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Mitch Tidwell:

Howdy friends, and welcome to The Roundup Podcast. I am your host, Mitch Tidwell. Thanks for jumping on with us today. I’m excited about our guest, Dr. Charles W. Smith. He is the Senior Vice President for Institutional Relations, and he is also the Assistant Professor of Christian Leadership at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, which happens to be my alma mater.

I’m super excited to have him on, and what we are going to talk about is Biblical leadership. What does that look like, and how do we implement that in our college ministries? I’m super excited to have him on. I’ve kind of gotten to know Charles, Mr. Smith, a little bit, and I’m just super pumped to get to kind of sit down, and kind of dive into what he’s passionate about.

Something I want to let you know about before we get into this episode is we have an event coming up that we have every year. It’s called Roundup. It’s going to be May 12th through the 14th, and it is our largest gathering of church based collegiate leaders from across the state of Texas, and even beyond. We have folks from outside of the state coming. We’d love to have you come out. It is an entirely free event. We know that college ministries don’t have big budgets, and so we try to make this as completely low cost to you.

If you can get there, we can take care of it from there. It’s normally held in Austin, Texas, but due to COVID and some restrictions and things like that, we actually had to move it into DFW, and so we will be hosting our opening night on May 12th in Ft. Worth. Our friends at Christ Chapel Bible Church are going to open their college building, which is also, if you look on Google Maps, it’s called Common Grounds because there’s a coffee shop in it. It’s a sick place, but it’s right next to TCU, so we’re going to kick off there on May 12th with JD Greear.

JD Greear, President of the Southern Baptist Convention is going to come out, and he’s going to speak for us. We’re super excited. He’s going to cast that vision. He’s really passionate about college students. His church, The Summit Church, in Raleigh Durham was kind of built on the back of college students, and so we’re excited to have him. We’ll do that on Wednesday May 12th, and then Thursday and Friday, we are going to be at First Colleyville in Colleyville, Texas.

That next morning, we’re going to have a general session with Daniel Yang. He is the Director of The Send Institute. It’s a church planting think tank, but what Daniel is excellent at is thinking into the future of what the church is going to face in the future and how does a church need to pivot now in order to see her succeed in the next 5, 10, and even 20 years. I’m excited to have Daniel.

Then, on Friday, we’re going to have Dusty Thompson, who is the founding, and planting, and lead pastor of Redeemer Church in Lubbock, who reaches a lot of college students, and plants churches in college towns, and just really excited to have him. This event is for a lead pastor. It’s for a college pastor. It is for your college students who are leaders in your ministry.

It is basically us gathering around in a collaborative environment, learning how do we best reach college students? How do we best disciple them, and how do we best send them when they graduate? We’d love to have you there. You can find out more information on sbtexas.com/roundup. We have a list of speakers. We have registration, and we have hotels on there, so you can figure out where you’re going to stay. Again, it’s completely free. Would love to have you there. It is going to be a really, really good time, so don’t miss that. I want to thank you for being on the podcast. Again, I’m excited to talk to Charles, so here we go.

Announcer:

You’re listening to The Roundup Podcast, a podcast on reaching the college campus, developing leaders, and sending out Kingdom Multipliers. This podcast is created by the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, and provided through cooperative program giving.

Mitch Tidwell:

Dr. Smith, how are you doing?

Dr. Smith:

I’m good. Thanks for having me.

Mitch Tidwell:

Yeah, glad to have you on. You’ve been a great follow on social media. By the way, I need to tell you this before we get going, but one of the things I love about you, and I’m about to put seminary faculty in a box, but your humor is really what has stood out to me on social media. I’m like, “Hey, I’ve got to get this guy on. He’s an academic. He’s funny. He likes leadership. I’ve got to get him on.”

Dr. Smith:

Oh, Praise the Lord. I’m always eager for a good laugh.

Mitch Tidwell:

You’ve got a pretty great GIF game too. I do appreciate that in people. Well, Dr. Smith, I know that you’re on staff at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. You are the Vice President for Institutional Relations, and Assistant Professor of Christian Leadership, is that right?

Dr. Smith:

That’s right.

