Just as the biblical worldview affected all aspects of culture for most of American history, humanism today influences our bedrock institutions: law, government, education, healthcare, media, the arts, and the business community. This repackaged paganism embraced by contemporary American capitalism has rejected the influence of biblical truth in order to embrace a self-absorbed leadership model that promotes self-worship. Yet—alarmingly— much of the American church today is either thoughtlessly or pragmatically employing a humanistic model of contemporary capitalistic leadership. And the model is not only unbiblical but its ability to impact the culture is ultimately destructive.

Recently the evidence of this downward spiral in contemporary corporate America was manifested by entire corporations faltering and closing, not because of problems on the ground floors but because of moral failures in the penthouse offices of leaders acting on their personal and greedy quest for wealth and power. This produced a staggering loss of jobs, obliteration of countless individual retirement packages, untold numbers of divorces and wrecked families, widespread erosion of respect for the business community, the demise of the dreams of many, and a general loss of respect for the American free-enterprise system. Business leadership today is too often not about leadership but about the leader—his or her power, portfolio, and profits. The lack of biblically based leadership in American culture has left our society reeling like a boxer on the ropes after a knockout punch.

Modern corporate leadership is rooted in self-absorbed concepts of success, ego-driven desires for power, and what is now a socially approved expression of greed that a century ago would have been decried as evil. This self-worshiping, man-centered model of leadership is promoted anew every semester through collegiate MBA programs. American educational institutions are the front line of the culture war as the typical university is militantly intolerant to any idea that would propose ethical absolutes in any degree program. Few university MBA programs today instruct future business leaders in the traditional, biblically based ethic of sacrificial servant leadership. In fact, only a pitiful few MBA programs retain a course on business ethics. Traditional American capitalism, along with the Judeo-Christian worldview on which it was based, is fiercely rejected at today’s typical university. What’s being taught instead? Pragmatism rules. The end justifies the means. Ethics are not absolutes to be obeyed, but obstacles to be overcome. And now, voraciously, this humanistic, greed-driven model of leadership is being adopted and absorbed by churches throughout our nation. Yet greed destroys. This popular new model of corporate leadership will eventually destroy the American church if unchecked and if continued as the primary source of leadership models and/or leaders themselves. What can be done to stop this deadly plunge into a black hole of destructive leadership? Can the church profit from certain aspects of how to do business from corporate America? Certainly. But the church is not a business. We do not produce a product to be bought; members are not customers. Pastors are not CEOs, and leaders are not a board of directors. Secondly, the church certainly cannot imbibe the diving dynamics of death from today’s greed-based and self-promoting culture-destroying found in the executive officers and boardrooms of America’s business world. The church must escape the valley of greed-driven leadership prevalent in contemporary corporate America and ascend the high ground of gospel-driven leadership described in God’s Word.

The Biblical Model

Regaining lost ground won’t be easy, but the solution is simple: the church must follow the Bible’s model for defining, developing, and deploying leaders while simultaneously rejecting the world’s leadership models and standards. Simply put, the American church must define leadership and then develop and deploy leaders who can transform the world for Jesus Christ. How do we do it? Obviously, raising leaders for such a time as this will require more than a couple of officer training classes or a few sermons on Christian leadership. The Christian church must become a leadership factory and distribution center for the world, and by the grace of God, it can—if we return to both the biblical definition of leadership and the biblical method of producing leaders for the church and the world.