Yearly Archives: 2010

Identifying Critical Issues

It’s taken me a while, but I just finished composing the report from our latest Best Practices for Church Boards workshop held in November. It’s the product of an extensive process, adding reflections from interviews with participants to the compiled comments from the evaluation forms. It’s worth the effort. I always learn something from the effort, and the discoveries certainly help improve the workshop.

As I reflect on this Fall, one discovery stands out above all the others. One of the greatest challenges faced by many boards is the ability to identify the critical issue that deserves their shared attention. During the registration process, churches are asked to identify their key issue prior to the workshop. The expectation is that the lessons learned in the workshop will allow the leaders to gain some immediate and relevant progress with their issue in their working session.

While some churches are able to focus on a shared issue quickly, many stumble in finding their target. In the first working session, the Facilitators present the church boards with the issue that accompanied their registration. The question is then raised: Would you agree that this is the Key Issue that deserves your most conscientious attention?

There are a few boards that respond quickly. They’ve prayerfully discussed the whole range of issues before them and have agreed on the priority and importance of the one Key Issue as it relates to their mission.  That said, off they go.

More often than not, boards will pause as they look at their “key issue” with a degree of uncertainty.  It’s that moment of hesitation that has caught my attention. It illustrates a common challenge for church boards: the ability – or inability –  to identify the critical issue that deserves their shared attention.

TJ Addington, author of High Impact Church Boards, addressed the same issue in his blog this last Fall [http://leadingfromthesandbox.blogspot.com – October, 16, 2010.] One of the reasons why it’s a struggle is that leaders are tempted to become “enmeshed” in issues that are defined by personal agendas. He writes: One of the hallmarks of good emotional intelligence is that we are able to empathize with others without getting enmeshed in their issues. This does not mean that we do not care, provide counsel, pray and support. It does mean that we don’t allow the issues of others to become “our” issues.

It is possible for a Board to be consumed by issues that are more a matter of personal agendas than a shared mandate of mission.

George Bullard recently identified another reason that Boards struggle. Their attention tends to be so focused on past conflicts that it’s hard to identify the issue that will embrace the new thing God is seeking to do in and through him. In his learning article, Transforming Reactionary Church Boards [November 3, 2010, www.TheColumbiaPartnership.org] he wrote: When congregations are getting over a conflict, a less than excellent relationship with a senior or solo pastor who has now moved on, or an empowering vision that has diminished, policies and procedures to create more control are often put into place. Typically these changes are focused on correcting what was perceived as wrong or missing in the past … In other words, [Reactive Boards] move forward into the future by protecting yourself from what went wrong in the past … always looking for where you were rather than where you are going.

Whatever the reason, board leaders struggle with the ongoing frustration in knowing how to identify good targets to discuss. There is a need to recapture the heart of leadership that is capable of moving ministry toward a preferred future with discernment and intention.

One of the main responsibilities of a board, in particular – a board chair and a lead pastor, is to ensure that the most important issues receive the most significant attention. So, what steps could help solve this dilemma?

Any study on discernment, especially the type of spiritual discernment required for a healthy ministry requires a number of ingredients, not the least of which is time and prayerful attention. In his comments on The Art of Thinking Grey, TJ Addington writes: some people think it a skill to make quick decisions and they pride themselves in their ability to do so. The truth is that slow decisions that have had significant input from a variety of sources are usually far better than rapid ones. Embracing the task and setting aside precious time is an absolute necessity.

The second step is a matter of perspective. Stepping aside from personal agendas, a discerning leader always asks important questions. In their book Discerning Your Congregation’s Future: A Strategic and Spiritual Approach, Roy Oswald and Robert Friedrich describe four simple questions that discerning leaders ask throughout the congregation in order to gain a perspective: 1 losartan hctz. If our congregation did not continue to ______, I would lose interest in remaining a member; 2. The things that concern me most about our congregation are _______,; 3. If our congregation would ______, I know I would call my friends and tell them what wonderful things they are missing; 4. If, with a stroke of a pen, I could change one thing at our congregation, I would ______.

Questions like that lead to discovery. They take us outside of ourselves and reveal viewpoints and opportunities that would otherwise lie hidden. They expose a variety of concerns that can suggest issues that God wants addressed.

As wise leaders reflect on those answers, the next step is to sort through the issues in order to find THE ISSUE, the one that matters most. And then, with a shared focus, that issue needs to be framed for discussion. Two of the instruments that we recommend for Time Stewardship as a Best Board Practice are forms for a Decision Profile and a Discussion Briefing. Both are one page summaries that present the necessary information to help a board focus on an issue.

In each case, the issue is stated at the very beginning in clear and concise language. Added to the statement is an explanation of its importance, how it relates to the strategic value of the church and its mission. The rest of the outline in each form flows from that point whether it’s relevant questions that will stimulate a meaningful discussion or optional recommendations that will provide a healthy solution. But, the best part, and the hardest part, is to define the issue and put it into context. It’s a skill that takes work and makes a difference.

In the article Transforming Reactionary Church Boards, George Bullard put it well when he said it is easier to state a solution than it is to deliver one. It’s one thing to suggest steps, it’s quite another to put them into practice. However, that shouldn’t stop us from working toward a solution, and as I seek to improve the Best Practices for Church Boards workshop, that’s my next improvement: to develop an aid – and an exercise – that would get the ball rolling. As a note, if you have a helpful suggestion to make, I welcome your comment.

In His Service

In a few days I will be completing my responsibilities as Northwest’s President. Two years ago as I began to plan for this transition, it seemed a long way ahead. Now it is here and God’s grace has enriched the experience. Thank you for the good wishes you have shared recently and for your prayerful support of Northwest’s vision and ministry during my tenure. Whatever God has accomplished through Northwest in these years, your stewardship has been part of it.

In these past few months God has given constant assurance that Northwest’s future is rich with promise. Just this week we received news of a third grant to support the “Theology of Work and Marketplace Ministry” initiatives that we have pursued these past two years. Earlier this Fall we finally were able to implement online, graduate level cross-cultural leadership training for FEBInternational ministry leaders around the world. 10-12 twelve of these leaders are engaged in the first course under the direction of Mark Naylor. And then major plans are being developed for the initiation of a church-based, ministry leadership training process in Fall 2011. This will be a significant development, requiring new financial and educational resources.

Dr. Spencer is leading our preparations for our fourth conference on Baptist Identify and Theology, which we are now calling “ReSourcing the Church Conference”. It will be offered February 25-26, 2011. Dr. Jim Belcher, author of Deep Church. A Third Way Beyond Emerging and Traditional, will be our keynote speaker. As well, our next conference supporting Children’s Ministry will be offered in November 2011.

Dr. Kent Anderson, Northwest’s new president, begins his new role January 1 and already is engaging his responsibilities, excited about the new opportunities God is opening for Northwest’s ministry. Please be in prayer for him as 2011 will make very heavy demands upon his energies.

May God’s blessing rest upon you as you continue to serve Him with expectancy and deep gratitude.

Sincerely,

Larry Perkins, Ph.D.

President.

ACTS Appreciation Chapel for Dr. Larry Perkins

On December 7, we honored our out-going Northwest Baptist Seminary President, Larry Perkins with a special chapel service at ACTS Seminaries. The service included reflective comments from Dr. Perkins’ longtime friend and colleague, Bill Badke. A highlight was Larry’s brief reflections on his service and particularly upon the significant contribution of his wife, Judy.

A video of the service is available for you to view here.

ACTS Appreciation Chapel for Dr. Larry Perkins

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Northwest Board Appoints New President

Dr. Kent and Karen Anderson appointed next president of Northwest Baptist Seminary

Dr. Kenton Anderson accepted the Northwest Baptist Seminary Board’s offer to become its eighth President, effective January 1, 2011.  The Board’s decision and Dr. Anderson’s acceptance culminate an 18 month process of succession planning and searching.

