Leadership Defined?

Brian Bauknight



In September of 2013, St. Paul School of Theology (United Methodist) moved its campus from the long-standing Truman Road location in Kansas City to the campus of the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas.  I remember the “start” of St. Paul around 1960.  I was in college. But I remember because a much beloved clergy member of my home church left to become a member of the new St. Paul faculty.  My parents were deeply disappointed when he left.
St. Paul has now moved from a very traditional type of institutional city campus (where building costs and maintenance were escalating dangerously) to the site of an exciting and thriving suburban campus of a mega-church in the United Methodist tradition. Not everyone was pleased with the decision or the change.
On the occasion of the 2013 re-location, Dr. Dan Aleshire, executive director of the Association of Theological Schools, gave the major address.  I found these words in his address highly descriptive and instructive : "The future needs leaders who are willing to lead when the way is not clear, when the culture is not supportive, when the work is hard, and when the results are ambiguous.” 

As the Coordinator of Leadership Development in the Western PA United Methodist Conference, I find this statement to be precisely the challenge of this new day.  The way into the next few years is clearly different than it was just a few years ago.
Dr. Aleshire then went on to say, “[The church now] needs leaders whose internal compass is oriented to the love, grace, and justice that constitute the true North of the Christian Faith.” 

I find these words to be an extraordinarily helpful description of what leadership looks like in this day. 

  • LOVE—which is the way demonstrated and clearly taught by Jesus (“By this shall all know that you are my disciples…”). 
  • GRACE—which defines the divine attitude of the God revealed in Jesus (“God so loved the world…”).  And
  • JUSTICE—which describes the basic intent toward which God calls us to live.  (“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,” said Jesus.  Meaning, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for the right (justice) to prevail.”  Or, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and God’s righteousness.”  Again, same message and intent.)
Since 2008, I have worked with over 50 young and/or newly ordained clergy in our Annual Conference in our effort toward leadership development.  The first quote above from Dr. Aleshire describes the need for savvy and aware leaders.  The second quote describes one powerful pathway into God’s vision for the future. 
I believe I now have a fresh set of guidelines for what leadership development may be about.  And I pray that I can provide a gentle, but persuasive, impact upon those with whom I am privileged to work. 
Brian Bauknight
Tuesday, February 10, 2015


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