Thursday, July 26, 2007

Servant Leadership Research Roundtable

The annual Servant Leadership Research Roundtable is around the corner. I will be presenting a new paper on Robert Greenleaf's Spirituality of Service. The following notes comes from my colleague, Dr. Kathleen Patterson, who is hosting the roundtable:


I am writing to personally invite you to attend the 5th Annual Servant Leadership Research Roundtable at Regent University, August 10-11, 2007. We will begin at noon on Friday and will conclude Saturday evening.

We are thrilled to build upon last year's roundtable to provide you with additional opportunities to meet with notable scholars in the field of servant leadership. You will participate in discussions with presenters and work together to explore, discuss and test new and existing servant leadership concepts.
If you have not participated in this roundtable previously, I encourage you to not only consider attending this event, but to invite a colleague as well. While we engage top scholars from around the world in scholarly debate and discussion, we welcome both seasoned and novice researchers who are interested in the growing field of servant leadership.

Registration is already in progress, so I encourage you to reserve your place by registering today! Should you need hotel accommodations, I encourage you to stay at the beautiful Founders Inn & Spa and request the special Regent University rate.

I look forward to receiving your registration form should you decide to attend. If not, please consider attending next year's roundtable, which will be held in May 2008.

All the best,


Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Bridging Sunday and Monday

There will be a one-day conference hosted by The Center for Integrity in Business at Seattle Pacific University on October4, 2007. The conferences is named: "Bridging Sunday and Monday: Making Faith Really Matter in Business." My paper entitled: "Sharing the Incarnation: Towards a Model of Mimetic Christological Leadership", has been accepted for the conference and as a chapter for an upcoming book on this topic.

Here is a short, preliminary description of the paper:

"This paper proposes a practical model of 'Incarnational' Leadership that communicates the values and behaviors inherent in the Christian doctrine of the Incarnation for those leading in the market place.

The paper starts with the presentation of an early mimetic Christological model of Christian Leadership in Roman Philippi by exploring the judicial, rhetorical structure and the social function of the Pauline Philippians hymn (2:5-11) as a cursus pudorum (course of ignominies) that stood in opposition to the prevalent cursus honorum, the formalized sequence of public offices in first-century Roman cities.

The Philippians hymn challenged the notions and principles of the prevalent shame/honor social matrix of Roman societies by offering an alternative set of behaviors and values that stood in stark contrast with those of the dominant culture. The hymn makes use of a cursus pudorum in which the voluntary abasement, humility and obedience of Christ becomes an exemplum that offers a critique of the tyrannies of the timocratic leadership style of Roman Philippi and offers an alternative vision of service oriented leadership rooted in humility and common mutuality.

This proposed mimetic Christological model of Christian Leadership is further compared and contrasted with other “values-based” approaches to leadership, including Servant and Transformational Leadership theories. It is argued that although this Christo-centric model shares similar values with other “values-based” approaches in leadership, it goes beyond these leadership approaches in that it is ultimately rooted in a mimetic re-enactment of the self-emptying/kenotic Christ."

Meaning beyond Absurdity

I recently read a small tract by Robert Greenleaf (the "father" of the Servant Leadership Movement) in the Quaker Though and Life Today Magazine on the work and writings of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. Greenleaf reports that Heschel gave the following message to young people in an interview before his death in 1972:
"I would say: Let them remember that there is meaning beyond absurdity. Let them be sure that every little deed counts, that every word has power, and that we can - every one -do our share to redeem the world in spite of all absurdities and all frustrations and all disappointments. And above all, remember that the meaning of life is to build a life as if it were a work of art."

May our quest for authentic Christian Leadership seek to embody the greatest meaning of all: worship unto our God.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Nouwen on Forgiving the Church

When we have been wounded by the Church, our temptation is to reject it. But when we reject the Church it becomes very hard for us to keep in touch with the living Christ. When we say, "I love Jesus, but I hate the Church," we end up losing not only the Church but Jesus too.

