What Class Most Influenced You? (Part 3)

We recently asked several members of our faculty the following question:

What class from your own Seminary (or College/Graduate School) most influenced you and why?

Here are some of the responses we received:

Dr. Chuck Lawless, Professor of Evangelism and Missions, Dean of Graduate Studies, Vice President for Graduate Studies and Ministry Centers (Ph.D., Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; M.Div., Southern Baptist Theological Seminary):

The class that has most influenced my life was a college class I didn’t want to take. The course was an introductory missions course, and I had no intention of doing anything other than what I was doing at the time: serving as the pastor of a local church. To my surprise, God used that class (which was, by the way, kind of boring at times) to introduce me to the needs of the world. My professor was former missionary, and his quiet but deep passion for the nations took root in my heart. I will always be grateful for that professor and that class.

Dr. Larry Purcell, Associate Professor of Leadership and Discipleship, Associate Dean of Ministry Studies (Ph.D., Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; M.A., Liberty University):

My answer may be odd for one who teaches practical theology, since my Greek classes were some of my favorite. I’m a pastor while attending school so classes that helped me teach & preach the Word.

The opposite of your question is also necessary. It is what I was not taught at the academy that made me realize what I needed. Practical issues faced by all pastors was the missing link at the academy. I was taught to manage the mess and add programs, not to lead changes and build the body of Christ.

Stay tuned for more answers from our faculty.

The Role of Personality in Church Conflicts

Larry Purcell, Associate Professor of Leadership and Discipleship at Southeastern, writes about the role of personality in pastoral leadership, especially in the midst of church conflicts. 

In over thirty years, I am yet to pastor a church that experiences any measure of conflict and does not wish to stop it immediately. The congregation and its leadership both feel it is bad and must be stopped. Yet, conflict is a natural part of life. We must learn that conflict is not necessarily bad, but rather the manner in which we seek to handle the conflict can be bad. Congregations are not immune from conflict, whether a new church plant or a traditional congregation.

And yet, conflict can be an avenue to growth. An athlete must experience some level of discomfort or conflict to grow stronger and more resilient. Likewise a soldier must endure conflict to learn to be resilient and stronger when facing the challenges of fighting a war. Paul uses this metaphor to challenge Timothy, saying a soldier must endure “hardship” (2 Tim 2:3). In order for a church to maintain spiritual health in a rapidly changing world, conflict will be a natural phase of growth. The presence of conflict will cause a congregation to become more dependent upon the Lord for guidance, responsive to a changing context, and more resilient.

An article in SBCLife, Oct 2012, lists the top five reasons pastors are terminated by congregations: Control issues (e.g., “Who’s going to run the church”); Poor people skills on the part of the pastor; the Pastor’s leadership style is too strong; the church is already in conflict before the pastor arrived; and the Pastor’s leadership style is too weak.

As you can see, the personality of the pastor influences or directly relates to conflict. In the many years I have been a pastor, I have learned that I cannot control the thoughts and actions of others, but I have found my own personality can influence others. I have found that my personality could be both a strength and weakness. I had to make significant adjustments switching from a military environment of leadership to a church environment. I had to better understand how God designed me to respond in various and changing environments. Some define leadership as influence: Christian leadership is more than influence but it is never less than influence. The personality of the pastor necessarily influences those he shepherds.

Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 5:14 about three different personalities we may encounter in a congregation. The first person knows the law, refuses to obey and he is to be confronted. The second person is discouraged and needs to be comforted. The third person is weak and is to be helped. Still, we are to be patient with all men. This challenges all pastoral leaders to not accept “one size fits all” expectations of people.

I think each of us can relate to one of these responses to someone’s behavior. Which one best fits you: confront, comfort, or help? I am comfortable at confronting behaviors, but I am taught in the passage that not all persons are to be confronted. So, a key to understanding these verses is seeing the leader’s response to various personalities.

Speed Leas has identified a variety of responses to conflicts.[1] Each of the responses can be appropriate, depending upon both the persons involved and the issues being faced. Can you identify which best describes you?

  1. Persuasion: Attempts to change another’s point of view. He thinks, “I am going to win.” This is a style very comfortable to a pastor or staff minister because we are in the task of persuading persons to know Christ and follow Him.
  2. Compelling: The use of physical or emotional force, authority, or pressure to constrain another to do something. This is seen when a crisis exists such as a fire, medical emergency, or even as a parent prevents her child from running into a street.
  3. Avoiding, Ignoring, Accommodating, or Fleeing.
  4. Collaborative: to work together with the people with whom you disagree. Too often seen as the best method, but only best when all are willing to play be collaborative rules.
  5. Bargaining and negotiating: assumes that those negotiating will get as much as possible, but will not get everything. It is a sorta-win-sorta-lose strategy.
  6. Support: often called communication skills and active listening. The major assumption of this strategy is that the other person is the one with the problem.

We see that a variety of personalities lead to different responses to managing conflict. These differences require pastors to shepherd their people with God-given wisdom and not only according to their own or preferred personality type.


[1] Leas, Speed. Discover your conflict management style. 1997. The Alban Institute.

