Grace-based Leadership (Notes from Prof. Mark Dalbey's Seminar)

(submitted by Dn. Mervin Lin)


What are the principles of biblical leadership? Dr. Mark Dalbey answered this question in the seminar given to B-P Church leaders on 27 October at Zion Serangoon. The principles he spoke on can be applied to any Christian leading a family, a business or subordinates at the work place. He uses several words to present these principles.

Servant. We are all called to servant-leadership. Jesus sets this standard and is himself the example. It is a form of leadership opposite to how the world sees it. Peter reinforces this idea when he urges the elders to care for the church with humility and not lord it over those they are to serve (1 Pet 5:1-5).

Collaborative. A servant-leader is a collaborative leader—the ability to allow others to shape our decisions as we lead them. In Ephesians 4:7-13, we are told that Christ has given gifts to every member of his church. Servant-leaders are to draw out the varied multi-gifted body of Christ for the common good and edification of all in the church.

Strong. Collaborative leadership requires strength to make decisions. The best decision may not necessarily be a popular decision. The actions of Jehoshaphat in 2 Chronicles 20, models this strong but collaborative leadership. 

Messy. In church, as it is in life, things are bound to get messy. It is our sinful nature that leads us to conflict. While the Scripture teaches us that love covers a multitude of sins (1 Pet. 4:8), we are to be able to discern when to speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15). This ability requires a lot of spiritual maturity. As we struggle through the mess, the process becomes a means of grace at work in our lives.

Calm. In the midst of the messiness, the leaders are to remain calm. They are to be the non-anxious presence in the middle of the storm. Because of the presence of their Lord, they can look to him in prayer (Psa. 34:15).

Gospel-shaped. The servant leader must be the chief “repenter” in the church. Paul considered himself the worst of sinners (1 Tim. 1:15). The closer he got to God the more he became conscious of his own sinfulness. 

Holy Spirit Empowered. As Bible-Presbyterians, we should not forget that true empowerment is from the Holy Spirit. It is only by the Holy Spirit that leaders can walk by faith and not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7).

Kingdom Missional. The fundamental work of leaders is to equip the church to advance the kingdom of God. Theology matters because our world view will always impact how we live our lives, but the listener also needs directions on how to apply what he has learned.