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A Response to Today’s Culture By Dr. Brian S. Simmons

A Steward Leader’s Biblical Response to Today’s Culture

What are leaders who embrace a biblical worldview to do in response to the secular values so prevalent in today’s culture?  First and foremost, lead like Jesus led!

Scripture teaches us that Jesus Christ is in very nature God, yet He took the form of a servant, humbled himself and became obedient to death on the cross (Philippians 2:5 ff). As followers of Christ, we, too, need to lead as humble servants.

Servant First

Robert Greenleaf, as the seminal author, defined servant leadership asserting that a servant leader is “servant first”. He continued, “it begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. The conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead” (Greenleaf, 1977, p. 7).  He wrote, “the difference manifests itself in the care taken by the servant-first to make sure that other people’s highest priority needs are being served” (Greenleaf, 1977, p. 7). In the late 1980’s another leader, Max De Pree, defined servant leadership as “the process of removing obstacles that prevent others from doing their jobs and enabling followers to realize their full potential,” noting that a “true leader is a listener who, within the context of his own beliefs, responds appropriately” (Wilson, 2016, p. 47).

Promotion to Steward

What is a steward?  Birch (2002, p. 358) defined a steward as “one who has the responsibility for the care and use of resources that belong to another”.  Wilson (2016) defined a steward as, “anyone who manages property and resources belonging to another in order to achieve the owner’s objectives” (p. 85). Rodin (2013) noted that leaders under this model must be stewards of relationships on four levels: relationship with God, relationship with self, relationship with our neighbor, and relationship with creation. 

The Steward Leader

So what is a steward leader?  “Steward leaders empower their people, give away authority, value and involve others, seek the best in and from their people, and constantly lift others up, push others into the limelight and reward those they lead—all so that God’s will may be done in a more powerful way. They seek no glory for themselves, but find great joy in seeing others prosper. They take no account of their reputation, but desire that Jesus’ face be seen in all they do” (Rodin, 2002, p. 7). Block (2013) wrote further, “The spirit of stewardship demands a conversation on institutional purpose and how it cares for the common good” (p. 251). 

Key Distinctions

One of the key concepts that differentiates steward and servant leadership is that all stewards are servants, but not all servants are stewards (Wilson, 2016, p. 124).  In 2016, Kent Wilson defined steward leadership as “the efficient management and growth of organizational resources, through leadership of staff and activities as a non-owning steward-servant, in order to achieve the mission according to the objectives of the owners” (Wilson, 2016, p. 34).  So, the steward leader construct adds a vertical relational dimension to the horizontal relationships defined by the servant leader model. 

The Steward Leader Model

Finally, the steward leader model adds an organizational dimension as “Only steward leadership addresses all of the resources that must be managed, the steward’s relationship with those resources and the intended outcome of resource management” (Wilson, 2016, p. 49).  A steward leader’s faithful devotion to a growing relationship with God who is the Creator and ultimate “owner” of everyone and everything is foundational to effective leadership.  In short, a faithful steward leader loves and serves God by loving and serving others.

“Obedient and joyful response – that is the only requirement of the steward leader. 
However, for us to be true to this calling, to be consistent and unshakable in this one vocational focus, we must embrace a new paradigm for effective leadership.  This paradigm emphasizes ‘being’ over ‘doing’ and freedom over ownership” (Rodin, 2010, pp. 55-56).  “Throughout Scripture, God ‘called’ leaders, asking only for their obedient response.  He called many ill-equipped, untrained, dysfunctional, poorly skilled men and women into leadership.  He thrust them into impossible situations with recalcitrant people and asked only that they be obedient and trusting.  This is the posture of the…steward leader” (Rodin, 2010, pp. 55-56). 

God, throughout history, has raised up devoted steward leaders like Joseph, Nehemiah and Esther during times of crises to address problems His way.  These leaders worked to faithfully fulfill the purposes of the Master, God, for all He had so graciously entrusted to their care.  These resources included time, treasure, talent and relationships.  Leaders like Esther were selected for “such a time as this” (Esther 4:14)!

Your Call to Lead

Will you be a steward leader who will not be silenced but instead will respond courageously to our culture’s assault on Christianity?  Lutzer challenges faithful steward leaders to be gospel driven in life and witness (John 14:6, Mark 16:15; to not bow to the culture’s sexual revolution (Matthew 5:8, John 17:17; and to love Jesus passionately and suffer well (John 14:15, Matthew 224:12, I John 2:15-17, James 4:4).  In Lutzer’s words, “Engage the Culture and stand against it!”  Lead!!

References:

Block, P. (2013). Stewardship: Choosing service over self-interest. Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 
Inc. 

Greenleaf, R. K. (1977). Servant Leadership: A Journey Into the Nature of Legitimate Power and
Greatness. New York: Paulist Press.

Lutzer, Erwin (2020).  We Will Not Be Silenced, Responding Courageously to Our Culture’s Assault on Christianity.  Harvest House.

Rodin, S. R. (2013). The Steward Leader: Transforming People, Organizations and
Communities. IVP Academic.

Wilson, Kent (2016).  Steward Leadership in the Nonprofit Organization.  InterVaristy Press.

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Dr. Brian S. Simmons is the Associate Provost and Professor  at Columbia International University.  He exists as a visionary builder to further the kingdom of God through Christian education, teaching, and influencing others.

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