Dr. Larry Perkins is retiring from the role of president, a position he has held since 2000.  He will be continuing at Northwest in a teaching capacity.

Dr. Kenton Anderson (Kent) holds a Ph.D. with a major in preaching from Southwestern Baptist Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, along with a Bachelor’s degree from Northwest Baptist Theological College and two Master’s degrees from Northwest Baptist Seminary. In 1994 he graduated from Northwest Baptist Seminary /ACTS Seminaries with a Master of Divinity and went on to complete his doctoral degree in 1996. His doctoral dissertation project showed how preaching models have closely followed trends in culture. Kent’s project for that was to develop a new integrative model for preaching. Since then, Kent has published three books on the subject, Preaching with Conviction (Kregel 2001), Preaching with Integrity (Kregel 2003), and Choosing to Preach (Zondervan 2006). Kent’s professional website is www.preaching.org where he blogs on preaching and culture and provides a significant resource for preachers. He also has served as a contributing editor at www.preachingtoday.com and is a past president of the Evangelical Homiletics Society. Kent also contributes courses in spiritual formation in various Northwest/ACTS Seminaries programs. Along with his academic and literary accomplishments Kent also has direct pastoral experience having served for 11 years in local churches in both British Columbia and Alberta. He has also taught and preached in hundreds of churches and ministry centres across North America and the world.

Kent joined the faculty of Northwest and ACTS Seminaries in 1996 and became Dean of Northwest Baptist Seminary in 2001. He is also the director of the Centre for Ministry Excellence at Trinity Western University.

Kent has been married to his wife, Karen, for more than 27 years. Kent and Karen have three adult children. He loves reading, playing golf and hockey, and making music on his guitar.

As he envisions his leadership in this new role, Kent comments:

“I am humbled by the trust I have been given. Previous occupants of this position — Howard Anderson, Doug Harris, and, of course, Larry Perkins, have all been significant and valued personal mentors to me. The thought that I am now following in their train is a daunting, and yet motivating prospect. I believe that Northwest can be a powerful tool by which we raise up significant numbers of well-prepared leaders for the ministries that God has called us to within the Fellowship Baptist movement and beyond.”

“As a graduate of Northwest and former Fellowship Baptist pastor, myself, I appreciate the way my Northwest experiences have shaped me and made it possible for me to fulfill the calling that God has given me. I want to make the same thing possible for many others.”

“Without altering our sense of mission, our future at Northwest will engage fresh innovative methods in direct collaboration with our churches and our Fellowship. I believe that the best training happens in the context for which people are being trained. You can expect, then, that we will be working very closely with our churches, our pastors, and our denominational leadership. Our goal will be to achieve a significant new stage of development in our mutual mandate to equip Spirit-filled people, who are gifted and called for the various ministries and mission of the church.”

 

Larry Perkins, Ph.D.

President, Northwest Baptist Seminary

November 1, 2010

John Brand on Expository Preaching

Rev. John Brand runs a website, Encouraging Expository Excellence out of Edinburgh, Scotland. In a recent email conversation, John offered these responses to some interesting questions about expository preaching.

1. Where do you place the importance of preaching in the grand scheme of church life?
I am utterly and increasingly convinced it has to be the heartbeat and central focus. There are many hallmarks of a true church and many things churches should be doing but none more vital and strategic than the faithful preaching of the Word of God. If the Word of God is not at the heart of its activities then it is no longer a church and simply a religious organisation.

2. In a paragraph, how did you discover your gifts in preaching?
I was born into a Manse, the son and grandson of missionary preachers, and I think to start with it was almost a natural thing to do – to try my hand at preaching. My father’s church – who were not, it has to said, the most spiritually discerning of folk – gave me opportunity in my mid-teens and I was encouraged to persevere as well as sensing a growing burden and joy in my own spirit for this great work.

3. How long (on average) does it take you to prepare a sermon?
To be honest, it takes me longer now than when I started out more than 30 years ago and in the Lords goodness I think that is partly because I take the responsibility much more seriously now than at any other time in my life. I guess these day it takes me anywhere between 12 and 15 hours on average.

4. Is it important to you that a sermon contain one major theme or idea? If so, how do you crystallise it?
I wish I had realised the importance of this in my early days of preaching because I have come to realise how vital this issue is for effective communication. There is a tendency, especially when you are younger, to try and cram too much into one sermon and generally speaking, not only can most folk not cope with that but it can so easily blur the God-intended focus of the passage. In some way I find this the hardest and often most time-consuming aspect of preparation and yet you can’t move forward until you have identified it. For me, I just try writing out ‘the big idea’ again and again and again; restating it until I feel I am doing justice to the Scripture I am working.

5. What is the most important aspect of a preacher’s style and what should he avoid?
Firstly, it is vital that we are truly ourselves in the pulpit and not try to be somebody or something we are not. Affected tones of voice and imitation of others is for the stage and not the pulpit. Sincerity and integrity are key. Two other vital ingredients for me are earnestness and passion. We live in a day and age of all too often lifeless, take-it-or-leave-it preaching and it’s inconsistent with the message we preach or the one in whose name we claim to speak.

6. What notes, if any, do you use?
These days, my notes are much fuller than they used to be, though I have gone through different stages in my ministry. It varies too depending on the nature of the sermon. A more closely reasoned exposition, working through the logic of a passage, for example, will demand more notes than a study in one of the parables. For me, it’s not so much the quantity of the notes but the familiarity with the text and notes and though my notes are fuller I probably refer to them less than I used to.

7. What are the greatest perils that preacher must avoid?
I have already referred to things like affectation. We must also studiously avoid disclosing confidences, even by allusion. We must avoid ‘showing off’ the work done in preparation. Perhaps the greatest sin to avoid is saying any less or any more than the text we are preaching says.

8. How do you fight to balance preparation for preaching with other important responsibilities (eg. pastoral care, leadership responsibilities)
In recent years this has been a special challenge for me, now as a Bible College Principal and before that heading up a Mission agency, rather than in church-based pastoral ministry. It’s really a case of identifying and protecting priorities. I have had to ring fence time slots and tell my colleagues that I am unavailable except in emergencies.

9. What, in your opinion, are the top 5 books on preaching that have been most helpful to you as a preacher, with perhaps a few words by way of comment about them?
-Bryan Chapell’s Christ Centered Preaching is, in my opinion, simply the best there is
-Ramesh Richard’s Preaching Expository Sermons really helped me work on and teach the importance of structure with his very helpful model of the human body
-Arturo Azurdia’s Spirit Empowered Preaching provides the perfect balance between hard work on the part of the exegete and preacher and the empowering of God’s Spirit
-Michael Fabarez’s Preaching that Changes Lives is the most helpful book on application that I have found
-John Piper’s The Supremacy of God in Preaching keeps reigniting my passion for preaching and keeps my sights fixed on God

10. Which preachers, living or dead, have had the greatest influence on your own ministry?
During my student days I read many of Spurgeon’s sermons and through Lloyd-Jones sermons on Romans and Ephesians and, albeit largely unconsciously, imbibed a commitment to systematic, verse by verse exposition, though not at the same level of detail as the Doctor! Sinclair Ferguson taught and modelled homiletics as well as systematic theology and made a monumental impact on my life and, humanly speaking, I owe him a unique debt. The inspired passion of men like Steven Lawson and John Piper are also a great example.

