Christendom can be characterized as a massive learning community within which leadership is a critical element. In such a scenario, “Let this mind be in you” becomes a compelling imperative. The Instructor of record is
Jesus Himself, and the co-instructor is the Holy Spirit, who coordinates the learning cooperative through a virtual learning-strategy that pre-dates any current distance-learning format. The curriculum consists of Holy Scripture, divine inspiration, supportive fellowship, and the natural expressions of the Creator. The preferred learning strategies are those that Jesus models in His ministry: experiential learning, small-group formats, higher order
thinking—essentially all of the examples of applied learning. The learning objective is simple and global: “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come” (Matthew 24:14, KJV). The basic learning-objective of the Christian church may be simply stated, but it is much more difficult to
achieve. To do so, a vast amount of learning is involved and an unconventional definition of leadership is required.
The words learning and leadership, and by extension leader, are among the most familiar words in the English language. Yet these words are rarely defi ned in depth. The typical assumption is that learning implies a process of knowing more and that leadership means the action of a person or
persons occupying the “top” positions in an organization. Th e developing literature around these terms, however, demands more specifi city in definition, purpose, and application. Learning is such an integral part of leadership that learning and leadership are little more than diff erent sides of the
same coin. In this paper, I will establish a paradigm of Christian leadership, and then I will apply principles of learning within that paradigm. (Note: All texts are from the King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise
The premise. What is the basic leadership idea being presented here? In the beginning, God provided a model of divine leadership that reflected His character. Humankind rejected the model. Again and again, God re-established His alternative model; again and again, humankind rejected the model. God sent His Son to demonstrate His model in person.Humankind rejected it again. God has once more presented the model, this time through His church. How effectively has the Christian community presented this model to the world?Only by learning the model can we demonstrate its effectiveness. A fundamental aspect of my premise is that we can learn the model only by beholding the Master Archetype and then by practicing the model in our own lives, with the Holy Spirit providing power and guidance.
Th e leader. Is there any doubt in Christendom about who the ultimate leader is?Within the Christian worldview, the Original Leader was and is God,Whose description of Himself, beginning with Exodus 3:14, can be paraphrased as “I AM that I AM, and I AM your leader.” He amplifies this description in Isaiah 44:6: “I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God [Leader].” Th at statement calls to mind the first commandment of the Decalogue: “Th ou shalt have no other gods [leaders] before me” (Exodus 20:3).
The learning connection. Is there a mechanism by which God, our Leader, facilitates learning?And “when the fullness of time was come, God sent forth his Son . . .to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts . . .” (Gal. 4:4–6). Th at thought supports the idea stated by the Son, Jesus, when He said, “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you” (John 14:26). It is my thesis that God, through the Holy Spirit,provides both leadership and learning, which are inextricably linked.
The leadership model. So, what is the nature of the leadership and learning that is modeled by our Leader?In the words of Jesus, “Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant”(Matt. 23:20–11). “And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto,but to minister . . .” (Matt. 20:27–28). Those two statements of Jesus port end of the context that Paul addresses in his letter to the Philippians. The following words of the apostle continue the theme: “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus”(Phil. 2:5). Paul’s words not only reflect a profound truth about the nature of the leadership that God intended, but they also emphasize the depth of the learning that accompanies it.
The original leadership model is rejected. When did God cease to be the
de facto leader of His people?
Consider Old Testament history as it relates to the setting-aside of
God as the Leader. In these words: “Th en all the elders of Israel gathered
themselves together, and came to Samuel unto Ramah, And said unto him,
Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: now make us a
king to judge us like all the nations. (I Sam. 8:4 & 5)Substituting the word
leader for king seems appropriate in view of the fact that the modern concept
of leader is a more relevant term for the ancient concept of king. By
doing so, we can read the text as “now make us a leader to lead us. . . .”