The challenge is to forgive the Church. This challenge is especially great because the Church seldom asks us for forgiveness, at least not officially. But the Church as an often fallible human organization needs our forgiveness, while the Church as the living Christ among us continues to offer us forgiveness.

It is important to think about the Church not as "over there" but as a community of struggling, weak people of whom we are part and in whom we meet our Lord and Redeemer."

Monday, July 09, 2007

"Jesus is for Losers" - Steve Taylor

If I was driven
Driven ahead by some noble ideal
Who took the wheel?

If I was given
Given a glimpse of some glorious road
When was it sold?

So caught up in the chase
I keep forgetting my place

Just as I am
I am stiff-necked and proud
Jesus is for losers
Why do I still play to the crowd?

Just as I am
Pass the compass, please
Jesus is for losers
I'm off about a hundred degrees

If I was groping
Groping around for some ladder to fame
I am ashamed

If I was hoping
Hoping respect would make a sturdy footstool
I am a fool

Bone-weary every climb
Blindsided every time

Just as I am
I am needy and dry
Jesus is for losers
The self-made need not apply

Just as I am
In a desert crawl
Lord, I'm so thirsty
Take me to the waterfall

And if you're certain
Certain your life is some cosmic mistake
Why do you shake?

And if you're certain
Certain that faith is some know-nothing mask
Why do you still ask?

They don't grade here on the curve
We both know what we deserve

Just as you are
Just a wretch like me
Jesus is for losers
Grace from the blood of a tree

Just as we are
At a total loss
Jesus is for losers
Broken at the foot of the cross

Just as I am
Pass the compass, please
Jesus is for losers
I'm off about a hundred degrees

Just as I am
In a desert crawl
Lord, I'm so thirsty
Take me to the waterfall

Friday, July 06, 2007

Psalm 62 "Only in God" - John Michael Talbot

Psalm 62:1-2
"My soul finds rest in God alone;
my salvation comes from him.

He alone is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will never be shaken."

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Asceticism, Discipline and Leadership Formation

Early Egyptian Monasticism, in reaction to the growing secularism and materialism of the Christian Church of the fourth century, stressed the need for personal and communal transformation through ascetic disciplines, with a high regard for moral development and experiential holiness. An ascetic form of discipleship was presented by these Desert Fathers and Mothers as a mode of moral development and spiritual transformation. Asceticism, from the Greek “askēsis”, which means “discipline” or “training”, was seen as a way of personal and communal self-effacement that opened the way for personal and communal transformation into holiness. To the twenty-first century ear these calls to asceticism might sound extreme, but for the Desert Fathers and Mothers of the Fourth Century, it was a way to experience true life to it fullest. The fourth century prayer of the Desert Father, Serapion of Thmuis summarizes this cry for experiential fullness of life: “Make us truly alive!”

These early Egyptian monks sought through voluntary simplicity, a leaving of their previous privileged lives and a commitment to simple labor, an inner stillness (hesychia) that came from progressive victories in Christ of over their “passions” (apatheia). The inner logic of these schools of asceticism, as it relates to the practice of Christian discipline was a simple one: - disciplines of simple housing, devotional living, controlling of the appetites, voluntary simplicity and absolute obedience to Scripture created the necessary spiritual and emotional “space” for devotion and contemplation that defeated the “passions” of pride, envy and gluttony. This is rich ground for the exploration of the context in which authentic Christian Leadership is formed.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Worship and Leadership

Many come to leadership in the Church for the right reasons and stay for the wrong ones. Ecclessial Leaders often fall in love with the trappings and accolades of the position: the clerical apparel, titles, applause and positions of honor. The Old Testament prophet Malachi offers a stern indictment to us all: "Oh, that one of you would shut the temple doors, so that you would not light useless fires on my altar! I am not pleased with you," says the LORD Almighty, "and I will accept no offering from your hands. My name will be great among the nations, from the rising to the setting of the sun. In every place incense and pure offerings will be brought to my name, because my name will be great among the nations," says the LORD Almighty. " (Malachi 1:10-11, NIV).

