A United Methodist bishop, prolific author, scholar, and pastor – Bishop Willimon says leading is important because too many congregations have been trained to expect too little. And preaching is important because God has a lot to say to today’s churches.
I was in awe interviewing such a luminary – seriously – where do you start? So we limited our 60 minutes to two of Will’s strengths: leadership and preaching. Enjoy these sage words from one of America’s best-known Christian leaders.
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In the decades Will Willimon has been ministering he has noticed a change in the minister’s role: they’re no longer called just to care, but to lead. And much of that leadership finds expression in the pulpit, a place in which Bishop Willimon is very comfortable. Here are my notes from the interview:
Recalling Heifetz, will says we only need leadership if we want to go somewhere. Of course, Christians do, so Will defines it as, a servant willingness to be used by God to help the Church do the work it’s called to do.’
Rooted in Call
Will thinks it’s absolutely crucial for Christian leaders to recapture their sense of call – that leading a congregation was not their idea, but God’s. Helping leaders articulate this sense that God really does have work to do for people, through people, is an important work for us all.
How I Prepare
Will begins in the summer, sketching out the program year – selecting Bible passages and themes, praying for direction. As the Fall unfolds, he puts clippings and ideas in files – and lets things marinate before taking on the task of sermons construction. All the while, rooting himself in the conviction that, ‘I speak because Ive been spoken to.”
About Will Willimon
The Reverend Dr. William H. Willimon has been a Bishop of The United Methodist Church since 2004. He leads the 157,000 Methodists and 792 pastors in North Alabama. For twenty years he was Dean of the Chapel and Professor of Christian Ministry at Duke University, Durham, North Carolina. Dr. Willimon hold degrees from Wofford College, Yale Divinity School, and Emory University. He has served as pastor of churches in Georgia and South Carolina. He is the author of sixty books. Over a million copies of his books have been sold. In 1996, an international survey conducted by Baylor University named him one of the Twelve Most Effective Preachers in the English-speaking world.
His articles have appeared in many publications including The Christian Ministry, Quarterly Review, Liturgy, Worship and Christianity Today. He is Editor-at-Large for The Christian Century. A 2005 study by the Pulpit and Pew Research Center found that Bishop Willimon is the second most widely read author by mainline Protestant pastors. He serves on the editorial boards of The Christian Century, The Christian Ministry, Preaching, The Wittenburg Door, and Leadership.
Sponsors I Mentioned
Virginia Theological Seminary is the largest Episcopal Seminary in the U.S., forming men and women for leadership in the church. In addition to the MDiv, Anglican Studies and DMin degrees are their Masters of Arts degrees with a fous on Theological Studies, Christian Formation, Religion & Culture, and Biblical Interpretation. Check them out at vts.edu.