Flexible Leadership In A Changing World

It’s no surprise that the world is continually changing. Since the beginning of 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic began to rage worldwide, we have been caught up in a whirlwind of adjustments. During this time of crisis, leadership has faced terribly difficult decisions; most of these boil down to one theme: be flexible or fail.

Churches, especially, have had to continually adjust to the changing environment, many quickly making the shift to broadcasting services online, all the while striving to maintain connections with members and encourage community amid masks and social distancing. Church leadership similarly has had to adapt and change.

For many of us, it is easy to become frustrated and bogged down by the “now.” Yet we are reminded again and again in the Bible to “set [our] minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Col. 3:2, ESV). Shifting our mindset to adapt to a pandemic may not feel encouraging or productive. However, shifting our mindset to things of Heaven will change everything—for good!

In this issue of the Journal of Applied Christian Leadership, we will examine different aspects of flexibility in Christian leadership’s changing landscape. We hope and pray that you will find practical information to apply to your church or organization.

In this issue’s Biblical Reflection, Steven Ruggerio examines transformational leaders, as described by the Apostle Paul in Romans 12. Speaking from personal experience, Paul identifies ten transformative traits indicative of Christian living. Interestingly, those same behaviors represent the core qualities of present-day transformational leaders. Whether maturing as a Christian in service to Christ or developing as a leader in service to others, the ten traits of Romans 12 are essential to individual, team, and organizational success.

The Leadership Interview comes from Peter Roennfeldt who has served as a pastor, evangelist, missionary, seminary teacher, and church planter. Roennfeldt not only shares his experiences and lessons learned in the field but also covers insights on cross-cultural church planting, suggestions for how to multiply leaders and propel the church-planting movement forward, and problematic church-planting models. Additionally, Roennfeldt examines the impact of COVID-19 on church planting, providing ideas for how to use this difficult time for good. This is an interview you will not want to miss!

Kevin Hall kicks off the Feature Article section of this issue with a piece entitled, “Leadership Modeling: Christian Leadership Development Through Mentoring as Informed by Social Learning Theory.” In this article, Hall presents a leadership development strategy that is both biblically situated and scientifically informed. He maintains Christian leaders should intentionally influence others to acquire, reinforce, and translate proper leadership character and behaviors into effective Christian leadership. Using Albert Bandura’s social learning theory as a guide, Hall walks us through methods that can be used to effectively develop others.

The next Feature Article is an especially timely piece brought to us by Arndt Büssing, Lorethy Starck, and Klaus VanTreeck of Germany. Considering the coronavirus pandemic, these authors researched and analyzed the emotional, spiritual, and social well-being of 1,036 German Seventh-day Adventists. Additionally, usage of the Church’s digital media resources was analyzed. The findings presented in this article may encourage Christian and non-Christian communities alike to further expand their digital media resources to provide helpful resources during the successive waves of the COVID-19 pandemic.

W. Ray Williams closes out the Feature Articles with a discussion on connectivism. Connectivism was first proposed as a learning theory for the digital age. This theory proposes that learning may take place external of the learner and teacher; it exists in the multiple complex networks with which the learner associates. Connectivism is a leadership theory that specifically works in modern churches. This theory emphasizes the connectedness of all knowledge, the mutuality of those connections, and becomes a tool used to build better local church teams. This theory is especially valid in our currently dispersed environment/society.

Our friends Rob Parkman, René Erwich, and Joke vanSanne return in this issue, sharing predictors of sustainability and well-being in ministry. These authors maintain that only a third of leaders finish well, that burnout rates continue to increase, and that clergy are particularly vulnerable to high levels of vocational stress. The purpose of their study was to fill a gap in pastoral health literature by determining the predictive factors that contribute to the sustainability and well-being of leaders. They then used their research to develop a holistic theoretical framework that empowers Christian leaders and those who support them in organizational, educational, counseling, and mentoring roles.

Finally, Kimon Nicolaides gets us thinking with an article entitled, “Aspects of Leadership and their Effects on the Growth and Vitality of North American Churches.” He examines two aspects of leadership, labeled “paternalistic” and “encouraging.” These qualities were measured in North American pastors using the Paternalistic Leadership Scale and the Encouraging Leadership Index. Significant statistical correlations were observed between them, their churches’ growth rates, and other church vitality indicators.

As always, this issue closes with the latest and greatest in leadership resources, including both book reviews and dissertation notices.

As I close, I want to share one thought that has remained sure and steady through many chaotic moments—and especially during a pandemic. As Paul writes in Romans 8:38–39,

I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (ESV)

I hope and pray that you are well, friends.

Petr Cincala, PhD, is the director of the Institute of Church Ministry, Andrews University, assistant professor of World Mission, the director of Natural Church Development (NCD) America, and managing editor of the Journal of Applied Christian Leadership.

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