Leadership Global Perspective: Impacting the Ministry of the Local Church
In June, 2013, I engaged in a global forum on the theology and practice of biblical reconciliation. There were church leaders present from sixty-six countries which gave the conference an authentic venue to dialogue concerning the problems facing the church worldwide. The forum considered how Christianity, as a body of believers, could advance the gospel through common belief and practice in communities around the world and in local cultural context. It was this conference that solidified my desire to study pastoral ministry leadership with a focus on local church ministry in the multicultural neighborhood. My online search turned up a DMin leadership course of study at George Fox University with a global perspective (LGP).
The DMin-LGP website described the study program and what I was seeking:
[E]xplore ministry leadership at the global and local intersections of church, world and culture… The course of study provides a combination of dynamic learning experiences … designed to empower students to boldly lead their communities in innovative ministry for the sake of the gospel.
The application and interview process confirmed this was the course of study I was seeking. I have not been disappointed! Dr. Jason Clark, lead mentor, designed and leads the global perspectives content of the course study. The course materials and the opportunity to engage people, places and cultures from a global perspective provide a broad base for understanding my area of research interest.
I will note a few areas of what I consider challenges and opportunities inherent in the DMin-LGP course of study.
- Rigorous course study: The research aspect of the LGP program challenged me to a higher level of learning. DMin studies are a significant step above post-graduate study at the master’s level. The course reading materials address the areas of critical thinking, critical reading and writing, and the value of critical reflection.
Developing the skills of analyzing, evaluating, and critiquing resources allows for designing a research project that focuses on a particular need and hypothesizes an applicable ministry practice. This process has enabled the broad area of my research interest to be narrowed and defined to a ministry need in the context where I serve.
- The value of reflective thinking: I was challenged to understand the theory and theology that would ground my research. The course readings provide for deep theological thinking. The LGP study model considers alternate ideas and contrasting points of view. My own thinking has been impacted significantly as I view my practice of faith and belief in the context of world culture and societal diversity. My belief in the richness of diversity has taken on new dimensions as the LGP learning process has opened doors to diverse peoples, places and cultures.
- Understanding global concepts: LGP studies expand the possibilities and enhance the opportunities for individual ministry. Many of the course readings challenge traditional beliefs and open a new vista for ministry diversity. Exposure to cultural and ethnic differences requires a reassessment of personality characteristics and leadership strengths and weaknesses, and spiritual wholeness. A Personal Leadership Development Plan (PLDP) was integrated into the course studies; the plan process allowed for change and updating through personal discovery and the application of learning new concepts in a global context.
My plan revolves around local church ministry in the multicultural neighborhood; leading the church in connecting with people in their context and advancing the gospel of reconciliation and peace. In broad terms my PLDP and my research project encompass my leadership calling to the local Church community in advancing the gospel message in twenty-first century culture. I have been able to tailor the LGP studies to my calling and leadership in local church multicultural ministry.
- Support through cohort experience has proven to be the necessary ingredient to undergird and inspire my continued effort to meet the requirements and perform at my best optimum level. It is impossible to overstate the supportive relationships established in the cohort with students, staff and instructors/mentors. The synchronous and asynchronous chat and blog experiences have been the primary facilitators in developing an integrated cohort experience. The chat and blog sessions along with a Facebook presence has created both a social and intellectual environment that has enhanced the learning experience. Exchange of ideas, resources, and insightful responses heightened the learning opportunity and created meaningful relationships. An additional cohort contribution to my studies is the cultural diversity within the students that comprise the cohort.
- The face-to-face experience of the London and Cape Town advances provided an un-paralleled opportunity for cultural engagement. Dr. Clark and the DMin-LGP leadership team’s effort in planning the advances encompassed a multidimensional cultural experience. I worshiped in West Minister Abby, stood in the jail cell that housed Nelsen Mandela on Ellis Island, rode my first subway train (ever), and marveled at the contextual adaptation of worship in the “London Mile” where the Rector gave an eight minute worship experience as people hurried in and out on a twenty-first century work schedule. Again, however, it was the cohort experience, students, mentors, administrators and advisers that lifted the advance where bonding relationships were formed. The highlight at Cape Town was the Pecha Kucha project presentations that allowed students and advisers to engage in one another’s research. Great experience! How much more shall we encounter in our cohort and the cultural community at the Hong Kong advance only a few months away?
How would I characterize my study in the GFES DMin program? At a recent prayer gathering at my local church, I made the simple request, “Remember me as I continue in my studies.” The prayer sheet that week asked the congregation to pray for Pastor Ron, “He is overwhelmed with his studies!” I later explained it to the congregation; “Think of it this way, I have a full week of golf in front of me and the pressure is on to make the cut.” Translation: “I love every moment! How could I spend my time better!? It is a real challenge but well worth every effort.”