Friday, December 19, 2008

The Value of Community

"The monastic perspective can assist us specifically with regard to understanding the value of community. Imagine for a moment that the people you encounter at home, work, or school are the very people God has given you to pray with, eat with, and play with for the rest of your life. And you are supposed to thank God for this, every day, several times a day. This is what monastic people take on. And what they've learned from this particular asceticism, in attempting to live in peace with themselves and with others, may constitute their greatest gift to us. How radical to think that we can best know ourselves by embracing commitment, not rejecting it; by relating to others, not callously relegating them to the devilishly convenient category of 'other.'"

Monday, December 08, 2008

Leading with the Head bowed down

Lessons in Leadership Humility from the Rule of St. Benedict of Nursia.

Leadership often draws the wrong kinds of leaders. Positions of power and influence have the tendency to attract the proud and the upwardly mobile individualists[1]. Contemporary leadership authors have gone as far as describing organizational leaders as idols, heroes, saviors, warriors, magicians, and even as omnipotent demi-gods[2]. But recently more voices within organizational discourse have been raised to question our perception and acceptance of these power-vested models of leadership. Could leaders be humble, many wonder[3]? It seems that the tide started to turn as the century did, in favor of a virtuous approach to leadership, culminating in the publication of Jim Collins’ pioneering article on Level 5 Leadership in the January 2001 edition of the Harvard Business Review[4]. Collins proposed that the “most powerfully transformative executives” surveyed in his study all possessed the virtue of personal humility.
Although Collin’s work[5] does not describe the process of formation of humble leaders, it does provide an erudite four-fold description of organizational leadership humility:

  • Personally humble leaders demonstrate a compelling modesty. They shun public adulation and never boast.
  • Personally humble leaders act with calm and quiet determination, not relying on inspiring charisma to motivate but rather inspired standards.
  • Personally humble leaders avoid personal ambition in favor of multi-generational organizational growth and development.
  • Personally humble leaders are self-reflective and tend to appropriate blame towards themselves are not others.

How then is humility formed in leaders? It might not come as a surprise that Jim Collins is not the first person to describe the possibility and power of leadership humility. A sixth-century Christian monk, St. Benedict of Nursia (480-540 A.D.), the father of Western Cenobitic Monasticism[6], wrote a rule in which he provided his followers with a twelve step process description of how humility is formed in followers and leaders alike. Benedict’s rule on humility has worked well as a guide and “spiritual manual[7]” facilitating personal and communal transformation within the Benedictine Order and others for well over 1500 years[8].

For the rest of the article see this link.

[1] Taylor, Barbara Brown. 2005. The Evils of Pride and Self-Righteousness. The Living Pulpit, October-December 2005:5.
[2] Morris, J. Andrew, Brotheridge, Céleste M., and Urbanski, John C. 2005. Bringing humility to leadership: Antecedents and consequences of leader humility. Human Relations, 58/10: 1323-1350.
[3] See Dickson, John P. and Rosner, Brian S. 2004. Humility as a Social Virtue in the Hebrew Bible? Vetus Testamentum LIV,4:459-479; and Elsberg, Robert. 2003. The Saints’ Guide to Happiness. New York: North Point Press.
[4] Collins, Jim. 2001. Level 5 Leadership: The Triumph of Humility and Fierce Resolve. Harvard Business Review, January: 66-76.
[5]Collins, Jim. 2001. Level 5 Leadership: The Triumph of Humility and Fierce Resolve. Harvard Business Review, January: 66-76.
[6] Cheline, Paschal G. 2003. Christian Leadership: A Benedictine Perspective. American Theological Library Association Summary of Proceedings 57:107-113.
[7] Waaijman, Kees. 2002. Spirituality: Forms, Foundations, Methods. Leuven: Peeters.
[8] Mitchell, Nathan D. 2008. Liturgy and Life: Lessons in Benedict. Worship 82/2:161-174.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Reflective Leadership

I read a wonderful article on the discipline of reflection and spiritual leadership this morning by Leonard Doohan in the 2007 edition of the International Journal of Servant-Leadership. Doohan proposes that the emerging, post-industrial, values-based models and theories of leadership are no longer based on knowledge, competence or even experience, but rather on critical reflection, imagination, and an openness to "the unknown, the unexpected, and unexplored." This is where the ancient Biblical devotional discipline of reflection offers a sound base for the reflective attention to that which is ultimately real. Who better than Thomas Merton to shape our understanding of how all of this works:

"Puritas cordis [purity of heart] means much more than moral or ascetic perfection. It is the end of a long process of spiritual transformation in which the soul, perfect in charity, detached from all created things, free from the movements of inordinate passion, is able to live absorbed in God, and is penetrated from time to time with vivid intuitions of His action, intuitions which plumb the depths of the divine mysteries, which "grasp" God in a secret and intimate experience not only of Who He is, but of what He is doing in the world. The [person] who is pure in heart not only knows God, the Absolute Being, pure Act, but knows Him as the Father of Lights, the Father of Mercies, Who has so loved the world as to give His only begotten Son for its Redemption. Such a [person] knows Him not merely by faith, not by theological speculation, but by intimate and incommunicable experience."

Thomas Merton. Bread in the Wilderness (New York: New Dimensions, 1953): 20-21
Leonard Doohan. Spiritual Leadership and Reflection. (International Journal of Servant-Leadership,2007) 285.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Stirring Editorial from Charisma

Lee Grady wrote a deeply stirring editorial in a recent edition of Charisma. It confirms my growing persuasion that our failure to honor the Scriptural guidelines for ministers and ministry has led us down this path (Paul's injunctions against divorce and avarice). We need a renewal/revival back to the Gospel values of Christian marriage and financial simplicity.

Preparing for a Charismatic Meltdown

Three prominent charismatic ministries have suffered huge setbacks this month. What does this mean for our movement?

Foreclosure. Eviction. Bailouts. We’re hearing those terms a lot these days, and not just in the newspaper’s business section. In the last two weeks three charismatic churches that once enjoyed huge popularity have fallen on hard times.

In Tampa, Florida, Without Walls International Church is facing foreclosure. The megachurch, which once attracted 23,000 worshipers and was heralded as one of the nation’s fastest-growing congregations, shrunk drastically after co-pastors Randy and Paula White announced in 2007 that they were divorcing. On Nov. 4 their bank filed foreclosure proceedings and demanded immediate repayment of a $12 million loan on the property.

In Duluth, Georgia—northeast of Atlanta—sheriff’s deputies arrived at Global Destiny Ministries and ordered Bishop Thomas Weeks II to leave the property. According to documents filed in state court, Weeks—who divorced popular preacher Juanita Bynum in June—owed more than $511,000 in back rent to the building’s owners. He was escorted out of the building on Nov. 14 while a church service was in progress.

"The wrecking ball of heaven is swinging. It has come to demolish any work that has not been built on the integrity of His Word."

In another part of the Atlanta area, leaders of the Cathedral at Chapel Hill announced that their church is officially for sale. The massive Gothic building—which at one time housed one of the nation’s most celebrated charismatic churches, with a membership of 10,000—has slipped into disrepair after lurid sex scandals triggered a mass exodus. The church’s founder, Bishop Earl Paulk, has turned the 6,000-seat church (valued at $24.5 million) over to his son, Donnie Earl, who in recent years has abandoned orthodox Christian doctrines and embraced universalism.

In addition, the bank that called the loan on Without Walls also began foreclosure proceedings on its satellite campus in Lakeland, Florida. That massive campus with its 10,000-seat sanctuary was once known as Carpenter’s Home Church. Under the leadership of Assemblies of God pastor Karl Strader it enjoyed huge success, but its membership dwindled in the 1990s, and it was sold to the Whites in 2005.

A crisis hit Without Walls two years later when the Whites announced from their pulpit that they were divorcing. They did not give specific reasons, but Randy said he took “100 percent responsibility” for the breakup. He later told Charisma: “This was a decision of last resort after years of prayer and counseling.”

