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Character, Community, and Leadership

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Character, Community and Leadership


David L Peterson IV

Fuller Theological Seminary

Master of Arts in Global Leadership

ML 582 Character, Community, and Leadership

Professor Wilmer Villacorta PhD

Spring 2010

Table of Contents


Part One: Personal Leadership

Descriptive: Humility; Submission & Obedience; Suffering/maturity…………………...3

Prescriptive: Humility; Submission & Obedience; Suffering/maturity…………………..5

Reflecting upon my transformation ………………………………………………………7

Part Two: Ministry

Descriptive: Humility; Submission & Obedience; Suffering/maturity…………………...7

Prescriptive: Humility; Submission & Obedience; Suffering/maturity…………………10

Reflecting upon the churches transformation……………………………………………12

References Cited…………………………………………………………………………14


Permission ……………………………………………………………………………….16

How can I be a godly leader that my parishioners’ will follow? I believe this happens by the Holy Spirit providing environments and relationships of grace.

This paper will describe my character development as well as the vision I have for my church members’ transformation. I will propose a transformation model for both descriptions based on Thrall’s Ladder so that by the Spirit’s power my personal character and my parishioners’ character will be honoring the truth of gospel entrusted to us.

In February of 2010 I moved to the solitude of a 120 acre farm. While there I experienced times of fasting, praying, and humbling myself before God. I meditated upon the inspired Word of God (Willard 2002:221). I am learning that the church is made up of all kinds of individuals that need a godly shepherd, one that leads them to Christ.

Part One: Personal Leadership


One of the most humbling things that have happened to me was on September 11th 1992 when Hurricane Iniki, a category 5 hurricane, struck the Island of Kauai, with sustained winds of 169mph, for over 5 hours! Eighteen years later what are my thoughts? Words can not describe; however, thinking upon what God said to Job after all he had been through, gives me some understanding of God’s greatness! Many homes were completely lost or damaged; therefore, I spent the next five years helping rebuild the island. The rebuilding was both in infrastructure and moral. At that time some teachers in the public school that did not have family on Kauai left; therefore, giving me the opportunity to work at Hanalei Elementary School. Natural disasters have a way of humbling even the strongest of individuals. I do not know why God allowed such a disaster; however, for those of us who found our strength in Christ we were able to find His strength for ourselves and share that strength with those around us.

Nearly two decades later it is the act of preaching that keeps me humble and submissive. I have found that the quality and depth of the sermon is often a direct result of exegesis. This does not mean that God will not use me if I have not spent time in study; however, most often He blesses me to be that blessing if I have done my work.

It takes obedience and discipline to preach. In 2010 the Dos XX cohort was in Colorado Springs for our first MAGL residency. While sitting in round table discussions we were asked, “What is faith?” Some answers were given but the answer I liked best was accepting the facts to be true even when what is asked may not make since. The Bible is full of stories like this for which many of the ancients have been commended. Like me, some of these obedient ancients were least likely to be included in this hall of fame (Hebrews 11ff.). I have found that God uses men and women who are obedient.

I have grown up to believe that “If it is meant to be then it is up to me.” This kind of thinking has led me into times of depression. Nouwen’s sermon that our cohort watched in Colorado was refreshing in this regard. In it he says that life is more about being then doing. That is being the beloved child of God. I have an individualistic mentality towards life; especially, towards my faith in God, His mission in my life, and the life of His church. This has caused suffering and has not allowed me, or His church to develop as God intends. I do not feel that I am alone here. Thrall writes about the great Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh going through a similar thing that almost ruined him before he submitted to God. Gogh was intent on doing it his way instead of doing what his brother Theo and others were suggesting (Thrall 1999: 91). To make matters worse not only have I been raised to be individualistic, my personal characteristics tend that way. Someone said godliness is tested in solitude but developed in community.

I am learning that maturity is best developed in the context of others; especially, those who are wise. Walking, and growing with the wise is not an easy process, it takes humility, submission, and obedience. Now what do I intend to do about this? I will present myself to God as one “approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).


