I remember repeating often to myself as a young theological student these words, “if I am going to be a pastor, then I want to be the best trained pastor I can be.” My undergraduate training at Trevecca Nazarene University, Nashville, Tennessee, instilled within me a love for learning. It was during these years that a fascination with Wesleyan theology developed as I absorbed the teaching of Drs. William Greathouse, John Allan Knight and Bill Strickland.
Earlier in my Trevecca days I had responded to what I perceived as a call of God to pastoral ministry. God saw in me what I did not, could not, see in myself. To this day, some 45 years later, I have sought to be faithful to this calling.
My intense desire to learn coupled with a deep sense of calling to pastoral ministry led me to graduate programs at Methodist, Nazarene and Presbyterian institutions. The formal vita is located below in this section.
I enjoyed thoroughly my years in local church pastoral ministry. However, during the past thirty years, I have “lived out” my pastoral calling in Nazarene higher education. In every aspect of my classroom and administrative responsibilities, I have been captive to my conviction and vocation to “work” in these educational assignments out of an intensely personal and communal pastoral perspective.
Since those early days in Nazarene higher education at the European Nazarene College, I have “wrestled” with leadership questions for faith communities such as the local church, a Christian college or university, or a family unit. I probed in my mind the need for modeling of Christian leadership at the district, regional and global levels of the denomination. I could not escape the implications to live and lead “faithfully” in the context the faith community or communities in which I was “stationed” or placed.
In the PURPOSE statement for this blog, I identify several questions that I have attempted to pursue since my EuNC years. These questions probe the spiritual dimensions of leadership in faith communities.
The one question that preoccupied my thinking during my first year of teaching at the school on the borders of Germany and Switzerland was this: “How can we live together as the body of Christ in the midst of this diversity in such a way that our relationships are redemptive and a witness to unbelievers of the reconciling work of God in Christ?” Today, as I work as education commissioner in the Global Ministry Center of the Church of the Nazarene, I continue to pursue the question. I am still on the journey.
In the midst of conflicting expectations, and often seemingly irreconcilable differences in a local congregation, mission organization, Christian university, church governing board, denominational headquarters or a host of other faith communities, what does it mean – really mean – in these often conflicting situations for the Christian leader to lead with the mind of Christ? These are pastoral issues and concerns.
I am often challenged by the words of “The Servant Song” in our Nazarene hymnal (page 679). Listen to the first two verses:
Brother, let me be your servant,
Let me be as Christ to you;
Pray that I may have the grace
To let you be my servant too.
We are pilgrims on a journey;
We are brothers on the road,
We are here to help each other,
Walk the mile and bear the load.
Each time I sing this hymn, however, I am convicted by a question. Is it really possible to be a servant – a servant leader – in the real world of the contemporary Christian community with all of the conflicting demands and pressures on us?
My conviction in this blog, reflected in each section, is that, regardless of where God places us as leaders and with whom He places us within the Christian fellowship, we must have at the core of our being at least three compelling convictions:
• A vision of who we are as people of God;
• A passion for what we are called to do in the work of God; and
• An obsession for how we live together as the family of God.
These convictions are the heart and soul of the servant leadership. They comprise the essence of the Servant’s Song.
I am coming to understand that if leaders are to assist “the led” to think and act Christianly, we must wholeheartedly embrace these leadership themes:
• The motivation for servant leadership is grounded in a theology of ministry.
• The lifestyle of servant leadership is characterized by a passion for Christ-likeness.
• The goal of servant leadership is to facilitate transformation and reconciliation.
• The ministry of servant leadership is to prepare others for their ministries.
• The pain in servant leadership is experienced when good and godly people differ and sometimes collide with the leader over vision and values.
• The evidence of servant leadership is in the qualitative growth of the led -individually and collectively.
Fundamentally, I believe, effective leadership for Christian character formation is grounded in biblical perspective and not in organizational skills. Skills, of course, are needed. However, sharp skills without Christian motives easily lead to manipulation. The primary orientation and motivation of our actions as Christian leaders must be deeply theological…and pastoral.
My wife of 47 years, Anne, and our son, Stephen, share with me this journey. They share my passion for pursuing the compelling convictions and implications of what it means to be a Christ-centered leader.
Brother, sister, let me be your servant…