In the case of the Cathedral at Chapel Hill, many parishioners walked out 16 years ago when it became known that Earl Paulk and other staff members were involved in wife-swapping. Paulk created a bizarre culture of secrecy to cover the immorality, which included his affair with a sister-in-law—and resulted in the birth of Donnie Earl (who thought he was Earl Paulk’s nephew until last year). The church has only had a few hundred members in recent years.

Today, Donnie Earl has embraced the inclusionist doctrines of Oklahoma pastor Carlton Pearson, who left the faith in 2003 and was labeled a heretic by a group of African-American bishops the following year. The younger Paulk now preaches that all people, not just Christians, are saved. He told Charisma last week that the Cathedral “has expanded to include all of God’s creation—Christian, Jew, Hindu, Buddhist, gay, straight, etc.” And this distorted message is broadcast from a pulpit that hosted the premier leaders of the charismatic movement during the 1970s and 1980s.

Even before Weeks was charged with assaulting Bynum in a hotel parking lot in August 2007, the pastor of Global Destiny Ministries defiled his pulpit during a “Teach Me to Love You” marriage conference. He told married men they should use profanity during sex to heighten their experience, and he brought couples on stage to play a game in which men were asked to name their favorite female body parts.

Lord, help us.

Was it supposed to end like this? How did a movement that was at one time focused on winning people to Christ and introducing them to the power of the Holy Spirit end in such disgrace?

I hear the sound of bricks and steel beams crashing to the ground. The wrecking ball of heaven is swinging. It has come to demolish any work that has not been built on the integrity of God’s Word.

All of us should be trembling. God requires holiness in His house and truth in the mouths of His servants. He is loving and patient with our mistakes and weaknesses, but eventually, if there is no repentance after continual correction, His discipline is severe. He will not be mocked.

Romans 11:22 says: “Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God's kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off” (NASB).

God is not married to our buildings. If He allowed foreign armies to burn Jerusalem and its glorious temple, He will also write “Ichabod” on the doors of churches where there is no repentance for compromise.

I pray the fear of God will grip our hearts until we cleanse our defiled pulpits. Let’s examine our hearts and our ministries. Let’s throw out the wood, hay and stubble and build on a sure and tested foundation. It is the only way to survive the meltdown.

J. Lee Grady is editor of Charisma.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

An Instrument to Measure the Impact of Hope in Strategic Plan Implementation

I had the privilege to work with several colleagues on an instrument to measure hope in organizations. It is published in the inaugural edition of the International Leadership Journal housed at Thomas Edison State College. The article is entitled:

"An Instrument to Measure the Impact of Hope in Strategic Plan Implementation." by Bruce Winston, Corné Bekker, Karen Cerff, Doug Eames, Martha Helland and Delicia Garnes.

This research study presents a 13-item instrument to measure the level of hope in employees relative to their belief in the positive outcome of strategic plans. The singlefactor scale has a Cronbach alpha of .912. The premise of the research is that people may be unwilling to invest time and effort into the implementation of strategic plans if they do not have hope/faith in the success of the plans. Theoretical support comes from Vroom’s expectancy theory, means efficacy theory, Porter’s value chain, and Snyder’s hope theory. The practical application of this study lies in the notion that it may be beneficial for leaders to understand the level of employees’ hope in the success of strategic plans before implementing those plans.

For the full paper see:

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Christ Hymn as a Song for Leaders

Mark Hardgrove has an inspiring article in the Winter edition of the Journal of Biblical Perspectives in Leadership:

Through the use of hymn and homology, as well as the rhetorical dramatic use of language, Paul is able to illustrate the appropriate attitude for the believer. He also provides, through the example of Christ, a rubric for Christian leadership: humility, selflessness, and servanthood. This approach stands in contrast to the prevailing cultural context of the recipients of the epistle, and continues to be a powerful statement on a leadership paradigm that challenges many traditional leadership models. A socio-rhetorical examination of the text reveals as many questions as answers. Those questions challenge the exegete to take a broader view that takes into consideration the implications of the text in light of the prevailing culture of Philippi in the first century, as well as that of the twenty-first century. This text, in light of contemporary culture, is a corrective comment for modern human leadership endeavors. download/print article

Monday, November 17, 2008

International Leadership Association Conference

I returned yesterday from the International Leadership Conference in Los Angeles, California. This year's theme was "Global Leadership: Portraits of the Past, Visions for the Future." I had the privilege to present two papers on some of my current research in the recovery of a Biblical and values-based approach to Leadership:

"Towards an Indigenous, Values-based Leadership Approach in Southern Africa": Recent studies have highlighted the desperate need for indigenous, innovative, values-based leadership approaches in Southern Africa. This emerging, post-industrial paradigm of leadership has helped South Africans to start thinking of leadership as something that is done in community instead of the actions--and responsibility--of one privileged individual.

"The Turn to Spirituality and Historic Understandings of Spiritual Leadership."
The presenter will use Kees Waaijman’s matrix for defining spirituality to explore and discuss examples of spiritualities that include leadership as part of their inner values. Two established schools of spirituality, as they relate to spiritual leadership, will be discussed: the asceticism of early Egyptian monasticism and the kenotic mysticism of St. Francis of Assisi.

I was encouraged to see how many researchers and scholars are willing to explore the moral, if not spiritual base for leadership. Many new possibilities arose from these meetings. I remain deeply grateful for the opportunity to work and learn with these fellow-seekers.

Another treat was to work with Jan Spencer on a paper for this conference entitled:
"St. Francis of Assisi and Spiritual Leadership: Integrating Ancient Insights with Contemporary Practice for Greater Leadership Effectiveness."
Spirituality in the workplace is integrated with an historical/practical view of the life of St. Francis of Assisi in order to provide specific examples of how leaders lead an organization that ascribes to Jody Fry’s spiritual leadership theory and model. Each of the traits identified in spiritual leadership theory are defined—transcendent vision, hope/faith, altruistic love, calling, membership, and outcomes—and then discussed in terms of Francis’ example of spiritual leadership. Although 800 years separate Francis from modern research involving workplace spirituality, his inner life transformation and subsequent experiences involving the establishment of the Franciscan Order promote a dialogue about how workplace spirituality should be approached as well as what it will take in the life of the modern-day leader to enable spiritual leadership to function effectively.

Jan's poster presentation was one of the most beautiful and aesthetically moving ones I have seen in years.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Monday, October 27, 2008

More Than Money - BK Life Book by Mark Albion

Interesting comments by Mark Albion. This could be a good foundation to explore the values of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount in light of this.

A Couple of New Books

Two recent secular books have served to confirm my growing persuasion that there is a deep and wide shift occurring in the way that the world thinks about leadership. In the words of Jean Lipmen-Blumen: “…we finally begun to reexamine more critically our traditional concept of leadership. It is based on an outmoded ego ideal glorifying the competitive, combative, controlling, creative, aggressive, self-reliant individualists”. They are both worthwhile reads (the descriptions on each are from the dust covers of the books):

"Community: The Structure of Belonging" by Peter Block Modern society is characterized by isolation and a weakened social fabric. The various sectors of our communities—businesses, schools, social service organizations, churches, government—work in parallel, not in concert. They exist in their own worlds as do so many individual citizens, who long for connection but end up marginalized, their gifts overlooked, their potential contributions lost. This disconnection and detachment makes it hard if not impossible to envision a common future and work towards it together.

We know what healthy communities look like—there are many success stories out there, and they've been described in detail. What Block provides in this inspiring new book is an exploration of the exact way community can emerge from fragmentation. How is community built? How does the transformation occur? What fundamental shifts are involved? He explores a way of thinking about our places that creates an opening for authentic communities to exist and details what each of us can do to make that happen.

"My intent" he writes, "is provide structural ways to create the experience of belonging, not just in those places where people come to just be together socially, but especially in places where we least expect it. This includes those places where people come together to get something done. These are our meetings, dialogues, conferences, planning processes––all those occasions where we gather to reflect on and decide the kind of future we want for ourselves."

