Cultivating Quality Leadership for a Sustainable Church | Forum for Theological Exploration

Cultivating Quality Leadership for a Sustainable Church

By: Stephen Lewis
December 02, 2009

The ability as a church to gather together and serve the community in creative ways depends on leadership. It depends on an intergenerational conversation that captures the imagination of gifted young leaders among us who feel called to serve the church. For North Carolina churches and communities—for the entire church—quality leadership is the foundation for vital and sustainable Christian institutions. It’s about thriving, not just surviving.

Strong congregations depend on strong leaders. And we know that God calls them. But the church across denominations must reawaken to the essential role of congregations in God’s call.

Week after week, your congregation calls people to faith. But within your congregation, young people – and even those who are not so young – want to know that what they do with their lives matters. They want to know that their faith bears on the choices they make. They need congregations who will prepare them to hear and respond to God’s call in their lives, whatever it may be.

That is why FTE launched a national Calling Congregations movement to engage congregations and church-related organizations committed to the cause of quality leadership for the church. What’s at stake is nothing less than the future church and the quality of leadership that will help guide it.

These “calling congregations” engage in practices that build a capacity to notice, name and nurture Christian vocations and the call to ordained ministry. They understand that a robust “culture of call” – shared practices and habits developed over time – ensures that the church has the leadership it needs with gifted men and women serving in church professions now and in the future. This movement is taking shape across the country and across the North Carolina landscape in particular.

Ask Paul Baxley and Rusty Edwards at First Baptist Church in downtown Henderson, a vital connecting point for the community. First Baptist was awarded a 2009 Fund for Theological Education “Cultures of Call” grant to launch Vocational Mystagogy. This innovative program helps students explore vocation and pastoral ministry through an Early Church teaching model.

Ask Jack Glasgow at Zebulon Baptist Church in Wake County, known for its intergenerational Samuel Project, which engages members in open conversation around the question of vocation. It’s a model program that is inspiring others.

Among a generation of new leaders, ask Charlene Brown, a 2009 FTE Ministry Fellow attending Duke University Divinity School. “As a future pastor,” Brown says, “I will preach, teach and remind others that a message of hope and reconciliation is at stake, that we are called to resurrect places in our communities that are perishing.” This young leader is bolstered by a caring network of support rooted in her congregation, and the whole church has a stake in her future.

We invite you to join us. You’ll be joining a movement to ensure sustainable leadership and a thriving, sustainable church. Call us, come see us in Atlanta, invite us for a visit, or learn more at

(Original article published in the November/December 2009 issue of The Gathering, a Cooperative Baptist Fellowship denominational publication)


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