political Frame/Father” perspective will be better able than most to lead the church away from the shoals of schism or self-destruction.

4. The Symbolic Frame and the Herald. Heralds trumpet the message. They keep the message before the people. Here is where the pastor must shine. The herald must ask two questions: What must I proclaim? And, to whom am I to proclaim it? The message is the gospel and has the twin powers of myth and history behind it.[35] And the herald must know the people. Except in smaller congregations, where a matriarch or patriarch keeps the flame of tradition alive as newly-minted seminary graduates pass through the revolving door of short-term ministry, the pastor is best equipped to be the herald. To do that, he or she must hear the congregation’s stories, understand its history, and identify its core values.[36] The pastor is present and should preside at the symbolic rituals of congregational life: Baptisms, weddings, funerals, the Lord’s Supper, as well as anniversaries and other locally-specific celebrations. The pastor will cheerlead and coach—always keeping before the congregation the call of Christ and their setting for ministry.

Paul did as much. He labored tirelessly to place the gospel of God’s free grace to all in Jesus Christ before all people (I Thessalonians 2:9). And he understood the value of symbolic actions. He understood that Peter’s reluctance to continue dining with Gentile believers was nothing else than a repudiation of the unity of the body of Christ. Hence, his vehemence (Galatians 2:11-14).


Some years ago, in my presidential address to ETS Far West, I wrote

The pastor of a church in twentieth-century America is not only called upon to be a preacher and “curator of souls.” He or she is also called to be a counselor, conversant with psychological technique, a program director, administrator, and fund-raiser. The Pastoral Activities Index, published by the Presbyterian Church, lists 189 types of tasks which pastors may be called upon to perform in eight distinct categories. A cartoon in The New Yorker shows a briefcase-toting gent addressing a flock of sheep, “Your shepherd, Louie, has retired. I'm Mr. Smathers. I will be your grazing-resource coordinator and flock welfare-and-security manager.”[37]

Yes, ministry in the twenty-first century is a complex business. New challenges to ministry require new insights for ministry. The rich diversity of biblical imagery, coupled with the best of management insight may, if the Lord blesses our work, lead us to that place where we will hear his words of praise, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:23). God grant it.


[1] Presented at the Evangelical Theological Society, Annual Meeting at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, November 17, 2005.

[2] One thinks immediately of the journal by that name published in Christianity Today’s family of publications.

[3] I used the “Business” list from last Friday’s edition, November 11, 2005 (Vol. CCXLVI, No. 102, p. W-5). The titles I included are: Secrets of the Millionaire Mind by T. Harv Eker (HarperBusiness), Good to Great by Jim Collins (HarperBusiness), Who Moved My Cheese? By Spencer Johnson (Putnam), Now, Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton (Free Press), Little Book of Selling by Jeffrey Gitomer (Bard Press), Winning by Jack Welch and Suzy Welch (HarperBusiness), The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick M. Lencioni (Jossey-Bass), 7 Habits of Highly Successful People by Stephen Covey (Free Press), and The Martha Rules by Martha Stewart (Rodale Press).

[4] East Lansing, Michigan: Michigan State University Press, 1987.

[5] New York, etc.: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1966. See also: Peter Drucker, Managing the Non-profit Corporation: Principles and Practices (New York: HarperBusiness, 1992).

[6] Thomas Nelson, 1999, 144 pp.

[7] Thomas Nelson, 2002, 96 pp.

[8] Excellence in Leadership: Reaching Goals with Prayer, Courage, & Determination (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1968).

[9] For a discussion of technical introductory issues see: Charles A. Wannamaker, The Epistles to the Thessalonians: A Commentary on the Greek Text in the series The New International Greek Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans & Exeter: Paternoster Press, 1990), pp. 3-63.

[10] I am indebted to John R. W. Stott for this observation. See his The Gospel and the End of Time: The Message of 1 & 2 Thessalonians in the series, The Bible Speaks Today (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1991), esp. pp. 49-55.