Citizens have the power to change the community story and bring a new context into being. Block shows us how we can overcome isolation and anxiety and create communities alive with energy and possibility. This book is written to support those who care for the well being of their communities. It is for anyone who wants to be part of an organization, neighborhood, city, or country that works for all, and who have the faith and the energy to create such a place.

"More than Money" by Mark Albion

What are you going to do with your lucky lottery ticket? That’s a question every MBA faces. A lot of time and money has been invested in you, and once you graduate you’re supposed to cash that ticket in for as much money and status as you can. Your parents and peers expect it. And you may feel that there’s really no other choice. You can’t risk wasting that expensive education. It’s the safe thing to do. Isn’t it?Not necessarily.

Mark Albion doesn’t pretend to have all the answers, but his unique perspective can help you find yours. There are other ways to look at potential risks and rewards, even when you have thousands of dollars of student loans to pay back. Money is important but it’s not the key to fulfillment. The “safe” choice, the most monetarily rewarding one, can carry enormous psychological and spiritual pain.

As Ralph Waldo Emerson put it, “Sometimes money costs too much.”In More Than Money, Albion redefines the typical way the risk/reward equation is written, using his own life story and those of the many entrepreneurs, executives and MBAs he’s met as both cautionary and inspirational tales. He introduces a framework of four crucial questions to consider when thinking about your career choices, as well as “lifelines," principles that can help you answer these questions and guide you to construct your personal, strategic destiny plan.

A consciousness-raising book as well as a career guide, More Than Money encourages MBA students to give themselves permission to be who they really want to be and find their path of service. For, as Albion says, in the end “we won't remember you for the size of your wallet as much as the size of your heart.”

Friday, October 17, 2008

Two New Monographs on Aspects of Pauline Leadership

I recently reviewed two new monographs on aspects of Pauline Leadership for Religious Studies Review. They are both worthwhile reads and go along way to providing a base for our continued quest to Biblically redefine Christian Leadership. Here are two short excerpts from my reviews:

Paul and Conflict Resolution: An Exegetical Study of Paul's Apostolic Paradigm in 1 Corinthians 9. By Robinson Butarbutar. Paternoster Biblical Monographs. Milton Keynes: Paternoster Press, 2007. Pp. xviii + 275. Paper, $33.99, ISBN 978-1-84227-315-9.

Little scholarly attention has been given to conflict resolution models used in First-Century Mediterranean Christian communities. Butarbutar’s monograph bridges this gap in the literature and provides an erudite foundational work on this topic by examining Paul's apostolic paradigm in 1 Corinthians 9 through a detailed literary and historical exegesis of this pericope. This study defines and locates the argumentative rhetoric of Paul in the larger scope of Paul's unified arguments in 1 Corinthians 8-10, that sought to mediate in the cultural disputes in the Corinthian Christian communities. Butarbutar demonstrates that the conflict resolution model evident in this text is further evident in Paul's rhetoric of refusing to accept financial support from his audience. The monographs concludes by comparing and contrasting this Pauline conflict resolution model with contemporary approaches in Christian communities and argues for the serious reconsideration of Paul’s approach to conflict.

Saint Paul as Spiritual Director: An Analysis of the Concept of the Imitation of Paul with Implications and Applications to the Practice of Spiritual Direction. By Victor A. Copan. Paternoster Biblical Monographs. Milton Keynes: Paternoster Press, 2007. Pp. 342. Paper, $40.00, ISBN 978-1-55635-661-2.

Recent scholarly and popular-press descriptions of spiritual direction have widely disagreed on the nature, theories and applications of this age-old ministry of spiritual formation. It has been become evident to scholars and practitioners alike that a return to a serious re-examination of the Biblical roots of spiritual direction is what is needed. Cohan’s well-written and critical monograph seeks to provide a first step in a contemporary re-evaluation of the Apostle Paul’s approach to spiritual direction and formation. This study uses a case study approach exploring the social, cultural and spiritual functions of Paul as spiritual director in the various Christian communities that he founded along the Mediterranean Sea. Emphasis is placed in this study on Paul’s understanding, aims and praxis of spiritually forming his follower. Cohan concludes by drawing parallels to contemporary approaches of spiritual direction.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

New Edition for Inner Resources for Leaders

The new edition of Inner Resources for Leaders was released yesterday. I contributed a popular-press article on St. Benedict's rule on Leadership humility:

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Leadership Conversion

Louise Kretzschmar approaches the study of Christian Leadership from the perspective of a Christian ethicists and philosopher. Set in the context of the moral failures of apartheid leaders in South Africa, Kretzschmar process description of leadership “conversion” that could produce “moral leadership.” Building in the insights of Franciscan spirituality, Kretzschmar invites discussion concerning five distinct elements in the moral formation of Christian leaders:
· Intellectual Conversion. Christian Leaders “constantly rethink or evaluate” their own and others “moral framework” and this involves the disciplines of “self-awareness and critique” in order to develop the virtue of prudence (correct judgment).
· Affective Conversion. Christian Leaders have a high regard for othokardia (right heartedness towards God). Leaders consider the ultimate location of their affections and adopt ascetic disciplines (such as the traditional Monastic vows of poverty, chastity and obedience) to guide their hearts back to God.
· Volitional Conversion. Christian Leaders seek to have a “redeemed human will” that moves from willfulness (identified as arrogant self-sufficiency) to willingness (described as flexible receptivity).
· Relational Conversion. A Christian Leader’s “moral conscience” is formed and challenged in community. Christian Leaders engage in “moral relational power” that brings personal and communal transformation to perceptions and applications of leadership.
· Moral Action. The intellectual, affective, volitional and relational conversions of Christian Leaders result in “moral action” that facilitates the wider conversion of the world in which these leaders operate.

Kretzschmar’s work provides an erudite base for the inclusion of moral theology and spiritual formational studies to the ongoing quest to define Christian Leadership. It deepens the discussion from mere concern of leadership effectiveness to the moral dimensions of personal and communal leadership.

Kretzschmar, L. (2002). Authentic Christian Leadership and Spiritual Formation in Africa. Journal of Theology for Southern Africa, 113:41-60.
Kretzschmar, L. (2007). The Formation of Moral Leaders in South Africa: A Christian-Ethical Analysis of Some Essential Elements. Journal of Theology for Southern Africa, 128:18-36.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Merton on Self-knowledge and Knowing God

Do you want to know God? Then learn to understand the weaknesses and imperfections of [others]. But how can you understand the weaknesses of others unless you understand your own? And how can you see the meaning of your own limitations until you have received mercy from God, by which you know yourself and Him? It is not sufficient to forgive others: we must forgive them with humility and compassion. If we forgive them without humility, our forgiveness is a mockery: it presupposes that we are better than they.

Thomas Merton. No Man Is An Island. New York: Doubleday and Company, 1955: 163.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Richard Foster on Leadership

Leadership is an act of submission to God. To be a leader means listening to all kinds of people and situations. Out of that listening, we are hoping to discern the mind of God as best we can. This is the price of leadership—it's an act of sacrifice. So leadership is part and parcel of the work of submission to God.

I could be perfectly happy to go up into those mountains and disappear. But at least up to this point, that has not been my lot. There is a sense of call to take leadership roles. You're serving people and submitting to God as best you can.

We all learn submission because we all have "bosses," whether we're presidents of companies or not. The easiest place to learn it is in family. Paul's words were, "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ"—there is subordination, husband and wife, parent and child. We're doing that all of the time, looking to the needs of our spouse or our children, even though we have to make certain kinds of decisions they may not like. It's an act of submission to help.

I think of Pope Gregory the Great. He wanted the cloister. He wanted to pray and study, and yet he was thrust into this administrative job, and he submitted to that. And in that submission, he became a great leader. You could say that the only person who is safe to lead is the person who is free to submit.

Monday, September 15, 2008

New Journal in Strategic Leadership

Strategic leadership is at the forefront of the newest online journal published by Regent University's School of Global Leadership & Entrepreneurship (GLE).

