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

Does Theology Play A Role In Leadership?

Written by: on November 29, 2018

The book, Who Needs Theology? An Invitation to the Study of God, [1] deals with a subject that can be quite cumbersome but does so practically and proficiently. Both Grenz and Olson are professional academics but wrote this book in a way that invites the causally Christian to learn at a deeper level while also giving the Seminary student a challenging read. In answering the question, who needs theology, the authors would say, everyone, because everyone is already a theologian. In the most generalist of terms, those who have faith in Christ practice Christian Theology while those outside the faith practice worldviewish theology.[2] While everyone is a theologian, they do admonish six different levels of theology as Folk Theology, Lay Theology, Ministerial Theology, Professional Theology, and Academic Theology.




This book presents a lot of great takeaways, but I want to highlight one portion of the text found in the section called, How Do We Contextualize Theology? The authors write that the answer to this question is a trialogue of, our understanding of Scripture, our cognizance of our heritage, and our reading of our cultural context.[3] It takes putting all three of these components into conversation with the other to make relevant what has been revealed.

In the Handbook of Leadership Theory and Practice Identity-based leadership or meaning-making leadership[4] is:

“about understanding the way people and organizations behave, about creating and strengthening relationships, about building commitment, about establishing a group identity, and about adapting behavior to increase effectiveness. It is also about creating meaning. True leaders are merchants of hope, speaking to the collective imagination of their followers, co-opting them to join them in a great adventure.”[5]

One might ask how a book about theology and a book about leadership is related and the answer would be both books deal with people and how to contextualize a cumbersome subject. I would also add that having a proper understanding of Theology aids in having a proper understanding of leadership theory. In the above definition of Identity-based leadership or meaning-making leadership, if we place the trialogue of contextualizing against it, it can read as a theological understanding of leadership.

As I continued to research relational-based Spirit-led leadership that engages the current and future culture, knowing the said culture and knowing how to speak to that culture is of high importance. It seems that much of church leadership has focused on two of the three aspects of contextualization, missing the one of reading our cultural context. Research has shown us that the church is seen as outdated with culture according to believing millennials [6] however, the Bible is still vital to that same group.[7] Therefore it seems that church leadership needs to remember we are “merchants of hope, speaking to the collective imagination of their followers, co-opting them to join them in a great adventure.”[8]



[1] Grenz, Stanley J., and Roger E. Olson. Who Needs Theology? An Invitation to the Study of God. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1996.

[2] Grenz and Olson, Who Needs Theology? An Invitation to the Study of God, 15-16.

[3] Ibid., 112-113.

[4] Nohria, Nitin, and Rakesh Khurana, Handbook of Leadership Theory and Practice, (Boston: Harvard Business Review Press), 2014, 23-25

[5] Ibid., 192.

[6] “Six Reasons Young Christians Leave Church.” Barna Group. Accessed November 29, 2018. https://www.barna.com/research/six-reasons-young-christians-leave-church/#.VwKoysdOL8s.

[7] “Millennials and the Bible: 3 Surprising Insights.” Barna Group. Accessed November 29, 2018. https://www.barna.com/research/millennials-and-the-bible-3-surprising-insights/.

[8] Ibid., 192.

About the Author

Mario Hood

Most importantly, I am married to the love of my life, Misty Hood, and I'm kept on my toes all day every day, by my son Dalen and daughter Cola Hood. I also serve as the Next Generation Pastor at Church On The Living Edge in Orlando, Florida, under the leadership of Senior Pastor, Dr. Mark Chironna as well as being a Youth and Family Life coach.

7 responses to “Does Theology Play A Role In Leadership?”

  1. Digby Wilkinson says:

    The Grenz/Olson reflection on contextualisation is interesting, Mario. The 19th and the 20th-century duality of Biblical studies and systematic theology as a foil for German critical thinking was part of the bread a butter of biblical leadership – leaders, in most cases, were pretty clear who and what the enemy was: liberals and their unbiblical message. Leadership for a long while was leading to “the truth” as leaders saw it at the time. By the time Grenz/Olson wrote, hermeneutics had gained traction as society changed. The bible was and still is ‘hot property’, but how to apply it, and what bits to apply? If biblical studies attempt to unpack historic understanding, and theology considers the formers meaning in changing times, then hermeneutics is the contextual filter for social engagement. That being the case, where do you think the center of leadership is ‘currently’ weighted? biblical studies, theology or hermeneutics?

    • Mario Hood says:

      I think it depends on who you ask. In my circles, all three take on a different connotation then what you even present in the question. In saying that many in my world are only concerned with hermeneutics or reverse-hermeneutics. What I mean is they look towards culture 1st and then run to the bible to see how it applies or can aid and what we find in culture. There is no trialogue happening, just personal interpretation to my context. This is where having a good theological understanding will help shape/inform what we see in context.

  2. Tammy Dunahoo says:

    Mario, you are wrestling with an important topic. The growing extremes between fundamentalism and liberalism seems to be creating a significant vacuum for leadership in the 21st Century. Unfortunately, the celebrity culture in the church that seems to be filling the vacuum in the U.S. does not always have a strong theological framework for the followers. Your research is significant especially for your generation of pastoral leaders.

    • Mario Hood says:

      Yes, this is what I’m wrestling with/through with my peers and for those coming up behind us. We “millennials” seem to get the cultural part down, but lack the theology and a lot of Pentecostal/Charismatics lack theology (or at least the desire for it) in general.

  3. Harry Fritzenschaft says:

    I have found both yours and Jacob’s comments about the intersection of theological and leadership development most interesting. Pastors must continue to grow and enhance their own skills even as they serve those they are called to serve. I am thinking that pastors must continue to grow throughout their ministry in both theological and leadership development. With out hearts fixed on God and our development taking place within community, I think pastoral leadership is in a good place to remain culturally relevant. What do you think? H

  4. Rev Jacob Bolton says:

    I think you are right Mario. Many of our peers first look to society . . , and then to the Bible.

    Answering Digby’s question, I know when I was getting my MDiv the focus was strongly on the Biblical Studies element, but now I am not so sure if that is the overall focal point, at least for the PCUSA. Biblical languages are no longer needed to be studied as intensely and an emphasis on theology seems to be the main focus now.

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