This article discusses how the theological-spiritual dimension, which has to do with the specific identity of the church, has implications for and partly determines the application of leadership theories and tools in the local church. The article also examines how leadership research can provide the means to realize a church’s theological or spiritual identity or its true nature. This implies a two-directional relationship between theology and leadership. On the one hand, theology should influence how churches are led, and on the other hand, leadership may facilitate the realization of the theological-spiritual dimension.

There are a number of important articles on the theology of leadership. Scripture provides ideas and values relevant to leadership. However, these articles run the risk of pressing the biblical texts in order to provide advice on leadership in all areas in the church, and they risk ignoring leadership theories that can improve church leadership. A second approach is to base the leadership of churches only on leadership theory. Here, the risk is to treat churches as businesses and not as theological-spiritual entities. A third approach is to make a sharp distinction between the contribution of the leadership profession and theology.

In this article, I argue for a fourth approach. I try to let the theological-spiritual dimension of churches communicate with leadership theories. This dimension should influence leadership and, on the other hand, leadership should facilitate the development of the theological-spiritual dimension. According to this fourth approach, theology and leadership theories should influence each other. For instance, leadership theories can help the church apply leadership styles and structures that may facilitate the development of the theological-spiritual dimension. Thus, there is an area where theology and leadership overlap and cooperate. To advance this area of research, this article presents a series of themes and topics that future researchers may focus on, both through the literature and in empirical studies.

Keywords: Church leadership, church identity, leadership and theology, church development