Empathy, Confidence, Vulnerability: 3 Lessons from NS Conferences

By: William D. Shiell

Northern Seminary provides open, innovative spaces that strengthen pastoral leaders and cultivate gospel seeds. We deliver more than academic degrees by providing real-time, contextual training to strengthen hearts and connect people. This kind of community helps pastors lead the church and engage the world.

Over the last 30 days, Northern has hosted conferences that have touched over 500 people. These virtual and in-person gatherings have shared resources and trained people to learn from global experts, instill confidence, and share genuinely.

The Center for Women in Leadership welcomed over 400 online and in-person participants for “Tov for Women.” This conference trained women and men to develop their character and lead virtuously in times of difficulty, despair, and division in our country. Then, the Grow Center hosted its second annual Global Church forum. We heard from marketplace and church ministry leaders from Australia to Indonesia to Kenya. They shared how the pandemic has prompted Spirit-led innovations and awakened hearts of compassion through the church.

Here are 3 essential lessons from these incarnational spaces:

1.) Empathy overcomes division.
We’re not going to be able to problem-solve our way out of the deep divisions of our country. Yes, there are plenty of new ideas to help the church navigate these tempestuous waters. But people want and need someone who can sit long enough, listen, and feel deeply with them. The church is learning through doctors like Ben Martel that empathy is the path forward to reconciliation with persons in deep conflict.

2.) Confidence in your call overcomes insecurity.
Churches are “bodies in progress.” Just as our physical bodies need nutrition and exercise, so the body of Christ is in constant need of maturity. Ask any seminarian called to a new church. They expect the church to behave one way, only to discover realities they didn’t anticipate. On Dr. Lynn Cohick’s podcast “The Alabaster Jar,” Dr. Nicole Martin shared how insecurity can be like acid on a woman’s call. At the “Tov for Women” conference, leaders had a “sacred space” to discuss their experiences, learn from one another, and live into the call that the Spirit has placed on their lives.

3.) Vulnerability leads to innovation.
When pastoral leaders are willing to admit where they are struggling, they can then learn from people outside of their contexts to address their challenges. Global church leaders provide a treasure of wisdom that many American church leaders have not yet discovered. As Tom Lin suggests, North America is facing what is often common knowledge for many pastors worldwide. Pastoral leaders at Northern interact with the global community and develop solutions that they have learned from around the world. They’re starting live-stream nursing home ministries, using food banks as a platform for evangelism, and caring for orphans displaced by COVID-19.

I am so thankful for a seminary where we learn inside and outside the classroom! For more information about upcoming conferences, or to watch one of our recent seminars, contact us.

November 17, 2021

William D. Shiell

President, Professor of Pastoral Theology and Preaching

ABOUT William



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