At this stage in my humble journey God is calling me to live a celibate life; therefore, I must be intentional about being formed in community. Like fasting, living a celibate life has a way of focusing my attention on Christ and his mission.

Along with being called to celibacy is a life of poverty. I will remain willing and active to pursue carpentry so that I may continue to preach the gospel with or without pay (Proverbs 23:23). Preaching and teaching is my main objective; however, working with my hands has its advantages such as: good health, being in community, and “winning the respect of outsiders” (1 Thessalonians 4:11, 12).

Submission to celibacy and poverty is not easy. For example drinking alcohol sometimes causes me to have poor discernment; therefore, I will not drink alone or with someone else that might temp me in an immoral way. In regards to poverty, I will trust God with my finances. I believe that He gives me neither poverty nor riches but only my daily bread. Regarding work, I will have a good ethic. I will focus more so on doing a job well then what I can get out of the job. At the end of the day I want to hear, “well done my good and faithful servant.” My allegiance is to Christ, not to the paycheck.

Obedience and submission are a lot alike. I make it my objective to place myself and my teaching under the authority of Scripture. The Bible is the standard by which I live and find direction both in my own personal life and in the life of my parishioners. Scripture does not demand everyone to live in celibacy and poverty but it does suggest that it is the better way. These are “foundational rules” that lead to a life that is wholly devoted to Christ and His kingdom (Farrington 2000:23). Self righteousness is not my goal; rather, living in such a way that I can have “right relationships” (Johnson 2002: 53). God’s Spirit and these accountability structures help me live this way. Furthermore, I will have morning devotions that include prayer and Scripture reading. I arrange my schedule so I can get up at four in the morning for devotions, and eat breakfast at seven. Then at three in the afternoon I will seek God in prayer, and reflection with the local Christian community. Also I will have periodic times of fasting; especially, before a major decision. Earlier, I mentioned about walking with the wise; therefore, I have certain individuals that know me well. There are those whom I will mentor and those who will mentor me. I will do this through environments and relationships of grace so that I am a leader that my parishioners will follow.

Living a life of celibacy, poverty, and obedience may not be attractive. However, doing so has a way of cultivating the heart. Dallas Willard talks about this inward cultivation and ministry resulting from that. Thrall, helps me picture it in the context of personal environments and relationships.

Reflecting upon my transformation:

This lifestyle helps me minister with the less fortunate. Ironically, I find my strength in ministering to those who physically can give me nothing. I experienced this through a ministry I had at the nursing home in south east Kansas. It was there that I experienced the truest form of a graceful environment. Most of these people knew that their days were numbered; therefore, some of them were full of joy!

What Jenkins has written has helped me align my passion with the world’s deep need (The Next Christendom 2002). That is ministering to the less fortunate in Word and deed.

Part Two: Ministry


Currently, I am in between churches; however, I will soon be going back to Hanalei, Kauai. Therefore, I will speak of having ministry in Hanalei. The north shore of Kauai is not the kind of place where some people are going to go and listen to a sermon. Hanalei is multiethnic, mostly under fifty, and having multiple religions or no religion at all. The church in Hanalei has the opportunity to lead in a global way. For example some people are carving the way in creative ways such as in the arts (Kirk Hammett, lead guitarist of Metallica, has home in Hawaii), sports (Bethany Hamilton shark attack survivor, and surfer), and politics (Barack Hussein Obama, 44th President of the United States). Hanalei is one of the most unique places on the planet; therefore, in all humility I could very well have Kirk Hammett, Bethany Hamilton, or the next President of the United States sitting in church with me on any given Sunday.

At a previous ministry one of the most troubling times I had was doing things “status que” that is doing it as it has always been done before. While challenging this system I alienated some, often asking myself and others how to change. For example: a church singing out of a hymnal with written words that are not indigenous. Tourist may be fascinated by it but, it is not indigenous any longer. Contextualization matters too (Gibbs 2005). I have seen that contextualization; especially, within language helps provide environments and relationships of grace (Thrall 1999:144).

