The early church faced significant challenges that required strong leadership skills to be addressed effectively. At a time when the church was expanding into diverse cultural, economic, political and social boundaries amidst resistance from different quotas, Paul exhibited exceptional leadership that has become a timeless framework for Christian leadership across all cultures. The lessons from Paul’s leadership journey as described in the General Pauline Epistles provide a good source of scriptural guidance for global leaders maneuvering the currently challenging political, social, and economic times.
Scriptural Guidance for Global Leaders
Leadership by Example
Through the Pauline Epistles, Paul describes various timeless lessons for global teachers that are applicable in a wide array of situations. The lessons are presented both explicitly and implicitly through personal experiences as well as through discourses directed to others. The first mark of Paul’s leadership as presented in various texts is that of selflessness. In the Epistle to Philemon 1:18, Paul directs that any debts owed by Onesimus to be charged to him by saying “If he has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to me”. Paul’s commitment to self-sacrifice is further seen in his willingness to lay down his life so that others may come to Christ as presented in Romans 9:3 in which he says “For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh”. This is an embodiment of the selflessness that global leaders are supposed to show in dealing with their subjects of lower social status (Hines, 2018). Lett (2014) describes this context as servant leadership due to its focus on the value-added to others than to self. In most cases, however, this is rarely the case as the political system is characterized by a lot of greed. The contemporary times do not even call for leaders to lay down their lives for their subjects, and the few who actually do lose their lives involuntarily so that their subjects can be saved from them. Even in religious circles, it is difficult to get leaders who exhibit the kind of selflessness that Paul exhibited. Most of them would rather sacrifice their subjects.
The second leadership lesson shared by Apostle Paul was on leadership by example. In Galatians 2:14, Paul admonishes Peter for not being a good example to his followers by asserting that Peter was Jew, yet lived like a Gentile while expecting others to live as Jews. The choice of a different path from that which one expects others to follow is a violation of the golden rule to do unto others what one wishes to be done to them. Such choice indicates that the leader considers themselves more special than the others and would wish to be treated differently from others. In 2 Thessalonians 3:9, Paul tells the Thessalonians that “we did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to make ourselves a model for you to follow.” This direction confirms the role of leaders in role modeling and calls for global leaders to be an embodiment of the kind of behaviors they expect others to portray. Other evidences of Paul’s emphasis on leadership by example can be found in various scriptures including 1 Corinthians 11:1, which directs the followers to imitate Paul as he also imitates Christ. This instruction to imitate him is a portrayal of leadership by example in the most perfect sense and contradicts the conventional ‘follow what I say and not what I say’ practice that contemporary leaders are used to.
Across the world today, leaders are driven by greed and any attempt to lead by example is made just for PR purposes. Examples of great global leaders who truly led by example in selflessness and practice include Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Junior and Nelson Mandela, and their legacies live long posthumously (Dhiman, 2015). Paul’s emphasis is that the examples leaders show others must be righteous and not negative in any way. Paul’s leadership style has been described as both anachronistic and transactional-transformational based on his exemplification of what was expected of the followers (Cooper, 2005). This is a lesson that is worth learning by world leaders. In the current times, leaders exemplify oppression, discrimination, and corruption more than the people they lead. Presidential elections all over the world are often characterized by complaints of rigging and regrets (Hoseah, 2014). The poor exemplification of leaders has created an environment in which various vices including corruption are the norm (Hoseah, 2014). For apostle Paul, the right kind of leadership is that in which the leaders adhere to the same laws that they expect their subjects to adhere to rather than holding their subjects to more stringent ideals than they can follow.
