Comings and Goings is a blog written by Theology, Formation, and Evangelism Director Charles B. "Chip" Hardwick as he travels throughout the church. God is on the move out and about in the world, working to redeem all things in Jesus Christ. As we join this mission, by the power of the Spirit we see God on the move. This blog contains glimpses of how Chip finds this to be true in his comings and goings.
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A couple of weeks ago when I was in Atlanta, I preached and presented at North Avenue Presbyterian Church, where I had formerly served as an associate pastor. I was pleased to meet someone who has become a part of the church since I left in 2003. He told me, “Now when you get back to Louisville, you tell everyone how important it is that we keep educating our pastors.”
He’s absolutely right. Educated clergy have been a hallmark of Presbyterianism since it was founded. Seminaries have been training pastors in the classic theological disciplines of Bible, Systematic Theology, Church History, and Practical Theology for generations. Pastors and church leaders must know these disciplines if they are to lead and serve Christ’s churches faithfully.
However, a follow-up question to the one I heard at North Avenue is, “how else, beyond these classical fields, should we be educating our pastors?” After all, to be an effective church leader, teaching elders (the new name for pastors in the PC(USA)) need far more skills beyond these academic disciplines. They need to have skills in conflict management, entrepreneurship, finance and accounting, community leadership, missional engagement, etc., etc., etc. The list goes on and on. The Presbyterian Mission Agency (where I serve) has as one of its four primary goals to develop transformational leadership for the church, and I’m thrilled to be co-leading that effort.
I got some insight into how Columbia Theological Seminary is moving beyond the traditional classical disciplines when I visited President Steve Hayner and several faculty members during my time in Atlanta. Like most Presbyterian seminaries, Columbia is seeking to expand its students’ experiences so that they can be the pastors that today’s culture needs.
Specifically, Columbia is working to form leaders who are both imaginative and resilient. These two traits are critical for new teaching elders. Too often our pastors rely on tradition to determine what church looks like. As the denomination looks more and more to new worshiping communities and new ministries which can engage today’s culture, imagination will be increasingly significant. Moreover, as the church has lost its privileged place in society, it is more and more difficult to guide a church’s session to respond to today’s challenges. These challenges require leaders who are resilient—who can follow Christ in setting their faces toward Jerusalem, even though the journey will be difficult.
I’m grateful for the way that Columbia and other seminaries are imaginatively exploring what it means to shape the leadership that the church needs. Please pray with me that the seminaries and the Presbyterian Mission Agency will be successful in developing transformational leadership across the church.