By Samuel S. Thorp, postgraduate research student
The London School of Theology’s mission statement declares that ‘LST is an evangelical academic learning community called to equip and encourage one another to be disciples of Jesus Christ.’ Students go on from LST to ‘wherever Jesus calls them and in whatever task’. Many find themselves heading on to positions of leadership in various denominations and contexts around the world. The questions posed by the responsibilities of leadership are ones which much has been written on, but Evangelical Leadership: Challenges and Opportunities provides a clear and engaging dialogue on leadership, with guided reflections to aid the reader which many will find beneficial to consider seriously.
Evangelical Leadership is the latest in the Grove Books series on Leadership. Grove Books are renowned for their commentary on contemporary topics ranging from Education, Ethics, Evangelism, Worship and more. The author Ian Paul, perhaps best known for his Psephizo blog, is Associate Minister at St. Nic’s, Nottingham and honorary Assistant Professor at the University of Nottingham. Further to his priestly experience and academic credentials, he was Chair of Salisbury Diocesan Evangelical Council and has recently been appointed to the Archbishops’ Council.
Paul writes with a clarity of expression which facilitates that rare skill of presenting academic works and concepts in a way that is accessible and interesting to anyone, from the laity to the academy, without compromising the quality of his content. This is reflected in his balanced discussion which draws on names which evangelicals will like, and others they may be less keen on. It was pleasing to spot a reference to one of LST’s former principals – the great Derek Tidball!
Although the booklet is relatively short at 28 pages, through its five chapters it covers the importance of leadership, ministry in both theory and practice, and the need to be engaged with Scripture, Church institutions, and the surrounding culture. Each chapter is broken down into a couple of sections, naturally distilling key elements of the topics at hand. Ian Paul has also made effective use of a series of reflective questions to guide the reader in processing and contemplating the themes of the chapter; examining personal, communal, and programmatic implications for evangelical leadership.
For theology students, Ian Paul’s perspectives on the shortcomings of the so called ‘Bebbington quadrilateral’ and his observations on the importance for evangelicals to engage more actively in the discipline of biblical hermeneutics will be of particular interest. More widely, this booklet is well worth checking out by anyone who wants to engage and grow in their faith through seeking to become more involved in their current worshipping context. The combination of the content with the reflective questions will help to generate useful discussions and ideas which can be employed by both the official leadership and the laity to promote a healthier vision for who they as a church are being called to be in their particular context.
Some may well feel disappointed by Ian Paul’s willingness to embrace theological differences with other Christians, even other evangelicals. He prompts instead a church culture of fostering spaces for churches and individuals to ask honest questions which will help them grow and mature in their faith. This provides opportunities to engage with different theological views and a chance to escape an element of tribalism which can, sadly, creep in even amongst Anglicans who so often like to proclaim that we celebrate ‘unity through diversity’. Despite the accessible and thoroughly thought provoking content, the ending felt somewhat unsatisfactory, as if it had simply ceased to continue onto the next chapter rather than coming to any definable conclusion. That aside, allow me to end on a personal note. I am currently exploring the possibility of ordination in the Church of England, having studied at LST – itself obviously an evangelical college. As such I fit the profile of the kind of Anglican that Ian Paul is writing to and for. I have made a note of each of the reflective questions and will be returning to them periodically as aids in my reflections on my personal sense of vocation, and as I explore the character and shape that any future ministry I may undertake. As such, I welcome and appreciate this short book, Evangelical Leadership by Ian Paul and would encourage you to give it a read.
Evangelical Leadership may be downloaded or ordered from here.