Sabbatical Report

May 28, 2020 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

Posted in: Pastoral Encouragement

For the last month, I have been on a writing sabbatical. This is the first such sabbatical I have ever had in my ministry career. I am thankful for the time that was afforded to me so that I could focus on my doctor of ministry dissertation. I want to share with you, my church family, about my time. 

In my dissertation, I am writing about the need for leadership development at Oak Hills. I completed revisions of chapter one in April, before my sabbatical began. Chapter two, diving into the biblical rationale and direction for leadership development, consumed the bulk of my time during the sabbatical. As one would expect, for a doctoral dissertation there is a level of scholarship required in the analysis of biblical texts. I call it the slow slog. For each passage I analyzed, I engaged 15-20 different technical resources. Then I worked slowly through writing my analysis of the biblical texts, incorporating and interacting with the various viewpoints of the scholars. 

In our Presbyterian context, there are several Scripture passages that garner the most attention regarding leadership (1 Timothy 3; Titus 1; Acts 20; Acts 6). These passages focus on the qualifications and duties of elders and deacons. The aim of my dissertation, however, is to demonstrate that there needs to be development of leaders in the church beyond just elders and deacons. So, I chose to focus on other passages (Exodus 18:13-27; Acts 6:1-7; Ephesians 4:11-16; 2 Timothy 2:2; Titus 2:1-10). Let me share with you three of my conclusions from the study of these passages as they apply to Oak Hills: 

  1. The health and growth of the church’s gospel ministry is dependent on well-administered leadership. The church and her gospel ministry suffer when leadership is in disarray and when others are not developed and entrusted with leadership. 
  1. God has designed his church to have tiers, or levels, of leadership beyond just elders and deacons. The elders are the spiritual overseers for the church. They serve a vital role of shepherding and caring for the church of God (Acts 20:28). The elders, however, do not hold a monopoly on ministry leadership in the church. Other believers, with various gifting, have an important role in leading and directing ministry. 
  1. Every member has a ministry calling, which includes, on some level, influence on others. This may not be new, but it is worth repeating and reemphasizing. As a follower of Christ, you have been gifted and called to serve others with the gospel. Discipling another is leadership. Using your gifts to serve the body of Christ can be leadership. As a member of the body of Christ, you are called to have influence on others for the sake of the gospel. 

As you may be able to guess, my writing of chapter two became long (63 pages long), but I am blessed to have had that time in Scripture. It strengthens my resolve to serve you as your pastor in order to equip you for the work of your ministry. I’m excited for what God has in store for Oak Hills. 

Once I submitted chapter two, I turned my attention to chapter three, the review of what has been written on the topic of leadership development. In a sense, I have been working on chapter three for the last year, as I have been reading a lot of books and articles related to this topic. Now, I am in the process of briefly summarizing and categorizing the various works. There are a lot of works, especially from Presbyterian sources, that write about eldership and the deaconate, but few write about other leadership or even the process of developing leadership. 

I am not done with chapter three, but my sabbatical has come to an end. My dissertation work will return to the “back-burner” as I give my attention again to ministry at Oak Hills (looking forward to John 4 this Sunday!). I am grateful for the time to make such progress as I have. I look forward to sharing more with you in the future. Thank you for your encouragement, prayers, and love.


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