Redemptive Leadership: Nurturing Faith in Community

ties-stex(Thanks to Dr. Bruce Hekman, Adjunct Professor of Education at Calvin College for contributing this post.)

At a workshop I attended a couple of years ago a speaker asked, “What was Jesus’ main message?” Lots of answers come to mind: the good news that Jesus has come to provide forgiveness for our sin, enabling a renewed relationship with God. While that’s true, that actually isn’t the most common message in the gospels. Jesus most often spoke of the new kingdom he was bringing into existence. “The kingdom of God has come near; repent and believe the good news.” (Mark 1:15) “…strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness.” (Matt. 6:33) “Jesus went through Galilee…preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness.” (Matt. 4:23) In the first three gospels there are at least 114 references to the “kingdom of God,” including the Lord’s Prayer, in which we corporately pray that “…your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matt. 6: 9, 10).

This kingdom prayer is a call to redemptive leadership, to making things down here the way they are up there. Donovan Graham says, “Redemption through Christ restores our relationship with God and empowers us to once again fulfill our calling in creation as he intended. The distortions of the fall still plague us, but we are no longer bound or ruled by them. We are called to live according to the truth, and living redemptively means living by that truth.” (Teaching Redemptively, p. xiv.”)

Redemptive leadership holds up a biblically-based vision of what schools ought to be. That vision is most visible in the relationships among all members of a school community. School leaders play a major role in establishing the culture of a school, that set of often unarticulated “rules” about the way things are done. The culture of a school, its context, is a deeply influential dimension of the content of schooling for all those who participate in it. When asked what we remember most vividly about our own school experience, we most often call to mind a relationship—usually positive, but not always—that has influenced us long after we’ve forgotten what we were studying. School culture is our corporate witness of the new life we have in Jesus as a faith community.

Redemptive leadership is intentional about creating a school culture that is a community of grace.


Filed under community, distinctively Christian, leadership

4 responses to “Redemptive Leadership: Nurturing Faith in Community

  1. Carolyn Cooper

    A wonderful post that I would take one step further. While educators are called to be leaders in the community, we also are called to teach our students how to be leaders and change-makers in society. Jesus called us to be leaders and servants, tasks that our society views as antonyms. However, Jesus, through His lifestyle, showed what it meant to lead through service (and humility and justice and more). Won’t all students be “leaders” in their lives in some capacity? Ought we not focus on Leadership Principles not only in terms of the school culture and community but in our curriculum?

  2. Holly Cory

    Bruce, I was searching for some information on school gardens (which I could not find sigh….), but I came across your post. I was one of your students during your time at Covenant College – I graduated in 1977. You were one of my favorite teachers. You helped me gain a life-long love for children’s literature. I now teach middle school Social Studies, Bible and Reading. I integrate literature and art into everything – picture books, novels, paintings etc.

    I want to start a school garden. Many public/Waldorf schools have been doing this for years, but I wanted to know if Christian Schools have started this as well. If you know of any -let me know.

    By the way, I think the message of Jesus is “Love God and Love People”

    Holly LeMaire Cory

    • Bruce Hekman

      Amazing that I should hear from you after all these years. I’m delighted to know that you’re teaching and that remember the fun we had in “Kiddie Lit.” Hands down, it was my favorite course to teach. I’m still reading, though mostly contemporary fiction for adults, though my two oldest grendchildren (15 and 17) keep me up to date on adolescent lit.
      I hope Dan Beerens was able to help you with your school garden project!

  3. Marcus McClary

    Bruce, I, too, was a student of yours at Covenant College. One of your more interesting influences on me was to confirm me as a lifelong “word collector”. I rarely pass a word by without adding it to my “collection”. (Or, if I do, I feel very guilty!)

    Great post! I’m with you on the kingdom aspects of Jesus’ ministry and message. From Gen 3:16 on the main message of all scripture has been the restoration of God’s kingdom. Jesus was the fulfillment of God’s purposes in that restoration and that was the message he proclaimed. Very nice to run across you on the net. The class at Covenant was one of the more formative (and enjoyable) in my college career.


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