Launched in early September, the Journal of Strategic Leadership (JSL) is led by the school's dean, Dr. Bruce E. Winston, and provides a forum for leadership practitioners and students around the world—publishing articles that address applied topics of strategic leadership at all levels within a variety of industries and organizations. The published work reflects the top papers submitted by Doctor of Strategic Leadership students and graduates.

"We believe that students studying strategic leadership have something of value to offer the leadership academy and have produced the JSL as a logical outcome of this belief," said Dr. Winston. To stimulate scholarly debate and a free flow of ideas, JSL is published in electronic format and provides public access to all issues free of charge.

To learn more about the Journal of Strategic Leadership and to register for a free subscription, visit

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Regent University to Co-host International Spirituality and Leadership Conference in India

Regent University's School of Global Leadership & Entrepreneurship will co-host the 2nd International Conference on Integrating Spirituality and Organizational Leadership February 9-12, 2009, at the University of Pondicherry in Pondicherry, India.

Conducted in English, this conference strives to bring together different perspectives, disciplines and spiritual traditions as leading scholars from the USA, Europe and Asia systematically explore the nature, determination and implications of the spiritual dimensions of organizational leadership.

Those wishing to present at the conference must submit their proposals for poster presentations or abstracts for oral presentations by November 30, 2008. Notifications of acceptance will be provided by December 15, 2008. Full papers will then be due by January 15, 2009.

A pre-conference International Research Workshop on Spiritual and Ethical Foundations of Organizational Development will be held February 5-7 and will provide an opportunity for scholars to discuss on-going or proposed research projects and form collaborative relationships aimed at building a formal research base addressing multiple aspects of spirituality in organizations. Workshop participants will present their projects and studies in a roundtable format.

Those wishing to present in the pre-conference workshop must submit their abstracts by November 30, 2008. Notification of acceptance will be provided by December 15, 2008. Full papers will then be due by January 15, 2009

For more information and to register online for the 2nd International Conference on Integrating Spirituality and Organizational Leadership, go to:

Waiting In Silence

I have not blogged for a while. It has been a real busy time as we finish the semester here at Regent and I recover from an extended travel schedule during the summer months. I have been thinking about the value of silence, rest and stillness. Here is a small section from Thomas Merton on the value of these age-old and devotional disciplines:

“Contemplation is essentially a listening in silence, an expectancy... In other words, the true contemplative is not the one who prepares his mind for a particular message that he wants or expects to hear, but who remains empty because he knows that he can never expect or anticipate the world that will transform his darkness into light. He does not even anticipate a special kind of transformation. He does not demand light instead of darkness. He waits on the Word of God in silence, and when he is ‘answered,’ it is not so much by a world that bursts into his silence. It is by his silence itself suddenly, inexplicably revealing itself to him as a word of great power, full of the voice of God.”

Thomas Merton. Contemplative Prayer. Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, 1969: 90

Friday, August 08, 2008

New Edition of Inner Resources of Leaders Out

The Second Edition of Inner Resources of Leaders is out:

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Wrestling with the Word

I am re-reading George Cornell's great book; "The Untamed God" again. What struck me again is the way that we have not only shaped our God Image in our own, but also failed to let the Bible speak for itself. The following quote from Cornell is worthy of reflection:

“The Bible is the record of those Divine breakthroughs into human history. ‘God’s search for man,’ it is described, rather than being our search for God. And its accents are considered a key for discerning the continuing Divine activity in the present. Unlike most religious literature, it is not chiefly a collection of noble sayings, but a drum-roll of events, people, struggles, great and terrible, of frailty, doubts, and heroism, of the ultimate might of right. Scripture isn’t meant as [mere] scientific exposition or as mere history. It is ‘salvation history’, a universal spiritual drama of an overarching compassion and concern for human integrity, of an unwavering love that seeks an answering affirmation. It is a vivid, sometimes parabolic account of God’s persistent, unrelenting quest for us and our stumbling, often faithless response.”

Cornell G 1975. The Untamed God. New York: Harper and Row Publishers

Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Search for Authenticity

I am currently reading a lot of material on the search for the authentic self in leadership. But I remain convinced that the authentic/real self is "hidden" in Christ. We find our deepest ground of being in our relationship with our Creator.

Thomas Merton, who wrote volumes on this subject, gives some good insights:

"Every one is shadowed by an illusory person: a false self. This is the man that I want to be but who cannot exist, because God does not know anything about him. An to be unknown of God is altogether too much privacy."

Source: Merton, T (1962). New Seeds of Contemplation. New York: New Directions.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Turning Leadership Ego on its Head

Leadership often draws individuals with narcissistic and pride-filled attitudes. How do leaders cultivate humility? More than 1400 years ago St. Benedict of Nursia defined a progressive twelve steps of humility in his famous rule, that sets the tone for redemptive organizations and leadership humility. The twelve steps can be summarized in the following ways (Galbraith and Gailbraith, 2004:121-122):

  1. Revere the Simple Rules

  2. Reject your Personal Desires

  3. Obey Others

  4. Endure Affliction

  5. Confess Your Weaknesses

  6. Practice Contentment

  7. Learn Self Reproach

  8. Obey the Common Rule

  9. Understand that Silence is Golden

  10. Meditate on Humility

  11. Speak Simply

  12. Act Humbly In Appearance

"Brethren, the Holy Scripture cries to us saying: 'Every one that exalts himself shall be humbled; and he that humbles himself shall be exalted.' The first degree of humility, then, is that a man always have the fear of God before his eyes shunning all forgetfulness and that he be ever mindful of all that God hath commanded…". - St. Benedict of Nursia

Source: Galbraith, C. S. and Galbraith, O. (2004). “The Benedictine Rule of Leadership”. Avon: Avons Media.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Prayer 12 from the writings of St. Catherine of Sienna

In your nature,
eternal Godhead,
I shall come to know my nature.
And what is my nature, boundless love?
It is fire,
because you are nothing but a fire of love.
And you have given humankind
a share in this nature,
for by the fire of love
you created us.
And so with all other people
and every created thing;
you made them out of love.
O ungrateful people!
What nature has your God given you?
His very own nature!
Are you not ashamed to cut yourself off from such a noble thing
through the guilt of deadly sin?
O eternal Trinity,
my sweet love!
You, light,
give us light.
You, wisdom,
give us wisdom.
You, supreme strength,
strengthen us.
Today, eternal God,
let our cloud be dissipated
so that we may perfectly know and follow your Truth
in truth,
with a free and simple heart.
God, come to our assistance!
Lord, make haste to help us!

Taken from The Prayers of Catherine of Siena. 2nd edition. Suzanne Noffke, OP, translator and editor. (San Jose.: Authors Choice Press, 2001)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Two Papers Accepted for ILA Conference

I received a notice that two of my presentation proposals have been accepted for the International Leadership Association's International Conference, taking place this November in Los Angeles.

Here are the descriptions of the two presentations:

Towards an Indigenous, Values-based Leadership Approach in Southern Africa

Description: Recent studies have highlighted the desperate need for indigenous, innovative, values-based leadership approaches in Southern Africa. This new, emerging, post-industrial paradigm of leadership has helped South Africans to start to think of leadership as something that is done in community instead of the acts of one privileged individual.

Abstract: The South African Nguni word ubuntu, from the aphorism; “Umuntu Ngumuntu Ngabantu – A person is a person because/through others”; can be described as the capacity in African culture to express compassion, reciprocity, solidarity, dignity, humanity and mutuality in the interest of building and maintaining communities with justice and mutual caring. More than a descriptor of African values, ubuntu should be seen as a social philosophy and a spirituality that is deeply embedded in African culture and can thus be describes as the primary foundation of a South African religious worldview. Even though ubuntu finds its semantic origins in Southern Africa the concept is endemic to Sub-Saharan Africa.

