Christian Servant Leadership – A Christian Socialism?

What is the best management and leadership model for running Christian hospitals, universities and churches?

North American June 14, 2021

There are five major components of servant leadership: 

  • Interpersonal Support: emphasizes the roles of servant leaders to be able to help others succeed, nurture employee’s leadership skills, provide protection to followers’ dignity, respect the independent decisions of followers, listen to followers’ voices, and recognize and improve low morale when needed. 
  • Building Community: emphasizes the roles of servant leaders to focus on cooperation strategies, improvement of community interaction, the value of diversity and differences, and the enhancement of organizational commitment. 
  • Egalitarianism: emphasizes the roles of servant leaders to be open to constructive criticism and debate while learning from employees and welcoming various, valuable inputs from all levels.  
  • Altruism:  emphasizes the roles of servant leaders to be able to make self-sacrifice, discourage selfish and self-benefitting behaviors, serve others without expectations of rewards, and to be able to put other interests over oneself.
  • Moral Integrity: emphasizes the roles of servant leaders to “walk the talk” by maintaining integrity, transparency, justice, and honesty for the organization and discouraging the manipulation, deception and only profit/efficiency-driven actions.

Do these components seem familiar? 

These components are part of the idea of socialism which aims to create a utopian world. It is unlike both political socialism and capitalism. Political socialism is associated with actions motivated by strong nationalism and the ownership of various aspects of society by the state government. Capitalism is associated with privatized ownership with actions that are more motivated by self-interest. 

In political Socialism, the government is the owner of the resources. In capitalism, the individual is the owner of resources. In Christian socialism, God is the owner of  all the resources and allocates them. Servant leadership is the Christian socialism in which ownership is given to God and actions are motivated by God’s unconditional love.

Pros: 

Christian institutions have a culture in mission that is composed of a homogenous group with similar visions, missions and strategic views. Under this Christian socialism culture, the pay scale is subjective to the modest principle. However, a great multitude of benefits is issued to those people in great need. Decisions are based on group/committee decisions, group actions involve a mixture of work and church, and hiring decisions are based on the bona fide agenda to hire Christian denominational workers. 

Cons: 

To some extent, this model creates a situation in which a majority of the people have similar mindsets. This may lead to little or no tolerance of different voices or new perspectives.  Speech may be censored by the religious desirability and social pressures, and the individual indulgence for self-pleasures are monitored.  For example, one may be reported by group members if one goes to a bar for drinking, a ballroom for dancing, or a nightclub for watching stripper shows. 

However, unlike the disciplinary actions that can be involved with a political socialistic system, there is no substantial disciplinary system involved with Christian socialism culture.  In Christian socialism culture, everyone believes that God will hold justice and exercise His disciplinary actions in the end. The Christian servant leaders just need to fulfill the roles and functions to serve others first and lead after. 

To survive in religious socialism, either in church life or professional life, keeping a low profile and abiding by church doctrines without challenging the rationality of doctrines is always the safest policy.  Relationships and attitudes are everything. 

Educational institutions, along with healthcare institutions, are socialistic products that are not economical but are very effective in building the community and relationships. The management models involved in a capitalistic, competitive, non-profit, public administration model and management theory X, Y, Z does not fit Christian educational culture in terms of enhancing job satisfaction, reducing burnout or improving productivity. 

Do you agree that Christian Servant Leadership where the individual serves first and leads later is a good model that can be developed and adopted into Adventist mission culture? 

Authors

Dr. Chi is the Professor of Management, Graduate Program Director, and Associate Dean of the Business department at Andrews University, USA. He has served at Taiwan Adventist College as an instructor for four years (1985-1989) and has served at Southwestern Adventist University as a business professor for 16 years. As the Business Department Chair and MBA Program Director at SWAU, he was also awarded Educator of the Year in 2007. He received his B.A. in Theology, B.B. A. in Business Administration (Accounting), M.B.A. in Business Administration, PhD in Leadership and Administration with minor in Business Management, a second PhD in Quantitative Methods, Statistics, and Research Evaluation.

Dr. Grace received her PhD in Nursing Science from Texas Woman's University. Her dissertation evaluated the effects of music relaxation video on pain and anxiety in patients who received intracavitary brachytherapy for gynaecological cancer. She is the 2011 recipient of the International Research Dissertation Award from Sigma Theta Tau International Nursing Honor Society. Currently, she is a Full Professor and teaching at Andrews University Department of Nursing in Berrien Springs, Michigan, USA.

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