10. What steps do you take to nurture or encourage developing or future preachers?
This has always been a joyful privilege and responsibility for me. In my first pastorate I gather a group of 3 men and we met on a monthly basis to encourage one another and I gave them regular opportunities to cut their preaching teeth and try and help them. I am and have been involved in several preachers workshops, seminars and conferences. One of my greatest joys in this area has been an annual workshop in Sudan where I have seen 50 church leaders grow in their confidence in and ability to handle the word of God. I teach homiletics at the College where I serve and also blog on preaching at www.encouraging expositoryexcellence.co.uk where, among other things, I hold a ‘sermon clinic’.

11. What advice would you give to a young man who is wondering whether God is calling him into a preaching ministry, firstly in terms of recognising the genuineness of a call and secondly in acting on it?
Be obedient! Of course, we must take seriously the immense responsibility of such a charge, but if someone senses that God is leading them in this direction – perhaps because as they hear others preach they have a godly sense of ‘I could do that’ – pray that others will prompt you and give you opportunity and look to mature, experienced spiritual leaders to confirm – or otherwise – the gift of a preacher in you.

12. Is good expository preaching something that is ‘caught’ or ‘taught’; where is the balance between the two?
I have no doubts that it is both. There must, of course, be the divine gifting in the first place, but preaching is both an art and a science and skills can be sharpened and honed. One of the neglected responsibilities laid on preachers is to model good preaching to others.

13. What is the secret of perseverance in a preaching ministry?
A constant re-submission to the call of God on your life and an awareness of the fact that there is no greater or more important task on the planet!

14. What is the secret of freshness in a preaching ministry?
Keep close to God and to his Word. The more I read Scripture, the more I want to preach Scripture as I gain new insights. I am more enthusiastic today about preaching than I was over 35 years ago when I started out.

Alpha and Omega – How well does a pastor need to know the Bible?

The Bible comes to us in three languages — Hebrew, Aramaic and Hellenistic Greek. Yet,  most people, including pastoral leaders, explore the scriptures through translation. Traditionally people in the congregation have considered the pastor as equipped to investigate thoroughly the biblical message and communicate it truthfully and persuasively. The pastor opens windows into the text to let people discern its meaning, sometimes with painful starkness and impact. But what competence does a pastor need in order to do that with excellence?

Historically Bible colleges and seminaries have included the study of Greek and sometimes Hebrew within programs that equip people for pastoral leadership. Within Northwest we have a strong tradition of teaching the biblical languages. I think this is rooted in our strong commitment to the inspiration, inerrancy and authority of Scripture. What eventually happens if pastoral leaders no longer have competence to interact directly with the Greek and Hebrew Bible?

The argument can be made that good preaching does not depend upon skill in reading the Greek or Hebrew Bibles, and this is true. However, the study of the Greek and Hebrew portions of the Bible is not so much concerned with acquiring language skills, as it is with the more significant question of discerning the Spirit’s voice in scripture. The preaching might be persuasive, but is the message true? When a person engages the Greek Bible, for example, he or she is not just encountering words, but must wrestle with an entirely different way of thinking and expression. The cultural distance between the 21st Century preacher and the biblical text must be admitted and addressed.  The larger questions of meaning, the intent of the human author, and the means chosen to share his ideas become more immediate. But when a person is presenting the eternal words of scripture as God’s authoritative Word, can he or she be content to depend only on the pre-digested message expressed in a translation, as good as it may be. Commentaries help, but to grasp their arguments often requires some language and exegetical competence.

Trends in pastoral training come and go. I have seen a number in my 32 years of seminary experience. Whether it was counselling, church growth, or more latterly leadership development, each pushes its way into the pastoral curriculum, bartering for space with the existing subjects. Pressure is on to shorten the time required for developing pastoral leaders and this requires academic leaders to determine carefully what subjects deserve space in a limited curriculum. And then there is student pressure to ease the requirements or to focus the curriculum on more applied subjects, things that have immediate pay-off. Given the costs of pastoral education and the time restraints that emerging leaders frequently experience, perhaps the space in the curriculum devoted to acquiring capacity to work directly with the Greek and Hebrew Bible might be put to better use?

Can the study of Greek or Hebrew biblical interpretation survive in such a context? If it doesn’t, what does it mean for the proclamation of the Gospel and the discipling of God’s people in the next fifty years? If pastors of the future lack the competence to engage the Scriptures in their Greek and Hebrew forms, will the churches be stronger for it? I doubt it. Providing this kind of education and competence development for new pastoral leaders requires specific investments in people and programs. The immediate returns are not dramatic, but the long term implications for the health of the church will be critical.  These same kinds of arguments compel us also to invest significantly in developing ministry leaders with deep, theological competence.

This article has also been published in the October issue of Northwest News.

Fall 2010 New Student Orientation

This week is orientation week here at Northwest / ACTS Seminaries.

At the New Student Orientation day on Wednesday we had 75 men and women participate. It was a great day of seeing new faces, helping new students find their bearings, enjoying again the story of ACTS Seminaries and sensing among these new students a refreshing inquisitiveness, anticipation and energy. As the various faculty and staff made their presentations to these new students I was reminded again of what an amazing Kingdom enterprise we are part of here at ACTS – five evangelical denominations collaborating to provide current and future leaders with tools that will equip them to be better prepared for the various ministries to which God has called them. I think this year is shaping up to be an exciting adventure.  Here are a few more photos from orientation day.

Laurel Archer with her Student Volunteers

Worshiping together for the first time

Dr. Wendell Phillips, the ACTS Registrar and Ms. Laurel Archer, the ACTS Student Program Advisor leading the students through orientation

Dr. Lyle Schrag introducing the new students to Northwest faculty and staff

Enjoying a BBQ together in beautiful, end of summer, BC weather

Decade of Service

In the sixty-five years following Northwest’s re-establishment after World War II, Northwest has had six presidents.  This is a remarkable story of committed, stable leadership. A decade of service in this role is about the average. I believe it is time for a new leader who can bring fresh vision and vitality to Northwest’s mission.

Almost a decade has passed since the Board of Northwest invited me to serve first as interim president (January 2000) and then to fill the role of president. Some of you know that on July 31, 2011 I will be completing my involvement with Northwest as President. The next few months will be busy, working with the successor the Board will be appointing.

The Board has been working on a succession plan for about a year and the Search Committee will be bringing a recommendation to the Board’s October 2010 meeting. Should the Board accept the recommendation, then the new president will begin serving January 1, 2011 losartan potassium.  The Board has graciously granted me a sabbatical that will run from January to July 2011. I believe the Board has this process well in hand and the transition of leadership will proceed well. As opportunity allows, I hope to continue contributing to Northwest in a part-time teaching role for the next few years.

So this Fall semester will be a time of transition. I would ask that you pray specifically:

1. that the Board will know the mind of God in their decision in October;

2. that I will be able to finish well, leaving Northwest in a strong position;

3. that Northwest faculty and staff will work through the transition well;

4. that our students and alumni will view the transition process as a model of Christian leadership;

5. that our financial donors will continue to support the mission of Northwest and the new President;

6. that Northwest’s mission will be carried forward even more effectively because of this change.

Over the past year my prayer has been that God would enable me to finish well. You know too many Christian leaders whose leadership roles have ended in failure. So I do covet your prayers in these next months and look forward to God’s special grace and blessing upon the Northwest family in this time of transition.

In particular it is important that your investment in Northwest remain strong. A leader is important in an institution, but the institution is far bigger and more significant than any one person. I believe this is true of Northwest and the critical nature of its leadership development role in the Kingdom.

Basic Assumptions

It seems as if this has been the month of déjà vu. In four weeks, I’ve had the same conversation with five different pastors. The names may differ, but the complaint is consistent: I can’t seem to get people to volunteer to serve. That one sentence has unfolded into a litany of complaint:

I have to work almost as hard to recruit someone to serve as I do to lead someone to Christ … Forget trying to get someone to agree to be a leader, I can’t even find someone to cut the Church lawn or sit with the babies in the nursery … It’s becoming almost impossible for me to do what I have to do as a Pastor since everything else undone around here ends up on my desk… It doesn’t take a genius to realize that something has gone wrong.