This is a true story about how if I had been a little more submissive to those not wanting change our church could have been a better witness for Christ. A special lady in our church wanted to publicly celebrate her 60th baptism. She invited all who were baptized that day. Present were four or five from the community and her four sons. Each of them came forward and said a few words to the church. Furthermore, she contacted the preacher whom baptized them sixty years ago. On that special day and with a maximum capacity; we even got to baptize this ladies great granddaughter that day! After the service was over we all headed out to this ladies house for a meal. I had not driven my car; therefore, one of the churches earlier preachers asked to give me a ride back to town. I agreed and this gave us a chance to talk. He said that sixty years ago he had similar problems and with similar kinds of individuals. Hearing this brought me great peace to know that I am not the only minister whom sought change but came up against other leaders that were unwilling to change. In times like this obedience to Christ is essential because the Holy Spirit will lead in grace.

" In matters of faith, unity; in matters of opinion liberty; in all things, charity." These words, first spoken by Rupertus Meldenius, were drafted by Thomas Campbell and placed in his Declaration and Address. These words sum up how Dr Wilmer Villacorta has been guiding our cohort. His attitude has been one of humility, submission, and obedience. In Colorado and at a foot washing service he displayed this. Each one of us had our feet washed then we got to wash our neighbors. Early that morning, it was humbling for me to have our professor wash my feet, I will always remember and be thankful for this!

As a minister I have struggled with developing a biblical eldership. In some of the small congregations I have served in we did not have the kind of individuals that met the requirements of eldership as outlined in the Pastoral Epistles. To remedy the situation I established an oversight team. There were three of us on this team. One man had been an elder; however, after the passing of his wife he remarried and moved to Oklahoma, the other distant member had grew up in the Arcadia church and had been a missionary in Santiago Chile for over twenty years. I made myself accountable to these men whom worshiped elsewhere but met the biblical requirements of eldership and showed an interest in our local Christian community. The three of us met to choose individuals from the church to serve as the governing board. We selected seven individuals, presenting them to the church for approval and then appointed them to help make the day to day decisions.

With the end of strip mining in south east Kansas some churches have had a demographic that has packed up and moved to the cities. Some of these towns are nothing like they were eighty years ago. Today, there is no downtown, no grocery store, and what hurt most of all was the closing of their schools. The old-timers say, “When the school went then so did the town.” To some it is depressing to visit these rural churches. The church in Hanalei is suffering too but in a different way. She has a demographic of all sorts of peoples with various beliefs or no belief at all. Some of the Hawaiians are animist, some Japanese are Buddhist, and others are pluralists.

I believe the answer exist in godly shepherds that are willing to care for the flock that is under their care (1 Peter 5:1-9).


I recently read of a church leader with a thriving ministry that said his only goal was to please the Lord. Fine; however, to get to a place of having a thriving ministry the church must have an eldership that knows and teaches the Bible (Fee 1981) Another objective is teaching that we all are sinners in need of repentance (1 Timothy 1:15). Furthermore, it is important to teach that leadership in the church is an honorable position (1 Timothy 3:1) and, better than any physical activity is the on going process of godliness (1 Timothy 4:8). How are we going to go about doing this? “Christians need to focus on Jesus more” (Johnson 2002:14). The Holy Spirit will help us do this as we teach the Word, take Holy Communion together, fellowship, and pray (Acts 2:42).

It is Sunday morning and one of our leaders is paddling out because the surf is up. Is it right for her to skip church and surf with her friends? The legalist says, no because she must be in church; however, this may be an opportunity for the church to demonstrate grace. Those who know this surfer as a parishioner might look at her and the church in a different way. The church must be looking for ways to demonstrate grace and freedom instead of being judgmental. Perhaps, providing an atmosphere of grace will be appealing to those whom are yet to be called out? Humility will guide are thoughts and actions and we will refrain from judgment.