Another feature that Paul exhibits in his epistles as a leadership trait is that of genuine care for others. According to Upshur-Myles (2008), Paul’s emphasis on valuing others is seen in his constant prayer for them. In 1 Corinthians 1:4, Paul tells his followers that “I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus.” Several other instances are seen in which Paul communicates to the different churches and to Timothy, telling them that he prays for them and that they should also pray for others. In 1 Corinthians 15:3, Paul says to the Corinthians that “For I handed on to you as of first importance what I also received.” This is an indication that Paul felt that the church in Corinth also had equal rights to the word as he did even though they were not Jews and could have been considered not to be heirs to the faith hence confirming that he valued them. Similarly, global leaders should be able to exhibit this kind of behaviour by showing care and understanding to others. In an environment in which the leader values the followers as much as they value themselves, they would not deny their followers the social services needed. A communist political system exemplifies this kind of environment to some extent as it ensures that all citizens have access to the resources they need.
As a leader, Paul also exhibited a strong sense of self-discipline and character. According to Selver (2013), Paul exemplified exceptional self-discipline both in public and in private life. In the letter to the Hebrews 12:11, Paul says that “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful”. He further points out that however painful discipline would be, he had made the decision to remain consistently on the path towards salvation. 1 Corinthians 9:27 describes Paul’s perspective about being self-disciplined in the body by saying, “No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize”. This emphasis on focusing on his goal so as not to be considered unworthy of the price is a confirmation of Paul’s commitment to character building, a trait that is also exhibited through his admonitions on purity, avoiding sexual immorality, love for others and faith in God, all of which are described extensively in various epistles (Keathley IV, 2004). These are lessons that global leaders ought to exhibit, avoiding scandal and adopting a way of life that shows pride in their activities. Behaviors such as murder in retaliation for wrong-doing, selfish desires and untamed sexual desires are unexpected from global leaders and should not be observed, which is contrary to the conventional observations (Hosea, 2014). However, the contemporary leadership is characterized by several of these vices and some are even accepted as the norm.
Apostle Paul and Diversity
One of the strategies that Paul used to exhibit leadership in the best way possible is through supporting diversity. The world is increasingly globalized and diversity in political, ethnic, cultural, economic and social is becoming the norm not only in the workplace but also in conventional leadership contexts. Any world leader ought to be able to manage diversity in can be considered as a guideline into how global leaders can transcend the extant boundaries.
One of the most profound evidences of Paul’s support for diversity can be seen in his recognition of the diverse gifts given by the Holy Spirit and how each of those gifts has value in the house. Additionally, he recognizes that the gifts given by the Holy Spirit are all unique and all contribute to the oneness of the body of Christ.
The support for diversity is also seen in Paul’s focus on both Jews and Gentiles in equal measure and the recognition that they both matter in the body of Christ. In Galatians 5:2, Paul says that “Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all.” This statement targeting the Gentiles was aimed at showing them that Christ did not consider circumcision, a cultural practice, to be of importance before God. Similarly, if world leaders were to exhibit equal concern for all their followers regardless of the existing differences between them, they would not be able to see physical differences as justifications for discrimination. Paul had been influenced by multiple cultures including the four variants of Jewish culture and the Hellenistic cultures (Scholz, 2013). The experience of different cultures could have been the motivation behind Paul’s non-discriminative character. In the current times, globalization has brought together people of diverse cultures and the ability to learn from that diversity and thus avoid discrimination is what influences the behaviors of world leaders in a multicultural environment.
Paul’s value for diversity resulted in the build-up of his follower-ship. In the history of Christianity, Paul is reported to have been only second to Jesus Christ in terms of the number of followers even though he had not been one of the disciples. Specifically, Sanders (1999) points out that Paul’s followers did not go after him because of his position but rather because of the influence he had on them through his ideals and value for diversity. Specifically, Lee (2003) reports that people of all cultural backgrounds and social classes followed Paul from fugitive slaves to government officials of Caesar’s court. This influence began in the early years of Paul’s life as a persecutor of the Church, when he had significant impacts on the enemies of the church and whatever he said was the law. Leaders across the world can exhibit this kind of leadership, whereby their recognition of the value of others is what drives people to them.
