I love research. Not just my own – but I love reading and evaluating others research. Research is deeply entrenched in my personal and social work values. In the social work field, professionals are increasingly seeking information about evidence-based practices (not only for best practice, but also out of necessity to accommodate funders). New resources are emerging to help practitioners connect research to practice. “The term evidence-based practice (EBP) was used initially in relation to medicine, but has since been adopted by many fields including education, child welfare, mental health, and criminal justice. The Institute of Medicine (2001) defines evidence-based medicine as the integration of best researched evidence and clinical expertise with patient values. EBP is a process in which the practitioner combines well-researched interventions with clinical experience, ethics, client preferences, and culture to guide and inform the delivery of treatments and services.”
So imagine my delight when I opened the Theology of Leadership Journal and discovered that the journal is committed to publishing research –
…research contributing to a Christian understanding of leadership; analysis that contributes to an understanding of leadership in all spheres of cultural influence; scholarly work that uses a variety of methodologies; biblical support drawn from both Old and New Testament; qualitative (including exegetical), quantitative, and mixed-methods submissions are encouraged; from all branches of historic Christian faith.
Much like the field of social work, the field of ministry (preaching, teaching, and counseling, developing and leading) should be concerned with “best practices” in their discipline. While it’s a paradigm shift to be comfortable in relying on research vs. relying on faith and biblical knowledge, the Theology of Leadership Journal presents several convincing cases intersecting biblical tension and leadership practices. It may even match my respect of the literary work Jesus, CEO by Laurie Beth Jones.
The New Testament book of Ephesians is one of my favorite. It is fully relevant in ministry leadership today. Ephesians (written by Paul in formal text) shares an important message for Christians in their faith, and in their practice. Paul’s main premise is that a true life of faith and devotion to God will organically change a believer’s actions and lifestyle (the importance of maturing faith and living out that faith). It’s fascinating to me that the modern day faith community can’t even agree on exactly what lived faith means, Some denominations are hyper focused on morals (i.e. consumption of alcohol, premarital sex, and homosexuality) while others are focused on social justice (caring for the poor, refugee aid, being in community with the vulnerable and oppressed). And then there are those (I know of one in my community in fact) that are focused on keeping “biblical principles” of banning women in leadership intact in their congregation.
It’s even more complicating when you dig into Ephesians deeper and see that there are some important verses defining Christian roles – Ephesians 4:11-13 “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the works of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ…” What do these role “labels” mean today? I think that is the relevant question. Clearly God is ordaining gifts and talents (spiritual gifts) as a believer’s lived faith
I am intrigued by the writings in Luke regarding women. When churches deny the gifts and talents (preaching/teaching/leading) of women in their congregation they are ultimately rejecting scripture – and are compelled to only receive scripture that serves their agenda.
According to Green, Brown and Perry, authors of the Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, Luke uses women in multiple illustrations acting in multiple roles. One of the authors’ most profound statements is this: “Luke features more female characters than any other Gospel, but the numbers do not tell the whole story. Here we especially encounter something of a “double message” regarding women’s roles as both dynamic prophets and silent hearers of the world; both patrons and clients of the Jesus movement…Luke may be struggling to strike the proper balance between Jesus’ liberating gospel for all persons and prevailing social structures in Greco-Roman society.” This statement absolutely confirms my interpretations of Scripture. Jesus’ gospel is liberating; social structures were not at the time so Luke (et.al) wrote scriptures to somehow balance the cultural influence with the Godly influence. How can church leaders present this understanding of the gospels in a way that patriarchal churches will receive? I’m not sure I know the answer to that, except to say it’s crucial for egalitarian men to stand up and speak truth into the gospel. By nature, men will likely receive it better from other men. In the meantime, women must use their voices to push back against distorted Biblical interpretation which oppresses women.
I am always pushing believers to pay attention to theology that the church holds on to. Is it biblical? Is it rational? Would Jesus agree? Can you really justify this theology personally and spiritually? Personally, I am offended by the church’s belief that my gifts and talents may not be connected to preaching/teaching as an elder or pastor. Every Christian should be paying close attention to the book of Ephesians. It’s an important guide book for every Christian – new and old – and an important reminder that Paul’s writings are relevant to ministry every day “In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” Ephesians 6:16. Don’t let the evil one lead your theology astray.
 Joel Green, Jeannine K. Brown, and Nicholas Perrin, Nicholas (eds.). Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels. (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press) 2013. pg 1009