An Artistic Painting of Saints

1. Narrative Leadership and the Apostle Paul: A Multi-Disciplinary Approach (Intro)

Victor C. Gavino: Draft of the intro to a dissertation to be submitted in partial fulfillment of a PhD in Religious Studies, McGill University

Victor C. Gavino: Draft of the intro to a dissertation to be submitted in partial fulfillment of a PhD in Religious Studies, McGill University

Link to draft of Chapter 1 (Review of Literature)


Christian leadership in antiquity and in the present era have often been analysed using theories and models appropriated from business organisational research.1For a comprehensive list of business leadership categories, see Northouse (2019). These business categories are invoked in the following: Agosto (2005); Ascough and Cotton (2006); Green et al. (2009); Puls, Ludden, and Freemyer (2014); Åkerlund (2014); Barentsen (2015); Button (2016) Reciprocally, business organisations have begun to draw from general notions on spirituality as well as from Biblical text2See Woolfe (2002) as pathways to leadership development.3See for example the collection of essays on the topic in Garg and Punia (2022) This bidirectional flow of theorising may be traced back more than a century to the ideas of Max Weber on the three types of legitimation of authority: rational, traditional and charismatic.4See the 2019 English translation by Keith Tribe of Weber and Tribe (2019) pp 341-341. Weber had read the work of Rudolf Sohm on charisma in Christian organisations and imported it as one of the grounds of authority beyond the boundaries of Christianity.5See the analysis on the link between Sohm and Weber by Massimo (2020), and Derman (2012) Essential to the further comprehension of the nature and mechanics of this bidirectionality is a critical examination of Biblical text relating to leadership in its socio-historical setting, analysed within the bounds of current leadership theories. This rigorous and analytical approach is anticipated to be corrective to imprecise and inappropriate statements that have attempted to link modern leadership theory to presumed leadership behaviours and practice in first-century communities identified in Biblical text. The quote below from Richard Ascough and Charles Cotton is an example that requires further examination:6Ascough and Cotton (2006)

“If corporate leaders have the time and inclination to go to church, they probably hear Paul’s words most Sundays… a great deal of Paul can be found in postmodern approaches to leadership: passion, continuous dialogue with followers, a focus on the future… a search for new ways of seeing the world… (when) the old ways need changing.”

In contrast, Brent Ducker and Jean-François Racine observe that:7Duckor and Racine (2022). p411.

“… his (Paul’s) leadership style and substantive message collides with the corporate model assumed by many of today’s authors.”

The implied one-to-one correspondence between elements of Pauline text and business leadership practices is at best naïve. Ellen B. Aitken offers a nuanced and important counterpoint to Ascough and Cotton:8Aitken (2009). p37.

“It might be supposed that some of the texts of the New Testament could provide pictures or descriptions of leadership in the earliest Christian communities. This is a supposition that goes to the heart of the nature of the texts in the New Testament. It assumes that it is possible to move directly from the texts themselves to a reconstruction of social history. But these texts provide neither eyewitness accounts nor direct refiections of life in the ancient communities from which they derive.”

While Aitken’s article limits itself to pastoral leadership, the stated underlying concern always applies whenever Biblical text is mined for behavioural templates such as those proper to business organisations. Leadership behaviour is environmentally, culturally, and contextually sensitive; it is perilous at best to attempt to use current theory to lift alleged leadership principles from Biblical text without accounting for the circumstances or the setting from which it arose. A critical examination of Biblical text alleged to contain elements of leadership principles requires the mediation of socio-historical analysis.

A review of current literature reveals that the flow of knowledge in leadership research pertinent to Christian organisations goes beyond bidirectionality; rather, it draws from, and interacts with a wide variety of academic and professional disciplines (Figure 1). First, there is significant overlap between the fields of Leadership Studies and Organisational Studies.9Depicted in Figure 1 by the bold bidirectional arrows connecting the nodes “Leadership Studies” and “Organisational Studies.” An organisation is a social structure characterized by a set of interactions among its members (e.g., some form of leader-follower relationship) who care for and work in concert towards attaining an agreed-upon goal. See Valeri (2021). Leadership according to Yammarino (2013) is: “Leadership is a multi-level (person, dyad, group, collective) leader-follower interaction process that occurs in a particular situation (context) where a leader (e.g., superior, supervisor) and followers (e.g., subordinates, direct reports) share a purpose (vision, mission) and jointly accomplish things (e.g., goals, objectives, tasks) willingly (e.g., without coercion).” The parallelism is inescapable between the two fields of study.

Thesis intro - Figure 1
Figure 1. Flow of knowledge among fields of study pertinent to studies of Christian leadership.

Second, both leadership and organisational studies each draw from and interact with theories proper to the Humanities and to Sociological Sciences, as well with models developed in applied fields (e.g., business organisations). Third, Christian Leadership paradigms or models are framed around either hermeneutical or socio-historical readings of Biblical text, which, itself, draws insights from the Humanities and the Sociological Sciences.

