Howell, Servants of the Servant


Don N. Howell, Jr., Servants of the Servant: A Biblical Theology of Leadership. Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2003.

Referenced in: Summary

This is an excellent biblical theology of leadership. He defines leadership as “taking the initiative to influence people to grow in holiness and to passionately promote the extension of God’s kingdom in the world.” (3) The chief currencies of such a leader are character, motives and agenda. When these are pure and aligned with truth, one’s influence is beneficial.

Howell surveys the Old and New Testament terms that are used to describe leadership. The Old Testament emphasis, “From Slave of Man to Servant of the Lord,” reframes a term with an oppressive meaning, “slave,” into a title of honor and dignity: servant of the Lord. Howell shows how this is manifested in the lives of eleven leaders: Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Deborah, Gideon, Samson, Samuel, David, Saul (a tragic downfall), Solomon, Daniel, and Nehemiah.

In a similar manner, the New Testament emphasis, “Servant of the Lord and servant of others,” transforms the terms for “servant” and “slave” into an exalted identification with the mission and sufferings of Christ. Of particular importance is how Jesus’ theology of the kingdom presents three motifs that inform the practice of leadership.

  1. Kingdom harvest through sacrifice - It gives his servants missional clarity and direction, participate in the unique dynamics of kingdom growth, and empowers servants to endure hardship because of their eschatological certainty.
  2. Kingdom righteousness through freedom - It frees servants to lose themselves under God’s agenda.
  3. Kingdom greatness through servanthood - It redefines greatness in servanthood following the example of Christ.

The author profiles several New Testament leaders: Peter, John the Apostle, Barnabas, Timothy, Titus, and Paul.

He concludes with a summary profile of biblical leadership, again returning to the currencies of character, motives, and agenda.

From the Publisher

Leadership is a subject that has gained impressive visibility in the past two decades. The number of books, monographs and articles, as well as seminars, devoted to the development of one’s leadership skills has been almost exponential growth.

This study is an attempt to forge a full-orbed theology of Christian leadership grounded in the teaching of Scripture. What emerges from tracing the theme of leadership through the biblical record is a servanthood pattern, one that is wholly distinct from prevailing secular models. Our exposition begins with the biblical language of the servant, the term of choice for those great leaders used of God to further his saving purposes in the world. Eleven Old Testament and five New Testament leaders are profiled. The portrait of Jesus Christ focuses on three motifs that governed his training of the twelve for kingdom ministry. The Pauline letters are mined for those convictions that governed Paul’s practice of leadership, both of his mission team and of the faith communities that emerged from that mission. The treatment of each leader, from Joseph to Paul, begins with a series of preliminary questions and concludes with a mini-profile that correlates the biblical data with these questions. The final chapter offers a summary profile of the servant leader, one whose character, motives and agenda align with the divine purposes.

Though designed as a textbook for upper level college and seminary courses on leadership, the book’s readable format is ideal for churches and parachurch organizations in their leadership training programs. The author’s prayer is that this work will serve as a catalyst to call God’s people back to Scripture and thereby raise up a whole new generation of authentic servant-leaders.

About the Author

Dr. Don N. Howell, Jr. has taught New Testament at Columbia Biblical Seminary and School of Missions in Columbia, South Carolina since 1994. Prior to that, Don and his wife, Melissa, served for fifteen years with OMF International in church planting and theological education in Japan. The author of numerous articles and reviews on New Testament subjects, he has also contributed chapters in several recent textbooks in the area of Pauline missiology. Dr. Howell has ministered and traveled extensively in East Asia, Europe and Latin America.

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