[11] William Barclay, The Letters to the Galatians and Ephesians: in the series The Daily Study Bible (Revised Edition; Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1976), pp. 79-80.

[12] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship (Revised edition; New York: The Macmillan Company, 1963), pp. 63-69.

[13] See

[14] An internet search revealed that Reframing Organizations is used in the curricula of the following theological schools. The list is representative, not exhaustive. Western Theological Seminary, Hope, Michigan; Golden Gate Baptist Seminary, San Francisco, California; Bethel Seminary, St.
Paul, Minnesota; Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, California; Jewish Theological Seminary, New York City; McCormick Theological Seminary, Chicago, Illinois, and Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri.

[15] Lee G. Bolman & Terrence E. Deal, Reframing Organizations: Artistry, Choice, and Leadership (Second edition; San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1997).

[16] Bolman & Deal, Reframing Organizations, p. 38.

[17] Bolman & Deal, Reframing Organizations, p. 40.

[18] Lee G. Bolman & Terrence E. Deal, Leading With Soul: An Uncommon Journey of Spirit (Revised edition; San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 2001).

[19] Bolman & Deal, Reframing Organizations, p. 103.

[20] Bolman & Deal, Reframing Organizations, p. 102.

[21] Hence the popularity of Sun Tsu’s The Art of War. See R. L. Wing’s new translation, The Art of Strategy (New York, etc.: Doubleday, 1988).

[22] Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning (Revised edition; Boston: Beacon Press, 1985).

[23] Bruno Bettelheim, The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales (New York: Random House Vintage Books, 1989).

[24] Bolman & Deal, Reframing Organizations, pp. 216-17.

[25] In a story which I was unable to track down, McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc is supposed to have seen a fly in the kitchen of one of McDonald’s restaurants, and pulled the franchisee’s license on the spot. True or not, the story communicates powerfully Kroc’s high standards of sanitation and cleanliness. See also the examples in: Thomas J. Peters and Robert H. Waterman, Jr., In Search of Excellence: Lessons From America’s Best-Run Companies (New York: Warner Books, 1984), pp. 255-58.

[26] See the still-helpful discussion in: Richard Longenacker, The Ministry and Message of Paul (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1971), pp. 74-75.

[27] The Book of Order, G-10.0400.

[28] Candace R. Benyei, Understanding Clergy Misconduct in Religious Systems: Scapegoating, Family Secrets, and the Abuse of Power (New York & London: The Haworth Press, 1998).

[29]Isabel Briggs Myers, Gifts Differing (Palo Alto, California: Consulting Psychologists Press, 1980), pp. ix-xii.

[30] Otto Kroeger and Janet M. Thuesen, Type Talk: The 16 Personality Types That Determine How We Live, Love, and Work (New York: Dell, 1988).

[31] M. Robert Mullholland, Jr., Invitation To a Journey: A Road Map for Spiritual Formation (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1993), pp. 49-73.

[32] As one of many examples see, David Ewart’s “Spirirual Gifts Inventory,” It is worth noting that Ewart comes at the topic as a minister in the United Church of Canada, and thus avoids some of the charismatic theology which can diminish utility.

[33] G. Lloyd Rediger, Clergy Killers: Guidance for Pastors and Congregations Under Attack (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Logos Productions, 1996). See also the brief, but helpful discussion in: Robert Farrar Capon, Exit 36: A Fictional Chronicle (New York: Seabury Press, 1975), pp. 186-87.

[34] See, fir example, Charles H. Cosgrove and Dennis D. Hatfield, Church Conflict: The Hidden Systems Behind the Fights (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1994).

[35] J.R.R. Tolkien, “On Fairy Stories,” in The Tolkien Reader (New York: Ballantine Books, 1966), pp. 74-75.

[36] James F. Hopewell, Congregation: Stories and Structures, edited by Barbara G. Wheeler (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1987), pp. 103-17.

[37] Unpublished paper by Kenneth C. Harper, “The Pastor-Scholar: Reviving a Classic Model of Ministry.”

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