Classical Christian education interacts with the ideas of leadership and authority in ways unique to education. We partner with parents to be the authorities in their homes. We hope to disciple students to be leaders in their communities. Teachers are trusted to be the authorities in teaching their subjects. Administrators empower, support, and serve those they lead. The board is to lead by casting a vision and holding to the mission. There are many paradigms and explanations of leadership, yet all of them lead us to wonder: “How do we lead, and even more, how do we follow?” In this series, we will offer practical perspectives for various kinds of leaders in classical Christian schools. We will also challenge those of us who are following to consider how to respect the authorities God has placed in our lives.

A question to consider: In our schools and in our homes, who does the following?

a. Reigning and ruling, leading and limiting, exercising power and authority

b. Submitting and obeying, following and listening, accepting weakness and need

At first glance, we may think there are certain groups of people who do “list a”, and another group (the students, or maybe even the teachers) who do “list b”. What a strange irony that we are all actually called to enact both lists above in this Christian life. Don’t the two seem paradoxical, contradictory? Adam and Eve were created to reign and rule in the garden. As Christians, we have been equipped to lead others to the truth, to set up limits for those younger in faith so that they may not stumble. We are encouraged to live in the authority and power of the risen Christ through the work of the Holy Spirit.

Yet we are to submit to God, to the rulers, to our earthly masters (or bosses), to our parents, to our pastors, to our spouses, to one another. Even if they are imperfect. We are to obey the Lord. We are to follow Him. Even if we are uncertain. We are to listen to what He tell us and not make our own rules. Even when we want something else. We are to constantly plead to our all-powerful God in our weakness and need.

What could reconcile this paradox? How are we to exercise authority as truth-bearers while submitting to broken people? Who could make a way forward out of this aporia?

Christ Jesus, the truth, who is the suffering servant and the ruler of all:

“…Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

-Philippians 2:5–11(ESV)

This image is a mosaic icon, Christ Pantocrator (meaning Christ the Ruler of All), from the Hagia Sophia.

How easy is it to forget that to lead we must first follow Christ’s example of submission. Any authority, any power, any position we have is delegated to us from the only one who could ever lead perfectly. If we take a role of leadership with the aim of proving ourselves or exalting ourselves, then we will inevitably find ourselves inadequate, anxious, and in despair. Similarly, if we follow leaders with the expectation that they should be perfect or solve all our problems, then we will inevitably find ourselves disappointed, disillusioned, and in despair.

The way to lead is found on the way of following Christ. As we follow Christ, we may find that we have more authority – more hope – than we realized. In this third series, let us learn from great leaders and the great Ruler of All about leading with authority.

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