As Everett Fox (1999) has eloquently explained in his book Give Us
a King, God’s organization on Earth—His corporate stockholders, if you
please—rejected His leadership. In addition, they rejected the leadership
of His appointed emissaries, the judges and the prophets. Th ey demanded
a leader, in the sense that we are discussing, in order to be like all other
Th e myth of secular leadership. How does the replacement model hold
up against the original?
One of the most compelling descriptions of society’s need for leadership
comes from a treatise by Gemmill and Oakley (1992). Th ey aver that
what we so glibly refer to as leadership is actually a cultural myth, developed
and supported by social systems to absolve ourselves of responsibility
for the larger problems that face us. Th e intuitive application of this
idea explains why social systems are so eager to make such assertions as,
“We need new leadership”—as though a change in the individuals who
hold positions of power will “make it all better.” According to Gemmill
and Oakley, we become dependent upon a succession of changing systems
of perceived authority called leadership, when in fact the solution to our
problems lies within ourselves. By attributing authority to “the leadership,”
we avoid responsibility by blaming the leaders for the social ills that
exist. Contrast that scenario with the ancient form of leadership designed
by God, in which there was one God and a decentralized form of social
government overseen by patriarchs and informed by prophets, with judges
to arbitrate social disputes. Th at original social system sustained a vast
network of responsible relationships within which order was maintained,
battles were fought, commodities were traded, and families prospered.
If “leadership” is a myth, then so is “followership.” Being a follower
is just as irresponsible as being a leader. In this case, the polarity between
leading and following is a false dichotomy. One cannot truly lead without
also following. We often use Jesus as our example of what has come to be
called servant-leadership. To do so is sometimes diffi cult, because He is God and He is our Lord and Savior. But He also said that if we want to be
great, including being a great leader, we should be servants. I will develop
this concept further later in the article. As I will show, being the servant
means taking the low position and indenturing ourselves to those whom we
Th e church and leadership. What is the relationship between God’s
model of leadership and the church?
Th e management system that we call church is no more than a typical
human organization in God’s world. It is blessed, to be sure. But so
was the nation of Israel. And by my count, every time a good man became
king, he “did evil in the sight of the Lord” (e.g., I Kings 14:22). Th at seems
to be the theme throughout the history of Israel after it became a kingdom.
Although not the theme of this article, it would be interesting to discuss
the degree to which the organized church is structured as a kingdom rather
than as a “servantdom.” Kings can occur at any level. Lord Acton, preeminent
19th-century historian, said that “power corrupts [and] absolute
power corrupts absolutely” (Acton, 1887). Th is is true at all levels. Even a
little bit of power has the potential to corrupt.
Servant-leadership Is the Leadership Concept of Choice
Th e Christian Leadership Center has produced a unique but biblical model
of leadership. Th is model is presented here:
We believe that Christian Leadership is ultimately expressed through the
life and words of Jesus as expressed in the Bible. We take the radical view
presented in Philippians 2 that Jesus came to this world to demonstrate
the character of God. In doing so, He demonstrated the highest form of
leadership, the leadership provided by a servant—more to the point, a
bondservant, one who presents himself to another in servitude.
Th erefore, if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort provided
by love, any fellowship in the spirit, any affection or mercy, complete
my joy and be of the same mind, by having the same love, being
united in spirit, and having one purpose. Instead of being motivated by
selfish ambition or vanity each of you should in humility, be moved to
treat one another as more important than yourself. Each of you should
be concerned not only about your own interests, but about the interests
of others as well. You should have the same attitude toward one another
that Christ Jesus had, who though he existed in the form of God did not
regard equality with God as something to be grasped, but emptied himself
by taking on the form of a slave1by looking like other men, and by sharing
in human nature. He humbled himself, by becoming obedient to the point of death-even the death of the cross!” (Philippians 2:1–7, The NET
Recent exegetes cite the conditional participle in verse 6, suggesting
that a better translation is “precisely because he was God, he became a servant.”
Thus, it is the essential nature of God to be a servant, not an exception
to His nature.
