A message from our Minister, Neil Dougall - May 2018
During Holy Week I had the Final Review meeting for my Doctor of Ministry project. My supervisors declared themselves satisfied, and completed the evaluation form. Once the office at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary had received it, the final credits appeared on my grade sheet, which means that I get to graduate on June 1st! Naturally, I’m delighted.
I can’t believe that the three years of the degree are over. They have flown past. A lot of that is thanks to the people of St Andrew Blackadder. I would not have begun this degree without the support of the Kirk Session. I could not have sustained it without the support of the congregation. I certainly would not have completed without the encouragement and prayers of all of you. I am profoundly grateful.
I have been touched by the interest you have shown. I have been energised by your excitement in what I am studying. I have been helped by your questions. As a result, instead of feeling that my ministry and my studies belonged to two different spheres, they have felt very connected to each other.
This is the way that it was meant to be. The Doctor of Ministry degree is described as a practice based doctorate. Rather than being pure research, in the way that a PhD is, it is designed to connect the practice of ministry with research and study. That has certainly been my experience. The papers I have written have been based on and have drawn on my ministry both in St Andrew Blackadder and the wider church.
My final project, which I have been working on for the last 18 months, has focused on Parish Ministry and Leadership. It was based on a survey I carried out of Church of Scotland ministers in June 2017. You are welcome to read it. It’s particularly recommended for insomniacs. Drop me an email and I’ll send you a copy.
There is a great deal of discussion around leadership in all spheres of society. Most people agree that leadership is needed, but that many examples of leadership are poor. So we both want leaders and are suspicious of leaders. I found that was true within the church too. We need leaders, and given the position ministers have, expect them to lead. But what does good leadership look like? What kind of leaders should ministers aspire to exercise?
One of the fascinating things I discovered was that this dilemma is found in the New Testament. Jesus was clearly a leader. Peter and Paul were leaders. Yet the language of leadership, that was common at that time, is almost completely missing from the New Testament. The New Testament writers went out of their way to avoid the leadership words that everyone else was using. That was because these words were associated with power, position and prestige. The kind of leadership Jesus embodied was entirely different. His followers were and are expected to lead as he did.
Perhaps the clearest example of this comes during the Last Supper.
A dispute arose among them as to which of them was considered the greatest. Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves…. I am among you as one who serves.’ (Luke 24:24-27 )
Leadership is defined in many different ways. One angle focuses on influence. Walt Wright, for example, says, ‘leadership is a relationship of influence in which one person seeks to influence the vision, the values, the attitudes, and the behaviours of another’.* If leadership is about influence it means that almost everyone exercises a degree of leadership. We all exert an influence on those around us, at work and at home, in the community and the church. This means that Jesus words about leadership aren’t just for ministers and elders in the church, but for all of us. We all exert and influence on those around us. Jesus expects us all to use our influence not selfishly but selflessly. We are called to serve those around us. In doing this we exercise leadership that gives life, builds up and brings healing.
* The Three Tasks of Leadership, ed E O Jacobsen, p 3 (2009).
To see other messages from Neil, click on the appropriate month in the table below.
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