A Theology Of Leadership: Nurture and Protect for Flourishing. @gtomlin Graham Tomlin #LC14 HTB Leadership Conference


The Christian church was born into an era of emperors. You ascended the imperial throne because of seniority, heredity or military glory. Then you could do whatever you liked until unseated by a coup.


Before 1949 in Germany Fuhrer just meant Leader. Since the war it doesn’t get used. It’s tainted. Similarly such leaders tainted it for the church.


Also for OT – God was king, kings were something to be wary of.


For NT – Jesus is only Lord. (Acts 17:7, Rom 10:9, Col 1:18) – HE is the Leader. The head of the church. Supreme.


We hear ‘Lead Like Jesus’ – but if that means he’s just an example of a good leadership tip source, that won’t do. He’s no leadership guru, he’s the Lord.


BUT God is working for the flourishing of creation. (Eph 1:10)


Richard Bauckham ‘God’s secret purpose at work in the whole creation took visible shape in Jesus Christ.’


God’s care for creation is exercised indirectly; he chooses a part for the good of all. He chooses us. It’s always mediated. Gen 2:15 ‘work it and take care of it’


Work it (enable its potential) nurture

Take Care of it (protect)


All mediated:

God’s care for creation – through humanity

For society – through govt

For people – through the church

For church – through it leaders (presbuteros, episkopos, deacons)


How does this kind of CHRISTIAN leadership work then?


Leadership is BORROWED and never OWNED.

There is one true leader, owner and Lord. (Rom 13 – God establishes it, every single authority so there’s no such thing as a leader – only God’s allowance.) Human authority is derived, not absolute. Never worship a leader!

This is a radical Christian insight. The power doesn’t come from the people.

God is King. We don’t own the leadership. Never forget it.

This extends to those we lead – they are HIS, not yours. Forget that and you’re in trouble.


Leadership is a means of DIVINE BLESSING

God wants to bless people through your leadership, so flourishing occurs. This call on us is to be those who work and care. Nurture and protect. Colin Gunton ‘that it may come to be that which it was created to be, that which praises its maker by becoming perfect in its own way.’ Guard from threats, internal and external and also help them realize their potential.



Leadership requires HUMILITY

HBR listed qualities of leadership; but missed this off the list. It’s seldom spoken of in leadership theory, but if we look at leadership as a stewardship, then we must look for humility. St John Crystostom wrote on leadership in the C3rd, basically saying why he doesn’t want to lead.

The first thing a preacher must do is ‘purify his sould entirely of ambition for the office… train himself to despise praise.’

Cf James ‘Who is wise among you?’ Jm 3:13 – look how you show it.

Look out for the limelight!


Leadership creates space to FLOURISH – remade in the image of Christ

The gardener doesn’t make anything grow, just creates space for it to happen.

Protect the plant (can be hard to oppose a negative influence)

Be imaginative.


God wants people to flourish and become like Jesus. Good leadership is joining in with that.





Who are you called to lead

How can you nurture and protect them?

Which of these two things do they need most now?