When we first initiated the Fellowship Centre for Leadership Development seven years ago, my focus was centered on Leadership Development as a way to refine leaders who were rising to the challenge of ministry and eager for training.  It’s such an obvious target, and explains why so much effort is invested in developing training products for emerging leaders. But, hearing the complaints over the years, and especially over the last month, has caused me to expand my thinking. My initial fixation on training leaders was as if I were staring at the end of a conveyor belt and wondering why there was only a trickle being produced without realizing that the belt hadn’t been well connected at the beginning … to begin with.

Over the years, my attention has been shifting towards a view of Leadership Creation as a pre-requisite for Leadership Development. And for that, my attention has shifted from leadership as the expression of a high-performance individual … a leader, to leadership as the manifestation of a community that inspires initiative and discovers leaders who emerge from an active body of followers. It’s a theme that’s led me to view Church at large as the culture where leaders are birthed as well as developed. It’s a journey that has taken me past several critical boundaries, past the definition of Leadership Development to Leadership Creation … and on that journey past the definition of the word Leader to a greater appreciation of the words Servant, Disciple, and follower of Christ.

Along the way, I’ve encountered several noteworthy guideposts. The first was the result of research on Leadership in the New Testament and the Early Church. In a wonderfully comprehensive study on what Leadership meant in the early church by Ken Giles, Patterns of Ministry Among the First Christians1 a few comments captured my attention:

“All the apostolic churches were developing institutions2 for the most part, the origins of the first churches lie in the synagogues, so common throughout Palestine and the Mediterranean world. The patterns of interaction and forms of leadership in the early churches bear some relation to these Jewish antecedents3 … thus a group of Christians meeting in a home as part of an extended family is our starting point for understanding leaders and leadership in the earliest churches4.

From this picture of the Church as an engaged household, Giles turns the focus of leadership away from roles and titles to something much more organic: In fact, Luke [in Acts] consistently implies that leaders arose to meet specific needs on a quite pragmatic basis. Initially the twelve apostles provide leadership to the whole community, but when a special need arises, discussion and prayer leads to the appointment of seven “almoners” [Acts. 6:1-6] …In Paul’s earliest epistles he addresses certain people whom he recognizes as leaders, but gives them no title [I Thess. 5: 12-13; I Cor. 16L15-18.} At the same time, he insists that when the believers assemble for worship they should all minister to one another: no sub-group or person should take preeminence [I cor. 12:4-7; Rom. 12:3-8.]5In the apostolic age, church life was dynamic and fluid. Leaders emerged to meet needs and as the Holy Spirit initiated6. …

With the passage of time the church grew as an institution and more structured forms of social interactions developed, resulting in leadership defined by office and title. This may explain the shift of focus from leader creation to leadership development.

But, I can’t help but sense in the earliest forms of the Church there existed a deeper sense that expectation to serve was spread out over an entire congregation. This expectation seems to be based on an assumption that a spirit of service was logically related to a commitment of discipleship and an obvious consequence of what it meant to be a follower of Christ. If my suspicions are correct, this assumption did not think so much of “leadership” as it did of obedience and availability and service that might end up leading others.

Musing on this history, I encountered a second guidepost in an interview recorded in Leadership Journal with Terry Fullem, the pastor of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Darien, Connecticut.7 As one of the congregations at the center of renewal in the Anglican fellowship, Terry described a profound moment that redefined the essence of ministry.

In simple terms, he described the consequences of instituting two basic assumptions of the congregation. Both assumptions were based on a  person’s relationship with Jesus Christ. The church will be strong only to the degree that people are committed to Christ. So, in pursuing this goal, we make an interesting assumption: we assume a person does not have a relationship with Jesus Christ unless he is prepared to say he does. The simple fact of being in church in not enough. We don’t argue with people; don’t sit in judgment on their salvation; but neither do we take for granted that they have committed their lives to Christ unless they say so. Thus, those who haven’t professed faith in Christ are graciously and generously treated as seekers.

The second assumption was the one that captured my imagination: In the case of believers – and this will seem like the exact opposite – we assume commitment rather than non-commitment!

I love that simple phrase. It has such a New Testament sound to it: we assume commitment rather than non-commitment. What a contrast to the operating principle at work in our churches where everything, especially those things related to leadership requires a high level of recruitment, and produces a low level of response.

Terry Fullem continued with an illustration of this principled assumption: We have a number of clergy and lay leadership conferences here every year drawing people from all over the world. And we house them in the homes of the parish. For many years, I used to go to the congregation and say, “A conference is coming up, and we need 200 beds; please sign up.” We always got what we needed, but it was a hassle.

Then one day, I realized all that wasn’t necessary. I went before the congregation one Sunday and said, “You have heard me ask for beds for the last time. From now on, we will assume that if you have an extra bed in your house, of course you would let someone use it (we assume commitment rather than non-commitment) Because everything you have belongs to the Lord and you’ve consecrated your life and home to his service, naturally you would make it available to his service losartan online. So, we have made up a bed bank for the parish, and we’ll assume yours are available. IF, for some reason, you cannot host a guest, please let us know – otherwise we will assume commitment rather than noncommitment!

What a refreshing thought. Recently, I’ve had a chance to observe a church that operates under the same principle. Lists are posted with names attached for services to be performed. There’s no obvious sense of coercion or pleading, guilt-ridden appeals. In fact, it’s just the opposite. As lists are posted ,gracious announcements are made that if people are unable to fulfill their assignment, they are welcomed to either make arrangements for a substitute – or request help in finding a replacement. No harm, no foul. And, people take it seriously as a matter of honor. They don’t have to search for a way to “make a difference” with their lives.

Terry Fullem continued his example making the point that such an assumption, when made with sincerity and conviction, becomes the prevailing attitude in a congregation. It produces and propels people who follow God’s call in humble obedience. He concluded with a word of conviction: So many clergy pitch the level of their ministry to the least committed members of the congregation, being careful not to offend them. That’s not what we’re called to do (boldface – mine)

I’ve had a chance to observe several congregations who operate according to that assumption. It’s no surprise that they have little problem identifying and engaging leaders.

As I reflect on the conversations of the past month, I wonder if we haven’t made things harder than God intended them to be. I wonder if we, as leaders, may have become our own worst enemies based on false assumptions. And, I wonder what might happen if we changed the rules and shifted our focus.

I shared these thoughts with one of the pastors. His response was revealing. When people become members at my church, I ask them to state their commitment of time, treasure, and talent to the cause of Christ and the fellowship of our church. I suppose it’s time for us to mean what we say … As a result, he took a risk and with the support of his board did the same thing as Terry Fullem. He posted a few lists, told the congregation that he was going to honor their relationship with Christ by assuming commitment rather than noncommitment. To his surprise, the response was “thanks, we can do this…”

I’m eager to find out what more that will mean … not just for that church, but for so many more.

    ____________________ 



  • 1Giles, Ken. Patterns of Ministry Among the First Christians, Victoria, Australia, Collins-Dove Publishing, 1989
  • 2Ibid., p. 10
  • 3Ibid., p. 13
  • 4Ibid., p. 14
  • 5Ibid., p. 8
  • 6Ibid., p. 8
  • 7The View From Above, Leadership Journal.

2010- 06-12 Board Summary

The June meeting of the Northwest board marks the beginning of a new year of ministry by these volunteer leaders on behalf of our Seminary and our churches. We extend our thanks to Colin McKenzie for his excellent service during these past three years. Robert Murdock and Dwight Geiger (FEBPacific President’s representative) are initiating their work with our board. We look forward to their contribution.

