The Spiritual Landscape
The Church Needs Teacher-Leaders
There are many reasons we have failed to grasp this fact: We have assumed that the best models for leadership were "out there" in the business world or in government, neglecting the native wisdom of Christian and ancient Jewish categories for leadership. We have bought into the assumption that the churchy equivalent of the CEO was the real leader and teachers were simply support staff who added to the programmatic activities in a parish.
Truth be told, the task of teaching is also just too hard and lacking in glamour to be attractive in a world of rock-star models of leadership, and some church leaders are either ill-prepared or very poor at the task. It takes far more time behind the scenes to prepare for the task of teaching than it does to actually convey an understanding of the Christian message. Even when the theology of the tradition is properly understood, the process of translating that message in a fashion that is both accessible and engaging requires a completely different order of discipline, time, and attention.
But whatever the reasons, even large mega-churches are beginning to discover it is one thing to fill pews and another to change lives.
The only remedy is leadership that:
- takes the task of triage theology seriously,
- acknowledges that we all do triage theology,
- dedicates time and attention to the task,
- structures and supervises the enterprise,
- and frames it appropriately and publicly supports it.
Until we pay attention to the task of teaching the faith to others, we shouldn't be surprised to find that the people around us only appear to be following.
Frederick W. Schmidt is the author of The Dave Test: A Raw Look at Real Life in Hard Times (Abingdon Press: 2013) and several other books, including A Still Small Voice: Women, Ordination and the Church (Syracuse University Press, 1998), The Changing Face of God (Morehouse, 2000), When Suffering Persists (Morehouse, 2001), in Italian translation: Sofferenza, All ricerca di una riposta (Torino: Claudiana, 2004), What God Wants for Your Life (Harper, 2005), Conversations with Scripture: Revelation (Morehouse, 2005) and Conversations with Scripture: Luke (Morehouse, 2009). He holds the Rueben P. Job Chair in Spiritual Formation at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, IL, and directs the Job Institute for Spiritual formation. He is an Episcopal Priest, spiritual director, retreat facilitator, conference leader, writer, and Consulting Editor at Church Publishing in New York. He and his wife, Natalie live in Chicago, Illinois. He can also be reached at: http://frederickwschmidt.com/