We believe that one of the fundamental characteristics of God is to
become such a servant. We believe that God, in Christ, demonstrates this
aspect of His character in sending Jesus to be our Guide and Model, as
well as our Savior.
Th is concept is expanded by the words of Jesus Himself in Matthew
20:26-28 and Matthew 23:11-12: “It must not be this way among you!
Instead, whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant, and
whoever wants to be fi rst among you must be your slave—just as the Son
of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a
ransom for many” (Matthew 20: 26–28. Th e NET Bible). “Th e greatest
among you will be your servant. And whoever exalts himself will be humbled,
and whoever humbles himself will be exalted” (Matthew 23:11–12.
Th e NET Bible)
Again, the word translated “slave” is more accurately interpreted as a
“bondservant,” one who, because of personal debt, pledges himself or herself
in servitude to another.
Christian leadership is not based in any inherent or acquired authority.
Rather, Christian leaders are mere instruments of Christ; what we
do we do in His name. (Matthew 28:18–20; John 20:21–23; Matthew
16:18–19; 18:18–20.) What does it mean to act in the name of Christ?
Only when we act according to the mind of Christ do we act with His
authority; this attitude precludes doing anything merely to enhance our
own position or prestige. Christ’s Spirit will always be reminding us, “You
are a servant of servants; you can do enormous good if you don’t care
about getting credit for it.’ Servant Leadership, as thus described, is not
about power or position, although it can be present in one who has power
as well as position. Rather, it is about a life modeled after the life of Jesus
Christ, Who lived for the express purpose of serving others.
Servant leaders are one with their community. Th ey listen, honor,
trust, help and encourage others—treating them with dignity and respect.
Th is model of leadership is a radical one because it represents a dramatic
return to what we believe is the original Heaven-defi ned concept of
leadership and a departure from the egocentric concept that seems to pervade
current secular thinking. In a world where power and position rule,
the idea of Christian leadership, as defi ned herein, is diffi cult to understand
and even more difficult to convey. By the Grace of God, and to His glory, it is the purpose of the Christian Leadership Center to promote and
assist in the development of Christian leadership throughout the world.
(Christian Leadership Center, 2003)
It is within this context and the implied defi nition of leadership that I
present thoughts of the role of learning as a critical function of leadership.
Obviously, with such a radical concept of leadership as is assumed by this
definition, an equally radical idea of learning may also be assumed.
The Role of Learning in Christian Leadership
Classically, learning is defined as a change in behavior. Schunk (1996), for
example, defines learning “as a change in the rate, frequency of occurrence,
or form of behavior (responding), primarily as a function of environmental
factors” (p. 12). Borger and Seaborne (1996) define learning as “any more
or less permanent change in behaviour which is the result of experience”
(p. 16). And Schuell (1986) defines learning as “an enduring change in
behavior, or in the capacity to behave in a given fashion, which results from
practice or other forms of experience” (as cited in Schunk, 1996, p. 2).
For the purpose of this discussion, however, learning is defined in a
diff erent way—not necessarily in a “new” way, but in a way consistent
with the form of leadership being considered. From a Christian perspective,
learning can be described in terms of the progression of personal
growth suggested by what is often called conversion. The expected results
of conversion are permanent changes in the behaviors of the convert. Such
a life-changing experience is a response to what have been called the plan
of salvation and the story of redemption. The words plan and story suggest a
developmental approach to learning that is entirely consistent with what
we often refer to as Christian growth. The model for such growth (learning)
is, of course, Jesus, whose own story developed by divine plan in that He
“increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man” (Luke
2:52, KJV). In this learning plan, four elements are specifi ed: the social, the
cognitive, the physical, and the spiritual. These four aspects of learning are
not discrete. Rather, they are completely intertwined. Let’s build the case
for this description of learning—a description that I believe is critical to
understanding Christian leadership.