Mitch Tidwell:

Awesome. By the way, they need to change your bio on the website because it still says Mr. Smith, and we know that that’s no longer.

Dr. Smith:

They’ve got to keep me humble.

Mitch Tidwell:

They do. They’ve got to keep you humble. Man, why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself. Where you’re from, and kind of what you do. I know I mentioned that little bit, but kind of flush that out, and what that looks like there at Midwestern.

Dr. Smith:

Yeah. That’s for giving me an opportunity, man. The respect is mutual. Enjoyed following you, and looking at all the wonderful things you guys are doing in Texas, and beyond. It’s an honor to be here with you guys. I grew up in Alabama. I grew up in the deep south. Grew up wanting to be into business, and politics honestly. Most of my life wanted to be in business development, and political life. My dad was a city councilman, and did that really until I was in college, had those ambitions and discovered a guy named John Piper when I was honestly in college.

Dr. Smith:

I was actually a college pastor, and wanted to do that really just for a season. It was a weird situation, but it came with a scholarship, and I was saved [inaudible 00:06:04] was happy to do it for a season, but I didn’t want to do it for a long time. Just through some of those experiences, started reading good books, and listening to sermons, and just decided, “Man, there’s a lot of virtue and value in politics and business, but just since then, God was calling me to ministry.”

Dr. Smith:

I went to Southern Seminary. I ended up working on staff there, even when I was on staff still wanting to pastor and plant a church. I thought it would be a good way to be mentored, get to know folks, understand a legacy institution, and in the process similar to being a college pastor, discovered man, I felt called to serve the institution. I had mentors just encourage me in that, and said, “Man, you have gifts organizationally. You have gifts in leadership, and management, and maybe that’s where God’s calling you.”

Dr. Smith:

I continued to serve there at Southern Seminary for another couple years, and the reason that’s important, and relates to where we are now, is I was working for Jason Allen, so Jason Allen, who is now the President at Midwestern, was the Vice President there, and we just became good friends, and worked together, worked really well together, and kind of saw ourselves serving together long-term one way or another, just given that friendship.

Dr. Smith:

When he was invited to consider becoming the President of Midwestern, we got involved and started praying about that opportunity, and by God’s grace, he extended the invitation to us, so we’ve been here in Kansas City at the Western Seminary for nine years, or coming up on our ninth anniversary.

Mitch Tidwell:

Wow.

Dr. Smith:

It’s just been amazing. Southern Seminary, just to brag on them, it’s so easy to brag on them, to this day, they are the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. They’ve been around for 160 years. It’s a gorgeous campus, strong faculty. Everybody knows the story. It’s such an amazing school, and it was then. To leave that, and go anywhere, felt weird. It was illogical, and honestly just kind of took the call of God, but in a way that’s hard to explain.

Dr. Smith:

We just got called to Midwestern, and it’s a sweet thing to see now that God was calling us here to bless us, and to do really amazing things through countless people here. By God’s grace, this school’s been strengthened, faculty’s strengthened. We’ve built some neat buildings and those sorts of things, but more than anything else, the Lord’s allowed us to, I think, recover, and help strengthen a vision for the church in Kansas City. Something I get more excited about than anything else is one, getting to help young men and women get fired up about serving the local church, but also connecting with local pastors and strengthening their churches.

Dr. Smith:

That’s been a blast. That’s kind of who I am professionally. I’m married to Ashley. I met her in 7th grade. She was my girlfriend in 8th grade, and we tied the hitch the weekend after we graduated college, and we’ve been happily together since. We’ve got three little girls. Unless the Lord surprises us, I think we’re done with children for now. Man, we’re just having a blast. Part of that’s getting to be on this podcast.

Mitch Tidwell:

Well, appreciate you being on. I really love your story, and I like you going from Southern to Midwestern. Your time at Midwestern as you’re leading there, what all exactly is your role? What all does that encompass?

Dr. Smith:

Yeah, I appreciate you asking. I’m the Senior Vice President for Institutional Relations. We have a President and three senior people. One is a provost, so the provost is the individual that oversees the faculty primarily. Gets to determine who teaches what, when they teach it, how they teach it, those sorts of things. We also have a Senior Vice President for administration. That’s Jim Kragenbring, so he would oversee anything from finance, to security, to grounds, those sorts of things.

