Foundations of Christian Wisdom: Community

By Uli Chi

May 13, 2024

Scripture — 1 John 1:3 (NIV)

We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.


Human beings are created for community, for relationships of mutuality.


Trinity (Andrei Rublev c. 1400)

The second foundational insight from Christian wisdom concerns human beings as communities of persons. To put it briefly, human beings are created for community, for relationships of mutuality. As Andrei Rublev’s ancient icon, The Trinity, illustrates, the distinctively Christian understanding of God is that mutuality between persons is at the heart of the divine. Therefore, being made in the image of God means that we are created not just to be isolated individuals but to be part of a community of persons. Being part of a community is neither optional nor incidental to being human. As God is a community of persons, being part of a mutually flourishing community is intrinsic to becoming fully human.

This insight reminds us that relationships are central to being human and to our leadership tasks. In the words of the English poet John Donne, “No man is an island.” A Christian vision of leadership means that we take seriously the cultivation of the community we serve. Being task-oriented, I have to admit that I quickly become preoccupied with my organization’s goals. My short-term, results-oriented business world makes that even more problematic. As a result, I end up paying less attention to the community on the journey with me.

But leaders, by definition, have followers. And followers are not just individuals but part of a community engaged in the work. Christian wisdom suggests that leadership is not only about developing individual followers but also about cultivating communities. The nature and quality of the communities we lead (what some might describe as the organization’s culture) reflect on us as leaders as much as the results we achieve as an organization.

Another aspect of a Christian understanding of community is that leadership is primarily about the other, not ourselves. There is almost no record of Jesus talking about leadership as such. Instead, Jesus always spoke about servanthood. He said, “The greatest among you will be your servant” (Matthew 23:11 NIV). That alone should cause us to think differently about what it means to be leaders.

I have argued elsewhere that Jesus intends us to think of ourselves as “lead servants.” I find that phrase more helpful than the more common expression, servant leaders. My reason for reversing the grammar is to emphasize our role as servants rather than as leaders. Frankly, it’s easier for me to think of my primary identity as being a leader rather than a servant. Changing the language helps me focus on what is most important in our role. Leaders should be, first and foremost, about serving others.

Given what I just said, it might surprise you to learn that a third insight about community is that leaders must be willing to receive as well as to give. Leaders are meant to be in relationships where everyone has something to offer and contribute. Said more simply, leadership is intended to be a team sport. Despite the individualistic leadership models of our time, we are not meant to be self-sufficient. Not everything has to be borne alone. We do not have to have the answer to every question. There is wisdom resident in the community. Our cultural ideal of individualistic leadership denies us the insight, support, and encouragement we are meant to receive from the community we serve.

So, community is about cultivating a set of mutually flourishing relationships. That should also be our goal as wise leaders. The mandate to create such a culture is one of the foundational insights of Christian wisdom.


How well are you able to serve others in your life? How well are you able to receive from them? Think about a specific relationship: Which do you find more challenging (serving or receiving)? Why might that be?


For the specific relationship in your reflection above, work this week on either serving or receiving from the other person, whichever you find more challenging.


God our Father, Lord Jesus Christ, and Holy Spirit,

We are grateful that you didn’t create us as solitary individuals. Thank you for creating us to be part of a community of persons. And thank you for taking our personhood seriously so that we are not simply absorbed and extinguished in the process.

Thank you that in you, we can experience both unity and community.


Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project’s online commentary. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: 1 John: Walking in the Light.

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Uli Chi

Board Member, Senior Fellow, Affiliate Professor

Dr. Uli Chi’s career is a testament to his unique approach to leadership. He has navigated the realms of for-profit businesses, nonprofit organizations, the theological academy, and the local church, gleaning a wealth of wisdom from each. As an award-winning technological entrepreneur, h...

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