“Making Spiritual Meaning in the Chaos of Change” was the focus of a two-day conference for pastors in Seattle, Washington, in March, sponsored by Fuller Northwest and the Office of Alumni and Church Relations. Faculty members Mark Labberton, Chap Clark, Carolyn Gordon, and Scott Cormode explored ways church leaders can respond to social change while remaining grounded in their faith.
Mark Labberton, director of the Ogilvie Institute of Preaching, discussed both the “Fear and Dramas of Ministry” and “Power and Dynamics of Ministry,” saying, “The Lord has set us in a broad place, not a narrow place of fear.” We tend to get caught up in dealing with our own insecurities, “but there are real fears and real power in the world where God’s people need to be,” he said. “The goal isn’t just to get people to church, but to be transformed ourselves to be salt and light” in that world.
Vice Provost Chap Clark, speaking on “The Courage to Define Reality,” emphasized that leadership has to come from the inside out. People in leadership tend to try to skip over their brokenness, but those who are self-aware and willing to be vulnerable are better leaders. Clark also stressed the importance of teamwork in ministry—that “everyone needs everyone else to achieve a common goal. Leaders need to recognize that every person matters.”
“The essence of Christian leadership is to transform people’s mental models so that God’s people use Christian categories to make sense of their lives,” stated Scott Cormode, Hugh De Pree Professor of Leadership Development, as he spoke on “Making Sense and Making Promises.” Leaders must make public promises and ask their people to hold them to those promises, he also said; but too often leaders—pastors included—violate those promises by sending mixed messages.
In her talk “Encountering Night Creepers, Weepers and Seekers,” Associate Professor of Communication Carolyn Gordon spoke of clergy as wounded healers who are called to be authentic and transparent in their ministry. “We preach out of our pain,” she said—and when those in our congregation are in pain, “sometimes we don’t need to have the answer, but to wrestle with the question. Validate their questions; don’t just give the answer you think they want to hear and send them on their way.”