Dr. Smith:

I oversee the division for institutional relations, so that’s kind of intentionally vague, but we oversee anything from admissions, to financial aid, to student life, to marketing and communications, to networking type stuff, events like before the church platform, like all that stuff’s under us, creating that content, those podcasts. It’s a really no day is the same. One day you’re dealing with student life stuff. The next day you’re dealing with fund raising stuff. The next day you’re dealing with marketing stuff. I love that. I thrive in areas where I get to kind of mix it up. Yeah.

Mitch Tidwell:

I’m going to take a guess … I mean I’m assuming you know your Myers Briggs Assessment.

Dr. Smith:

You know, is that …

Mitch Tidwell:

That’s the four letters.

Dr. Smith:

Okay yeah, I’m IDI, like off the charts DI.

Mitch Tidwell:

Oh DISC, DISC test.

Dr. Smith:

Okay, DISK. Yeah, yeah. I’m not sure about Myers Briggs. I’m an Enneagram guy.

Mitch Tidwell:

Oh okay.

Dr. Smith:

Servants By Design.

Mitch Tidwell:

You’re a what?

Dr. Smith:

We do, like when we’re hiring someone, we’ll do two different tests. We do Servants By Design, which is kind of a Christian inventory. That’s awesome. If folks out there haven’t done one, you should totally do one. It’s about $30.

Mitch Tidwell:

Service By Design.

Dr. Smith:

Servants.

Mitch Tidwell:

Oh Servants By Design, okay.

Dr. Smith:

Yeah, Servants By Design. Just Google that. There’s a lot of different ones, but the one we use is about $30, but then we also do Enneagram, and so the Servants By Design is a lot more. It’s kind of like DISC or Myers Briggs where it’s kind of like how do you work? Right brain, left brain, those sorts of things. Enneagram is more why do you work? What are you motivated by? Those sorts of things.

Mitch Tidwell:

Wow.

Dr. Smith:

That’s more than you wanted to know.

Mitch Tidwell:

Let me just take a guess. Are you an Enneagram Three?

Dr. Smith:

Yes.

Mitch Tidwell:

Man, I got it.

Dr. Smith:

There you go. I’m like off the charts three and eight. Those two things are really high. How about you? What are you?

Mitch Tidwell:

I’m a one, and closely tied with the three. As I look at both of those, I can see myself in a lot of them. I feel like I lean, as far as my motivations, I feel like it leans more towards a one.

Dr. Smith:

Sure.

Mitch Tidwell:

Then, if I …

Dr. Smith:

A lot of folks in ministry are there. A good place to be.

Mitch Tidwell:

Yeah. Well, let me ask you this, Dr. Smith, what makes you … I also see you’re a Professor of Christian … Assistant Professor of Christian Leadership is that right? How did you get, I don’t know, passionate about leadership? Is that something that you’ve always been passionate about or what has kind of caused you to say, “Hey, this is what I’d love to hone in on. What I’m truly passionate about?”

Dr. Smith:

Yeah. I grew up, just hit the parent jackpot. Both mom and dad, great Christian folks, and pretty sure my dad, I think, inspired a gift for leadership. I mean both my mom and dad, looking back, sweet and kind of odd, but how much we talked about taking initiative, and serving others, and caring for others, and just leading. It all boiled down to being a leader.

Dr. Smith:

No kidding, if you were getting out of the car, and crossed the line in first grade, you would hear things like, “Be a leader. Take care of other people.” Those sorts of things. It just always kind of stuck with me. Dad would, growing up, dad was on the city council in Montgomery, Alabama for 20 years, and he was always intentional as a young man to take me along, and just allowed me to watch him do stuff. Watch him give a speech. Watch him go to the meeting.

Dr. Smith:

If he was going to a leadership conference, he would bring me along. Those sorts of things, so there was always kind of this interest in it. I understood the significance of it, but all that came to a point of crisis that was just kind of a technical, political interest in something. It really came to a crisis the older I got and I could sense the significance of leadership, whether it’s in business, in politics, or in the local church or institutions, hospitals and non-profits, and seminaries.