The Southern African social practice of affective community, as in ubuntu, is not a concept that is easily distilled by methodological scrutiny. Superficial and expedient adoption of the construct by corporate South Africa has not helped to foster a deeper appreciation of its inherent values of interconnectedness, foundational humanity and responsibility to all. A correct way of thinking about ubuntu is to consider it as a basic approach to Southern African spirituality that is manifested in mutuality, solidarity with all and communal enterprise. It is part of the very fabric of indigenous Southern African spiritual and intellectual identity.

Ubuntu, seen in the spirit of participatory humanism, has the power to effect a revitalized commitment in South Africans in the reconstruction of organizations marked by integrity and mutuality. Leaders with the inherent values of ubuntu, as it might relate to business, have been described as, (a) people-centered, (b) humble, (c) ready to enter into dialogue, (d) caring, (e) polite, (f) tolerant, (g) considerate, (h) hospitable and (i) as having an attitude of mutual acceptance or mutuality, amongst other descriptors. An ubuntu–inspired approach to leadership sees community rather that self-determination as the essential aspect of personhood. Thus the accomplishments of the individual (leader) are the accomplishments of the community (organization). South African leaders inspired by ubuntu see their inclusive approach to leadership and business as part of their larger quest for identity. It is in reference to the community that an African person is defined. The South African Venda saying, “Muthu u bebelwa munwe – A person is born for the other”, captures the spirit of this approach of interdependence between self and community. This is more than mere interdependence, the identity of the “self” is defined in finding the “other” in community. It is in locating, entering into honest dialogue and takes steps to relocate the “self” in mutuality with the “other” that the “self” is enriched, formed and defined. This relocation of the “self” in mutuality with the “others” is more than just social, it includes economic and familial decisions.

The value and practice of mutuality in ubuntu is defined paradoxically by the differences found in the “other”. Accommodation and respect for the differences in the “other” flow from a recognition of the common humanity of the “self” and the “other” that in turns facilitates an interior transformation that allows for the radical decisions of mutuality that some South Africans business leaders have made.

The spirituality of mutuality in ubuntu, as it has influenced South African business leaders, allows for the breaking down of the superficial and artificial barriers between the individuals in the community and allows them to see the “other”, discover their mutual humanity and in doing so foster the construction of a caring community that allows for the respectful tolerance of social, cultural, economic and philosophical differences.

The Turn to Spirituality and Historic Understandings of Spiritual Leadership

Description: Contemporary research in spirituality, characterized by multi-disciplinary, post-patriarchal, telluric and post-structuralist approaches, locates the phenomena of “spirit” in the ontology of values (Kourie, 2006). Thus defined, spirituality is seen as the “ultimate” or “inner” values that provide meaning in life. This broad, defining approach provides a platform for scholars to examine a wide variety of spiritualities, ranging from religious to secular orientations. This trend in spirituality research is thus not limited to religious contexts and has also been observed in the fields of business, commerce and lately in organizational leadership studies (Winston, 2007). Current approaches in spirituality research advocate a “dialogical-phenomenological” research approach making use of the analytical, hermeneutic, mystagogic, form-descriptive, and systematic tools of theology, sociology and psychology (Kourie, 2006). This is a rich ground to explore the spiritualities that could motivate, energize and sustain the possibility of alternative, current, and sustainable models of spiritual leadership.

Abstract: Current phenomenological investigations in spirituality research distinguish three basic forms of spirituality (Waaijman, 2006): a) established schools of spirituality, (b) primordial spiritualities, and (c) counter-spirituality. Descriptions of established schools of spirituality (Waaijman, 2002) describe movements that have its origin in specific historical and socio-cultural settings that over time give rise to discernable schools or ways of the “spirit”. Research of these established schools/ways are marked by investigations of the source-experience, the formation of pedagogical systems, the socio-historical context, the emergence of a value system, the formation of the consistent whole and accessibility of others to the school/way. Primordial spirituality (Waaijman, 2002) attempts to locate spiritualities that are not closely connected with any school or way, but imbedded in ordinary human experiences such as birth, marriage, having children, experiencing death and suffering. Investigations in primordial spiritualities center around descriptions of everyday spirituality developed in the context of community, forms of indigenous spiritualities and aspects of secular spirituality. Counter movements in spirituality (Waaijman, 2002) describe approaches that offer alternate solutions to existing social and religious power structures and the research in these fields follows descriptions of systems of liminality, inferiority and marginality.

This proposal makes use of Waaijman’s (2006) matrix for defining spirituality to explore and discuss examples of spiritualities that include leadership as part of its “inner” values. The discussions are not comprehensive of the phenomena, but limited in example and brief in overview, with the intention to illustrate the link between the current turn to spirituality and the emerging field of spiritual leadership studies. Two established schools of spirituality, as it relates to spiritual leadership, are discussed: the asceticism of early Egyptian monasticism and the kenotic mysticism of St. Francis of Assisi. In exploring primordial spiritualities, the example of the participatory mutuality of the South African philosophy of ubuntu is explored. Finally one example of a counter-movement in spirituality and the implications for an understanding of spiritual leadership is presented: the witness of the Puritan and Quaker Christian traditions.

The presentation concludes with an overview and critique on past theories and models of Spiritual leadership.

Proposal References:
Kourie, C.E.T. (2006). The “Turn” to Spirituality. Acta Theologica Supplementum 8, 19-38.

Waaijman, K. (2002). Spirituality: Forms, Foundations, Methods. Leuven: Peeters.

Winston, B.E. (2007). Spirituality at workplace: Changing Management Paradigm, in Sing-Sengupta, S. and Fields, D. Integrating Spirituality and Organizational Leadership. Delhi: Macmillan.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Merton on Silence

It has been a while since I have posted something from my morning readings from the writings and journals of Thomas Merton. This morning reading is on the nature of silence. Leaders often love the sound of their voices. May we learn the wisdom and power of silence.

"Those who love their own noise are impatient of everything else. They constantly defile the silence of the forests and the mountains and the sea. They bore through silent nature in every direction with their machines, for fear that the calm world might accuse them of their own emptiness. The urgency of their swift movement seems to ignore the tranquility of nature by pretending to have a purpose. The loud plane seems for a moment to deny the reality of the clouds and of the sky, by its direction, its noise, and its pretended strength. The silence of the sky remains when the plane has gone. The tranquility of the clouds will remain when the plane has fallen apart. It is the silence of the world that is real. Our noise, our business, our purposes, and all our fatuous statements about our purposes, our business, and our noise: these are the illusion."

Thomas Merton. No Man Is An Island (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1955: 257.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Spiritual and Leadership Formation

The current edition of Leadership Talks features a short talk on Spiritual and Leadership Formation done by Dr. Doris Gomez and myself. Here is a link to the talk:

The write-up for the recording is as follows: "The New Testament speaks clearly that God's call upon our lives is to be transformed into the image of Christ. So, how does this process of transformation connect with the concepts of leadership formation? Does leadership formation happen alone or in an organizational context? In this session, Drs. Bekker and Gomez encourage leaders to delve deeper as they discuss the connection between leadership and Christian formation and how our innermost being affects how we lead, our organization and ultimately the world."

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Benedict's Rule of Leadership

In preparing for a Studies Abroad Trip to Italy next week on the leadership of Sts. Benedict, Francis and Clare of Assisi, I came across this wonderful little gem of a book: "The Benedictine Rule of Leadership: Classic Management Secrets You Can Use Today" by Craig S. Galbraith and Olliver Galbraith. It is a worthwhile read and a much needed contribution in our continued effort to recover a truly Christian approach to leadership.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Regent Press Release on Inner Resources for Leaders (IRL)

Regent University's School of Global Leadership & Entrepreneurship (GLE) explores leadership and Christian spirituality in its newest online magazine, Inner Resources for Leaders, launched May 2008.

Under the leadership of Dr. Corné Bekker and Dr. Doris Gomez, Inner Resources is a popular-press magazine that covers topics such as leadership and spirituality, the devotional habits/disciplines of leaders, devotional reflections for leaders, spiritual direction and leadership, spiritual formation and leadership, Christian leadership in history, theories and models of spiritual leadership, Christian leadership, and religious leadership. Inner Resources also profiles inspirational leaders in Christian history.