Part of the work during this first meeting relates to the appointment of board members to specific responsibilities. Larry Nelson continues as chair and Dennis Wasyliw as vice-chair, as well as secretary.

Two major discussions occupied the board’s attention. The board is aware of the discussions occurring in our Fellowship regarding the relationship between the National office and the Regions. Without presupposing the outcome of these discussions, the board did affirm their desire for Northwest to take a more active role in contributing to ministry leadership development nationally. This is well within the scope of our mission and ends policy.

The second discussion concerned our preferred future for the ACTS Consortium and our involvement with it. The board acknowledged the value of this collaborative relationship. However, it also is aware of discussions occurring among the seminary members and Trinity Western University regarding various issues whose resolution probably will re-shape the nature of our collaboration. The board appointed an adhoc committee to work with the President during the next four months and recommend to the October meeting of the board Northwest’s preferred direction for ACTS. One of the key questions to be answered is how ACTS needs to be configured so that Northwest can continue to accomplish its mission well through its involvement in  ACTS. Such discussions are necessary from time to time because theological education, our churches, our families of churches, and our culture constantly are changing.

The board continues to move forward in its process for selecting and appointing a new president for Northwest in 2011.

The board reviewed the Northwest financial picture and were thankful for its good situation. The President also reported on various new leadership training initiatives that were in the works.


Larry Perkins, Ph.D.

President.

Ministry Leaders Entering the Harvest

Summer is soon upon us and I wanted to drop a note to keep you connected with Northwest. Graduation occurred six weeks ago and about 80 men and women received diplomas and degrees through the ministry of Northwest and its partners in the Associated Canadian Theological Schools. Praise God for these new ministry leaders entering “the harvest.”

Jeff Kuhn, Grace Baptist, Hope, Apr 2010

While I am so thankful for the potential each graduate holds for Kingdom advancement, I also realize it’s not enough! No matter how many people we train (and it’s over 3,000 now), it’s never enough! Christ’s church grows, its leaders mature, and new opportunities constantly emerge. The appetite for effective leaders in the Kingdom is insatiable. As Jesus declared, “the harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few.” 80 is few, 800 is few, 8,000 is few. Until Jesus returns, no matter how many ministry leaders we prepare for the harvest, it is too few. God’s plans for harvest always outstrip our ability to fill the need.

On one level this constant demand for new labourers could make one depressed. We never achieve our quota! God always wants more. But from another perspective, this constant requirement for more labourers indicates the Kingdom’s advancement and aggressive engagement with Satan’s domain. What is more amazing is that God chooses to use human agents in the harvest. Jesus is winning. The ranks of people in his Kingdom are swelling. The harvest is very plentiful.

Jesus puts the equipping of labourers at the very forefront of Kingdom priorities. Sometimes people think that seminary work is not “frontline” work in the Kingdom. I beg to differ. Perhaps the most challenging Kingdom work being done today is equipping effective ministry leaders. This is absolutely frontline stuff. The spiritual warfare that people experience in the context of their ministry preparation can be truly fearsome. When God is at work in people’s lives through the Seminary, Satan is never happy.

If you want to give Satan a bad day, then equip a Kingdom leader! If you want to put Satan’s agenda in total disarray, then invest in producing effective ministry leaders! It’s demanding work and the equipping of a ministry leader never really ends — it just gets more focused as the Spirit refines His work.

Thank you for your continued prayers and financial help. As we begin these summer months, please remember to pray and as God’s provides, make an investment in leadership development. Judy and I will be investing in leader development in Indonesia at the end of June, teaching the book of Romans to pastoral leaders. I have also initiated a new website (www.churchboardchairs.ca) to provide resources for church board chairs.

May God bless you wonderfully in this summer season.

Blessings in “the harvest,”

Larry Perkins, Ph.D.

President

Graduation 2010

The Northwest Graduating Class together with all ACTS Seminaries faculty


Significant Interactions in Pakistan

About two times a year I travel to Pakistan to work on the Sindhi Bible translation.  Currently we are preparing a Sindhi New Testament for the Hindu people of the Sindh along with a review of the New Testament that was translated for a Muslim audience.  A few vignettes taken from my most recent trip in February, 2010 are given below.  They help to illuminate the process of Bible translation, provide examples of the significant discussions that occur as the translation team members interact with each other, and reveal the spiritual hunger that is evident among the Sindhi people.

Clarifying the translation

While the first translation of the common Sindhi version of the New Testament is excellent for the most part, there are occasions when the translation has failed to communicate the intended meaning of the original and require correction. These miscommunications become obvious through the interactions with the translation team.  I often ask them to explain a passage to me, and their response sometimes reveals unintended meanings.

A good illustration of this is Jn 4:23 where Jesus says to the Samaritan woman: “But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth” (ESV).  The first translation of “in Spirit and Truth” in Sindhi was quite literal, similar to the ESV.  Unfortunately, the natural meaning of this phrase in Sindhi is that true worshipers will worship with “enthusiasm / commitment and with a true (righteous) heart.”  However, the point of the passage is not to discuss the character of the worshipers, but their connection to the truth and reality of who God is.  True worshipers are those who have a spiritual orientation towards God and worship according to the truth and reality of the nature of God. That is, they will live according to his truth.  In order to communicate the right meaning in Sindhi, we translated it as “following the way of the Holy Spirit and truth (or reality).”

Spiritual Hunger

During my trip, I went to the Sindology Institute in Hyderabad to do some research for my PhD thesis.  During my time there, I had a number of invitations for significant conversations that reveal the spiritual openness and hunger of the people of the Sindh.  While riding the bus (free for anyone heading to the university), I sat beside a man who worked at the university who asked me, “What spiritual benefit is there in Christianity?” I explained that the benefit lies in the person of Christ who brings us into a familial relationship with God; we become God’s children.  In Islam the essential relationship is that of master to a servant / slave.

He further asked what constituted “spirituality” and I explained that it was found in relationships, those immeasurable aspects of life that give significance and meaning to our existence.  He gave me his view concerning the universe and how it is a creation that God provided so that people could know about him.  I agreed and took it even farther, explaining that God is an artist; creation reveals his character. I pointed out God’s comment on his work in Genesis 1, “it is good,” and the significance of “separating the light from the darkness” as an expression of God’s goodness in which there is no flaw.

This raised the question of the authenticity of Scripture.  Since his work is in computer science, he gave the example of Windows 3.1 being superceded by Windows 95, then Windows 97, etc.  He suggested that the Bible has been superceded by the Qu’ran in the same way.  I pointed out that this would only be true if God has changed in his essential nature, or if people have changed in their essential need.  If not, then the truth that God spoke in the past is true for us today as well.  The purpose of the Bible is to bring us into a relationship with God, and is as helpful to us today in that task as it was when it was written.

Significant Conversations

The Hindu Sindhi helper on our team talked about his (now deceased) Guru who encouraged people to come and follow his teaching without leaving their own religious duties.  I responded by observing that this is not permissible for those of us who are Christians because of the exclusiveness of Jesus’ claims.  Jesus is the one with whom we have made a covenant and he does not allow his followers to have religious “mistresses”.  He nodded his head and said,  “yes, that is true.”  What we have been studying in the gospels has made that obvious to him.

When translating the difficult play on words used in Jn 3:3;4 – “born again” which also means “from above” – our Hindu helper was disturbed by Nicodemus’ incredulous reply about entering his mother’s womb.  This started a discussion about reincarnation and the lack of the concept within Christianity and Islam.  The message of the gospel speaks clearly to our hope in Jesus as the way to the father, not through an eternal cycle of birth and death.  This message of Jesus as the Savior of the world comes through loud and clear in the Gospels. All are called to respond to this good news, which calls us to faith (see Jn 20:31), on a personal level, not just on the level of comparative religions.


