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Doctoral Project Abstract

The Power Dynamics of Church Leadership

Nathan Randolph

The Power Dynamics of Church Leadership surveys the landscape of how leaders gain the ability to influence their followers. Leadership, boiled down to an influence upon the thoughts and behaviors of others, develops and is exerted within a social context and is thus governed by rules and principles common to human social mores. To influence others is to exert adequate social power to persuade them to make personal change choices. The Power Dynamics of Church Leadership is a discussion of where such social power is derived from, and how it may be gained, used, or even lost.

The discussion of the origin of leadership power is conducted primarily in the context of church leadership. The book shows how the source of social power theory adequately explains why some leaders are more effective than others and presents principles to guide both the long and short-term actions of leaders. The concept exposes currents underlying many conflicts within church communities. It espouses that leaders who understand the source of social power in their particular group context may more easily avoid organizational conflict and provide high quality biblical leadership to their people.

The Power Dynamics of Church Leadership is divided into three major parts. The first section defines leadership and reviews historical theories concerning the source of leaders' abilities. It also identifies the natural development and the often unconscious exchange of social currency among people. It contends that drawing upon such social power is unavoidable in the context of group dynamics, including church life. The second section identifies and explains five sources of power: Reward, Coercive, Legitimate, Referent and Expert Powers. These are grouped into Power from Above, or Formal Power, and Power from Below, or Personal Power. Each chapter describes how these power sources may be used beneficially as well as detrimentally by those seeking to exert influence. The final section reveals how various sources of power interact with each other, particularly within church leadership. It expounds further upon social power's impact on leaders' overall ability to provide successful leadership. More specifically, there is in-depth discussion about official leaders lacking personal power and emergent leaders not given formal leadership opportunities.

The Power Dynamics of Church Leadership argues that appointing referent and expert leaders to official positions in the church is not only a biblical directive but also the most effective. Success requires not only appointing the right kind of leaders to official roles but also holding these formal leaders accountable. By converging power from above and power from below, church leaders may lead with the authority God intended as seen in the teachings of Jesus and exemplified in his own leadership motif. The Power Dynamics of Church Leadership concludes each chapter offering readers thought provoking questions for further discussion in a class or small group setting.

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