The Necessary Link of Leadership

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How was your summer? Fast!

Among other very special trips and experiences this summer, I was privileged to represent supporters of the Calvin Seminary community in a first-ever visit to China. Along with Director of Admissions Aaron Einfeld, I visited Beijing, Chengdu, Wenzhou and Shanghai. We chose those cities because our current students from China helped sort through possibilities and made connections for us. We were also blessed to have Jonathan Cady, a third-year distance M.Div. student who has lived in China for seven years as our in-country guide.

There is no “one” church in China. We saw variety between registered and unregistered churches, and between these churches in different regions. There are no denominations to speak of, but networks and associations that are growing and expanding.

What we did see and hear – again and again – is that the church needs more and better leaders.  

Colleges and seminaries are developing as a key step in finding, training and deploying leaders for a vital church.   

China is in a “new era” ever since the Cultural Revolution concluded in 1976. There is also a “new era” for the church. I met with founders for churches, schools and seminaries. The early days are still unfolding in China.  

Just eight days after returning to Grand Rapids, I headed to Chicago to attend the Global Leadership Summit.  For over twenty years, this annual leadership gathering has served to raise the level of leadership in the local church.  

For some people, China and Chicago are worlds apart, but what necessarily links them together is an understanding that the church needs more and better leaders and a desire to equip leaders for its mission.

I have heard leadership defined as “the ability to encourage followership.” Fortunately leaders in Christ’s Kingdom aren’t called to encourage followers of themselves – they are called to encourage followers of Christ. What a relief! This means that ordinary, flawed people – not just the “all stars” – can and will lead in Christ’s Kingdom, because the end goal is to point people to Him. And though the context for leadership varies greatly from age to age and place to place, Christ’s model – what He loves, what He grieves, what He promises to those who follow him – stays the same, and is eternal.  

I am glad and honored to be at the “leadership intersection” that is Calvin Theological Seminary. We are known for our education and training and we will always maintain that emphasis. At the same time, we have increasingly identified that this education and training is meant to prepare leaders.  

One expression of this emphasis was the recent adoption by the faculty and the Board of Calvin Theological Seminary of a Vision Frame document that includes the following summary statement of our Mission:  

Calvin Theological Seminary is a learning community in the Reformed Christian tradition that forms church leaders who cultivate communities of disciples of Jesus Christ.  

Thanks for praying for us as we begin our 141st year in following the mission of developing leaders! 

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