You can read more about the Sindhi people and Bible translation here…

The Board … The Prime Spiritual Community

I found myself amused, two weeks ago, by an article entitled “Good to Great to Godly.”1 After almost a decade of enjoying the influence of Jim Collin’s classic study on successful organizations, Good to Great, I was attracted by the clever turn of phrase. In the subtitle to the article, Mike Bonem2 exposed a bit of the problem that Church leaders have with organizational behavior: “corporate wisdom means ‘getting the right people on the bus,’ but spiritual leadership requires something more…”

For many in Church Leadership, it’s a familiar problem. On one hand you hear phrases like: “we’re a church, not a business … we can’t operate like the corporate world … we are not professionals.” On the other hand, many congregations suffer from a lack of discipline in their conduct and clarity in their operations. Ultimately, it’s not an either/or situation, a choice made between being either spiritual or functional. The challenge is for church leaders to be both great in their stewardship of tasks and Godly in their management of ministry.

Over the last five years, a lot of care has been invested to training Church Boards to observe Best Practices in their work. While attention is given to the dynamics of Church Board leadership … appropriate structures, understanding roles and relationships … one of the central principles that guide the training goes beyond the good management of ministry and into the realm of the Godly: The Church Board is the prime spiritual community of the church.

While that phrase may appear simple, the implications are many. One of the more relevant implications is that the manners, the accepted behavior of the Church Board members, sets the standard of spiritual and ethical behavior for the entire church. If those who serve do so in an ethical, honorable, and decent fashion that could be a very good thing. But, unfortunately that isn’t always the norm.

BAD MANNERS AT PLAY

Ever since we began to drill deeper into Church Board practices with the Best Practices workshop, and expand our discoveries with Church Consultations, I’ve discovered that it’s … how should I put this … possible to find some bad manners at play.

Over the last year, I’ve enjoyed the work of T.J. Addington, the author of the book High Impact Church Boards: Developing Healthy, Intentional and Empowered Leaders for Your Church. As a former pastor, board chair, and church consultant [with the Evangelical Free Church], T.J. has seen it all. I was intrigued that at least twice in the last year, he was bold enough to post his ‘bad manners’ discoveries on his website:3 Two of his postings: 15 Unfortunate things Boards do… and  Dumb things Church Boards do …

The lists include issues that are all too familiar: cave to loud voices … don’t require accountability … don’t make decisions, or stick with decisions … allow a church boss to hold informal veto power … lack transparency … don’t police problem members … don’t police themselves … fail to clarify what is critical for the congregation … allow elephants into the room …

It probably wouldn’t be too hard to add to the list. In an informal survey, I asked a number of denominational leaders, regional directors in British Columbia, to describe some of the leadership issues that had demanded their intervention and attention. It was interesting that very few had to do with theological issues. Instead, the issues were of an ethical and behavioral nature. They were issues where decisions were made on the basis of expediency and convenience at the expense of relationships, where ends justified means.

In pursuing the comments, I asked the regional directors to describe what sort of corrective measures they had observed. At first, their response was that bad behavior tended to be tolerated in churches until it became a critical issue. At that point, church leaders were forced to respond to the problem as it erupted, hoping that their ability to think clearly and pray fervently would carry them through. It is an approach that sometimes works, particularly if there are a few mature, wizened, experienced and well-trained leaders involved. But, more often than not, the reactive nature of responding to a crisis had enough flaws to create what one leader described as “vocational headaches and personal heartaches.”

PROFESSIONAL CODE OF ETHICS

A better solution? The conventional response is to develop a professional code of ethics. Virtually every profession has a written code of ethics to guarantee moral performance in the service, and there are robust examples of such standards set for ministry. In 1948, at the very beginning of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, the team gathered in Modesto, California. In his book, Just As I Am, Billy Graham described the event: I called the team together to discuss the problem [of the scornful caricature attached to traveling evangelists, epitomized by the novel Elmer Gantry.] … I asked them to go to their rooms for an hour and list all the problems they could think of that evangelists and evangelism encountered. When they returned, the lists were remarkably similar, and we soon made a series of resolutions that would guide us in our future work. The result became known as the Modesto Manifesto, and it addressed four key issues: Money, Sexual Temptation, Local Churches, and Publicity. In later years, Cliff Barrows reflected on the Manifesto: In reality, it did not mark a radical departure for us; we had always held these principles. It did, however, settle in our hearts and minds, once and for all, the determination that integrity would be the hallmark of our lives and our ministries. And, as Marshall Shelly, editor of Christianity Today’s Leadership Journal admits: Countless churches and ministries, including Leadership, have benefited from this model of living integrity set by the Graham team.

Having a code of ethics is helpful. In many cases, such a code is required by Insurance companies that provide liability coverage for ministers. Joe Trull, the editor of Christian Ethics Today and professor of Christian Ethics at the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary has written a handbook with James Carter for that very purpose.4 In the book, there is a collection of Ministerial Codes of Conduct from a wide variety of denominational ministries, including Baptists. As they do, they raise a very good question: Is a ministerial code of ethics a help or a hindrance?

Their first response is that Conservative pastors [clerics] may fear that a denominational hierarchy will use the code as a club to keep disloyal ministers in line and out of significant churches. Ministers of every stripe are nervous about a document that could threaten their pastoral autonomy?5

When I related this to the group of denominational leaders, they agreed that this was a fair assessment, ministerial reluctance. But, the suggestion was made that there were two additional questions that needed to be addressed. The first was that there was a more comprehensive need to set a standard for Church leadership at large and broaden the focus beyond the pastor. While the impact of a pastor’s behavior in church life is profound, so is that of a church board. In his book Transforming Church Boards into Spiritual Communities6, Charles Olsen writes of the board that it has tremendous power to affect a congregation negatively if it is severely conflicted, internally dysfunctional, or bogged down in a sticky mire of minutiae7. In essence, a Ministerial Code of Ethics should embrace all who serve in ministry.

The second question that was suggested, however, struck me as something a bit more basic and significant. In the broad sense, codes can only tell people how to act. That’s the nature of ethics, to describe acceptable conduct. But, Church ministry and leadership is drawn from a deeper well. We are accountable for behavior not because of practical expectations listed in an external code – but because of an authentic commitment to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.  As Joe Trull puts it, Ethical conduct based on Theological convictions is the very soil in which ministers work.

In essence, a code can provide helpful guidance, even a standard for measurement. But, for a Church Board to go from Good to Great to Godly, each member must come to the Board as a disciple of Jesus Christ, a new creature8 setting aside the old, eagerly to embrace the new in order to conduct a ministry of reconciliation worthy of an Ambassador of Jesus Christ.

SPIRITUAL GROWTH AND MATURITY

It’s been my experience that a sizeable number of Board leaders view their work as common business, only to be surprised by the discovery that it is an opportunity to take spiritual growth and maturity to a whole new level.

Everyone I know is familiar with the phrase WWJD, What would Jesus do? That’s probably the simplest ministerial code of ethics that you can find. I wonder what adjustment might be made if church leaders adopted that code for their conduct. But that’s ethical conduct, and I would suggest something more. Something like: WWJWMTB/HDJWUTGT? I realize that it wouldn’t fit on a bracelet, but the question does pose a deeper challenge: What would Jesus want me to become … How does Jesus want us to grow together? Those are the sort of questions that expose a board member and a board to another dimension of life … and behavior.

