Courageous leadership begins with me

We all want the best for the congregations, communities and organizations we serve. However, we may not often reflect deeply about how our own self-awareness plays a crucial role in the capacity to lead in our various settings. In a newly released book, Forged in Crisis: The Power of Courageous Leadership in Turbulent Times, Dr. Nancy Koehn, Harvard Business School historian, offers a fascinating exploration of how a leader’s internal life shapes the leader’s external action and influence.1

Koehn’s book unfolds simply. She tells the story of five remarkable persons who faced challenging contexts and found ways to exert meaningful leadership. The stories of Ernest Shackleton, Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglas, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Rachel Carson create a rich backdrop to draw the lines and shapes characterizing the inner life of leaders. These stories offer an impressive set of dynamics for those of us who desire to be faithful to God and to our true selves in the practice of leadership.

Although the five persons whom Koehn studied were very different and possessed distinct missions, she traces common characteristics among her subjects. Each person was quite human; they had experienced great pain in life, yet still led through their humanity. They were curious people who sought to understand what was happening around them. They experienced failure and great disappointment.

Each person Koehn chronicles had great ambition, yet their ambition grew to serve some larger mission in the world. All of them were willing to work on themselves and eagerly sought out opportunities to learn and grow. They were committed to remaining emotionally aware of themselves and of others. They assessed their own feelings and insights into what was happening around them, and they used their insights to bring about constructive change within their sphere of influence.

In particular, Koehn notes three perspectives common to these leaders:

  1. Each of them utilized and valued solitude and reflection. They recognized the need to slow down and to refrain from reactionary responses – to the point of being content to do nothing at all for a time.
  2. Each of them committed to a deep and worthy goal much bigger than themselves. The mission was big, but the path to that goal was flexible. They demonstrated adaptability in accomplishing their mission.
  3. Each of them demonstrated great resilience. Each faced crisis and calamity, but those seasons created opportunity for personal growth and learning. Bonhoeffer would call such places “boundary situations.” It is often in those times that personal and spiritual growth can best occur!

I commend Koehn’s book – it’s amazing to see a secular leadership book speak so overtly about Christian faith and commitment, especially as it plays out in Bonhoeffer’s story. My hope for you is to find time and space this week to reflect on your own journey of leadership. How are you learning and growing? How big is your mission and task in life? And how are you moving forward in and through your own very human struggles?


1. Nancy Koehn, Forged in Crisis: The Power of Courageous Leadership in Turbulent Times (Scribner, 2017).


Looney, Bouchelle author informative book on cross-cultural ministry

In their recently published book, Mosaic: A Ministry Handbook for a Globalizing World, ACU alumni Jared Looney (’96) and Seth Bouchelle (’13) draw on life experiences to provide practical wisdom for navigating the issues of cross-cultural ministry and evangelism. Looney and Bouchelle, both part of the Global City Mission Initiative, merge practice and theology to provide an insightful guide for church leaders wishing to reach out to multiethnic communities and ethnic enclaves in North American cities. Bouchelle also hosts the Global City Mission Podcast.

Hospitality Ministry: As Old as Pentecost

In a recent CHARIS article, Eric Gentry (’09 M.Div.) stresses the importance of helping guests at our churches feel welcome, drawing inspiration from the Holy Spirit’s work at Pentecost. Though Gentry acknowledges that it can be a hassle to arrange for people to serve as greeters, ushers and coffee makers, he reminds us how vital it is to have people visible and intentionally striving to “speak visitors’ language” and help them feel at home. Eric ministers at the Highland Church of Christ in Memphis, Tennessee.

Early bird registration deadline for ElderLink Dallas

ElderLink Dallas is coming up on Saturday, March 3. We hope you’ll join us as we spend the day with Reggie McNeal, who brings extensive experience in congregational leadership, coaching and consulting church leaders. This is a great opportunity for you and your leadership team to focus on kingdom leadership, learning how to missionally impact your community and the world. Check out our registration and event page for more details and to register. We hope we’ll see you and your leadership team at the North Davis Church of Christ!

2018 Ministers’ Salary Survey underway

You may already have received an invitation to take the 2018 Ministers’ Salary Survey. To those who have completed the survey and/or forwarded it to ministers in Churches of Christ, thank you! If you are planning to participate, please complete the survey between now and March 5. The survey is not long, and the secure link protects your privacy by avoiding the need for your email address or other identifying information. Results will be published on our website by May 1.

Summit 2018 Discipleship Pathway hosted by McKinney, Pickett

This year, we are restructuring Summit classes into 12 unique Pathways, all-day tracks serving as focused mini-conferences within Summit. The Discipleship Pathway at Summit will center on the book of Ephesians, exploring how to find wholeness through discipleship, in ourselves and in our communities. In our brokenness, we need others to come alongside us and encourage us. Join us to explore ways in which to grow into spiritual maturity as disciples of Jesus Christ, in every way, into the fullness and wholeness of God.

Your hosts for this Pathway are Dr. Phil McKinney (left) of Fairfax (Virginia) Church of Christ and Dr. Ben Pickett (’13 D.Min.) (right) of Highland Church of Christ (Abilene, Texas). They have invited Dr. Shannon McAlister of Fordham University and Dr. Jackie (Straker ’87 M.M.F.T.) Halstead of Abilene Christian University to present in this Pathway with them.

We hope to see you in September for the 112th annual Summit!



“The top question of the day for American churches is not whether we are right, rational, or biblically accurate, whether we have a progressive worship service on Sunday or whether we are on the cutting edge in our particular tribe. The top question for the church is, ‘Do we understand who God is and the way he understands worship?’ More than the songs we sing, our very lives are worship.” – Joshua Graves, The Feast: How to Serve Jesus in a Famished World

“Church leaders sometimes think of themselves primarily as problem solvers. Solving other people’s problems provides an undeniable sense of usefulness and even power … Defining pastoral relationships in terms of “fixing” others leaves the door open for abuses of relational power. It is one thing to work with people, still another thing to work on them.” – Dr. Mark Love, “The Care of Souls: Pastoral Prayer,” in Like a Shepherd Lead Us: Guidance for the Gentle Art of Pastoring (Dr. David Fleer and Dr. Charles Siburt, Editors)