One in a series of "President's Perspectives" in which Dr. Richard J. Mouw discusses Fuller's core values.
For several years a group of us met—twice a year,
usually, for several days at a time—to discuss what it means to give
intellectual leadership to the Christian community. I convened the
gatherings, with a generous grant from the Lilly Endowment. Several of
us were presidents of academic institutions, others came from the world
of Christian journalism and publishing. Our group included both
Protestants and Catholics.
We started by reading Max De Pree’s Leadership Is an Art,
and, for our first session, met with Max himself. Then, over the next
few years, we talked about how we could apply his lessons on leadership
in our own attempts to provide intellectual leadership to our various
When it was all over, a good friend who has a senior
position in a major Christian publishing company made an observation.
He had been in his job for over three decades, he said, but he had never
thought of himself as a leader. “A publisher, yes,” he said. “And I
have always thought of that as making an important contribution to the
Christian community. But I have not seen it as leadership. This gives me a new perspective on my work!”
I have thought a lot about that comment. And it
rings true for me. Thinking about leadership does add a new dimension to
various areas of Christian service.
When I became a senior administrator at Fuller,
after two decades as a professor devoted primarily to teaching and
scholarship, people often talked about my now “becoming a leader,” as if
I had not been giving leadership in my faculty role. At the time, I did
not question this way of viewing what was happening to me. But I now
have the kind of perspective that my publisher friend described. Those
two decades that I spent primarily teaching classes, and writing
articles and books—in all of that I was also exercising leadership.
And to see those activities as exercising leadership
is not simply to adopt a new label for such things as teaching classes
and publishing books. To think about leadership is to focus in a certain
way on these activities. For a Christian, it is never enough simply to
do such things just because they are fulfilling or intrinsically
interesting. We must also think about what they mean for the Kingdom.
Of course, not everything we do has to have some
direct link to service in the Kingdom. Playing a round of golf, taking
your kids to the playground, watching a situation comedy on TV—some of
these things we do simply because they are a part of the rhythms of a
healthy Christian life. Not that they are religiously “neutral”
activities: “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in
the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him”
(Colossians 3:17). But some things that we do in Jesus’s name are
necessary for refreshing ourselves as we back off a bit from the active
“doing” of Kingdom service. To recognize the need for play and rest is
itself important for being effective leaders.
But there is a clear link between Kingdom service
and leadership. Our leadership is a dimension of our service. It’s not
that we teach, or administer, or serve as elders and deacons, or manage a
household—and then we also lead. Activities of this sort are the ways
God’s people exercise leadership for the cause of Christ’s Kingdom.
The Bible is a book about leadership. In fact, it
both begins and ends with human beings exercising leadership in God’s
creation. In the very first speech that God delivers to human beings, in
the first chapter of the Bible, he gives the man and the woman the
assignment that they must “have dominion” in the Garden (Genesis 1:28).
We were created as human beings to exercise leadership in God’s good
creation. And in the final chapter of the Bible, at the end of John’s
description of the Holy City, he says that the redeemed people of God
will “reign for ever and ever” in the New Creation (Revelation 22:5).
God intends, in both creating us and redeeming us, that we should
actively lead, by managing the affairs of the creation.
Those are the leadership “bookends” in the Bible—in
the beginning we were created for “dominion,” and at the end we are
redeemed for “reigning.” In between those bookends, of course,
everything gets messed up. Human beings who were created to be
co-leaders under the rule of God—“covenant partners” is the term I
like—become rebels against God. In our sinfulness we distort the
leadership to which God calls us. And time after time in the pages of
Scripture we see what a mess we get ourselves into when we fail to
engage in the kind of leadership that God intends for us.
A seminary is an important school for leadership. At
Fuller we study in great detail the Scriptures and the Christian
tradition, so that we can provide the Christian community, and the
larger world, the resources for the kind of leadership that is much
Our Fuller mission statement says that we “equip men
and women for the manifold ministries of Christ and his Church,” and
that “manifold” image applies nicely to our education for leadership.
Fuller has never been a “one fold” seminary. Charles E. Fuller, Harold
Ockenga, and others who were involved in the founding of the school
cared deeply about pastoral leadership, but they also envisioned a
school that would equip evangelists, youth workers, church planters,
Bible translators, and teacher-scholars. And that vision has expanded
over the years, so that we now range broadly, as a three-school
seminary, focusing on theology, psychology, and intercultural studies,
as well as sponsoring several centers that zero in on specific areas of
When we take seriously the idea of leadership in
theological education, our vision necessarily expands. It is not enough
simply to preach or to counsel or to evangelize. We must also develop
skills like dealing effectively with conflict, working with an awareness
of cultural context, nurturing healthy staff relations, and knowing the
basics of budget management.
Underlying all of that, however, is a concern for
the character of the leader. And at the heart of that concern is the
realization that nurturing a proper relationship to God is of utmost
importance. At the heart of our sinful rebellion is a refusal to
acknowledge the need to submit to the will of our Creator. The Serpent’s
challenge to our first parents in Genesis 3 focused directly on the
leadership question. Eat of the forbidden fruit, he said, and “you will
be like God” (Genesis 3:5).
Sinful leadership attempts to manage the affairs of
life while ignoring the guidance of a loving Creator. We want to run the
show on our own, making up our own rules. As believers we know that
this can only lead to horrible consequences for the human community.
A seminary is literally a “seed bed.” At Fuller we
are planting the seeds of Christian leadership. We have already seen
those seeds take root and grow in marvelous ways in the Kingdom of Jesus
Christ. Our graduates are exercising leadership all over the world. An