If the diagnosis that Charles Olsen made (that a board has tremendous power to affect a congregation negatively) is true, then it’s worth hearing his second diagnosis: a revitalized board owns tremendous potential for good … the level of commitment in a congregation will not rise above that of the “set apart” leaders. The sense of community and care for one another will not rise above that of the consistory [ie. church board] The stewardship practices will not rise above those of the council. The prayer life will not rise above that of the board. The capacity to reflect biblically and theologically will not rise above that of the board. The willingness to take a prophetic position will not rise above that of the board. The hope and excitement for the future of the church will not rise above that of the board…9

So, there is an earnest need in the works. We need to set our standards high and set our records towards a noble and righteous effort. But, the urgency of this appeal goes deeper, into the internal life of individual board members … and into the shared life of the board as a whole … to grow up Godly.

PS: For further reflections on this topic: Dr. David Horita and Dr. Lyle Schrag will address this and similar issues through the Ministry Training Workshops at the annual Convention of the Fellowship of Evangelical Baptist Churches in British Columbia and Yukon, April 23. Three workshops addressing Ethical Leadership:

  • The Sacrificial Nature of Spiritual Leadership – Dr. Lyle Schrag
  • Ethical Realities – Beyond Theoretical Integrity – Dr. David Horita
  • Corporate Integrity in the Church – Dr. David Horita

Participants are welcomed to attend!

    ____________________






  • 1Mike Bonem, “Good to Great to Godly.” Christianity Today International/Leadership Journal, April 5, 2010.
  • 2Mike Bonem has a MBA from Harvard, and is the executive pastor of the West University Baptist Church in Houston.
  • 3http://leadingfromthesandbox.blogspot.com/
  • 4Joe Trull and James Carter, Ministerial Ethics: Moral Formation for Church Leaders, Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2004.
  • 5Ministerial Ethics, p. 187.
  • 6Charles Olsen, Transforming Church Boards into Spiritual Communities: Alban Institute, 1995.
  • 7Transforming Church Boards into Spiritual Communities, p. 9
  • 8I Corinthians 5:17
  • 9Transforming Church Boards Into Spiritual Communities, p. 9

Working with Bias — Decision-making In Church Board Meetings

In the midst of every important decision a church board engages lurks a myriad of biases that batter the process like turbulent winds. Every board member brings these biases into the room, including the chair and lead pastor. Biases are human realities, but some can be beneficial, while others have potential for serious harm. How then does a church board chair help the board control or balance out its biases or assumptions? Read the blog here and discover some ways a board chair can help a board work with its biases.

















Equip Today – Impact Tomorrow

What a headline – “Canadian Seminary Enrolments drop by 15 – 20% in five years!” It’s true. In 2005 the total reported enrolment in Canadian Protestant Seminaries was 5751, but in 2009 this has decreased to 4860. The numbers have stabilized in the last year or two.

What does this mean? In the next few years the leadership deficit in our churches will become more serious. Our aging population means that more leaders will be retiring, but there will be fewer younger leaders to replace them. This can only mean that the competition among churches to locate exceptional ministry leaders will increase.

What a challenge!

But the story in Northwest is different. A modest surge in growth is occurring. In Spring 2009 we enrolled 44 students; in Spring 2010 64 students enrolled. We believe this change is due to the innovative work our Northwest team is doing, in collaboration with our Fellowship leadership, to make ministry training more affordable, more accessible, and more responsive to real leadership needs.

Please pray with us for God’s wisdom as we collaborate with our Fellowship leadership and selected lead pastors to consider developing a second path for training pastors. While the outlines of such a process are not yet clear, we recognize the need to engage and involve lead pastors more deeply, consistently and intentionally in identifying and developing candidates being called by God to pastoral ministry. This would parallel the successful work we have done in collaboration with your youth pastors to implement an alternative way to equip new youth pastors. This year we will be graduating another three youth pastors through this system. We believe the same can be done for other kinds of pastoral leaders.

An important forum discussing this second path will be held with selected lead pastors just prior to our April Fellowship Convention.

Thank you for your encouragement, prayers and support in these recent months. Change continues to be our primary challenge. Please pray that God will give us wisdom and Spirit-based courage to know how best to lead Northwest in such times.

Blessings,

Larry Perkins, Ph.D.

President

2010-03-16 Board Summary

The Northwest Baptist Seminary Board of Governors met Friday evening and Saturday, March 12 -13, 2010. On Friday, Northwest hosted its third “State of the Seminary” evening for the Board, faculty and staff with spouses, as well as special guests. The theme for the evening was “Equip Today — Impact Tomorrow.”  We were encouraged by increased enrolment, effective alumni, good leadership and sound fiscal management. Yet, we also recognize that much work remains if our mission and vision is to be fulfilled. I believe the conclusion of this year’s work marks 70 years of ministry for Northwest.

Several significant issues were the focus of the Board’s attention. They continue their work in searching for and selecting a new President. Dr. Perkins’ term ends July 31, 2011. The Joint-Audit Committee recommended to the Board that the Auditor’s report be approved, which the Board did. It was a clean audit, showing a surplus in operations for 2009. This represents the fifth year of operations with a balanced budget. Northwest’s investments have recovered fully from the 2008 financial downturn.  The Board reappointed Loewen Kruse as auditors for 2010.  As well the Board approved Northwest’s 2010 budget.

The Board acknowledged the receipt of funds from an estate gift and authorized the President to spend some of those funds to improve Northwest’s educational technology and develop a more effective marketing and grant-writing capacity.

In order to ensure stable academic leadership during the period of presidential transition, the Board appointed Dr. Kent Anderson to another two year term as Northwest’s Dean (May 1, 2010 to April 30, 2012).

The President in his reports to the Board during the past year has highlighted the startling decrease in enrolment among Canadian Seminaries over the last five years. Remarkably, due to our efforts in the Fellowship to collaborate and the initiatives that Northwest has taken to respond to the leadership challenges within our Fellowship, Northwest’s enrolment has shown an increase for this same period. This past year 41 Fellowship people benefited from the Seminary’s formal leadership development programs and many more received assistance through workshops and other informal learning experiences. The President has also kept the Board informed about the challenges that the Associated Canadian Theological Schools, the Consortium, is facing. The Board authorized its Governance committee to recommend to the next Board meeting a process for thinking creatively regarding Northwest’s future.  Our current strategic plan is serving us well, but we need to be governing into the future.

The Board reviewed several policies, including the Ends Policy and made minor changes.

The Board’s next meeting is scheduled for Saturday, June 12, 2010. Seminary graduation will take place on Sunday, April 25 at Northview Community Church, Abbotsford (the service starts at 4:30pm). Northwest has thirteen graduates and ACTS in total will be graduating around eighty students.  We congratulate especially several Fellowship people in their graduation:  Estera Boldut (Master of Counseling), Andrew Eby (Master of Arts in Christian Studies), Jeffrey Kuhn (Master of Divinity), Jonathan Michael (Master of Arts in Christian Studies), Jeff Thomas (Master of Theological Studies).

If you have questions about any of these matters, please connect with me at perkins@twu.ca.


Respectfully,

Larry Perkins, Ph.D.

President.

The Flywheel of Leadership

Since his book Good to Great was published in 2001, the application of Jim Collin’s study on organizational success has extended beyond the business world. Through his research on companies that have excelled in their mission, a number of distinct dynamics emerged. The remarkable by-product of the study was how relevant those dynamics are to the health of Church.

I know that it may seem tiresome to keep returning to the same source for several years. I’ve used Good to Great as a reference in the Leadership Connections before. But, over the last few months I’ve found another of Jim Collin’s dynamics to be a helpful illustration as I’ve been consulting with Churches who are struggling to find a way to create traction for their Leadership Development efforts.