Jenkins points out in his book The Next Christendom that churches need to be submissive and obedient to the “Charismatic” movement that is coming from the southern hemisphere. With the decline of the sugar industry in the islands many people from the developing world have gone to work in the tourism industry. Thus it is important for the church to have a visible presents there. How will this look? The church can help alleviate some of the burden so that they can have more time to themselves, the local Christian community, and their families. We will take the early churches example of specifying certain individuals to meet this need so that the leaders can give their attention to prayer and teaching the word (Acts 6:4). This is an example of how we can minister in both Word and deed.

Suffering exists! Christ suffered for us; therefore, calling us to suffer for Him (Matthew 16:24ff.). How is God calling us to suffer? We must deny ourselves. We must get out of our comfort zones. Christ has called us out! We must stop conforming to the world around us. If everyone of us in the church looks alike then we had better pray and ask God if we are being and doing as He has commanded (Matthew 28:18-20). I am speaking about our conformability, as the saying goes, “birds of a feather tend to flock together.” There are diverse ethnicities in our cities. However, in some of our churches we all look alike. As called out ones we must work together with other ethnicities. On Kauai God is calling His church to work with Filipinos. Therefore, our church will be open to Filipino leadership.

Reflecting upon the churches transformation:

How are people to know that Christ is their Savior? They will know by the local Christian community leading in environments and relationships of grace. This is how God makes his presents known to the world (Lohfink 1982). What does God offer that the world does not? Grace, best exemplified in Jesus Christ! To explain the importance of a godly lifestyle I want to tell a story. Through a Christian campus ministry I became friends with a graduate student from China. After some time he asked me, “Why does not God make himself known?” God was making himself known to this friend by surrounding him with a local Christian community. This community allowed my friend to live in one of the campus houses. In was there while we were having a worship service with both American and International students that he asked me this question. My friend will always remember this environment and the relationship of grace. I hope that our churches will look more like this campus house that is being open to people from every tribe, tongue, and language.

References Cited

Farrington, Debra. 2000. Living Faith Day by Day. New York: Authors Choice Press.

Fee, Gordon, and Douglas Stuart. 1981. How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Gibbs, E. 2005. LeadershipNext. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press.

Jenkins, P. 2002. The Next Christendom. New York: Oxford University Press.

Johnson, Darrell. 2002. Experiencing the Trinity. Vancouver: Regent College Publishing.

Lohfink, Gerhard. 1982. Jesus and Community. Philadelphia: Fortress Press.

Thrall, Bill; Bruce McNicol, and Ken McElrath. 1999. The Ascent of a Leader. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Willard, Dallas. 2002. Renovation of the Heart. Colorado Springs: NAVPRESS.


Farrington, Debra. 2000. Living Faith Day by Day. New York: Authors Choice Press.

Fee, Gordon, and Douglas Stuart. 1981. How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Gibbs, E. 2005. LeadershipNext. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press.

Hauerwas, S. 1981. A Community Of Character. University of Notre Dame.

Jenkins, P. 2002. The Next Christendom. New York: Oxford University Press.

Johnson, Darrell. 2002. Experiencing the Trinity. Vancouver: Regent College Publishing.

Lohfink, Gerhard. 1982. Jesus and Community. Philadelphia: Fortress Press.

Manning, Brennan. 1988. The Signature of Jesus. Sisters: Multnomah.

Matthew Proctor, “President’s Perspective,” Compass, Spring, 2010, 4

Morgan, R. J. 2003. Then Sings My Soul 150 of the Worlds' Greatest Hymn Stories. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

Publishing, S. 1967. Favorite Hymns of Praise. Chicago: Tabernacle Publishing Company.

Sanders, Oswald. 1967. Spiritual Leadership. Chicago: Moody Publishers.

Thrall, Bill; Bruce McNicol, and Ken McElrath. 1999. The Ascent of a Leader. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Willard, Dallas. 2002. Renovation of the Heart. Colorado Springs: NAVPRESS.


I hereby grant permission to use my final paper for ML 582: Character, Community, and Leadership for instructional purposes

TITLE OF THE PAPER: Character, Community and Leadership

David L Peterson IV

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