The first post in this series introduced the concept of Scripture-Based Leadership as a way to develop individuals, parishes, and ministries. This post will dive deeper into this concept, exploring why all baptized Christians have a duty to become leaders.
Defining Scripture-Based Leadership
In this model, Scripture serves as a guide to teach, influence, and develop leaders of faith, whose ultimate mission should be to proclaim the Gospel, build the Kingdom of God, and serve everyone as Christ himself.
Scripture makes a wonderful guide for life and leadership. Shortly after the Holy Spirit descends on the Apostles, the original leaders of the Church, the Apostles themselves state, “It is not right for us to neglect the word of God” (Acts 6:2). Scripture is powerful evidence of God’s love for his people, and leaders can use it as a baseline for their efforts.
Leadership is all about helping others move in a united direction that builds upon their strengths and capabilities to bring about a better world. St. Paul teaches us that Scripture accomplishes this, changing and molding hearts to be more like Christ: “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16).
Christian leaders must strive to live the Gospel, proclaim the Good News, and help others on the journey of faith. The Bible contains numerous stories about prayer followed by action in the world: recall that the Lord said to Abram, “Go forth,” and that “Abram went as the Lord directed him” (Genesis 12:1, 4). The Church is oriented toward action; the faith does not stand still; Christ sends us forth as leaders, and we must respond by actually doing so.
Baptized as Leaders
All Christians are baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, making them adopted sons and daughters of God and incorporating them into the common priesthood of Christ. The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes this “priesthood of all” (CCC §1268), which includes a duty to be followers of Jesus and to lead others closer to him. Baptism confers rights, responsibilities, and duties to the faithful; the people of God must participate in, with, and through the Church to continue the mission of Christ.
In addition, as St. Peter teaches, the baptized “have been born anew, not from perishable but from imperishable seed, through the living and abiding word of God” (1 Peter 1:23). This renewal is important in leadership, since it often requires projecting into the future and adapting to changing times, versus simply performing the tasks at hand. Baptism also confers a renewal of faith, rooted in hope. St. Peter again instructs that “you are ‘a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you may announce the praises’ of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2:9).
Application: Role Models in Faith & Leadership
The Hebrew word “to lead”—nâchâh (H5148)—is often translated as “guide.” The Psalmist says, “LORD, guide me in your justice . . . make straight your way before me” (Psalm 5:9). This connotation implies that someone else has led us to our present time and place in order that we may guide others in turn. It also has a connotation of wisdom, of courage, and of experience; a leader’s vocation is to be a missioner of mercy—bringing people together, leading everyone on the right road, serving their needs.
As you reflect on the role of leader as guide, consider your “Mount Rushmore” of faith leaders in this assessment—people who have had a significant and long-lasting positive impact on your life. They can be living or dead, someone you know personally, or someone you have only read about. Then, think about the attributes of leadership they exemplify—the qualities that enabled them to be such effective guides, and what you have learned from them. Finally, encourage other leaders in your parish to do so as well, and share your reflections with each other. This will help build trust and community, and begin developing a common language around leadership.
Editorial Note: This blog series arose out of the author's work on the Certificate in Catholic Theology offered by the McGrath Institute for Church Life's online theology program. The Certificate provides students with an opportunity to explore the academic study of theology and is well suited to those wanting to pursue theological training without the commitment to a full degree program.