Wisdom might be one of the most underrated leadership superpowers. Questions about wisdom don’t typically surface in job interviews, even for ministry. Academic paradigms do not require students to take rigorous exams in order to demonstrate their mastery of wisdom. Nevertheless, the longer we lead, the more clearly we see that leadership requires wisdom, which can be more of an art than science. Good leadership knows that it will never have all the answers. Wisdom is how we deal with the unknown and the unpredictable. 

When congregations organize leadership boards and teams, they must think about how to cultivate gospel-centered wisdom. Without it, our churches are held captive to the power of human personalities. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians helps us get our minds around what wisdom is and how we nurture this essential gift. First, Paul reminds us that the wisdom of God often looks foolish to the world. 

The wisdom that guides Christian leaders is a wisdom that is rooted in the cross. “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor 1:18). Because our wisdom is rooted in the cross, we know that it requires something from us. 

The next time your church board is wrestling with a tough decision, what might happen if the group paused long enough to reflect on a passage of Scripture, pray and ask if the decision seems wise from God’s point of view? The wisdom that guides our life and ministry is a wisdom that calls us into deeper connection with God and our neighbors. Yes, this will sometimes make us look foolish, but at least we’ll be fools for Christ. 

Resources

Subverting assumptions about age, experience and wisdom

A priest anticipating her last decade in full-time ministry writes about the intentional choice of a mentor who is a generation younger.

By Rhonda Mawhood Lee

What are we rebuilding and why?

Congregations should see with new eyes as they re-envision ministries in a world reshaped by twin pandemics, writes the executive director of Leadership Education at Duke Divinity.

By David L. Odom

With a spirit of ‘irrational generosity,’ a church helps pay the debts of Howard University seniors and sustain a historic connection to HBCUs

Alfred Street Baptist Church has a long history of supporting college students and historically black colleges and universities. So when a churchwide fast in January yielded $150,000, they knew where to invest it: in future leaders.

By Andrew Kragie

Passing wisdom to the next generation of leaders

As our clergy population ages, younger ministers are stepping into senior roles at big-steeple churches. How must we mentor and form them so they will thrive?

By Nathan Kirkpatrick


Before you go…

Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 1-2 are profoundly countercultural. What he says challenges us to remember that the logic that governs the world is not the logic of gospel. We preach Christ crucified. In an age that is hyper-focused on personal fulfillment, we proclaim a wisdom that calls us to be self-emptying. Your congregation, just like mine, operates according to a uniquely cruciform wisdom. That’s how we make decisions. That’s how we set priorities. As leaders who “declare God’s wisdom” (1 Cor 2:7), our task is to keep telling the story of the gospel so that more and more, by God’s grace, our communities of faith will seek the mind of Christ.

You can always reach me and the Alban Weekly team at alban@duke.edu. Until next week, keep leading!

Prince Rivers

Editor, Alban at Duke Divinity