By Matt Proctor
A few years ago, I was asked to give a class lecture on “how my theology affects my leadership.” What a helpful exercise! I tried to dig beneath the surface of my leadership practices to find my underlying motivating beliefs. As I brought these to the surface, I could see whether they squared well with Scripture. I ended up listing 10 ways my theology shaped my leadership. A few examples:
Despite my natural Lone Ranger tendencies, I have moved to a more team leadership approach. When I began as president, I was the only administrator who sat in for the entirety of our trustee board meetings. Today, my two executive vice presidents take part in these also, helping me represent the faculty and staff better to our trustees and represent the trustees better to our faculty and staff.
This shift, along with other team-oriented changes, is rooted in the doctrine of the Trinity. God himself is not a solitary figure, but a community of three persons who share ideas, wisdom, and responsibility. “Let us make mankind in our image” (Genesis 1:26, author emphasis). “Come, let us go down and confuse their language” (Genesis 11:7, author emphasis). “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” (Isaiah 6:8, author emphasis).
As humans made in his image, we too operate best as leaders when we do so in community—less me and more us. My theology led to greater team leadership.
Puppet Ministry vs. Pauline Epistles
Another example: We regularly receive suggestions on classes we should require in our curriculum. Most are in the areas of general education (Survey of British Literature) or professional education (How to Organize a Puppet Ministry). Interestingly, I rarely hear people outside the college suggest classes for our biblical education area: “You need a class on Lamentations!” Though many are good ideas, if we included every suggestion, our students would need eight years to graduate, instead of four!
How do we decide which classes make it on the required list? Our doctrine of Scripture. While our students take both general and professional classes, the most generous helping on their educational plate is still reserved for biblical classes. Our Bible college accrediting agency mandates 30 hours of required Bible classes. We, however, require 50 hours—mostly straight-up exegetical classes like Acts, Romans, and Titus.
We are out of the norm, even among Bible colleges, because we really do believe Scripture is the best way for “the servant of God” to be “thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16, 17). A mind full of God’s Word, a heart formed by God’s Word—these are the most important preparation for ministry. I want our students to get a practical education, but I will resist the pressure to cut Bible classes to do so. My theology influences curriculum decisions.
Poker vs. Uno
One last example: Poker players play their cards “close to the vest.” But when my daughter Caroline was 5, her small hands prompted her to simply lay all her UNO cards out on the table, face up for all to see. (I used to beat her all the time!) Some books encourage leaders to communicate like a poker player, keeping most organizational information private.
My leadership habit, however, has been to communicate like Caroline playing UNO, laying all my informational cards on the table for all to see. I would rather run the risk of overcommunicating than undercommunicating. While some matters certainly require confidentiality, I have tried to share our finances, strategic planning, and organizational decision-making processes as openly and regularly as possible.
Why? In seminary, I read Carl F. H. Henry’s six-volume God, Revelation and Authority, his massive study built around 15 theses. His first thesis asserts that revelation was God’s gracious choice to give up his privacy and instead practice deliberate disclosure. God could have remained private, aloof, distant, inscrutable.
Instead, more than 300 times in the Old Testament alone, we read phrases like “Thus saith the Lord,” “the Lord said,” or “the Word of the Lord came.” While God doesn’t tell us everything we’d like to know, he communicates more like an UNO player (specifically, my daughter Caroline) than a poker player. My theology of God as Revelator has shaped my leadership communication.
Matt Proctor serves as president with Ozark Christian College, Joplin, Missouri.