Newsletter 634 – Wisdom from a 40-Year-Old Seminarian

Josh_Harris_4

The current issue of Leadership Journal (Fall, 2015) includes a short article by Josh Harris. Well-known as an author and megachurch pastor, Harris recently left his thriving ministry and went to seminary for the first time at age 40.

“I think Jesus still calls people, even pastors, to drop their nets and follow him,” Harris wrote. But why did he move his family across the continent to attend a trans denominational seminary focused on more than “merely churning out pastors.” His answers will not apply to every leader but they’re worth considering. The following words in italics are quotations from the Harris article.

  • It’s hard to evaluate and change while you’re leading. It’s hard to step back and ask questions when you’re supposed to be the guy with the answers. Can we be fresh and relevant when we’ve spent years in the same company, teaching role, retirement community, or church? We need to get outside of our bubbles, at least on occasion, to get our thinking and perspectives stretched.
  • I needed significant retooling and recalibration. Time to stop talking and to listen. Time to relearn how to abide with Jesus. Time to unlearn professional busyness…. a place to discover who you are apart from what you do. Pulling away is not available to everybody, but we can get some recharging from what we read and from the people we spend time with. My closest friends are younger than me, multicultural,  and some in professions different from mine.
  • Everything I’d learned about leadership and pastoral ministry had been in one context. While I’m grateful for many aspects of that, there are things that need to be evaluated and changed. Recently I (Gary) have realized that one way of thinking has shaped my views about leadership and building people. I devour what I can about setting goals, career planning, business leadership or getting through transitions. This can be valuable but most is very secular, focused on what we do ourselves, and ignoring how God leads when we let him show the way. The Bible affirms planning for the future. But this also can be addictive and completely deaf to divine guidance. In seminary I hope Josh Harris finds time to escape the academic busywork, getting opportunities to be still and to let God show the way.

I’ve learned a lot from students and from others who remind me to listen to Jesus. You too? Please comment.

  1. While there are several ways to learn, two stand out to me. 1. Academically, 2. though experience. As I age, I believe that experiential learning is more efficient. Especially when it is by accepting responsibilities were we have a general or superficial knowledge of. In the doing, we understand to the details that are important.
    While in some cases, God directs individuals in a totally new direction, that requires a significant investment of time and $’s in education, it seems to me that more often God’s leads through our accepting responsibilities that require incremental learning.

    • Bob Swift
    • November 6th, 2015

    The recent book Team of Teams by Gen. Stan McChrystal is THE definitive manual for how to adapt and change as a leader while in the role of leader juggling all the attending pressures. Most of the insights in that book are Biblically compatible and adaptable to any position of Christian leadership. It also seems that Harris feels that what today we refer to as a “call” to Christian work is the same as what the Bible refers to as a “call”. A survey of the relevant passages in the Scriptures quickly shows that this is not at all the case. Space doesn’t permit a full discussion here, but this is a crucial point!

  2. I have done the same at age 40, as I went to Fuller and I am grateful for the Institute ever since. Then age 73, through a personal call from God, like Samuel in the First Testament, I turned RC and have been living and ministring in Austria now for 5 years. We all should look to the Lord for His guidance.

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