Recommendations for Global Leaders
The current political situation in the world makes it difficult for global leaders to perfectly mirror the leadership principles and strategies exhibited by Paul. The recommendation for global leaders is to model the social justice theory under the original position as described by John Rawls. The original position is characterized by the assumption of the existence of a veil of ignorance, beyond which people are not influenced by any discrepancies between them in decision making (Marens, 2007). The decisions made behind that veil of ignorance are non-partisan and thus embody focus on social justice for all. If all global leaders can be able to assume this original position, all their decisions would be non-discriminative, selfless and reflective of leadership by example. These virtues have been exemplified before by Mahatma Gandhi (Iodice, 2017), and he can be assumed to have been guided by the ideals of social justice. Since one of the outcomes is leadership by example, the followers of such global leaders would also be able to reflect the characteristics of social justice.
The Pauline Epistles give perspectives into the life of Apostle Paul that are essential lessons for modern day leaders. From these epistles, Paul is depicted as an exemplary leader through his behaviors as well as his instructions to the different churches and people to whom he writes. Some of the exceptional traits confirmed through the epistles include selflessness, value for others, and appreciation of diversity and strength of character among other traits. Global leaders can exhibit these traits in different ways, but this would require a strong sense of self-discipline and willingness for self-sacrifice. The starting step towards realizing this is by adopting the social justice theory perspective of Rawls, in which the assumption of the existence of a veil of ignorance facilitates non-partisan decision making.
Cooper, M. (2005). The Transformational Leadership of the Apostle Paul: A Contextual and Biblical Leadership for Contemporary Ministry. Christian Education Journal: Research on Educational Ministry, 2(1), 48-61. Retrieved from https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/073989130500200103
Dhiman, S. (2015). Gandhi: A values-based leader par excellence. In: Gandhi and Leadership. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Retrieved from https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1057/9781137492357_5
Hines, M. (2018, April 6). Lessons for counselors from the Pauline Epistles. Faith Biblical Counseling. Retrieved from https://blogs.faithlafayette.org/counseling/2018/04/lessons-for-counselors-from-the-pauline-epistles/
Hosea, E. G. (2014). Corruption as a global hindrance to promoting ethics, integrity, and sustainable development in Tanzania: the role of the anti-corruption agency. Journal of Global Ethics, 10(3), 384-392. Retrieved from https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/17449626.2014.973995
Iodice, E. (2017). The courage to lead of Gandhi. The Journal of Values-Based Leadership, 10(2). Retrieved from https://scholar.valpo.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1192&context=jvbl
Keathley IV, H. (2004, June 26). 1 Corinthians: Introduction and outline. Bible Organization. Retrieved from https://bible.org/article/i-corinthians-introduction-and-outline
Lee, J. K. (2003). Leadership characteristics of the apostle Paul that can provide model to today’s BBFK pastors. Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary, Thesis Project. Retrieved from https://digitalcommons.liberty.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1322&context=doctoral
Lett, T. D. (2014). Biblical lessons for educational leaders: The servant leadership of King David, Apostle Paul, Dr. Joe Hairston, Dr. Tim Markley. Dissertations, 901. Retrieved from https://ecommons.luc.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1900&context=luc_diss
Marens, R. (2007). Returning to Rawls: Social contracting, social justice, and transcending the limitations of Locke. Journal of Business Ethics, 75(1), 63-76. Retrieved from https://www.jstor.org/stable/25123975?seq=1
Sanders, J. O. (1999). Dynamic spiritual leadership: Leading like Paul. Discovery House Publishers.
Scholz, D. J. (2013). The Pauline letters: Introducing the New Testament. Anselm Academic.
Selver, P. (2013). Spiritual values in leadership and the effects on organizational performance: A literature review. Masters’ Thesis- University of Northern British Columbia. Retrieved from https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/84874774.pdf
Upshur-Myles, C. C. (2008). Organizational leadership lessons based on the Pauline Epistles. Biblical Perspectives. Retrieved from https://www.regent.edu/acad/global/publications/bpc_proceedings/2008/upshur-mylesOrganizational.pdf