I’ve been reflecting a bit lately on the nature of leadership in the church. I feel hopelessly clueless about this most of the time, actually.
Perhaps it’s because I fell abruptly into senior leadership of a church long before I ever expected. Perhaps it’s because, other than some great mentoring early on as I developed as a preacher, I never really had any training to lead a church…
Now I did do some theological study. Mostly because I hoped that someone there would teach me how to do this pastoral malarkey, I guess. That someone would raise my leadership expertise from clueless to less clueless! It was, I suppose, my self-directed plan for ‘getting trained’ for church leadership.
But it hasn’t quite worked out like that. Instead I’ve learned about the person of Jesus, his work on the cross, his ministry and teaching. I’ve learned about the history of our faith. I’ve learned to stumble my way through the Greek New Testament and to love this ancient language. I’ve read the Bible from a social transformation perspective, I’ve hung out a lot in Genesis 1-3 and also Amos, I’ve learned more than I knew there was to know about wisdom literature and I’ve delved deep into the theologies of the Holy Spirit.
And I love that I have been given such a foundation from people who know and love the Lord and his Word. Five years ago, I never knew how much difference a sturdy, hard-won theology might make to my own stability and resilience. And, in God’s wisdom, I seem to have discovered a calling along the way to the deeper pursuit of academic theology.
Yet, for me, though I found more than I came for, I also felt that something was missing. My theology and my leadership practice were not being joined up.
I was being trained to the highest level in my thinking.
It was even impacting my own discipleship and personal spirituality.
But the connections had not been fully made regarding what this meant for my leadership practice, despite the fact that I took at least some of the applied theology options. And those connections should have been being made.
That’s not a criticism of my study community. It’s far more likely to have been the result of my unorthodox route through the college: I didn’t take final year and therefore missed at least one module which I think would have been significant in my training for church leadership.
What’s more, I think the criticism has to be of myself: though I often scoured the library shelves for help in this matter, I did not find a way to process the precious deposit of theology, which I had been so blessed to receive through this learning community, in such a way that I could begin to articulate a theology of leadership. No one else was responsible for this, save me.
But, as ever, God is good. He led me to a series of lectures within the college last year that opened my eyes. They opened my eyes to tools which might be useful in my attempts to forge a praxis of leadership which is born of, and wholly rooted in, a robust theology rather than vaguely Christian axioms, reaction to human needs and a lot of good secular technique.
And I am so very grateful because over the last few months it seems like finally I am receiving what I came for. It’s five years later than I wanted it, but then I know now that I needed those five years of foundations before I could get here. Five years of leading a church, for more than three of which thrust into a ‘do or die’ level of responsibility; and five years of part-time study, wrestling with the text, the texts about the text and even more lectures about all of the above!
I’m glad today that I stand on such a foundation. And yet I am so excited about what is to come.
I feel, for the first time ever, that one day I might actually be less than clueless about this pastoral leadership business.
I feel, especially as I spend this first year on my research, that one day I might actually have a chance of saying something useful to someone who is where I was five years ago.
And I feel so very grateful. Grateful to God and grateful to those whom he used on the way in the last five years on this slow journey from cluelessness.