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DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

A brand that the fans trust?

Written by: on September 6, 2018

From the outset, the Theology of Leadership Journal seeks to be transparent and self-reflective in terms of its purpose and raison d’ etre.  “Do we really need another academic journal?”[1]the Editor asks in the opening article. If so, what would be the unique contribution of this new venture?

The answer seems to be centered on seeking to be one of very few “academic peer-reviewed journals specifically dedicated to the development of Christian leadership.”[2]  This Journal clearly seeks to reach a broad, “popular” audience, and to have participation from “any level of academia.”[3]  This is expressed in the practice of not listing academic degrees or achievement with the author’s names on articles in order to “limit initial bias from readers”.[4]

While this approach is commendable in some ways, it also raises questions.  One critique of any Christian venture that seeks to have broad resonance, is that it is attempting to make scholarship, art or discourse that merely “copies” the existing cultural forms without adding excellence, or a distinctive contribution.  This is what Hunter alludes to when he writes that “cultural production in the Evangelical world is overwhelmingly oriented toward the popular.  Very much like its retail politics, its music is popular music, its art tends to be popular (highly sentimentalized and commercialized) art, its theater is mega-church drama, its publishing is mainly mass-market book publishing with a heavy bent toward “how-to” books…”[5]

It remains to be seen whether a new Theology of Leadership Journal can rise above the fray of simply being a “parallel institution”[6]set up outside of the mainstream of academic or leadership studies. At the same time that it seeks to serve as an academic resource, it also moves intentionally away from coloring its articles through the lens of connection to elite institutions or degrees. The challenge is, as hip-hop artist Lupe Fiasco has put it, that there is such a thing as a “brand that the fans trust”[7]and this new journal will be tested in order to gain traction and readership.

With all of that being said, there are a number of helpful and interesting articles in this first edition of the journal.  In the article entitled “Paul the Team Leader: Strategic Planning, Intragroup Conflict and Team Formation”, Jeffrey J. Singfiel uses familiar biblical stories, personalities and scenes to draw out practical lessons for leaders today.

For example, he writes, “Planning by itself is not enough to ensure good outcomes.  A team also must be aligned both in purpose and in its internal relationships.  Even the noblest and best-intentioned groups will invariably experience some measure of conflict.”[8]  This is something that any leader, and especially Christian leaders need to know and account for in working with teams.

While some of the material in this essay (and others) comes across as “common-sensical”, it is also useful.  There is meaty exegetical material around well-known Biblical stories, which could be a resource for sermon writing, preparing Bible studies, or other congregational communication.

The author also touches on “intercultural conflict” within teams, writing, “Western contemporary Christians are often quick to jump to relatively trivial, selfish or sinful reasons for intragroup conflict, but this tendency is rooted in western individualism and ignores some of the cultural clues found in the passage.  Conflict of whatever type is mediated by cultural factors.”[9]

This calls to mind Chan’s writing on the “honor/shame” society, which is more collectivist in nature than others.  He writes, “since honor and shame are ‘socially acknowledged’ values, an individual cannot escape shared responsibility.  The sin of one person shames the entire community, but the honor one receives uplifts the whole community.  Failure to appreciate this strong sense of corporate responsibility has led to ineffective evangelical preaching on individual salvation.”[10]

Both authors agree that cultural factors must be taken into account when it comes to preaching and communicating the gospel, as well as in leading teams or groups.  This is just another example from within the Theology of Leadership Journal, of how its authors are attempting to bring useful concepts and material to a wider audience.

This same theme shows up in Wantaate’s article where he writes that, “in an individualist society, members are expected to take care of themselves and immediate families, and unrelated individuals are loosely connected. While in a collectivist society individuals are integrated into a strong and cohesive framework where individuals expect members of their society to take care of them in exchange for unquestioning loyalty.”[11]

One of the things that I appreciated most in reading through the articles in this Journal is the way that cultural factors were woven into a number of the pieces.  The underlying and unspoken commitment seems to be that for a true “theology of leadership” to be explored, it must take seriously facets of culture that are implicit in these topics.

