DMINLGP

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

A Deeper Probing Needed

Written by: on November 17, 2015

“Christian ethics ultimately probes our deepest sensibilities as humans an how we, as followers of Christ, go about seeking “the good” for others as well as for ourselves.”[1]

I was recently in a room of about thirty Wesleyan pastors. The attendance was that of our leading practitioners in the practices of faith-based justice and compassion ministry. We were together to update, evaluate, and speculate how we are doing denominationally on the issue of justice and compassion based ministry. Because of our current text, “The Matrix of Christian Ethics: Integrating Philosophy and Moral Theology in a Postmodern Context,” I mentioned, due to the fact of everything we were talking about in that room was directly related to what I was reading, that I think as a denomination we are unaware of our true ethics behind why we ought to be engaging in faith-based justice and compassion ministry. I said, “I think we need to develop a deeper ethic.”

The response was one of that which usually only comes after my jokes. The sound of crickets suddenly became deafening. You might have thought I said something in Japanese. As I looked around the room all I received were blank stares. So I continued on … “I think as much as we develop our theology of justice we need to develop better understanding of Christian ethics or maybe work on articulating our Wesleyan Christian ethic.” Again, crickets.

Now usually I am a pretty insecure guy. I usually would of thought, “Oh man, I must not have any idea what I am talking about and somehow showed up in the wrong room for the wrong conversation. But because of the reality of Nullens’ and Michener’s overview, along with the direction much of my dissertation work has taken, I knew that I knew what I was talking about and was only left to realize that pretty much no one in the room was aware of or operating out of an awareness of Christian ethics and its relationship to the conversation we were having.

Now I must say, had it not been for this text and my dissertation work in this season, I would have been exactly in the others’ seats with the same expression on my face. But that only makes my point of ALARM that much greater when I think of the Church and the leading leaders of the Church and the level of thought, or lack there of, that we can lead with. To me we are missing so much of the language we need in our conversations as the Church because we are not thinking and operating out of any kind of depth in our thought. We have microwaved evangelism and discipleship, we have over spiritualized salvation and sanctification, we have produced the great productions of worship services, but somehow we have removed our conversations and contemplations from the crock pot of “probing our deepest sensibilities … in seeking ‘the good’ of others as well as for ourselves.”

I am finding in my dissertation work that not only in our Christian practice but in our leadership practice as well, we are skimming. James MacGregor Burns writes in his work, “Leadership,” the following:

“Leadership is one of the most observed and least understood phenomena            on earth. … It was not always so. For two millennia at least, leaders of    thought did grapple with the vexing problems of the rulers vs. the ruled.    Long before modern sociology, Plato analyzed not only philosopher-kings       but he influences on rulers of upbringing, social and economic institution,             and response of followers. Long before today’s calls for moral leadership       and ‘profiles in courage,’ Confucian thinkers were examining the concept   of leadership in moral teaching and by example. Long before Gandhi,   Christ thinkers were preaching nonviolence. Long before modern             biography, Plutarch was witting brilliantly about the lives of a host of         Roman and Greek rulers and orators, arguing that philosophers ‘ought to       converse especially with men in power,’ and examining questions such as whether ‘an old man should engage in public affairs.”[2]

We are in a day and age that can’t afford skimming. The Church, our leadership, our “why” we do what we do has to come from a deeper place and we (maybe by default) have to be a part of raising the banner and the bar. We must bring a deeper level of thought and probing into the most fundamental beliefs about the human capacity and the human condition and how on this earth we reconcile the difference. I am so thankful for this LGP5 experience as it has afforded me (while I can’t technically afford it:) the time and space to discover, contemplate, and probe such thoughts, considerations, and possibilities.

[1] Patrick Nullens and Ronald T. Michener, The Matrix of Christian Ethics: Integrating Philosophy and Moral Theology in a Postmodern Context (Colorado Springs: IVP Books, 2010), 2.

[2] James M. Burns, Leadership (Harper Perennial Political Classics) (New York, NY: Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2010), 2.

About the Author

Phillip Struckmeyer

10 responses to “A Deeper Probing Needed”

  1. Jon Spellman says:

    Phil, great thoughts man! Your attention to the question of “why’ as a foundation point of consideration is so important among church leaders today. This seems to be one hallmark of an edge leader that, in your case, has somehow providentially found himself standing at the center of his organization asking questions! Be careful… The center doesn’t tolerate edge questions very long.