The Spiritual Aspect
The Creator who formed us from the dust of the ground also provided
ways in which we should learn. Th e fi rst indication of the reality of such a
statement is in Genesis 1:
And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let
them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air,
and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing
that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in
the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. (v.
From a learning perspective, this setup strongly suggests that God gave
a community of individuals certain responsibilities and that He also
instructed them as to how to fulfill that charge: “And the Lord God took
the man, and put him into the Garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it”
(Gen. 2:15). Subsequently, when humankind lost the original learning
capacity that was present in Eden, God provided a method, the plan of
salvation, as a form of continuing education. Th at plan, which represents
the learning ideal, included the social, cognitive, physical, and spiritual
elements of learning that Jesus modeled (Luke 2:52). Indeed, the ultimate
learning objective is stated as “Let this mind be in you, which was also in
Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2:5, KJV). Th e learning injunction that directs us to
this objective—and the process by which we attain it—is further delineated
by the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Romans: “And be not conformed
to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that
ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God”
(Rom. 12:2, KJV).
Th is entire article is cast within the spiritual dimension of learning.
There is little reason, then, to expand the discussion of the spiritual aspects
of learning other than to note that whereas we can attempt to discuss these
four aspects of learning as discrete entities, to do so would be arbitrary and
artifi cial. They are so intertwined that it is functionally impossible to separate
them. Th erefore, in this discussion we will further examine learning
from the remaining three of these four aspects as though peering through
three facets of a gem—a spiritual gem, which represents each individual
in God’s learning community. “And they shall be mine, saith the Lord of
hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels. . . .” (Mal. 3:17, KJV).
The Social Aspect: Community Is Fundamental
From the beginning, the learning context was social—a community. Th e
Godhead was a community, consisting of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
(Bilezikian, 1997). They act as one to create humankind in their own
image, and they use humankind to extend their community throughout
the world. Th e learning fi rst takes place in Eden, where the players are
Adam, Eve, angels, and the Creating Community of God. From a modern theoretical perspective, this context is referred to as social learning theory
(Bandura, 1977; 1986), but it also is supported by Lewin’s (1951) earlier
theoretical perspective called field theory. In this case, learning is dependent
upon the relationships that exist between the members of the “fi eld,” or
the community. The Creator Community provided for the ideal learning
conditions to maximize the leadership-development of the members of the
What are those conditions? Graham (2001) presents four major categories
of moral well-being: they are community, autonomy, identity, and
privacy. These categories, which Graham calls the conditions of human
dignity and worth, make us feel valued as human beings. All people, regardless
of time, place, gender, or culture share them. In this discussion, these
basic conditions of moral well-being also represent conditions for optimal
learning, in that each of them represents a perception of well-being.
In fact, the absence of any of them creates a threatening condition. And
“when the brain perceives threat, whether covert or overt, the brain ‘downshifts’”(
Hart, 1983). Not only are these four conditions deduced from
the study of anthropology and analytical philosophy, but they also can be
deduced from the earliest literature of Christendom—even from the initial
chapters of Genesis.
God is community—a trinity (Belzekian, 1997). God created humankind
to extend His community (Gen, 1:26). From the beginning we have
been invited into this community. Problems occur only when we establish
our own pseudo-communities (I Sam. 8:5-9; Fox, 1999).
From the beginning, there has been autonomy. We have been free to
choose. Th ere are, of course, natural laws, which, in turn, implies that there
are consequences. God gave instructions to our fi rst parents, but the choice
to follow those instructions was theirs. God said, “in the day that thou
eatest, thou shalt die”(Gen. 2:17), but the choice to eat or not to eat was
theirs—and it is ours.
As a child of God, created in His image, I have identity: “Wherefore,
as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death
passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Rom. 5:12). In other word,
in Adam I sinned and am lost. But “by the obedience of one shall many be
made righteous” (Rom. 5:19). In other words, in Jesus I am saved (Rom.