"We have a wealth of deeply spiritual and authentic leaders that have walked this difficult road before us, the ultimate being Jesus of Nazareth," noted Bekker. Through Inner Resources, "we hope to explore inner resources that could help us all locate, define and ultimately model biblical, ethical and authentic models of leadership." To stimulate scholarly debate and a free flow of ideas, Inner Resources is published in electronic format and provides access to all issues free of charge. To learn more about Inner Resources for Leaders and to register for a free subscription, visit: .

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Locating the Other

I am deeply saddened by the recent wave of xenophobic violence in my home country of South Africa. It seems that so many of our people have lost their basic humanity and have started to act in an "ubulwane" (animal-like) behavior.

I contributed a popular-press article to the Regent Global Business Review that explores the intersection between embracing our humanity and Gospel value of radical mutuality as it applies to the marketplace in Southern Africa. The summary of the article reads as follows:

"There are strong parallels between the Christian construct of kenosis and the African social philosophy of ubuntu. These parallels allow for the construction of a value–based style of leadership in business that is both African and Christian where leader and follower attain full humanity through a liberating, empowering relationship of mutuality."

May we recover our basic humanity that will allow us to recognize the humanity and value of each person.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Guanxi and Perichoretic Hospitality

I had the privilege of co-authoring a popular-press article with Franco Gandolfi in the current edition of the Regent Global Business Review. The article is entitled: "Guanxi: The Art of Finesse and Relationship Building When Conducting Business in China."

An abstract for the article reads as follows:
The notion of guanxi signifies relationships and relationship building. The concept is an essential part in the development and success of businesses in China. In order for foreign firms to successfully enter China they must have a solid understanding of the concept of guanxi. In this article, the concept of guanxi and its role in contemporary China is explored and compared with the Christian concept of perichoretic hospitality. If foreign firms intend to enter and succeed in China, an understanding of guanxi and its managerial and business implications is critical.

Here is a link to the online version of the article:

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Pilgrims on the Way of Truth

The metaphor of pilgrimage is one that has been used in Scripture (Psalm 84:5 and Hebrews 11:9) and in the history of Christianity to describe the call to a Spiritual life. The early Church taught that life is like a journey, that this world is not our ultimate destination, and that we are all on our way back to God who is our truest home (see Hebrews 11:13). Michael and Maria Ruiz Scaperlanda (2004) in their book "The Journey: A Guide for the Modern Pilgrim" describe a pilgrimage as, "the journey of those who, deliberately seek answers to the questions of meaning, purpose, and eternity. Instead of seeking fulfillment in things that will never satisfy, the sacred pilgrim sets out to find that which the heart truly desires: God's very presence." This erudite description of a "sacred pilgrim" could easily be used to consider the mission of Christian scholars as those who intend to seek diligently "answers to the questions of meaning, purpose, and eternity" in their respective field of inquiry. If Christian scholars are then indeed pilgrims on the way of truth, what are the tools they carry with them on this adventure of discovery?

There is a story told (Arnold & Fry, 1988) about the twentieth-century pilgrim William McElwee Miller that might help us to think clearly about the travel necessities required in our journey of truth-seeking: "While travelling along the border of Iran and Afghanistan, Dr. Miller had encountered a Muslim sage. Together the missionary and the mullah rode along the narrow path. In the course of their conversion the Persian asked the Presbyterian, 'What is Christianity?' Dr. Miller said, 'It is like a journey. For that trip I need four things – bread, for nourishment; water, for refreshment; a book, for direction; and opportunity, for service. These are my pilgrim fare. Jesus provided me with these things. I trust Him on my way. That is Christianity." This book that we have been given on our journey for direction is a collection of sacred Hebrew and Christian Scriptures, the Bible; through which we are invited to respond to the reality of our Creator and omnipresent God with a love and devotion that includes not only our body and heart, but also our critical faculties (see Jesus' use of the great "Shema" of Deuteronomy 6:5 in Matthew 22:37).

Exegesis is the interpretative process of finding, seeing and hearing God in the Sacred Scriptures (Deist, 1992), the collective history of those faithful pilgrims that have come before us in the journey. Christian Scholars bring their own expertise and the academic disciplines particular to their field to the reading of these Scriptures, and thus to the academic discipline of Biblical exegesis. M.D. Chenu (Holmberg, 1990), a sociologist, comments how the critical thinking skills of the academe assist us in discovering the "revealing" of God in our history and thus by application in the contemporary world: "When God reveals Himself to humans, He does not reveal Himself according to His own knowledge, but according to the human spirit, beginning with the simple rules of grammar and language. When this Divine communication is realized in a community that calls itself the Church, it follows in its humanization the laws and rules of collective knowledge, that any sociologist [or linguist, or for that matter any literate person] can observe in human societies." The literacy of each academic discipline can become a window through which we can once again observe this "Divine communication" in our world.

Richard Foster (2008), in his recent book on reading the Bible for spiritual formation, proposes four steps in reading the Scriptures that are helpful for the Christian scholar's quest for Biblical integration in the various fields of the academe:

  • Read the Scriptures literally: The Christian scholar uses all the tools of linguistic, rhetorical and communication analyses to enter into the words of the sacred texts.
  • Read the Scriptures in its historic and social contexts: The Christian scholar avoids anachronistic and ethnocentric readings of the sacred texts by utilizing the disciplines of history, sociology and anthropology to enter into the world of the people of the Bible.
  • Read the Scriptures in conversation with itself: The Christian scholar allows Scripture to interpret Scripture and forms conclusions and interpretations based on rigorous synthesis so as to enter the larger message of the sacred texts.
  • Read the Scriptures in conversation with the historic witness of the People of God: The Christian scholar joins the theological and philosophical discussions of two thousand years in a continued quest to enter into the truths of the sacred texts and its implications for our world.

We are a pilgrim people on a sacred journey in a quest to "incarnate" God's truths in our world. We do not walk blindly. We have been given a book for our journey, a sacred book that is God-breathed and "useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness" (2 Timothy 3:16); a book that provides direction for pilgrims on the way of truth.

"Christians feed on Scripture. Holy Scripture nurtures the holy community as food nurtures the human body. Christians don't simply learn or study or use Scripture; we assimilate it, take it into our lives in such ways that it gets metabolized into acts of love, cups of cold water, missions into all the world, healing and evangelism and justice in Jesus' name, hands raised in adoration of the Father, feet washed in company with the Son."
– Eugene Peterson (2006)

Arnold, D. W., & Fry, C. G. (1988). Francis: A Call to Conversion. Grand Rapids: Cantilever Books.
Deist, F. (1992). A Concise Dictionary of Theological and Related Terms. Pretoria: J. L. Van Schaik.
Foster, R. (2008). Life with God: Reading the Bible for Spiritual Transformation. New York: HarperCollins.
Holmberg, B. (1990). Sociology and the New Testament: An Appraisal. Minneapolis: Fortress Press.
Peterson, E. (2006). Eat This Book. Rand Rapids: Eerdmans.
Scaperlanda, M., & Scaperlanda, M. R. (2004). The Journey: A Guide for the Modern Pilgrim. Chicago: Loyola Press.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Inner Resources for Leaders

Inner Resources for Leaders is a new online popular-press magazine on the subject of leadership and Christian spirituality covering such topics as:
  • Leadership and Spirituality
  • The Devotional Habits/Disciplines of Leaders
  • Devotional Reflections for Leaders
  • Leadership Profiles of Inspirational Leaders in Christian History
  • Spiritual Direction and Leadership
  • Spiritual Formation and Leadership
  • Christian Leadership in History
  • Theories and Models on Spiritual Leadership
  • Christian Leadership
  • Religious Leadership

I am overjoyed at working with Dr. Doris Gomez as a co-editor on this project. The bi-monthly magazine will launch later this week, but here is a link for an early preview:

Monday, April 28, 2008

Launch of Emerging Leadership Journeys

A new journal showcasing some of the best papers of first year students in the Ph.D. of Organizational Leadership was launched today. The journal is entitled, Emerging Leadership Journeys and my esteemed colleague and the director of the Ph.D. program at the School of Global Leadership and Entrepreneurship, Dr. Mihai Bocarnea, is the editor.

