The Leader and Truth

The conscious denial of reality is a central danger of leadership, and the leader must defend against this temptation. History is filled with generals who refused to admit they had been out-maneuvered, captains who refused to admit they were lost, and CEOs who refused to admit that no one was buying their products. In order to do this, the leader must demand to know everything critical and essential to the organization, its tasks, its operating status, its finances, its policies, its history, and its opportunities. The leader must be unafraid of data and facts, and he must surround himself with people who know the information he needs and will give it to him. The leader starts out by affirming the importance of reality and the crucial facts that must be known, and he makes clear that decision making is going to be accountable to those facts. The data will be investigated, analyzed, poked, prodded, and sometimes taken apart and put together again. The leader assumes the responsibility to work until the facts make sense and a clear picture comes into view.

Thus, the leader’s disciplined posture is to lean into the truth and to be unafraid of it. He demands that those around him tell him the truth, and he leads by being the truth teller in chief. He does not allow the organization to be tempted by either dishonesty or self-deception, and he models personal honesty.

Al Mohler, The Conviction to Lead

Leaders are Readers

When You Find a Leader, You Find a Reader, and for Good Reason

As a general rule, clichés are to be avoided. The statement that leaders are readers is an exception to that rule. When you find a leader, you have found a reader. The reason for this is simple–there is no substitute for effective reading when it comes to developing and maintaining the intelligence necessary to lead…Leadership requires a constant flow of intelligence, ideas, and information. There is no way to gain the basics of leadership without reading.

Leading by conviction demands an even deeper commitment to reading and the mental disciplines that effective reading establishes. Why? Because convictions require continual mental activity. The leader is constantly analyzing, considering, defining, and confirming the convictions that will rule his leadership…

Leaders know that reading is essential, as it is the most important means of developing and deepening understanding. That is why leaders learn to set aside a significant amount of time for reading. We simply cannot lead without a constant flow of intellectual activity in our minds, and there is no substitute for reading when it comes to producing this flow.

Al Mohler, The Conviction to Lead (Bethany House, 2012)

Sexual Wholeness, and Not Just Purity, Is the Goal

Every other October we sponsor a Sexual Wholeness Week in seminary chapel. The intent behind this series of chapels is to exhort our students in what it means to be sexually whole. This concept goes beyond just helping students avoid adultery in seminary and ministry. The greater concern is that they would be sexually whole people who are not perpetuating brokenness in themselves, their families, and their ministries.

One of the most helpful books I came across in preparation for this series is Judith and Jack Balswick’s book, Authentic Human Sexuality (IVP, 1999). They explain the complexity of human sexuality and seek to define sexual wholeness.

Human sexuality must be understood in light of a variety of influences, including biological, sociological, psychological, theological, as well as gender, emotions, behaviors, attitudes and values. We begin with the presupposition that authentic sexuality is meant to be a congruent, integral part of one’s total being. Further, we believe that God intends for our sexuality to be a real, genuine, believable and trustworthy part of ourselves. In this way we embrace what God has created and declare with God, “It is very good.” (p. 13)

 

This book is filled with chapter after chapter of some of the best writing I have ever read on sexuality. Since sexual issues are one of the most, if not the most, pressing issues in the American church today, I highly recommend pastors get this book and read it.

Here’s an example of the kind of wisdom gathered in the book. The Balswick’s quote Lewis Smedes on the need to go beyond an emphasis on sexual purity in marriage to sexual wholeness:

A man or woman can be just too busy, too tired, too timid, too prudent, or too hemmed in with fear to be seriously tempted by an adulterous affair. But this same person can be a bore at home, callous to the delicate needs of the partner. He or she may be too prudish to be an adventuresome lover, and too cowardly to be in honest communication and too busy to put oneself out for anything more than a routine ritual of personal commitment.

One may be able to claim to have never cheated…but may never have tried to grow along with their partner into a deep personal relationship of respect and regard within marriage. Their brand of negative fidelity may be an excuse for letting the marriage fall by neglect into dreary conformity to habit and, with that, into a dull routine of depersonalized sex. I am not minimizing the importance of sexual fidelity, but anyone who thinks that morality in marriage is fulfilled by avoiding an affair has short-circuited the personal dynamics of fidelity.

Lewis Smedes, Sex for Christians (Eerdmans, 1976), 168-9.

