Category Archives: Faith and culture

Leadership Motifs from the Bible

There is voluminous literature out there on leadership. Some of the leadership principles and values propagated in these books are Bible-based while others are research based. It is also worth noting that some of these values and principles on each side of the divide have points of convergence and points of divergence (this is for another day).

But the Bible provides rich metaphors that depict the nature of spiritual leadership that is to be exercised in and by the church. Believers in Christ are to embody these biblical values as foundational values for their actions, reactions, and convictions. In this short write-up let’s focus on two leadership motifs presented in the Bible: shepherd and servant.

#1 Shepherd

A leader is a shepherd. And as a shepherd, he has a flock under his care.

But more importantly, it should be noted that this is a communicable attribute from the divine. The shepherd motif presented in the Bible is derived from the character of God.

In the Bible God is revealed as the good Shepherd who leads, feeds, disciplines, and protects his flock (Ps. 23; 100:3; Isa. 10:1-11). Specifically, the sheep in Psalms 23 admits that his Shepherd: satisfies him-makes him lie down in green pastures and quiet waters, restores his soul, guides him, protects, comforts and disciplines him.

Jesus referred himself as the good shepherd (Jn. 10:11,14). He showed through his incarnate life that a good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. A good shepherd does not abandon the sheep and run away when he sees a wolf coming. He protects. He does not allow the flock to be scattered. He gathers and embraces. A good shepherd knows his sheep and his sheep knows him. He always leads from the front. He has good interest of the sheep in his heart.

By implication, those who serve on behalf of God, at any leadership position, are also referred to as shepherds (Jer. 23:1-4; Ezek. 34:2-10). They are supposed to shepherd after God; to shepherd in the likeness of God. Shepherds should not be preoccupied with taking care of their own (self) interests but the interests of the flock. Good shepherds strengthen the weak, heal the sick, bind the broken, bring back the straying sheep, seek the lost, and rule gently.

Jesus commissioned Peter, and by extension the other disciples and believers today, to feed his flock (Jn. 21:15-19). But it is a commission with a reward. Apostle Peter later wrote that when the Chief Shepherd appears, He shall reward those who have taken good care of his flock with unfading crown of glory (1 Pet. 5:2-4).  A good shepherd like Jesus leads, directs, nurtures, heals, and guards even sacrificing his life if need be for the sheep.

And so any leadership position should be seen as an opportunity to shepherd God’s people; “not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock (1 Pet. 5:3).

#2 Servant

A leader is a servant.

The servant motif traces way back to the OT whereby priests, prophets and kings were seen as servants of God. Like the nation of Israel, they were God’s vessels in which he accomplished  his divine purposes on earth.

In the New Testament Jesus referred himself as God’s servant. He came to serve, and to save the lost. He exemplified service by washing the feet of his disciples; performing a typical work of a slave (Lk. 22:27; Jn. 13:4-11).

Jesus exemplified humility, obedience, and servanthood through his incarnation “but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness “-the kenosis concept (Phil. 2:7-8).

Servanthood is an attitude of the heart. It takes humility, a selfless spirit and a transformed heart for one to be a servant. This attitude was in Christ. Therefore, Jesus becomes our example. He redefines what greatness is (Mk. 9:35).

Therefore those who lead should lead by serving as Jesus did.

Remember that leaders after God’s own heart are shepherds and servants.


How can we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?


In the contemporary society Christians are faced with the genuine question of how to  live their lives and values in the marketplace, a place where the same values are challenged.

This was a similar concern to the exiles from the nation of Israel (after 586BC) when the temple was destroyed, the city of Jerusalem ruined and they had been taken away from the Promised Land to the land of Babylon.

While in a pagan country of Babylon, the people of God found it difficult to practice their faith because their identity which had been intertwined with the temple, Promised Land and the city of Jerusalem was now lost. In tears they remembered Zion and how their enemies rejoiced over their downfall.

Text: Psalms 137 (NIV)

1By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion. 2 There on the poplars we hung our harps, 3 for there our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy; they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!” 4 How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land? 5 If I forget you, O Jerusalem, may my right hand forget [its skill]. 6 May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you, if I do not consider Jerusalem my highest joy. 7 Remember, O Lord, what the Edomites did on the day Jerusalem fell.”Tear it down,” they cried, “tear it down to its foundations!” 8 O Daughter of Babylon, doomed to destruction, happy is he who repays you for what you have done to us 9 he who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks.

Like the exiles, Christians today live in a world that is similarly an exile (Jn. 15:17; 17:14). This world is a strange land. Strange in the sense that our faith is questioned, our values ridiculed, and our way of life labeled absurd. But while in this world how can we sing the Lord’s song/how can we declare the Excellencies of God. Here are some few possible ways.

We can declare God’s Excellencies (in a strange land) with our:

  1. Skills, gifts and profession (V. 5) – God has gifted us with different skill, talents, professions, and gifts. He expects us to use it for the glorification of his name. The exiles, through their musical skill in singing and playing musical instruments, had an awesome opportunity to witness God’s goodness to their captors. But they “hung their harps” on the poplars.