5:18). I am a unique individual, a creation of the Great I AM—no more
and no less. And I am free use my autonomy to decide whether or not to
be a member of the community of people who make up the Body of Jesus
(1 Cor. 12:27), and I may extend that identity to belong to any number of
cultures, groups, and organizations.
The right to privacy is not just mentioned, it is featured in the story of
how, after sinning, our fi rst parents needed to affi rm this right. “Th en the
eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew they were naked, so they
sewed fi g leaves together and made coverings for themselves” (Gen. 3:7,
Leadership then can be characterized as encouraging the kind of a community
where each member supports the moral well-being of each of his or
her fellow members. Leaders work toward the creation of a community of
learners who share in the construction of and respect for the social, cognitive,
physical, and spiritual well being of all members.
The Cognitive Aspect: Knowledge Is Socially Constructed
A typical discussion of learning focuses on cognitive structures. Such structures
as memory, understanding, thinking, and mental processes are important,
but remembering that none of them operate in a social vacuum is
equally important. Th e purpose of cognitive learning is to apply knowledge
to real situations, to solve problems, and, within the Christian context, “to
grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ”
(II Pet. 3:18).
We educational psychologists enjoy studying cognitive structures of
learning, but we are often guilty of isolating such learning aspects in ways
that make them impractical. However, cognitive structures function best
in a social context. Indeed, a person who is isolated socially during critical
developmental stages of life experiences several negatives: language is
impaired, judgment is impaired, even simple perception may be impaired
(Candland, 1995; Th ompson & Hickey, 2004).
Learning, then, may consist of information and the understanding of
said information, which makes that learning a cognitive experience. But the
value of such learning cannot be understood fully outside of a social context,
especially when learning is applied to leadership development.
One way to demonstrate this value, especially as it involves learning in
leadership development, is to provide a perspective that grew out of a serious
dinner conversation that I enjoyed with David Penner. Dr. Penner is a
co-founder of the graduate program in Leadership at Andrews University.
After our dinner conversation, he sent me the following message from
Th e formation of the Leadership program was purposeful and not merely
an “accident of personalities.” Certainly, meeting as a group brought synergy
and new ideas. But the ideas also were based on good research and
what other schools were experimenting with at the time. Th e members of
the team . . .
- Were willing and ready to challenge ideas (not people).
- Preferred to work in a collaborative environment, [that is],
as a team.
- Actively searched out and accepted new ideas (always learning).
- Possessed a strong knowledge-base that added to the program
(psychology, teaching and training, social systems, “futuring,”
and so forth).
In addition, current fi ndings in the application of learning, especially in
the area of adult-learning theory (Knowles, 2005; Brookfield, 1987), must
challenge the following paradigms:
• Meaningful learning takes place only in isolated settings such as college
campuses and away from work.
• Students are not and can never be greater than their masters.
• All students have the same learning and informational needs.
• What a student needs to learn is best known by the teacher.
• Knowledge is gained only through the teacher or professor.
The particular learning-environment to which Penner is referring was built
on social-learning theory (Bandura, 1986; Bandura and Walters, 1963),
including such applications of the theory as cooperative learning (Joyce and
Weil, 1999; Johnson et al., 1991) and total-quality management, (Deming,
1998). One of the best terms to describe an eff ective social-learning environment
is community (Wheatley, 2002, Lessig, 2001; Capra, 1996). Th e
learning associated with such community can be understood from within
the well-developed theories of Th omas Dewey, Paulo Freire, and Lev
Vygotsky. Although these theorists did not write from a Christian worldview,
we can readily see the model of Christian community and social
learning represented within their theories. Th e explicit goal is to provide for
the fertile development of a learning community composed of servant-leaders.
In order to enhance the development of such a community, the learning-
community must be designed to provide cooperative-learning experiences
on a number of levels.
A point that is often overlooked is that learning does not proceed from
a position of authority, relationships such as:
Position often carries with it the implication that people in lower positions
learn from people in higher positions. But learning, like leadership, is not hierarchical. Learning develops naturally within the individual’s response to
the unfolding elements of life. And the connection between leadership and
learning is intuitive but not often discussed.
