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

Tempered Theology: Hanging Our Laws on Love

Written by: on October 11, 2022

I love the openness of Bolsinger’s leadership definition: “[…] the transformation and growth of a people — starting with the leader — is to develop the resilience and adaptive capacity to wisely cut through resistance and accomplish the mission of the group.”[1] Though mission is a laden term, I do find transformation and growth to be concepts that expand rather than restrict organizational adaptation.

When held to Tod’s leadership definition, I find the Christian conservative approach to organizational adaptation oddly lacking. Just last week my alma mater posted a quote from a prominent chapel speaker who said, “The central act of leadership is holding on to the vision that God has given you.” Certainly, holding onto core values is a worthy aim, but what are those values anchored to? I imagine any number of Pharisees or religious leaders of Jesus’ day could hear that quote and agree wholeheartedly! They may even be zealous enough to crucify anyone who got in “God’s” way.

I love what Bolsinger lays out as essential for leaders. He writes, “[…] leadership must be focused on the vision that is beyond the profit, success, or even survival of the institution. It must be focused on the needs of real people in the real world.”[2] However, I imagine many church and denominational values are based on esoteric, if not gnostic/disembodied theological and ecclesiastical presuppositions – examples being the Great Commission, the doctrine of original sin, soteriological correctness, obedience to God, timing of baptism, number of kids at VBS, etc. How many of these are centered around real human need? In my opinion, in their attempt to address human need they, more often than not, avoid it.

In the podcast by “We Are Vineyard,” Bolsinger mentions the time he built a new campus at his church. He said that they built this campus so that one day someone will tear it down. Why? Because one day there will be such a vibrant community that they will say this building is not what our community needs anymore.[3] How bold is that?! What can churches/organizations glean from such a seemingly self-destructive vision? When it comes to the question of the church institution, perhaps it’s not a macro question of “is the church necessary?” But rather, “is this church necessary for this community, for this moment in the community’s history?” Is this organization focused on needs of real people in the real world, or are we focused on survival? If the focus is in fact survivalist, Bolsinger writes, “The question before any leader of an organization is “save the company for what?”[4]

What if the Church’s mission was based around felt human need? This is a bold question to ask, yet one I feel is vital for any sort of renewal within the church. What do we need when Christian organizations subvert and even devalue real human need beneath theology, doctrine, and/or our hermeneutical lens? How do we temper our theology to be more receptive to the black and brown experience of racism in America? How do we temper our theology to value, uphold, and believe our queer brothers and sisters when they come out, and seek to live fully healthy lives? How do organizations temper that say they value women in leadership, but consistently reserve prized positions for men?

Of course, we have a theological basis for valuing the needs of real people in the real world. It was Jesus himself who said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”[5] We must be tempered by love, and upon love, hang our laws, theologies, and doctrines.


[1] “Tempered Resilience | Book Review,” GeorgePWood.Com (blog), November 10, 2020, https://georgepwood.com/2020/11/10/tempered-resilience-book-review/.

[2] Tod Bolsinger, Tempered Resilience: How Leaders Are Formed in the Crucible of Change (Westmont, UNITED STATES: InterVarsity Press, 2020), http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/georgefox/detail.action?docID=6371895. 15.

[3] Tod Bolsinger, “We Are Vineyard Podcast,” Tod Bolsinger: Tempered Resilience – How Leaders Are Formed in the Crucible of Change, accessed October 11, 2022, https://vineyardusa.org/podcast/.

[4] Bolsinger, Tempered Resilience. 17.

[5] Matthew 22:36-40 NIV

About the Author

Michael Simmons

- Tennessee --> Oregon - Father to David and Bina, Partner to Liz - Portland Seminary Admissions Counselor - Spiritual Director - Companioning Center Leadership Team - Deep Water Board Member - Ordained Elder, FMC - Aspiring Jungian Theologian

9 responses to “Tempered Theology: Hanging Our Laws on Love”

  1. Michael, this is a great example of thorough blog. I like how you laid a good foundation and each point built on each other. You also really led the reader through your blog. This is a great example that I can glean from. Thank you.

  2. mm Eric Basye says:

    Hey there Michael. Great post. It sounds to me as though much of the book resonated with you. Is that accurate? What I heard was the central theme of love, something that is often lacking within the context of “religion.” I would agree. How much I too, most especially, need to grow in my love of others. Argh. Lord, teach me to love as you love!! Thanks for your blog. It was an encouragement to me.

  3. mm Roy Gruber says:

    Michael, you challenge me every time you write. If we all loved like the love that you express, the world would be a better place, church included. How do you approach the times when confrontation is needed? Also, what does Matthew 28:19-20 mean to you?

    • Roy, it is always a pleasure my friend. I always look forward to the questions you ask in the comments. For me love and challenge go hand-in-hand. I don’t see love as the removal of boundaries, but as the introduction of boundaries so that people can become fully human.“I’ve seen time and time again through shadow work facilitation, how challenge and clear boundaries make room for the fullness of peoples’ humanity. To me, Matthew 28 undergirds this. Unfortunately, the elevated moralism that pervades evangelicalism today, pales a much higher premium on behavioral-correctness (and has defined such correctness by its own standard) than on love. Of course, such an elevated moralism is found across western culture, but I believe this is uniquely how it plays out in the church.

  4. Kayli Hillebrand says:

    Great post, Michael. In your reference to Matthew 22, do you think the task of ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’ appears so hard for many Christians these days because we haven’t been able to truly love ourselves or acknowledge/accept the depth of love the Lord has for us? What would Jung say? 😉

    • Kayli! As usual, I assume you want the Jungian perspective haha

      Yes, on a psychological level or it is hard to receive in someone some thing that we have not received in ourselves. I think Jesus is words to love our neighbors as we love ourselves necessitate that we first discover how we hate ourselves. What we despise in ourselves we will project onto others, and war with it in them. Of course it’s not a one for one exchange; or a fundamentalist Christian, for example, doesn’t hate a queer person simply because the fundamentalist is gay, so that could certainly be the case. No, it’s usually broader than that. The fundamentalist may despise and reject a queer person because their own sexuality is shadowed, and when they see it living out in front of them they reject it in the other person as well. Equally what can happen for the queer person is that spiritual community can be so damaging that they shadow their own spiritual needs, project it out and this lose access to a vital part of their humanity. It’s truly complex, but I think this is underneath Jesus his desire for us to love our neighbor, since it is often those we have a moderate approximation to who we tend deposit our shadow onto.

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