    J

    • Phillip Struckmeyer says:

      November 19, 2015 at 6:20 pm (Edit)
      Jon, 🙂 Seriously, I feel that tension in pressing ways these days! We are about to transition General Superintendents and there is a lot riding on what direction we go. Hopefully my deviance will be viewed as constructive!

  2. mm Nick Martineau says:

    Phil..I’m with you. This program has allowed me to think and be challenged in ways I never would have. I would have been the guy in the chair making the cricket noise. It’s really encouraging to see you taking what you have learned and actually use it in your work setting. While you might have heard crickets I know you stirred their thoughts and some came away challenged. I think the question for us is how do we help others think deeply about these things without having to join an DMIN program?

    • Phillip Struckmeyer says:

      Thanks Nick, I definitely am on the lookout for inviting others into the conversation and thinking that I think we need more of in our lives, communities, and world. I have had some pretty good conversations in my discipleship accountability group … but still not quite to the deep end of the pool yet with where I think we could go if we had time like Tolkien and Lewis use to take:). Good luck in these final weeks!

  3. Travis Biglow says:

    God bless you Phil, i am glad you are speaking out. I know what that must have felt like, saying something and then no one responding. I don’t understand why some leaders like to just do church when there is more to it. I too thank God for the LGP5 group and program. It makes me grapple with things that have had me upset and dissatisfied to the point i cant stomach it. I am waiting to get more of the program under my belt and actually incorporated the things I am working on because my denomination is more of show me first before we do anything type of denomination.

  4. mm Dave Young says:

    Phil, I love how you have been integrating the learning into your practice, into your ministry. I read your dialogue with Jon, I also hope your deviance is seen and understood as constructive.
    I wonder are you willing to stay at the center of Wesleyan ecclesiastical power if you have the opportunity to influence it or are you more passionate about returning to pastoral ministry? Just wondering. Regardless of what you do I appreciate your desire to push your peers deeper.

    stay reflective brother.

    • Phillip Struckmeyer says:

      Dave, It’s crazy. Everything within me wants to run to the edges, but I truly continue to feel a uncanny sense of responsibility to stay close and hang with the middle until that kick me out. I have never really viewed the roles in the middle as desirable. That much more as I am around the middle, I am convinced there is not much desirable. The sense of responsibility is the best way I can describe my impulse towards calling. It will be an interesting 6-9 months to see what all happens. Thanks for inquiring Dave and I will be sure and keep you posted.

  5. mm Mary Pandiani says:

    I hope you use this particular paragraph in your research somewhere – it’s powerful:
    “We have microwaved evangelism and discipleship, we have over spiritualized salvation and sanctification, we have produced the great productions of worship services, but somehow we have removed our conversations and contemplations from the crock pot of “probing our deepest sensibilities … in seeking ‘the good’ of others as well as for ourselves.”
    I ache for you in that moment of crickets, only because you probably could see a way through that would have opened up some amazing conversation and reflection only to be a dropped opportunity. Can you imagine how Jesus must have felt with the disciples when they still didn’t get it?
    Don’t despair, Phil. Keep it up. Keep probing. You’ll find in your faithfulness that seeds are being planted.

  6. Phillip Struckmeyer says:

    Thanks for hearing the crickets with me:). I am interested to see how this exposure and thinking effects my continued ministry direction. I am increasingly wondering where the best engagement of ministry is if it is “thought” is the target you are trying to hit or affect. It seems like life is coming pretty fast these days and I am spending a lot of time trying to slow it down and consider it all. Thanks for the encouragement along the way and have a great couple weeks as we come down the home stretch.

  7. mm Brian Yost says:

    “We must bring a deeper level of thought and probing into the most fundamental beliefs about the human capacity and the human condition and how on this earth we reconcile the difference.”

    To quote my buddy Phil, Kaboom (or some other exclamation). You nailed it. When no one else is asking the question, we need to ask it. Wheels turn while crickets chirp. Those moments of awkward silence may provoke deeper thought than a lesson or lecture ever can.

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