Courageous Leadership In God’s Kingdom 

Date Published

October 11, 2018

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Published by Geoff Vandermolen

Director of Vocational Formation, Co-Director of Doctor of Ministry

“God has called me to ministry.”

These words routinely tumble from the lips of seminarians. As one hears these expressions of calling it is helpful to remember some influential factors that have shaped emerging leaders who are under 35 years old. For these emerging leaders:

Life-shaping technological advances are normative, including the birth of the World Wide Web and all its progeny;

Visually enhanced global conflict has played on repeat for most of their lives;

Persistent, economically-rooted fears are part of the furniture of their lives;

Aspirations for neutral racial plurality have been repeatedly crushed under the oppressive weight of racial, cultural, or religious bigotry.

These same emerging leaders also know that the church they seek to lead is not immune to chaos. Tomorrow’s church leaders have endured seismic shifts within Christianity itself, including at least:

  • Vocal, hard-fought battles regarding foundational questions of human origins, same-sex attraction, marriage, questions of gender and ministry, the authority of the Bible, and more;
  • The routine pitting of tradition against innovation, publicly debated matters of faith related to justice, race, and poverty, and an onslaught of commodified ministry resources vying for ministry dollars and attention;
  • A swift reshaping of pastoral leadership to include CEO levels of efficiency, expectations of “podcast- able preaching,” and leadership of increasingly specialized teams—all while ensuring that attendance and download numbers trend upward;
  • The dethroning of Christian faith in the West marked by the reality that growing numbers of missionaries are now being sent to North American from countries around the globe.

All who have lived in the time since 1980 understand that these are complex and challenging times to be an emerging church leader.

Calvin Seminary has been called by God to equip leaders. We have accepted this mission-critical role, setting our sights on equipping every student to love Jesus and others deeply as they give ministry leadership with Kingdom-sized courage, biblically rooted insight, and a strength of character that perseveres for the sake of the gospel.

How does Calvin Seminary go about this important task?

First, we equip emerging leaders to read, teach, share, preach, and deeply live God’s Word. Period.

Second, we seek to equip emerging leaders with critical thinking skills, theological insight, and a worldview that leans hard into cooperating with God’s redeeming work—all soaked in a Christ-like love and grace.

Third, Calvin Seminary believes that even biblical knowledge and critical thinking skills are insufficient to meet the leadership demands of today. Rather, we understand that knowledge and thinking skills are most potent when they are deployed by leaders who are deeply committed to cooperating with God’s redeeming work within themselves. Knowing and participating in God’s sanctifying work is the goal of our formation process at Calvin Seminary.

This formation process begins by insisting that students live at the intersection of the classroom and real time, real-life ministry. To that end, students in first degree programs (MA, MDiv) are required to dive deep into local ministry through contextual learning assignments. These assignments require students be placed in partner churches/ministries with seasoned vocational mentors. These mentors have a singular focus as it relates to the life of the student: to invest in their ongoing formation.

The formation process at Calvin Seminary is enhanced by another key tool: student engagement in formation groups with peers. Students meet weekly throughout the semester with peers to listen, learn, reflect, and pray about ministry and life. These conversations are guided by formation group leaders who knew the contours of ministry and invite the students to grow and learn together.

Another vital ingredient in the formation process at Calvin Seminary is increased levels of personal awareness. In order to achieve this goal, students regularly engage in various means of assessment, including the use of a Birkman Assessment (for strengths), psychological assessments (for holistic care), and vocational assessments.

Calvin Seminary is seeking to combine excellence in academics with deep, thorough ongoing formation. We understand that we will not be able to give emerging leaders all they need to tackle every complex challenge of ministry. However, we are convinced that we can equip students to be capable and passionate lifelong learners about God and about themselves. This ability to know and love God well and to know and love God’s work in each of us is the foundation for our lives, and as such the very basis for the kind of godly leadership that will serve God’s people and purposes in our world God so loves. 


Alumni Stories


Associate Pastor, Brookfield CRC – Brookfield, Wisconsin

The thing I most appreciate about my education at Calvin Seminary—and also the thing I continue to value most in my ministry today—is the way our professors pounded a Gospel-centered understanding of Scripture into each student. That might sound like an obvious statement. It is a seminary, you know. That’s what they’re supposed to do. And yet, I never cease to be amazed at how often I hear Christian preachers and teachers deviate into moralism, legalism, and therapy. Those things might be helpful from time to time, but they’re not the Gospel and they can’t take its place. That’s something our professors drilled into us, and,

as a result, that’s what I strive to bring every sermon, youth group talk, and Bible study back to: the Gospel of Jesus Christ—the story of Creation, Fall, Redemption, and New Creation. After all, that’s the good news we hold so dear as Christians. 



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