Pastors on Pedestals

The first danger I want to highlight is that of the celebrity pastor who is ultimately so big as to be practically beyond criticism.  Some pastors are just so successful as communicators that, frankly, they are placed on a pedestal and become, in both their precept and example, authoritative sources of wisdom to their followers.  In part this is because many rightly think that thankfulness, not criticism, should be the appropriate response to seeing the Lord bless a ministry. Who really wants to criticise a man who brings so many the good news? Yet in an age where sheer numerical success and the ability to pull in the punters and keep them enthralled is often assumed to be a clear sign of faithfulness, there are dangers of which we must be aware…

Praise God for preachers whose ministries are extraordinarily blessed; but let us hold them to the same exacting standards as Paul held the super-apostles in Corinth.   Celebrity ministers who act as influential lone rangers in constituencies where there is no accountability can prove remarkably dangerous.  And if they do not come up to snuff on standards of life and doctrine, let us not pretend otherwise, or trade off fidelity for eloquence or stage presence.  Make no mistake: tomorrow’s church will be the epitaph of today’s leaders.

Carl Trueman

The Challenge of Teaching the Bible in an Academic (or church!) Setting

Teaching in a theological climate is a very lonely and sometimes daunting enterprise. Even with the most absorbed and friendly class, you are all alone there in front. What you say will inevitably be passed on—sometimes garbled and distorted. When you read the exams and one student after another gets it all wrong, there is really only one conclusion available: you, with all your preparation and good intentions, have deceived a whole class, and they will go on to deceive the waiting world. It is hard to be fearless and open to learning and willing to teach something new and important. It is easy to be safe and lazy.

Clair Davis, Chaplain and Professor of Church History, Redeemer Seminary, Dallas TX

The Only Professionally-Designed Ministry Simulation You’ll Ever Find!

A few years back through our Summit Christian Leadership Center, we developed a leadership training experience that is the first of its kind in the seminary world:  The Sweetbriar Baptist Church Ministry Simulation.

Our faculty and students have all been delighted and surprised at how powerful and effective this experiential learning environment is for helping participants strengthen their leadership skills.  Several dozen students have completed the simulation over the past few years, and each of them rave about how beneficial it was for them.

We still have five slots open for the next installment of Sweetbriar Baptist — to be held January 16-20, 2012. We’re so excited about this new resource that we’d like to make a special offer to our alumni and supporters.

If the church you lead (or attend) will agree to take up a special offering for our Students’ Scholarship Fund, you can send two participants to Sweetbriar at no charge.  This is a great learning experience for vocational or non-vocational church leaders!  The personalized feedback you get from our faculty will encourage you with your leadership strengths and give you real direction for how to improve in areas where you need to grow.

Time is running out, and space is limited.  Call Gail Banz today at 215-368-7538, ext. 139 or email gbanz@cbs.edu for more information.

Why Pastors, and Not Professors, Are the Answer to Biblically Illiterate Congregations

Those of us who teach Bible and theology in Christian colleges and seminaries learn quickly to live with chastened hopes of making a significant impact on the church in America today. I am well aware that any influence I might ever have on believers outside my local church is indirect. That is, in shaping future pastors, church planters, missionaries, teachers, and counselors, I do have the joy of influencing believers all over the world through the graduates of our seminary. But my teaching and writing, especially the academic side, while necessary, is not what will transform churches.

Yale University theologian, Miroslav Volf notes that in his context of mainline liberal churches, theologians are completely irrelevant to the average churchgoer. He observes that while scholars address other scholars and students, the church is listening to other voices:

Theologians are on the sidelines. Like the streetcorner preachers of yesterday, they find themselves talking to a crowd too hurried to honor them with more than a fleeting glance.

“Theology, Meaning and Power,” in The Nature of Confession, ed. Timothy Phillips and Dennis Okholm (IVP, 1996), 45.

Now, the situation may not be as dire in conservative, Bible-believing churches, but the principle still applies to some extent. It’s not the college and seminary professors that will change the church. Pastors who faithfully preach and teach the Word to their congregations in the power of the Holy Spirit are the ones who will be the most instrumental in significant change. They are the ones who must keep their fingers on the pulse of the people in the pew and counter the various influences of error today. While professors can fulfill their role in training ministers, no one should live with the illusion that they are more important to the average Christian than they really are.

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