Somewhere in history, education became synonymous with learning.
As a result, the process of education became the pawn of political control
rather than the facilitation of learning. Th e concept that learning is a lifelong
process has evolved as a fundamental tenet of the adult-learning movement
(Knowles, 2005; Freire, 1998). Th e Christian church is a community
of highly experienced and motivated learners, learners who have asked for
God’s guidance in learning what they need to know. In this community,
we are all equal. Th ere is one teacher, “sent from God” (Jn. 3:2). Each of
us has one or more roles to play (Gal. 3), but the importance of the roles,
especially with regard to learning, is not hierarchical. Classically, the teacher
is viewed as being in some way superior to the student. It is inconceivable
that the individuals in a learning community would in any way fi t the typical
description of what have classically been called students. Depending
on the context of the moment, we are all students and we are all teachers.
Th e purpose within this value is to foster a community of learners in which
each member freely shares knowledge and skills (Wheatley, 1994).
Of all the recent innovations on the instructional front, the one that
has received the most research support is cooperative learning (Ellis, 2005).
Cooperative learning is a shared experience—a social experience. Learners
interact at least in pairs to experience the learning. Jesus used cooperative
learning throughout His life. He used the strategy when “He called the
twelve to Him, and began to send them out two by two . . .” (Mk. 6:7
NKJ). In addition, He established an eff ective learning-group with Peter,
James, and John.
Eff ective learning also incorporates modeling. When Jesus offi ciated
at the Last Supper, He said, “Th is do in remembrance of me” (Lk. 22:19),
then carried out several rituals that continue to this day. And consider the
instance when John the Baptist’s disciples came to inquire of Jesus, “Are
you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?” (Matt. 11:3
NET) Rather than answer John directly, Jesus instructed His disciples
to “go tell John what you hear and see . . .” (Matt. 11:4 NET). In other
words, “Watch me. Th en relate what you saw and heard.”
It is clear that the cognitive aspect of Christian learning is a direct
outgrowth of the social context. If we need any additional support for
the power of this approach, we can call on the elements of adult-learning
theory, which were addressed by Penner above. In addition, we can turn
to Brookfi eld (1986) who describes a survey performed by Manley (1984).
Manley surveyed 18 members of the American Commission of Professors of Adult Education and discovered that the professors agree that adult
learning is best facilitated when . . .
• Learners are engaged as participants in the design of learning.
• Learners are encouraged to be self-directed.
• Th e educator functions as a facilitator rather than didactic instructor.
• Individual learners’ needs and learning styles are taken into account.
• A climate conducive to learning is established.
• Learners’ past experiences are utilized in the classroom.
• Learning activities are deemed to have some direct relevance or utility
to the learners’ circumstances.
Combining cooperative learning, modeling, and adult learning with church
planting yields an interesting element of early Christian history. According
to Rutz (1992), archeological evidence suggests that virtually all companies
of believers in the fi rst several centuries of Christendom were small homegroups
that modeled their understanding of Christian life. From a pure
learning perspective, the existence of such learning groups would certainly
help to explain the very rapid expansion of the good news of the Gospel.
The Physical Aspect
We typically consider the physical elements of learning in terms of building
physical prowess and skill. Both elements are, indeed, important. But
both require dedicated training and practice. Colleagues in exercise science
tell me that physical development is more than working out in the gym or
playing on the playground. Th ey discuss the appreciation of physical fi tness
as it relates to the quality of life.
In this discussion, I will address the aspect of the physical in terms of
its relationship to life. I will look specifi cally at a more casual, more spontaneous,
and more natural element of the physical aspect of learning and
leadership through the application of an active metaphor—walking!