As this new Journal develops and seeks to establish its “brand”, maybe this will emerge as a distinctive: the way that any work on a theology of leadership will include and account for how culturally located and impacted everyone really is.

 

[1]Russell L. Huizing, “Do We Really Need Another Academic,” Theology of Leadership Journal 1, no. 1 (2018): 3, http://theologyofleadership.com/index.php/tlj/issue/view/v1i1/v1i1.

[2]Russell L. Huizing, “Do We Really Need Another Academic,” Theology of Leadership Journal 1, no. 1 (2018): 4, http://theologyofleadership.com/index.php/tlj/issue/view/v1i1/v1i1.

[3]Russell L. Huizing, “Do We Really Need Another Academic,” Theology of Leadership Journal 1, no. 1 (2018): 4, http://theologyofleadership.com/index.php/tlj/issue/view/v1i1/v1i1.

[4]Russell L. Huizing, “Do We Really Need Another Academic,” Theology of Leadership Journal 1, no. 1 (2018): 4, http://theologyofleadership.com/index.php/tlj/issue/view/v1i1/v1i1.

[5]James Davison Hunter, To Change the World the Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World: the Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern Worlde World(New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), 88.

[6]James Davison Hunter, To Change the World the Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World: the Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern Worlde World(New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), 86.

[7]Lupe Fiasco, “Lupe Fiasco Lyrics: the Show Goes On,” www.lyricsondemand.com, accessed September 6, 2018, https://www.lyricsondemand.com/l/lupefiascolyrics/theshowgoesonlyrics.html.

[8]Jeffrey J. Singfiel, “Paul the Team Leader: Strategic Planning, Intragroup Conflict, and Team Formation,” Theology of Leadership Journal 1, no. 1 (2018): 11, http://theologyofleadership.com/index.php/tlj/issue/view/v1i1/v1i1.

[9]Jeffrey J. Singfiel, “Paul the Team Leader: Strategic Planning, Intragroup Conflict, and Team Formation,” Theology of Leadership Journal 1, no. 1 (2018): 12, http://theologyofleadership.com/index.php/tlj/issue/view/v1i1/v1i1.

[10]Simon Chan, Grassroots Asian Theology: Thinking the Faith from the Ground Up (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2014), 87.

[11]Fred Wantaate, “Spirituality in the Workplace: Source of a Calling, Levels of Living a Calling, Job Satisfaction, and Life Satisfaction Among Indian and Ugandan Leaders,” Theology of Leadership Journal 1, no. 1 (2018): 53, http://theologyofleadership.com/index.php/tlj/issue/view/v1i1/v1i1.

About the Author

Dave Watermulder

8 responses to “A brand that the fans trust?”

  1. mm Jay Forseth says:

    Hi Dave,

    I honestly think you did the best of any of us this week in using your critical thinking skills. In analyzing the new journal, you probed correctly their motivations and potential shortfalls. Thanks for doing that.

    Jay

  2. Greg says:

    Interesting connection with a journal trying to be open and available to all and not appear as though it is designed for the elite. I too thought it interesting (and maybe telling) the direction of the leadership articles written with a cultural aspect to it. We both know that culture plays a huge role in how leaders lead, students learn and directions are understood.

  3. Hi Dave,

    Yes I agree with Jay above. This was a great post, and I’m glad you brought in Hunter and Chan to dialogue with the TLJ. You pointed out that strange evangelical aversion to elitism that led to whiting out each author’s credentials; I also read that in the journal, and my initial reaction was good. Only on your critique am I now questioning it.

  4. Chris Pritchett says:

    Solid critique of the journal, Dave. I agree it kind of felt like a cheap version of an academic journal, but nevertheless useful in some regard. I appreciated how some of the articles were exegetical pieces of Scripture, which is unique to academic journals. That combined with the cultural issues you raised gives me some hope for the potential of this journal’s contribution.

  5. Dave Watermulder says:

    Thanks, Mark– it seemed like an odd detail to me…

  6. mm Kyle Chalko says:

    Dave,

    great post! loved your references to Hunter. I too was a little confused by the audience, and I too was a little perplexed by their attitude of elevated the conversation on biblical leadership because now the “academics” are talking about it.

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