An Invitation to Study Christian Education and Leadership at Southeastern

If you had asked me fifteen years ago, I would have said that education courses make me go to sleep faster than a hamster swimming in a bucket of Thorazine. But that was fifteen years ago, and I hadn’t yet met Ken Coley, Larry Purcell, Gary Bredfeldt, Jim Porowski, and Greg Lawson who are professors of Education and Leadership at Southeastern. In fact, it was an encounter with Ken Coley that first made me aware of the need for me to pay as much attention to the “delivery mechanism” in my courses as I did the content of those courses.

For those prospective students whose calling in life includes some aspect of teaching, allow me to invite you to study with our education faculty. You will have the opportunity to take courses with:

Gary J. Bredfeldt (Ph.D., Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) is Professor of Leadership, Education, and Discipleship. He is the author of Great Leader, Great Teacher: Recovering the Biblical Vision for Leadership (Moody), co-author with Harry Shields of Caring for Souls: Counseling Under the Authority of Scripture (Moody), and co-author with Larry Richards of Creative Bible Teaching (Moody). Dr. Bredfeldt has served five churches as senior pastor, executive pastor, minister of education and youth pastor, and is known as an expert in both leadership and education and as a fine classroom instructor to boot.

Ken Coley (Ed.D., University of Maryland) is Professor of Christian Education and Director of Ed.D. Studies, and the author of The Helmsman: Leading with Courage and Wisdom and Navigating the Storms: Leading Christian Schools with Character and Conviction. He served as principal of Montrose Christian School in Rockville, MD for 15 years before coming to Southeastern in 1996. Dr. Coley is a prince of a man, one of the nation’s experts in Christian high school education, and a leading author on educational leadership. Dr. Coley is also known for sporting a fine mustache (rumor has it that Burt Reynolds called and told him to “back off”).

Greg Lawson (Ed.D., University of North Texas; J.D., Cambell University School of Law) is Professor of Christian Education and the author of Frank C. Laubach: Man of Faith (Baptist Literacy Missions Center at Baylor) and several articles in the Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible and the Evangelical Dictionary of Christian Education (Baker Academic). He has served as a Navy chaplain, interim pastor and pastor to numerous churches, and was an attorney in Pennsylvania. Dr. Lawson wins the award for the Renaissance man within the education department, having served as he has in jurisprudence, chaplaincy, the pastorate, and the academy.

Jim Porowski (Psy.D., George Fox University) is Professor of Child and Family Development and co-author with Paul Carlisle of Strength For The Journey: Biblical Perspective on Discouragement and Depression (LifeWay). He is a licensed psychologist and the Director of Family Life Resources, a counseling center in Raleigh, North Carolina. Dr. Porowski is known as an expert in child and family development and an expert in issues found at the intersection of education and psychology.

Larry Purcell (Ph.D., The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is Associate Professor of Leadership and Discipleship, Associate Dean of Ministry Studies, and Interim Director of the Doctor of Ministry Program. He has published articles in Christian Education Journal and contributed a chapter to Management Essentials for Christian Ministries (B&H). Dr. Purcell is one of the most amiable and gracious men one will ever meet. He is quick to laugh and easy to befriend, which is perhaps why some folks are surprised to learn that for years he was a sniper in the United States Marine Corps.

Southeastern features a number of degrees designed to equip graduate and post-graduate students for service in and for the church.

The Master of Arts in Christian Education (M.A.C.E.) is designed to equip students for service in Christian education and related ministries in the church or a church-related organization. Students take courses leadership, team ministry, and discipleship as part of this program. The M.A. in Christian Education and Biblical Counseling weds the above-mentioned education courses with courses in biblical counseling to give students the proper tools for education and counseling ministries in the church. The Master of Arts in Ministry Leadership is part of “The LEAD Program,” which focuses on the development of knowledge and competencies in three basic ministry results areas: Leadership, Education, and Discipleship.

The M.Div. with Ministry Leadership builds upon the requirements of the Master of Arts in Ministry Leadership and the M.A.C.E. to provide the student with the opportunity to focus the degree in a particular area of ministry. This degree also follows the structure and principles of the LEAD program.

The Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) occurs in a “modified residency” model which allows students to keep their current positions in ministry and attend classes with a cohort of educators who meet with professors during intensives on campus scheduled throughout the year. The purpose of the program is to strengthen one’s leadership in the field and to expand knowledge and skills for future opportunities in leadership, teaching at the college or graduate school level, or curriculum development.

The Doctor of Ministry with Christian Leadership also follows the cohort model wherein each student moves through the coursework and fieldwork with other students in this track and under the supervision of a mentor in Christian Leadership. The D.Min. at Southeastern is designed to wed continuing field ministry with intensive seminars to further equip ministers of the gospel.

The Ph.D. in Applied Theology with a concentration in Christian Leadership is another “modified residency” program available to Christian leaders, scholars, and educators serving in leadership roles in churches, denominational entities, Christian organizations, and Christian colleges and universities. The purpose of this program is to prepare scholar-leader-teachers for such roles by way of a research-based, terminal degree designed to develop core competencies in theological integration, research, leadership, and educational practice.

We invite you to study with our Christian Education and Leadership faculty in the M.A., M.Div., Ed.D., D.Min., or Ph.D. programs of Southeastern. For more info visit our website (http://www.sebts.edu/ or http://www.sebts.edu/college/) and check out the Admissions and Academics links.