While the psychological and physiological benefi ts of walking have been
thoroughly documented (Anshel, 1996; Kramer et al., 1999; Ulrich, in
Marcus and Barnes, 1999), the spiritual or phenomenological benefi ts of
walking are coming under investigation as well. Witness the worldwide
labyrinth movement (Verditas, UREL here) and research into the neurological
mechanisms of meditative exercise (Kamei, et al., 2000). Certainly
the consensus across a wide spectrum of disciplines is that it is vital to
create and support a safe and pleasant walking environment that is easily
accessible and useful in the daily life of people. (Naderi, 2002, p. 2)
In the often-quoted words of the Spanish poet Antonio Machado,
”Traveler, there is no path. Th e path is made by walking.” It is signifi cant that walking fi gures so prominently in the Bible presentation. We could
claim that walking was simply the primary means of travel in those days,
but to do so would dismiss a number of signifi cant examples in which the
walking itself was part of the story, a critical part of the event. Consider,
for example, the story of Jesus on the road to Emmaeus. Th e story interweaves
the walking, the talking, and eventually the meal with the message,
each aspect being an intermingling of the social, spiritual, physical, and
cognitive elements of learning.
An inspiring exercise in Bible study relative to the metaphor of walking
is to pick up the concordance and look up walk and walking. Having done
that, refl ect on how these two words are used to illustrate the imperceptible
connection that exists among the four elements that we are discussing, both
in verbal behavior (language) and in physical behavior (exercise). “For we
walk by faith, not by sight” (II Cor. 5:7). Other versions of this text translate
the word walk as live, as in “For we live by faith, not by sight” (NET)
demonstrating the close connection between the metaphor of physically
walking and the reality of living. Substituting live for walk in the following
text reinforces that idea: “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light,
we have fellowship one with another . . .” (I Jn. 1:7).
In Eden, the social learning that included the Creator, the angels,
and the fi rst family consisted of the physical dressing and keeping of the
Garden. When the fi rst family had to leave Eden, they were given additional
physical labor to serve as a supplementary learning strategy and as
a safeguard for their souls: “By the sweat of your brow you will eat food”
(Gen. 3:19, NET). “Whatsoever they hand fi ndeth to do, to it with thy
might” (Eccl. 9:10, KJV).
Th e body is the physical representation of the self. As such, it is just as
important as is our mind (cognitive) and soul (spiritual) in the Christian
learning community (social). Th e apostle Paul makes this point directly
by saying, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that
ye present your bodies a living sacrifi ce, holy, acceptable unto God, which
is your reasonable service” (Rom. 12:1). Th en the apostle brings us back
directly to the learning in verse 2: “And be not conformed to this world:
but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove
what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” Clearly, the
biblical writers understood the integrated nature of body, mind, and soul
in the learning community within which we live.
Beginning with the publication of Peter Senge’s Th e Fifth Discipline (Senge,
1994), the learning-organization has been a popular topic in both the litera ture and in corporate training. Th e past decade has seen the development of
corporate administrators who are assigned the responsibility to oversee the
learning in their organizations. Corporations have even begun to assign the
title chief learning offi cer, or CLO, to individuals responsible for the learning
in their organizations. Th e professional journal Chief Learning Offi cer
supports their roles by providing technical and motivational material.
According to Senge (1994), a learning-organization is “an organization
that is continually expanding its capacity to create its future” (p. 14). Th is
is not to say that the organization itself learns, but that the organization is a
dynamic culture that encourages and supports learning. Th e “learning” part
is not an adjective that describes the organization. Th e “learning” part is a
noun—a gerund, to be specifi c—that forms a compound noun with “organization.”
In the learning-organization, everyone is included. Th e learning-
organization may consist of a small group of individuals, a corporation,
or even an entire country. Th e learning-organization is dynamic, a living
organism in which the learning is ongoing and results in the application of
what is learned. As a dynamic function of leadership, the members of the
learning-organization spend time on visioning, on brainstorming possibilities,
on creating new products, and on evaluating current practices in order
to improve the organization.
Is the Christian church a learning-organization? Th e events recorded
the Old Testament illustrate how God’s chosen people developed into a
learning-organization. Th ese events demonstrate how that organization
shaped the nature and culture of a group of individuals into a corporate
whole that literally became a nation.