Every believer has been blessed with talents and spiritual gift(s), to both edify the church and declare God’s praises among the nations. Gladly, these gifts, talents, profession and abilities puts us in diverse and unique contexts that we can turn into opportunities of displaying the excellencies of God in how we do things. Remember your profession is your pulpit and your place of work is your battlefield.

We can make our gifts, talents and careers tools for service and not idols of worship or means of selfish gains. For God has made it possible that what we do can also be done for the magnification of his name, (Col. 3:17).

  1. Lips– The exiles had a good opportunity to declare with their mouths the goodness and the glory of YHWH. Metaphorically, in the strange, my tongue should not “cling to the roof of my mouth” (v6). We declare what we uphold as noble, praiseworthy and lovely. Our identity as children of God comes with a responsibility to make Him known to the nations. Therefore having tasted of the goodness of the Lord, we ought invite others to come to the living waters where they can eat and drink without money and without cost (Isa. 55:1-2).

We definitely have a story to tell. The story of God’s unconditional love upon us; stories of how our lives have been changed by the gospel. We certainly have a story of God’s goodness ,upon our lives, written by God’s ink of faithfulness. We should not commit the sin of silence. Jeremiah confessed that God’s word in him burned like fire, (Jer. 20:9) that he couldn’t remain silent. Like David we need to constantly pray to God and say, “O, Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise” (Ps. 51:15).

  1. Singing– I understand many of us, including me, are not gifted singers. But God calls each creature to sing praises to Him. There is something about singing that connects to every heart. Israel’s captors enjoyed the songs of Zion and so they demanded, “sing us one of the songs of Zion”.

Although the songs of Zion were meant to be sang to the Lord Almighty alone (and not men) and in Jerusalem, the exiles should have seized the opportunity to let their tormentors hear the theology/teachings of their songs. From time to time God will put a new song in your mouth, don’t hesitate to sing it out for the world know!


  1. Lives– We have an opportunity to make our lives a testament/demonstration that God is alive and actively involved in human story. The four young men in Daniel 1, who were part of the exiles, were determined to declare the faithfulness of God in how they live in a foreign land. Nebuchadnezzar could not even alter their life-values.                                                                                                                                     What is the hope of humanity, that is blinded by Satan, if they cannot see God in us?Living for God wherever we are or wherever we go has been made possible by the indwelling power of Holy Spirit in us.

Our day-day lives present us with tremendous opportunities to demonstrate that God’s values are livable.

Christ is greater than a witchdoctor

“We provide solution to family disputes, businesses experiencing perennial loses, debts, we help attract customers, manipulate court decisions, win elections, sort out infertility issues (to both men and women, protect marriages, we grant assurance to win an interview, we bring back former lovers …”.  These are not my words but promises from witchdoctors in African societies. I regularly see their small posters detailing a summary of what they do, their contacts and where they come from. I have not known the connection between what they do and where they come from, but it seems every ‘able’ witchdoctor wants to be associated with Tanzania, Kitui and Pwani.

Witchdoctors would promise to literally fix anything. No witchdoctor admits a failure, weakness, or inability. Ironically the quality of life they live is deplorable; it is irreconcilable to the powers they profess to have for many of them live in abject poverty. Sometimes I think: if they can fix the problems they claim why don’t they first start fixing their own? But since I see many of their posters in many towns, it seems their business is booming. This is a critical issue in an African context. For a person who believes in Jesus in such a context or formerly from such cultural context how can one wholly trust in Jesus alone as the One who is able and above every circumstance we go through.

First the very key issue here that has to be established is the concept of God. We believe in God (as revealed through Jesus Christ) who overrules all. He rules the heavens and rules the affairs of the nations (Ps 22:28; 103:19, Dan 4:34-35, Col 1:17). He is all-powerful and all-knowing. His power cannot and can never ever be compared to all a witchdoctor claims to do. God’s power overrules all with no comparison. At the same time he is God who is with us. He not only knows what we need but he also cares. And therefore we have no reason to worry (Ex 3:7; Matt 6:26-33; 10:29-31).

Secondly is the believers trust in God and His written word. This is important because we only take our burdens to the one we trust. Apostle Paul writes: And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”  Phil 4:19. God in his providence is able to meet literally all your needs and not just your spiritual needs. And we should put our whole trust in Him. He may not do it the way others promise to do, but His actions toward us, as his children, are motivated by his love for us. Therefore every aspect of a Christian should be totally surrendered to God who is over all things that happen not only in heaven, on earth but also in our small worlds/personal lives.

Thirdly, witchcraft is part of the powers that Jesus Christ has defeated. We are not unaware of the evil one and his schemes (2 Cor 2:11); its evil powers and those who use these powers to manipulate and use falsehood for their selfish gains. They are part of the principalities, authorities and spiritual forces of this dark world which we should wage war against. Like the way the author of Hebrews would put it- Jesus is superior to all. The promises of men to control human affairs are empty. Jesus’ power, care, loves and supremacy in all things and in what we go through is incomparable to what the evil world promise.