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

Lessons From a Church of England Vicar

Written by: on May 30, 2019

Reading Emma Percy’s book What Clergy Do: Especially When It Looks Like Nothing turned out to be an enjoyable and fun experience. When I first scanned the pages, (a practice I do before I actually sit down to read any book) I thought “would the cultural and denominational distance between me and the author prevent me from gleaning anything worthwhile?” Of course that sentiment only highlighted my ignorance and naiveté. After all, what connection might I have, a male Filipino-American who grew up in a Plymouth Brethren church in the Philippines, with a vicar in the Church of England? I couldn’t help but be amused by that contrast. Then I realized, that’s the beauty of Christianity—we’re one body.

I appreciate Percy’s idea of using mothering as a metaphor for ministry. In all the years of being in and around ministry, I had not thought of it that way. I’m certain the fact that I am male with complementation views only helped to confirm my blindspots. Nevertheless I found some helpful lessons to apply in my own context and for that I feel enriched.

Percy talks about how easily church leaders can be frustrated1 when they see themselves as a boss. A church leader who easily succumbs to frustrations fails to appreciate the distinction between complicated issues over and against complex ones. Berger and Johnston reminds us that complicated situations in organizations have solutions.2 Complex situations, on the other hand, don’t. have solutions. Leaders can only manage complexity. 

It took me a while to appreciate this distinction which now I realize has been the source of frustration when I first transitioned into my current job. For more than two decades I had worked in the non-academic arm and auxiliary services at Biola University. Success was defined by clear metics. For example, at the campus bookstore that I managed, we could tell by the hour whether or not we were meeting our sales goals, or if we carried enough of a popular item. It’s not the same now that I work in a graduate program at a seminary. This time, it’s all about people; meeting their felt and real needs and guiding them successfully through the program. 

I had to make adjustments. What worked in one setting was causing frustration in another. Obviously, I was aware that selling widgets is a world of difference from advising students on what classes to take. But I still stubbornly maintained that there was a way to measure success in my new context. 

There are still moments when I feel I am not doing enough since I still struggle to find that metric. But I’m happy to report that those are now few and far between. What has helped? It’s borderline deleterious, but what I found helpful was to lower my expectations. It sounds irresponsible but I feel this is akin to Percy’s use of the “good enough”3 concept to mean that a task can be performed satisfactorily well. Perfection is unattainable. In my case, the use of metrics was not only unobtainable, it was not even required. 

As I was reflecting on Percy’s work, I discovered a field of study called Expectancy Theory which helps explain the causes of frustration. Experts in this field “propose that individuals behave a certain way because they are motivated to select a specific behavior over others due to what they expect the result of that selected behavior will be.”4 I chose to go after (behavior) certain goals in my current job because I wanted to see certain things happen and measured (expected result). Something (thwarting) stood between my behavior and the goal which caused frustration. In other words, frustration is “an interference with the occurrence of an instigated goal-response at its proper time in the behavior sequence.”5

It may seem simple and obvious, but the act of “naming”6 the problem has proven to be more helpful in ameliorating issues than I realize. It’s the same power utilized by Alcoholics Anonymous’ 12 Step program. The first step is to admit there is a problem. For me, identifying that my expectations at my work were misdirected was super helpful. I’m glad this reading was one of those thwarted expectations, but only in the positive sense.

          1 Emma Percy, What Clergy Do: Especially When It Looks like Nothing (London: SPCK, 2014), 20.
          2 Jennifer Garvey Berger and Keith Johnston, Simple Habits for Complex Times: Powerful Practices for Leaders (Stanford: Stanford Business Books, 2016), 179.
          3 Percy, 4.
          4 Expectancy Theory, Wikipedia, March 07, 2019, , accessed May 30, 2019, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Expectancy_theory.
          5 Stephen Worchel, The Effect of Simple Frustration, Violated Expectancy, and Reactance on The Instigation to Aggression (dissertation, Duke University, 1971), 3.
          6 Percy, 37.

About the Author

Harry Edwards

Harry is married to Minerva and has the privilege of raising two young men. He is the founder and director of Apologetics.com, Inc., an organization dedicated to defending the truth claims of Christianity on the internet, radio and other related activities. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Christian Education and a Masters of Arts degree in Christian Apologetics from Biola University where he currently works full time as the Associate Director of the graduate programs in Christian Apologetics and Science & Religion. Harry is currently pursuing a DMin (Leadership & Global Perspectives) from George Fox University. He is an active member at Ocean View Baptist Church where he leads an adult Bible study and plays the drums for the praise and worship band. In his spare time, Harry enjoys doing things with his family, i.e., tennis, camping/backpacking, flying RC planes and mentoring others to realize their full potential in the service of our Lord.

7 responses to “Lessons From a Church of England Vicar”

  1. Harry Fritzenschaft says:

    Very interesting and well cited post. Thank you so much for stating the systemic factors for being initially skeptical of the value of Percy’s work. I believe this to be so needful and yet also understandably vulnerable as we seek to find new insight into the other’s perspective and our own blind spots, biases. I am so glad you found Percy’s work not only original but also helpful to broadening your understanding. Your scholarly unpacking of Expectancy Theory was original and helpful to me. Thanks again for sharing what you have found to be life-giving for you in realigning misplaced expectations. Many blessings on your research, H

    • Thanks Harry. This post turned out to be a little bit more personal than I had planned. I also didn’t know until reading our next assignment that she is married to Martin Percy. That must be interesting to be a fly on the wall at their dinner conversations.

      Between the both of them they’ve got a lot of leadership experience that I can happily glean from. Emma Percy provided some great leadership advice from the perspective of mothers — something I didn’t expect and happy to have learned.

  2. Karen Rouggly says:

    I appreciated you first acknowledging your perspective and natural biases before jumping into this work, Harry. That’s a step I quite often forget to do. In reading this work, I knew my bias would be toward the work, rather than away from it as a white, egalitarian mother. So thanks for that reminder to take those things into consideration.

    Secondly, I appreciated your connection between complications and complexities. It was something that came up for me quite a few times, so I am happy to see that I wasn’t alone. I was also intrigued by your connection of complexities to expectations. It was a great, natural tie. Well done!

    • Thanks Karen for the positive and encouraging words. Like I mentioned in my reply to Harry, this post was a little more personal than I had planned in the sense that I had blogged about current leadership issues I’m going through at work.

      I’m convinced the best learning is when you’re actually doing it. I believe God is taking me through this journey, not only to learn new things, but to prepare me for something else. We often mention the phrase being out of our “comfort zone” as a good thing. That’s easier said than done — at least for me. I’m so out of my comfort zone at the moment that I’m reminded once again to just “be still and know that He is God.” He’s in control and I’m not. Things are going to happen and I’ll have to trust His faithfulness that His grace is indeed sufficient for me.

  3. Tammy Dunahoo says:

    Harry, I appreciate your honesty and vulnerability toward inherent biases. We all have them. I find allowing the difference to serve as a sword piercing the soul can actually open my eyes to a world I had previously not understood at all. This is so important in these complex days.

    • Thanks Tammy. I often find myself surrounded by many who aren’t ashamed to show their biases. Unfortunately sometimes that rubs off of me and I begin to think and behave similarly. This is something I always have to watch and confess before the Lord.

  4. Mary Mims says:

    Harry, thank you for the resource on expectancy theory. I tend to deal better with concrete concepts than what is presented by Percy, although I agree with much in the book. I think to adjust our expectations in much needed to be effective with people.

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