Leadership should not be our prime focus - our even our first calling - worship is. Leadership should be seen as a means to worship and revere the Name of God. I do like John Piper's statement on the primacy of worship: "Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn't. Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man. When this age is over, and the countless millions of the redeemed fall on their faces before the throne of God, missions will be no more. It is a temporary necessity. But worship abides forever."

Worship should be our primary call and function. Leadership in obedience is simply a means to worship Him.

Piper, John. Let the Nations Be Glad! The Supremacy of God in Missions. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1993.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Clare of Assisi and Kenotic Leadership

I had the privilege of spending some time in Italy this last month with a group of fellow seekers studying the leadership of Paul, Francis and Clare of Assisi (thus the picture here taken at the Hermitage of the Prisons on Mount Subasio in Assisi). I am the richer for knowing these precious Christians better. With a lot of laughter, prayer and reflection; we were all recaptured by a clearer vision of the possibilities of a leadership modelled after Jesus.

I was deeply moved once again by the spirituality of Clare of Assisi, whilst spending time in Assisi. Clare’s absolute commitment to simplicity, her refusal to accept the markings and privileges of the religious temporal powers of her time and her vocation of service, place her within the domain of kenotic (self-emptying) leader. But different to other Monastic Movements, Clare’s commitment to radical simplicity (poverty in her own words) is not primarily focused on moral development, but rather her desire for mystical union with the Divine that leads to union with others and radical solidarity with the poorest of the poor. Clare illustrates how mystical union with Jesus through the imitation of His poverty leads to service and a purer vision of authentic leadership, as she writes in her first letter to Agnes of Prague (1LAg 13), the daughter of the King of Bohemia:
“Be strengthened in the holy service which you have undertaken out of an ardent desire for the Poor Crucified.”

In her third letter to the same Agnes of Prague, Clare continues on to show how her primary vision is one of mystical union with Jesus through a process of mimesis, which in Clare’s praxis is an identification with the simplicity (poverty) of the Incarnated one (3 LAg 12-14):
“Place your mind in the mirror of eternity;
Place your soul in the splendor of glory;
Place your heart in the figure of the divine substance;
And, through contemplation, transform your entire being
Into the image of the Divine One himself,
So that you, yourself, may also experience what his friends experience
When they taste the hidden sweetness
That God alone has kept from the beginning
For those who love him.”

Monday, July 02, 2007

Prayer and Personal Freedom

"Prayer is the truest guarantee of personal freedom. We are most truly free in the free encounter of our hearts with God in His word and in receiving His Spirit which is the Spirit of truth and freedom. The Truth that makes us free is not merely a matter of information about God but the presence in us of a divine person by love and grace, bringing us into the intimate personal life of God as His Sons [and Daughters] by adoption. This is the basis of all prayer and all prayer should be oriented to this mystery of adoption in which the Spirit in us recognizes the Father. The cry of the Spirit in us, the cry of recognition that we are Sons [and Daughters] in the Son, is the heart of our prayer and the great motive of prayer. Hence recollection is not the exclusion of material things but attentiveness to the Spirit in our inmost heart. The contemplative life should not be regarded as the exclusive prerogative of those who dwell within monastic walls. All can seek and find this intimate awareness and awakening which is a gift of love and a vivifying touch of creative and redemptive power, that power which raised Christ from the dead and which cleanses us from dead works to serve the living God. It should certainly be emphasized today that prayer is a real source of personal freedom in the midst of a world in which we are dominated by massive organizations and rigid institutions which seek only to exploit us for money and power. Far from being the cause of alienation, true religion in spirit is a liberating force that helps us to find ourselves in God."

Thomas Merton. The Hidden Ground of Love. Letters, Volume 1. William H. Shannon. editor. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1985: 159.