Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Pitfalls of Servant Leadership

I've been plodding through David Wells' No Place for Truth, Or "Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology?" The plodding is my fault, not his. The book is packed with arguments that started connecting scattered dots in my brain. One idea smacked me upside the head from out of nowhere over the weekend. Towards the latter stages of the book Wells discusses 20th century evangelicalism's trend of mirroring American culture to appeal to the lowest common denominator of the masses. He takes about four pages to illustrate this transition in the content of Christianity Today from 1959 to 1989. He then proceeds to explain how the best leaders today seem to be the best pollsters—those who can best figure out what the masses want are those that can best attract and keep a crowd. That's the basic context for this quote from pages 214–215:
To be sure, this is not a flattering way of describing those leaders who have succumbed to popular evangelical sentiment. It is more flattering to talk instead of 'servant leadership.' That has the ring of piety about it. But it is a false piety, for it plays on an understanding of servanthood that is antithetical to the biblical understanding. Contemporary servant leaders are typically individuals without any ideas of their own, people whose convictions shift with the popular opinion to which they assiduously attune themselves, people who bow to the wishes of 'the body' from whom their direction and standing derive. They lead by holding aloft moist fingers to sense the changes in the wind.
To be sure, this is not the kind of servant leadership Christ modeled, but Wells made me wonder to what degree it is the kind of "servant leadership" we see today.

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