Professor Edits Book on Biblical Leadership
by Becky St. Clair
Leadership probably isn’t what we think it is, at least according to the Bible.
That’s the surprising conclusion many readers will draw from a new book edited by Skip Bell, professor of leadership studies and director of the Doctor of Ministry program at the Andrews University Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary. "Servants and Friends: A Biblical Theology of Leadership" was released in May by Andrews University Press.
The book is intended to fill a large void in Christian leadership studies, according to Bell.
“Leadership is getting a lot of attention from society and the church,” Bell says. “As culture trends toward fragmentation, we want to know how to navigate, and to find or develop people who provide helpful leadership within their context. Society often looks to the current roster of motivational speaker celebrities or to what is trending in secular pop psychology. But the body of Christ—followers of Jesus, serving in the community, the workplace, as in the church and its institutions—must look seriously and deeply to the Bible.”
Bell notes that Christians studying leadership have long considered the case studies of many Biblical figures and drawn helpful homiletical lessons. But there has been very little work that has addressed the foundational theological meaning that Scripture has to offer, and that is what Bell and his colleagues have done in "Servants and Friends."
Bell began organizing the project in 2010. He brought together a large group of his Seminary colleagues with specialties in various areas of biblical studies and systematic and applied theology. They envisioned a book that would closely examine biblical language and concepts in the various natural divisions of Scripture, section by section. They also would select some of the major narratives and characters for further theological study.
The final roster of contributors for the book includes the following: Bell, C. Adelina Alexe, P. Richard Choi, Jo Ann Davidson, Richard M. Davidson, Jacques B. Doukhan, Roy E. Gane, Robert M. Johnston, R. Clifford Jones, Jiri Moskala, Stanley E. Patterson, Paul B. Petersen, Thomas R. Shepherd, all from Andrews University; Barry Gane from Avondale College (New South Wales, Australia); Jon Paulien and Sigve K. Tonstad from Loma Linda University (California); Leslie N. Pollard from Oakwood University (Huntsville, Alabama); Bernard J. Sauvagnat, an Adventist pastor from France; Douglas Tilstra from Southern Adventist University (Collegedale, Tennessee); and James R. Wibberding, an Adventist pastor from Idaho.
The result of their work is a highly readable book of 21 chapters in 450 pages that is easily accessible to the educated church member, and specifically useful as a textbook, according to Ronald Knott, director of Andrews University Press. Knott noted that each chapter concludes with a reflection section that provides helpful questions for applying the content to one’s personal life and to situations in organizational leadership.
“Bell did an outstanding job of seeing this dream through to completion,” Knott said. “It’s been a long process, and sometimes he may have thought we at the Press were just being difficult. But he never gave up. Being the general editor of a book with so many different contributors is a daunting task. Sometimes general editors take shortcuts, and try to push difficult matters of editorial consistency back onto the publisher. But from the beginning, he knew what his job was and he fully embraced it. Every publisher could wish for general editors like him.”
Bell has been a member of the Seminary faculty at Andrews University since 2000. He is the founding director of the University’s Christian Leadership Center and holds a DMin degree from Fuller Theological Seminary. His primary professional focus has been in leadership and administration, and he is a frequent presenter at professional meetings, helping organizations focus on vision and leadership. Before coming to Andrews, he worked for many years as a local pastor and regional church administrator for the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Knott said the Press expects "Servants and Friends" to be well received as a landmark publication in Christian leadership studies. For starters, it will be the focus of the pre-session of the 4th Annual Andrews University Leadership Conference, to be held July 26–28, 2014. It has also received generous praise from those who have seen the work prior to publication.
Thomas F. Tumblin, dean of the Beeson International Center and professor of leadership at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky, wrote: “I highly recommend 'Servants and Friends' to students and practitioners whose hearts crave the sacred integrity of leadership grounded in the love of God and neighbor.”
Brian C. Richardson, chair of the Department of Leadership in the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Ministry at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, wrote, “The authors demonstrate that true spiritual leadership is more than the practice of certain principles, but is also a part of the ‘spiritual pursuit.’ For those engaged in spiritual leadership and management this book provides a vital foundation.”
"Servants and Friends: A Biblical Theology of Leadership" is available now in print and digital editions from major online book retailers, and in print directly from Andrews University Press at universitypress.andrews.edu.
Andrews University Press is the only regularly established academic publishing house to serve the Seventh-day Adventist Church worldwide. It publishes academic and professional books that make important contributions to understanding in their respective disciplines and to the mission and purpose of Andrews University.