The dynamic is that of “The Flywheel.”1 Beginning with a quote from Igor Stravinsky that “Revolution means turning the wheel,” Collins paints a vivid picture of a:

huge and heavy flywheel – a massive disk mounted horizontally on an axle … Imagine that your task is to get the flywheel rotating on the axle as fast and long as possible. Pushing with great effort, you get the flywheel to inch forward, moving almost imperceptibly at first. You keep pushing and, after two or three hours of persistent effort, you get the flywheel to complete on entire turn. You keep pushing, and the flywheel begins to move a bit faster … a second rotation … Keep pushing in a consistent direction … three turns … four … it builds momentum … eleven … twelve … moving faster with each turn … twenty … fifty … a hundred.

Then, at some point – breakthrough! The momentum of the thing kicks in … hurling the flywheel forward … its own weight working for you. You’re pushing no harder than during the first rotation, but the flywheel goes faster and faster … each turn of the flywheel builds upon the work done earlier, compounding your investment of effort … the huge heavy disk flies forward, with almost unstoppable momentum. … What was the one big push that caused this thing to go so fast? … was it the first push, the second, the hundredth? No! It was all of them added together in an overall accumulation of effort applied in a consistent direction.

The conclusion: “Good to great comes about by a cumulative process – step by step, action by action, decision by decision, turn by turn of the flywheel – that adds up to sustained and spectacular results.”

As I carry that image to heart, it has helped me understand the forces and spiritual physics at work in healthy churches – especially those related to Leadership Development. During the first year as the Director of the Fellowship Centre for Leadership Development, I had a chance to finally map out a process of leadership development. Having been a pastor for 25 years, I had a general awareness of the process, but, like most pastors, didn’t have the time to reflect deeply into the dynamics. As a result, the path I cut for new leaders was generally effective, but still rather fuzzy. Having the chance to look deeply into the matter allowed me not only to clarify the process but also identify “handles” that would turn Leadership Development into a flywheel of momentum in the church.

The process that I mapped was one simply expressed in the Bible. Ephesians 4 “to prepare God’s people [and by that, I have to believe it to be all of God’s people] for works of service”2 … and that the expression of their service is a natural outcome of having “become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”3[iii] Viewing it through Ephesians, Leadership Development isn’t a niche activity for just a select few. It’s the destiny of every mature believer. In essence, that thought led to a definition that a Biblical Leader is one who: is aware of their God-given personality, reliant upon their God-given resources, willingly accepting their God-given mission, to influence a group of God-chosen people, toward God’s purposes. With that definition at heart, the process that I mapped ran through each of the time honored “steps” toward spiritual maturity recognized by even the earliest Churches: conversion, spiritual disciplines, spiritual formation, and vocational formation.4

That said (and forgive the repetition) I have this imaginative picture in my mind of the process as a Flywheel with handles readily available to start the spin. It’s my experience that healthy churches keep spinning the wheel every time they celebrate a baptism, or new membership, or add new leaders. Making a “big deal” of the progress people make in their spiritual growth becomes a repetitive message that sets the congregation “humming.”

However, I have also experienced a struggle in these healthy churches to equate this momentum toward spiritual growth with leadership development. People know that they are growing in their faith and engaging in a life of service and ministry but somehow don’t see it as journey toward leadership. It’s as if the term “leadership” is assigned to only a small, elite cadre of mystically “called” people (think “priesthood”).

As I’ve pondered the problem with a couple of pastors, the image of the Flywheel returns to mind. Looking at it carefully, it’s missing a very large and important handle. Oh, the handles of baptism and membership and leadership recognition are quite fine, and spinning them consistently once, twice, fifty and a hundred times helps. But the one handle that makes for a “breakthrough” is the one that is specifically known for Leadership Discovery.

I know it sounds like an advertisement, but this image came to mind after talking with a pastor who had used the “Heart for Ministry” materials we had produced five years ago. The first time, four people joined him in the study in response to his challenge for them to “take their service to another level.” Together, they studied through the 12 sessions, defining what leadership is, describing their understanding of what it means to be “called” by God, discovering their gifts and leadership styles, and ultimately writing up their “life purpose” as a declaration of their next step toward a mature ministry.

There was something about the experience that captured their attention, but even more created a sense of curiosity in others. The pastor decided to do it again, this time with a few more people. At this stage, I’m not sure how many times the course has been offered, but it has become an annual event and appears to have become a flywheel of momentum in the church as people are purposefully and intentionally taking on “leadership” at higher levels. I suppose that it’s no mistake that the pastor has now been asking about the Ministry Assessment Process. He’s got a few people no longer curious about what God has got in store for their future. They are now making a move. And, in the terms of the Flywheel – that’s a Breakthrough.

    _________________



  • 1Jim Collins, Good to Great, HarperCollins: 2001, p. 164.
  • 2Ephesians 4:12
  • 3Ephesians 4:13
  • 4Certainly a repetition of a theme that has become my “mantra,” drawn from the study of the early church by Robert Webber, Journey to Jesus

Carrying the Torch in Castlegar

On January 24th, I had the privilege of carrying the Olympic Torch in Castlegar, BC.  Like many of the other 12000 torch bearers across this country, I was selected for this honour because of my involvement in the community.

However, as I carried the torch high, for my 300 meters of fame at 8:12am on a Sunday morning, I realized this honour did not belong to me alone.  This was made very clear to me even before my torch was lit.  As I was waiting for the flame, a mom with two boys at her side saw me, and said, “look it’s Pastor Colin from High Power Soccer Camp.”  They quickly ran to my side, and snapped a few pictures and I let them hold the torch.

Any recognition I received in Castlegar, is really only an extension of the mission of Kinnaird Park Community Church like this.  KPCC encouraged my involvement as a coach in minor soccer as part of their outreach ministry.  The community recognizes the ministries of Kinnaird Park like High Power Soccer Camp and the children’s programs they run as important contributions to the area.  Finally, Kinnaird Park has welcomed and supported many community groups and organizations by providing space in their facility.

After I was shuttled back to the local Rec Center, the community celebration began as the torch lit the cauldron in Castlegar.  I was unable to stay, because I joined another form of community celebration.  In my torch bearer outfit, I spoke at Kinnaird Park about how God has called us as a Region, local churches and as individuals to be light to the world.  I really do believe that when we are a city on a hill that shares and shows the love of Jesus that we make an eternal difference and people will glorify our Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16).

God’s Provision

God’s done it again – totally exceeded my expectations! I can affirm Paul’s claim in Philippians 4:19 that “my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” Our goal for the operational and bursary fund this year totaled $99,000 and as of December 31, 2009, God has blessed us with $102,500. Given the dismal financial situation that we experienced during the first half of 2009 in the world economy, this result is surely God’s special provision. Thank you for your part in this.

God is the master of surprise. It’s probably connected with his delight in mystery – letting us in on his plans just when we need to know. His promises and His subsequent supply provide us with ample reason to walk confidently with Him. I have enough experience in my role as President to know that new, unexpected challenges will emerge in the next twelve months that will require me to trust God for the solutions. Since God faithfully has led and provided in each past year, I have no doubt He will supply what is needed in 2010.

So January 1 starts us on another lap of faithful living. What a challenge – to live 365 days for God, prayerfully, passionately trusting and serving Him, and then to model this transparently and authentically before colleagues, students, and supporters. Your prayers will be a significant help, enabling me to provide faithful leadership as President of Northwest.

I have two prayer concerns that I would share with you:

1. that we will see the Holy Spirit work powerfully in the lives of many men and women, leading them to accept God’s call to ministry and the rigorous training that this will require;

2. that God will continue to bless the efforts we are making to work collaboratively with our churches and our denominational leaders to identify, encourage, and equip effective ministry leaders.

Financially, our targets for our operational and bursary funds in 2010 will be $97,000. In April 2010 we anticipate graduating, together with the seminaries in ACTS, about 65 newly-equipped ministry leaders. Your partnership in this task of leadership development remains a critical component.

May God bless you in this New Year.  May his grace “fill your sails” every day.