Th e New Testament seems to present a diff erent concept with regard
to God’s learning-organization. In the New Testament, the series of various
entities that represent God on Earth are replaced by a single entity that
returns the system of leadership to what had been planned originally. God’s
chosen people, the children of Israel, ultimately reject their role as God’s
appointed learning-model. Th at was their choice, not God’s. A virtual community
replaces the literal community. Th e hierarchical government that
had become Palestine is replaced by a loosely organized but highly motivated
group of zealots who take the good news to the ends of the world in
little more than a generation. Th is new entity is called the Body of Christ,
as described here:
Th e Body of Christ, like all bodies, is comprised of many parts. Th ere
are limbs, organs, and various members that, when left alone, are useless,
but when assembled make up the entire body. 1 Corinthians 12:12-14
describe it like this: “Th e body is a unit, though it is made up of many
parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with
Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body – whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free – and we were all given the one Spirit to
drink. Now the body is not made up of one part but of many.” Th is
means each Christian is an equal part of the body of Christ!
Th ere is organization to the body of Christ, as described in Ephesians
1:22-23, “And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to
be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of
him who fi lls everything in every way.”
1 Corinthians 12:27-28 also says, “Now you are the body of Christ,
and each one of you is a part of it. And in the church God has appointed
fi rst of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles,
also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with
gifts of administration, and those speaking in diff erent kinds of tongues.”
Every Christian possesses a gift and is called to use it in service within the
body to build up the body of Christ, to strengthen the body and to carry
out its purpose within the world. Each member of the body of Christ is
also called to serve the church through his or her natural gifts and abilities.
Th is service is off ered out of devotion to Christ for the sacrifi ce He made
on the cross, providing them with eternal life in heaven. Th e diversity of
gifts, each supporting the other, makes the body strong. (All About God,
Th ere is an obvious diff erence between the corpus and the corporate—
between the body of Christ, or His church, and the various human organizations
intended to assist the members of the body in learning to refl ect the
character of Jesus. But learning applies from the corpus to the corporate,
from the individual organism to the organization.
Human beings originally formed organizations in spite of the fact that
God advised against doing so. Ultimately, God’s response to that action is
this clear admonition:
Behold, I make all things new. . . . I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning
and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the
water of life freely. He that overcometh shall inherit all things: and I will
be his God, and he shall be my son. (Rev. 21:5–7)
Again God proposes one leader and a learning-community. Th e question
can be asked of us in 21st-century A.D., Have we learned to live in accordance
with the leadership role that God has been trying to show us from
the beginning of time?
Research in Applied Christian Leadership and Learning
Th e Apostle Paul gives us a list of imperatives, but one is especially suitable
for this discussion: “Quench not the Spirit, Despise not prophesyings,
Prove all things; hold fast that which is good” (I Th ess. 5:19–21, KJV). It
is clear that we learn from the “Comforter,” Who teaches us all things. It
is clear that we learn from the prophets. But it is also clear that we have an
active role to play in the study of how all of these truths apply. In the formal,
academic world, this practice is called research. I believe that it would
be useful to pose researchable questions that could inform us about how
well we Christians practice the Christian model of leadership and learning.
Here are only a few questions that could be addressed through serious, formal
research related to the form of leadership that is most eff ective in the
• What are the models of leadership that Christianity presents by
• How do Christian communities model Christian leadership?
• What form of community is most conducive to servant-leadership
• How do Christian organizations become learning-communities?
• What is the relationship between culture and leadership-development
in a Christian community?
According to Brooks & Brooks (1993) “learning is a journey, not a destination”
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organization for eff ective and effi cient management, there is for such a
structure to convey a hierarchy of learning—or even a hierarchy of knowledge,
wisdom, or experience. Everyone contributes from the well of his or
her own experience along the way. And if learning is a journey, then so too
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