Dr. Bocarnea introduces the first edition of Emerging Leadership Journeys:

"Welcome to the inaugural issue of Emerging Leadership Journeys (ELJ). This first issue includes the top five student papers submitted during the first two courses of the students’ doctoral journey through the Ph.D. in Organizational Leadership program. In this issue, Roger Given’s literature review investigates the impact of the transformational leadership style on organizational and personal outcomes of the follower. John Smith’s exegesis advances a Spirit-empowered leadership model while Michelle Vondey’s model paper addresses the effect of follower self-concept and self-determination on follower citizenship behavior. Robert Van Engen’s conceptual paper reflects on organizational metaphors, and George West’s model paper considers the relationships among organizational mission, power, structure, and resources. "

One of the articles in this first edition is an exegetic-based exploratory paper by John, P. Smith on a possible model of Spirit-inspired leadership in the writings of Luke. It is a worthwhile read. Here is the abstract of the paper:
Acts 2:1-47 provides a snapshot of the Early Church on the Day of Pentecost; a day that ushers in the promised baptism in the Spirit, also known as the great outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples according to the promise of power for mission (Acts 1:8). This paper utilizes intertexture analysis in socio-rhetorical genre in order to present Luke’s perspective in the Acts of the Apostles as it relates to divine empowerment of leaders. The elements of intertexture analysis include oral-scribal intertexture, historical intertexture, social intertexture, and cultural intertexture. This paper examines how these elements are applied in Acts 2 to formulate a model of Spirit-empowered leadership. Contemporary social and cultural theories of leadership are presented in order to integrate a contemporary leadership understanding with the Spirit-empowered leadership found in Acts 2.

Here is a link to the journal and Smith's paper:

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Frugality and Christian Witness in America: Learning from Puritan and Quaker Christian Traditions

Ethics of frugality have long been part of the economic norm of most Christian traditions (Nash, 1995). Weber (1958) notes that frugality combined with the values of industry, equity, generosity, and solidarity formed the core of a “Protestant ethic” and went on to describe it as “worldly asceticism”. But within the current Western culture of “progressive plenty”, frugality has been portrayed as “unfashionable, unpalatable, and even unpatriotic” (Nash 1995:138). Two spiritual counter-movements that had its start in the seventeenth century (it could be argued that both were birthed in response the religious formalism and economic excesses of seventeenth century Anglicanism) had the ethics of frugality at part of its core, “inner” values (Callen, 2001).

George Fox (1624-1691), a laymen started a counter-movement (later known as the Quakers) centered in the belief that a new age of the Spirit has come and that the ultimate guide of faith was the indwelling presence of the Spirit. Fox encouraged voluntary simple living based on the guidance of the Spirit and did not allow any ministers to receive any form of monetary payment for ministry.

During this same time period another spiritual movement arose from the critique that the emphasis of “salvation by faith alone” of the Protestant churches resulted in little interest in serious spiritual formation. This counter-movement became known as the Puritan revival and soon sought to balance Protestant “faith-alone emphasis” with elements of patristic and medieval spiritualities, amongst those elements the disciplines of frugality and simplicity (Callen, 2001).

The genius of both the marginal counter-movements of Puritan and Quaker spiritualities is that they both “rediscovered the power of moving from speculation to experience, thereby providing verification of the reality of spiritual experience by the only evidence which is convincing, ‘the evidence of the changed lives’…” (Callen, 2001:140). In time, both these counter-movements became known for the radical commitments and stances their adherents embodied, such as resistance against slavery, complete commitment to non-violence and the values of frugality and experiential simplicity. It is important to note that the discipline of frugality and simplicity were not limited to economic and lifestyle choices, such as where to live, what the wear, what kind of work to do; but also intra-personal (such as worship, introspection, etc) and inter-personal dynamics. The contemporary Quaker author, Robert L. Smith (1998:63) summarizes the role of simplicity in Christian witness: “Simplicity helps us to live to the point, to clear the way to the best, to keep first things first.”

Puritan and Quaker spiritualities have long influenced Christian proponents and activists of a simpler lifestyle (Bittinger, 1978, Bush, 1999, and Fager, 1971). The Christian ethicist James A. Nash (1995:140-144), deeply inspired by Puritan and Quaker thought, argues that in order to bring a contemporary revival and reformation to contemporary Christian witness, that one needs to not only bring back the Puritan value of frugality, but also that frugality must be seen as a “subversive virtue”. There is a strong counter-cultural tone inherent to Nash’s language and proposals. Nash (1995:140-144) offers four characteristics of this revitalized virtue as it could operate within a spiritual counter-movement:

  • Frugality rejects the popular assumption that humans are insatiable creatures, ceaselessly acquisitive for economic gains and goods and egoistically committed to pleasure maximization.
  • Frugality resists the temptations of consumer promotionalism – particularly the ubiquitous advertising that pressures us through sophisticated techniques to want more, bigger, better, faster, newer, more attractive, or “state of the art.”
  • Frugality struggles against the various psychological and sociological dynamics, beyond promotionalism, that stimulates overconsumption.
  • Ethically conscious frugality rejects the prevailing ideology of indiscriminate, material economic growth.

The transformative, witness-facilitating, counter-cultural values of frugality and simplicity have started to make something of a comeback in larger Christianity. At the International Consultation on Simple Lifestyle, sponsored by the Lausanne Committee on World Evangelization’s Theology and Education Group (held at Hoddesdon, England, March 17-21, 1980) a statement was produced and endorsed, entitled, “An Evangelical Commitment to Simple Lifestyle”, which created a kind of Christian manifesto for downshifting. Amongst the many statements concerning the need and practice of simplicity, the following commitments regarding personal witness were expressed (Stott and Sider, 1980): “Our Christian obedience demands a simple lifestyle, irrespective of the needs of others….While some of us have been called to live among the poor, and others to open our homes to the needy, all of us are determined to develop a simpler lifestyle. We intend to reexamine our income and expenditure, in order to manage on less and give more away….Yet we resolve to renounce waste and oppose extravagance in personal living, clothing, and housing, travel and church buildings. We also accept the distinction between necessities and luxuries, creative hobbies and empty status symbols, modesty and vanity, occasional celebrations and normal routine, and between the service of God and slavery to fashion.”

The Puritan and Quaker expressions of simplicity and frugality have recently surfaced in unexpected blends with other Christian traditions. Olson (2005) reports that large communities blending Puritan simplicity and Pentecostal fervor are surfacing in rural Texas, joining their voices with those who offer “an alternative to the American Dream, a competing vision of the future - one that promises fullness of being in solidarity” (Nash 1995:159).

Downshifting in Puritan and Quaker spiritualities is integral to their missiological praxis. The Puritan and Quaker calls to simple living through the practice of the disciplines of frugality are counter-cultural calls to authentic Christian witness and sincere efforts to model the anti-materialism truths of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to a world steeped in an ideology of “more, better and faster”.

"Two things I ask of you, O LORD; do not refuse me before I die:
Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, 'Who is the LORD ' or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.”
(Proverbs 30:7-9, NIV)


Bittinger, E.F. (1978). The simple life: a chapter in the evolution of a doctrine. Brethren Life and Thought 23.2, 104-114.

Bush, T. (1999). Plain Living: The Search for Simplicity. Christian Century 116:30, 676-681.

Callen, B.L. (2001). Authentic Spirituality. Rand Rapids: Baker Academic.

Fager, C. (1971). Experimenting with a simpler life style. Christian Century 88.1, 9-13.

Nash, J.A. (1995). Toward the revival and reform of the subversive virtue. Annual of the Society of Christian Ethics 15.1, 137-160.

