What kind of leadership does the church need today? Tita Valeriano, Director for Evangelical Mission & Assistant to the Bishop

What kind of leadership does the church need today? Tita Valeriano, Director for Evangelical Mission & Assistant to the Bishop

On that memorable day of Epiphany, January 6th, I was preparing for a presentation to the Evangelism and Justice class at Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary, taught by Pr Ruben Duran, the ELCA Program Director of Congregational Vitality. I was just reviewing what I already prepared until I was interrupted by the national news in Washington DC. I cannot remember what was my first reaction, perhaps, deep sadness, anger and disbelief. So I called Pr. Ruben and ask if we should continue with the class; he told me that he had already asked the students and they would like to continue the class despite the situation.

I had been assigned a topic that is important in the ministry that I do for our synod: Mission Developers or Church Planters leadership. I opened with prayers, including a prayer for time of conflict, crisis, disaster which I have prayed many times in the most recent months. My introduction to the topic was the question “What kind of leadership does the Church need?” I invited the seminarians to go deeper in their reflection and formation in being and becoming leaders in church and society. There was a good discussion prior to pointing them to research [1] that has guided many in discerning to become a church planter, or choosing and calling a mission developer and redeveloper. I also sensed that they had in their minds all of the things happening most recently: pandemic, economic crisis, racial injustice and unrest, and violence. All these things will impact the church and society, even though we may not know these impacts fully yet.

Even though I did not mention in the class anything about the unexpected incident that day – which in a sense displayed different kinds of leadership and following – I believe that in this context we cannot ignore that the church should also seriously reflect, discern and make decisions on who we are becoming as a church, and what kind of leadership we are needing, forming, raising and calling for both rostered and lay leadership for the future of the faith community. In the challenges we face, we should wonder how we are changed and will be changed as they relate to our mission and ministry where we are planted. I wonder, how are we going to start new church plants in the future and support our congregations in their transformational journey? How would the ACTS for Vitality for congregations [2]be informed by postpandemic neighborhoods and faith communities, and in the intersection of mission and racial and economic justice and healing? How are going to integrate these communal events to the training of Asian American Lay Evangelists[3] coming up this year?

This is not the first time that a discernment on what kind of leadership is needed in the history of the Christian church and even other religion and in the birth of a nation. We are a humanity that recognizes gifts and skills and that each one has a role to play. My daily devotional reading of Joan Chitistter’s The Rule of Benedict: A Spirituality for the 21st Century interestingly assigned reflections for these days on the monastic’s Abbot or Prioress and shared, “Becoming what the abbess or prioress thinks you should be is not the goal of monasticsm. Following the leader is not the end for which we’re made; find God is.” We have been blessed that the scriptures have leaders like this; the ones pointed their followers and us to the Anointed One, Jesus the Christ. We too can find them in our history as a church and as a nation. Fixing our eyes not on them but on the Incarnate One is our prayer, so we can be who we are called to be: children of God.

[1] Dr. Charles Ridley, professor of Counseling and Psychology, did the research on Characteristics of Effective Mission Developers among 13 protestant and denominational groups and their church planters. The ELCA added two more to the 13 top characteristics Dr. Reedley has selected from 48 behaviors: Commitment to Multiculturalism and Commitment to the ELCA.

[2] ACTS for Vitality is the Synod Vitality initiative for all congregations. ACTS stands for Adapting, Collaborating/Connecting, Transforming and Sustaining. It is a transformational journey for congregations intend to stir up a movement within a congregation reflecting  inward and witnessing outward. Growing relationships: within a congregational vitality  team, a cohort of Vitality Teams, and the neighborhoods around them.  Maturing faith and spirituality from discipleship to apostleship. For more information, please contact Pr. Tita Valeriano, titav@spselca.org.

[3] Asian American Lay Evangelist Project is a Holy Innovation Pioneering project with 5 synods, Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary and ELCA Asian Ministry Desk. This is not only for Asian congregations but for all congregations with Asian American members who intend to outreach among Asian communities in their neighborhoods. For more information please contact Pr. Tita Valeriano.