Canoeing the Mountains: Christian Leadership in Uncharted Territory


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by Tod E. Bolsinger. IVP Books, 2015.

Seminary didn’t train me for this! That’s the refrain that begins Tod Bolsinger’s book Canoeing the Mountains. Bolsinger served the San Clemente Presbyterian Church for seventeen years. Now he is the vice president for vocation and formation at Fuller Theological Seminary. What seminary didn’t prepare so many pastors for is the current cultural context. Clergy are trained in the skills of preaching, teaching, and pastoral care. Yet, the cultural context of ministry is changing rapidly. Most clergy find themselves in an unfamiliar landscape when it comes to their congregation’s relationship to the culture. How do you lead when the ground is shifting? Bolsinger uses the story of Lewis and Clark as the conceptual framework for leadership that adapts to changing circumstances. Remember that Lewis and Clark were expecting to encounter a waterway to the Pacific Ocean. Instead, they discovered the towering Rocky Mountains. What does it mean when the reality you were expecting turns out to be something completely different? New ways of being and leading are needed. The book describes how leadership begins with the transforming work God is doing. Clergy are encouraged to take up big adventures in a changing world. The book invites reflection first, then action. So it is best read in community. Your need for education didn’t end with seminary. Make it the book of the year for your judicatory or your clergy peer group. Read. Discuss. Then act.

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