Smith, R.L. (1998). A Quaker Book of Wisdom. London: Orion.

Stott, J.R.W. and Sider, R.J. (1980). An Evangelical Commitment to Simple Lifestyle. Occasional Bulletin of Missionary Research 4.4, 177-179.

Weber, M. (1958). The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Updated Program for the Biblical Perspectives in Leadership Research Roundtable

I am happy to announce that we have accepted two more papers for the Biblical Perspectives in Leadership Research Roundtable (May 16-17, 2008). Both papers are from Louis Morgan, a phenomenal professor from Lee University and a current Ph.D. student in Organizational Leadership at Regent University (I am deeply fortunate to be the chair for his dissertation work). The titles of Louis' papers are:

  • "Beyond Serving Others: Continual Self-Sacrifice as Normative Christianity.”
  • “The Admonitions of St. Francis: Implications for Servant and Transformational Leaders.”

For more information on the roundtable see:

Also check out Louis' blog:

Under the radar: Pentecostalism in South Africa and its potential social and economic role

There is an interesting new study that has been done by the Center for Development and Enterprise in South Africa on the role of Pentecostal Religion in socio-economic development in Southern Africa. Lydia van den Bergh, who now works at the Center, alerted me of this important study. The write up on this study is as follows:

"Noting the explosive growth in Pentecostal churches in post-apartheid South Africa, CDE, in conjunction with Professor Peter Berger of Boston University and Professor James Hunter of the University of Virginia, obtained funding to undertake research with the aim of opening up a discussion of the possible developmental implications of this phenomenon.

This project has revealed a world of activity, energy, and entrepreneurship previously unknown to this otherwise well-informed South African think-tank. Flying under the radar screens of politicians, intellectuals, academics, and journalists are a large number of institutions and individuals that are actively concerned about and working on questions of values and personal behaviour. These concerns include family life, personal responsibility, unemployment, skills creation, and a range of other national concerns.

This report describes CDE’s project, places it in context, outlines its findings, and suggests ways in which policy debates in South Africa might take account of the phenomenal rise of Pentecostal Christian churches."

For more information and a short summary of this study, see: (

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Louise Kretzschmar on Moral Leadership

I read a great article this morning by an acquaintance from UNISA (University of South Africa) from the Journal of Theology for Southern Africa. Louise Kretzschmar hits the proverbial hammer on the nail with this. A short excerpt:

"Moral leadership is as essential now to the well being of society as it has ever been. Faced with poverty, suffering, injustice and corruption, a deep longing rises up in the human heart for leaders that can be trusted, even loved: for leaders that take individuals and communities where they need to go. towards wholeness of life. Simultaneously, the cost of moral leadership is high, and few are willing to pay the price. Struggle, courage, sacrifice and pain are deliberately avoided in societies that seek comfort, happiness and the promotion of narrow self and group interest. Yet. ironically. Christians believe that it is in the abandonment of selfishness and dishonest defensiveness that true human identity is discovered, and in the relinquishing of narrow group interests that genuine community is found. These difficult truths are encapsulated in Jesus' teachings about leadership as service (Mk 10:35-45) and the need to die. like a grain of wheat, in order to bear fruit (Jn 12:24-26). "

Kretzschmar, L (2007). The formation of moral leaders in South Africa: a Christian-ethical analysis of some essential elements. Journal of Theology for Southern Africa no 128 Jl 2007, p 18-36.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Merton on the Mercy of God

I am persuaded that authentic leadership starts with the simple understanding that all authority in leadership is delegated authority. All power ultimately belongs to God (Psalm 115:1). When we lead, we should be careful to tread lightly, remembering that we are working in God's domain. Thomas Merton helps us in this regard by reminding us of the ever-present refrain of God's mercy in the Holy Scriptures:

The parable of the Good Samaritan is a revelation of God in a word that has great importance through all the Scriptures from beginning to the end. It is a revelation of what the prophet Hosea says, speaking for the invisible God, "I will have mercy and not sacrifices." What is this mercy which we find spoken everywhere in the Scriptures, and especially in the Psalms? The Vulgate rings with misericordia as though with a deep church bell. Mercy is the "burden" or the "bourdon," it is the brass bell and under-song of the whole Bible. But the Hebrew word-chesed-which we render as mercy, misericordia, says more still than mercy.

Chesed (mercy) is also fidelity, it is also strength. It is the faithful, the indefectible mercy of God. It is ultimate and unfailing because it is the power that binds one person to another, in a covenant of wills. It is the power that binds us to God because He has promised us mercy and will never fail in His promise. For He cannot fail. It is the power and the mercy which are most characteristic of Him, which come nearer to the mystery into which we enter when all concepts darken and evade us.

Am I modelling God's mercy in the way that I lead today?

Thomas Merton. Seasons of Celebration. (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1950): 175.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Program for Biblical Perspectives in Leadership Research Roundtable

I have completed a preliminary program for the Biblical Perspectives in Leadership Roundtable (May 16-17, 2008). I am looking forward to work and learn with these esteemed scholars!

1. Banks, Bonnie: "Jesus’ Method of Inclusion in Leadership: A Model for Innovation and Creativity in the Early Church."
2. Banks, Bonnie: "Was Moses Wrong? Ethical Dimensions in Leadership."
3. Bekker, Corné: "“On This Rock: Charismatic Mediators and Weber’s Theory of Religious Leadership in Matthew 16:13-20.”
4. Jenks, Deborah: "Transformation: An Examination of Jesus’ Creative Use of the Matthew 13 Parables and Theory U."
5. Petties, Vivian: "A Biblical Perspective on Women in Leadership: A Fresh Look at I Timothy 2:8-15."
6. Rittle, Dennis: "Managing the Conflict from Within: A Spiritual Model."
7. Self, Catherine: "Incarnational Leadership as Reflected in St. Clare’s Third Letter to Agnes: A Sensory-Aesthetic Study."
8. Self, Catherine: "The Leadership of Jesus: A Literature Review and Research Proposal."
9. Spencer, Jan: "Peter: A Phenomenology of Leadership."
10. Upsher-Myles, Chantel: "Exploring Paul’s Global Leadership Strategy Through 1 Corinthians 9:19-23."
11. Upsher-Myles, Chantel: "Organizational Leadership Lessons Based on the Pauline Epistles."
12. West, Bud: "Implications for Leadership in the Evaluation of Scripture: An Ideological Review of Matthew 8:5-13."
13. Wright, David: "The Leadership of Jesus in the Succession Process of the Disciples: A Dual Focus of Servanthood in Small Groups.”

I will update the program on here as any changes occur. For more information in the roundtable see:

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Biblical Perspectives in Leadership Roundtable (May 16-17, 2008)

This is the second year for the Biblical Perspectives in Leadership Research Roundtable aimed to provide a discussion and research forum for scholars, researchers, practitioners and ministers who work in leadership utilizing a biblical perspective. Representing the multidisciplinary fields of biblical, social-science, historical and leadership studies, the Biblical Perspectives in Leadership Research Roundtable hopes to explore, engage and extend the field of knowledge and understanding of the phenomenon of leadership as found within the contexts of the Hebrew and Christian scriptures.

To stimulate scholarly debate and a free flow of ideas, the proceedings from the Biblical Perspectives in Leadership Research Roundtable will be posted online and papers of high quality will be considered for the Journal of Biblical Perspectives in Leadership (JBPL).

Friday, March 28, 2008

John Michael Talbot - God Alone is Enough - from a prayer of Teresa of Avila (1515-1582)

Let nothing trouble you.

Let nothing scare you.

All is fleeting.

God alone is unchanging.


Everything obtains.

Who possesses God

Nothing wants.

God alone suffices.

From The Collected Works of St. Teresa of Avila Volume Three translated by Kieran Kavanaugh and Otilio Rodriquez (c) 1985 by Washington Province of Discalced Carmelites ICS Publications 2131 Lincoln Road, N.E. Washington, D.C. 20002 U.S.A.