Theological Education or Leadership Development?

Theological education and leadership development are both very important in the kingdom.
Theological education and leadership development are both very important in the kingdom. (iStock photo )

Being a global ministry working in unreached nations, many of our recently ordained Every Nation pastors were raised as Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, agnostics or atheists.

As such, most had zero Bible knowledge before meeting our mission teams. Now, only a few years later, these relatively new Christians are serving as campus missionaries, church planters and pastors.

It did not require vast wisdom to recognize the need to upgrade the theological foundations of Every Nation's global pastors.

One year ago, I was part of an international team that met in Istanbul to make decisions about minimum theological standards for an Every Nation Churches and Ministries pastor anywhere in the world. If someone is an ordained Every Nation pastor in Katmandu, Bangkok or London, what are our minimal biblical and theological educational standards? That Istanbul discussion set into motion what is now called Leadership 215 (inspired by 2 Tim. 2:15).

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As part of the Leadership 215 development team, this week I have had a back-and-forth email discussion with Every Nation leaders in Asia, Europe and North America about our need for pedagogical clarification.

As I read the email thread from brilliant and dedicated global teachers, I quickly realized that while I was not the smartest man in the conversation, nevertheless I had a unique perspective that made my ideas matter. So after looking up the definition of "pedagogical" and several other arcane words (commonly used by dead and mostly dead European theologians) I threw in my two cents worth, which addressed two points.

1. One team vs. one genius.  While I am grateful for the teachers who are doing most of the Leadership 215 heavy lifting, obtaining the "pedagogical clarification" we desired, would require the input of teachers and non-teachers. The non-teachers include pushy apostles, mystical prophets, loud evangelists, practical pastors and young, zealous campus missionaries. Being a teacher, I find it much easier to work with a team of teachers.

When I'm with teachers, we almost always agree. But when I add those other people to the conversation, we rarely agree, and it often becomes messy. But despite the messiness, when it comes to leadership development, we are much better together. One team of average minds working together is more productive than one genius working alone.

2. Leadership Development vs. Theological Education. Since the beginning of our Leadership 215 project, I have filed all related documents under "leadership development" not under "theological education." To the untrained eye, this might look like a minor issue, but I think it is an important distinction. My filing label reminds me that the purpose of the Leadership 215 project is not primarily theological education, but leadership development.

Theological education is an important part of leadership development, but it is only a part. It is common to succeed in theological education and fail in leadership development, but it is impossible to succeed in leadership development and fail in theological education. In other words, there are many great theologians who can't spell leadership. But there are no great spiritual leaders who can't spell theology.

We must upgrade our theological standards if we want the kind of leaders who will reach every nation and every campus with the gospel of Christ. But we must remember that our endgame is a leader, not a theologian.

QUESTION: Which is most important, leadership development or theological education?

ANSWER: Both!

Steve and Deborah Murrell went to the Philippines in 1984 for a one-month summer mission trip that never ended. They are the founding pastors of Victory Manila, one church that meets in 14 locations in metro Manila and has planted churches in 60 Philippine cities and 20 other nations. Currently, Victory has more than 6,000 discipleship groups that meet in coffee shops, offices, dormitories and homes in metro Manila. Steve is co-founder and president of Every Nation Churches and Ministries, a family of churches focused on church planting, campus ministry and world missions.

For the original article, visit stevemurrell.com.

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Dr. Steve Greene is now sharing stories, teachings, and conversations with guests who lead with love on Love Leads, a new podcast. Listen now.


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