leaders mdash bridging the worlds of scholarship and the street
A man walking across a plank that bridges two large columns. freeimages.com/Svilen Milev

Here’s a not-so-obvious way to think about your leadership. If you grab and run with it, you will have a far more engaged support base that is better informed and equipped to be champions for your ministry. Tim Keller wrote in an essay, Creation, Evolution, and Christian Laypeople, that as pastors “we are to be a bridge between the world of scholarship and the world of the street and the pew.” Keller is a pastor trying to help Christian laypeople who are confused when biblical authority is challenged by science, but his logic will help leaders of every type of Christian ministry:

“If I as a pastor want to help believers and inquirers to relate science and faith coherently, I must read the works of scientists, exegetes, philosophers, and theologians and then interpret them for my people. Someone might counter that this is too great a burden to put on pastors, that instead they should simply refer their laypeople to the works of scholars. But if pastors are not ‘up to the job’ of distilling and understanding the writings of scholars in various disciplines, how will our laypeople do it? This is one of the things that parishioners want from their pastors.”

Develop and Equip

These sentences point to a key leadership responsibility which is to develop whoever we are leading. We know from Ephesians 4:11-12 that the reason Christ gave his church apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers is for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ. The principle of equipping people to build up the body of Christ applies to all Christian leaders. We equip people to fulfill the Christian mission.

Whatever your field of ministry is, you should read the deep thinkers in your field. You are likely already doing this so that you can write your sermons and speeches, and better design your logic model, strategic plan, program evaluations and your case for support. Keeping up with the thought-leaders contributes to your own personal development too, and their ideas are the sparks that ignite your creativity to generate new ideas for your ministry.

Make Good Scholarship Accessible

I’m suggesting you take the extra step of interpreting the experts in your field for your staff and supporters by repackaging their ideas into an easily understood, user-friendly format. The people you lead will better understand what your ministry is doing and advocating, appreciate that you are being responsible in how you do it, and will be better equipped to tell others why what you are doing is so important. You will have contributed to their personal development and will raise future leaders and champions for your ministry.

Most people have neither the time nor the inclination to wade through the ‘heavy’ writing of deep thinkers in your field. If you’ve done the reading, you’ve done the bulk of the work already. Follow through and leverage the value of the time you have already invested.

So, if you are:

  • a pastor, read great Christian theologians and help your parishioners develop a richer theology;
  • a seminary or Bible college president, read educational theorists and show your supporters how your school excels;
  • an inner-city mission leader, read experts on poverty, addiction, and the systemic conditions that create the problems in the first place and let your supporters know how you not only are responding to the fallout of these problems, but are working to prevent them from happening at all;
  • an executive director of an evangelism ministry, read missiologists and let your people know about the nuances and sensitivities of working cross-culturally and how you are being responsible in creating self-sustaining churches around the globe;
  • and, well, you get the idea.

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An exploration of Christian ministry leadership led by CCCC's CEO John Pellowe