Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

David Young – Year in Review

Written by: on June 21, 2017

I brought a frustrating issue into the program that surfaced early and almost derailed me. My starting perspective was “this program is great – it will push me to grow professionally!” Like most mid-career pastors, I had lost ministry passion and focus. However, from the beginning of the program, I was asked about what I would research. Research? Really? I’m a practitioner not an academic. Okay, I knew I had to write a dissertation eventually but can’t we put that off a couple of years? The obvious answer was “no”—even in our orientation we saw how the program was built to produce the dissertation. Right from the beginning we had to wrestle with research. Intensifying my self-doubt surrounding doing scholarly work was the additional angst that came from my resource-deprived and obscure field of research (the international church’s role with God’s diaspora). These two pressures tempted me to drop the program early. But today, with a year behind me, I’m confident I’ll continue to completion. What’s changed? Where did the fresh confidence come from? I’ll offer three sources of personal growth.

One of the streams within the coursework was on theology; not just the deep history of theology with its systematically constructed doctrines that I expected, [1] but theology that caught me by surprise. It was a theology that was open to dialogue with other disciplines and religions; [2] theology that wasn’t only looking back reflectively but urgently calling for practice today; [3] theology that didn’t necessarily start with the holy text but began first with the context and with experience. [4] A year ago “theologizing” would have sounded like a questionable practice for people with their heads in the clouds—clouds that formed around ultra-liberal seminaries—not for me! Yet without theologizing, without the resources and direction to “do theology,” [5] I’d be unequipped to create a generative disciple-making practice for today’s global diaspora. It’s theologizing that allows God’s Word to innovatively tackle today’s complex ministry problems and advance the kingdom globally.

Second, this program is changing my engagement in culture. I knew I straddled one fence: “too conservative for my liberal friends and too liberal for my conservative friends,” but the broad scope of study—social theory, capitalism, consumerism, leadership alongside theology—challenged me to straddle another fence: this one between modernity and post-modernity. That was not a fence I wanted to climb. I’d been happily stuck in a generation that speaks with moral clarity and doctrinal certainty with its biblical roadmap for life’s concerns. But it is also a generation that has grown complacent in its certainties and defensive of its institutions. The next generation seems far more comfortable with ambiguity in matters of doctrine, and far less committed to what is seen as church. They resonate with a faith that courageously dialogues with multiple disciplines (philosophy, art, social concerns). It’s perhaps a generation courageous enough and untethered enough to innovate new forms of ecclesia. That too has an impact on my research as I begin to reimagine international churches (IC) as an apostolic movement among God’s diaspora. Without the trust to put a foot into postmodernity, nor the willingness to adapt to a chaotic culture, I would never consider innovation for my IC research.

This year has also affected my leadership. Starting at the advance, I loved the camaraderie and intellectual stimulation of my cohort, mentor, and advisors. Adding to the intellectual stimulation was a rich source of cultural exploration, fanning the flame of curiosity, exposing me to new and at times provocative perspectives. Learning requires humility: becoming a student again, returning to the simple skill of asking questions and being curious. Could curiosity and questions play a significant role in my pastoral leadership? Could I be a leader who asked questions and exposed uncertainty? Could I facilitate conversation knowing it would likely end up in ambiguity? A pastor without the answers, exposing weakness?  A disturbing thought.

After the advance I started a small group study unlike my typical groups; this discussed David Ford’s “Theology – A Very Short Introduction”. [6] It was an academic, broad perspective of the practice of Christian theology, not the typical safe, evangelical text.   It would surface philosophical, theological, religious questions, and invite lots of tension. In this study I rarely answered questions—I mostly facilitated the conversation which, in turn, revealed more about the participants’ beliefs because I held my tongue. My example encouraged others to be comfortable with their questions, if not doubts and weaknesses. A sermon series and another group followed using Krish Kandiah’s Paradoxology [7] where we continued to dive into hard questions, and strived to find the center of biblical tension. What I appreciated most about this shift in leadership was that it connected me with millennials in our church, something I look to see increase this coming year.

So this year has stretched me; it helped me gain the confidence and practice necessary to complete the research. The research necessitates contextual theology and imagining new ministry paradigms for a younger global generation.

[1] Alister E. McGrath, Christian Theology: An Introduction, 5th ed. (New York: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011).

[2] David F. Ford, Theology: a Very Short Introduction, 2nd ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014).

[3] Stanley J. Grenz & Roger E. Olson, Who Needs Theology? an Invitation to the Study of God (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996).

[4] Stephen B. Bevans, Models of Contextual Theology, rev. ed. (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2002).

[5] Laurie Green, Let’s Do Theology: Resources for Contextual Theology; Completely Updated and Revised, 2 ed. (London: Mowbray, 2010).

[6] David F. Ford, Theology: a Very Short Introduction, 2nd ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014).

[7] Krish Kandiah, Paradoxology: Why Christianity Was Never Meant to Be Simple (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2014).

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About the Author

Dave Young

husband, dad, friend, student of culture and a pastor.

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