This dissertation will focus on the “Christian Leadership – Antiquity” node of Fgiure 1, a descriptive approach. It will bring business leadership research into dialogue with Biblical studies in a multidisciplinary approach that distinguishes historicist and social-scientific approaches from Biblical theological hermeneutics, especially where Biblical text is read as normative and prescriptive. The expected contributions of this thesis are new pathways that will augment the flow of knowledge depicted in Figure 1 to that represented in Figure 2.

Figure 2. The bi-directional dotted-line arrows anticipate how this thesis will broaden the flow of knowledge among the indicated domains.
Figure 2. The bi-directional dotted-line arrows anticipate how this thesis will broaden the flow of knowledge among the indicated domains.
The Thesis

Notwithstanding historical-cultural distance, Paul’s epistolary self-representation responds well to analysis in terms of late-modern Narrative Leadership, Contingency and Followership theories. This new approach stands in contrast to most contemporary appropriations of Pauline texts in leadership studies.

This dissertation will study narrative sections in in 1 Thess 1:2 to 3:13, Gal 1:11 to 2:21, and Phil 1:7 to 1:26 and 3:2-14, all from indubitably Pauline letters. This diversity of audience should reveal whether Paul’s narratives found in the three letters differ as a function of the socio-historical characteristics of the recipients. If so, the differences in the composition of the narratives, a characteristic of a contemporary understanding of Narrative Leadership, will enhance the analytical power of the thesis in answering these questions:

  • Did Paul’s narratives follow the patterns of narrative leadership as defined and understood in current literature?
  • If so, how did the situational variables modulate Paul’s expression of narrative leadership?

It is anticipated that the results of this thesis could illuminate and correct non-critical appropriation of Biblical leadership narratives in leadership dialogue.

  • Agosto, Efrain. 2005. Servant Leadership: Jesus & Paul. St. Louis, Mo.: Chalice Press.
  • Aitken, Ellen Bradshaw. 2009. “To Remember the Lord Jesus: Leadership and Memory in the New Testament.” Anglican Theological Review 91 (1): 31-46.
  • Åkerlund, Truls. 2014. “Leadership in Corinth: Reciprocity and Leader-Member Exchange in 2 Corinthians 6:11-13.” Journal of Biblical Perspectives in Leadership 6 (1): 162-175.
  • Ascough, Richard S., and Charles A. Cotton. 2006. Passionate Visionary: Leadership Lessons from the Apostle Paul. Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Publishers.
  • Barentsen, Jack. 2015. “Church Leadership as Adaptive Identity: Construction in a Changing Social Context.” Journal of Religious Leadership 14 (2): 49-79.
  • Button, M. Bruce. 2016. “Paul’s Method of Influence in 1 Thessalonians: Original Research.” In die Skriflig 50 (2): 1-9.
  • Derman, Joshua. 2012. “Charismatic Rulership.” In Max Weber in Politics and Social Thought: From Charisma to Canonization, edited by Joshua Derman, In Ideas in Context, 176-215. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Duckor, Brent, and Jean-François Racine. 2022. “Leading in the Time that Remains: The Passion and Complexity of Paul’s Leadership in 1 Corinthians.” Science et Esprit 74 (2-3): 409-431.
  • Garg, Naval, and Bijender Punia. 2022. Handbook of Research on Integrating Spirituality in Modern Workplaces: Challenges and Opportunities. Hershey, PA: IGI Global.
  • Green, Mark J., Stephanie Kodatt, Charles A. Salter, Phyllis Duncan, Diana Garza-Ortiz, and Esther Chavez. 2009. “Assessing the Leadership Style of Paul and Cultural Congruence of the Christian Community at Corinth using Project Globe Constructs.” Journal of Biblical Perspectives in Leadership 2 (2): 3-28.
  • Massimo, Palma. 2020. Charisma and Demons. Sources and Effects of a Political Concept. Scienza & Politica 32 (63): 143-159.
  • Northouse, Peter Guy. 2019. Leadership: Theory and Practice. Eighth Edition. ed. Los Angeles: SAGE Publications.
  • Puls, Timothy R., Laverne L. Ludden, and James Freemyer. 2014. “Authentic Leadership and its Relationship to Ministerial Effectiveness.” The Journal of Applied Christian Leadership 8 (1): 55-75.
  • Valeri, Marco. 2021. Organizational studies : implications for the strategic management. Cham: Springer.
  • Weber, Max, and Keith Tribe. 2019. Economy and Society – A New Translation, ed Keith Tribe. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.
  • Woolfe, Lorin. 2002. The Bible On Leadership: From Moses to Matthew : Management Lessons for Contemporary Leaders. New York: American Management Association.
  • Yammarino, Francis. 2013. “Leadership: Past, Present, and Future.” Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies 20 (2): 149-155.

Link to draft of Chapter 1 (Review of Literature)

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