Dr. Smith:

They course forward or stand still. Obviously, as Christians we say by God’s grace, but He’s really speaking through leadership. Crawford Loritts, who’s one of my speakers, wrote a book called Leadership as an Identity, and he says in the book that really the world moves forward through faithful and focused leadership. I would tend to agree with it. If you lead history, you lead … Somebody led.

Dr. Smith:

Sometimes they led for evil. They led sinfully. They led in fractured ways that hurt people, and there are other times where we contend that people led in righteous ways, but either way, it’s undeniable that this is a thing that’s really, really important, and we can get it wrong and hurt people, or we can get it right and help people. As just a young adult, I took it really seriously, which is funny because I didn’t grow up … I would not have told you I was a leader, even though I was hearing my parents say that. It was kind of out of obligation, maybe even shame in a way.

Dr. Smith:

I would feel bad if I didn’t do these things, but I didn’t feel like I walked around looking to lead stuff. Some of those things have changed, but it’s mostly just because now I look out and see the need, so much like you do.

Mitch Tidwell:

Yeah. Yeah. I think even in the role here I have with the Southern Baptist of Texas Convention is getting … I think one of the things that I love about this role is getting to see the state from really like a 30,000 foot view, getting to see many churches and many leaders. As I have looked around and you see churches with different pain points or needing resourced here or there, you see things are aren’t working here. What can you do to make it better?

Mitch Tidwell:

I’ve seen just so much of what his kind of ache the church at times has kind of boiled down. You can kind of draw it all back to leadership. I feel like that’s really … I always felt like if we can create better leadership at local church, we’ll create better churches, or healthier local churches. I’ve seen so much too is like every church and ministry, it’s usually made in the image of their leader. It will take on their strengths and weaknesses, especially if it’s very centrally focused on one person.

Mitch Tidwell:

Really, as I’ve kind of watched this, I think I’ve grown in my desire to passion because of I’ve seen how much it can really, as you said, yes everything does rise and fall in God’s grace, but God chooses to use men and women, and their leadership can affect those ministries. I’m kind of like you, I just really believe whole heartedly in good leadership for the sake of the local church. Let me ask you this, I know recently you have just graduated with you PhD. I saw the book. You just got the hard copy, but what was your focus in your PhD?

Dr. Smith:

Yeah, so the title of my dissertation was Fear, Faith and The Fatherhood of God Towards a View of Leadership and Change. That’s a mouthful.

Mitch Tidwell:

Wow it is.

Dr. Smith:

Yeah, here’s the thing I was trying to get at before everybody falls asleep. The simple view of that was man, if you were to ask me, which I get asked a lot. I mean I had the privilege of teaching leadership here at the seminary. If you were to ask me why do young men and women, and frankly old men and women, not lead or lead in really dysfunctional ways, I would say as a Christian, it’s a lack of faith, or to put it in a positive way, it’s the presence of fear in their life, fear of the unknown, fear of man, fear of failure, fear of all sorts of things.

Dr. Smith:

I came to that because I’m just noticing it in my own life. Why am I scared? Things like speaking in public, leading meetings, expressing a bold idea. Just trying any of those things, you’re really stepping into the unknown. You’re stepping forward. You’re putting yourself out there. You’re exposing yourself to criticism, and failure, and all those sorts of things. That’s what leadership is. Properly defined, leadership is about change. It’s about stepping into the future. It’s about transformation.

Dr. Smith:

You won’t ever get to that if you can’t do it personally. You’re held back by your own fear. Those sorts of things. There’s a sense in which, that’s so intuitive for us, that good grief, when we hear that in worship songs, and if you listen to the latest in contemporary Christian worship, there’s a lot of God meeting us in the valley, and our fears, and all those sorts of things. We can mock that stuff, and sometimes we should mock that stuff, but the reason it resonates with us deeply as Christians is because we go and that is truth, and further, when we open our Bibles, we go, “Good grief that’s true,” to not fear is a huge deal in scripture.

Dr. Smith:

What I wanted to do is come alongside and say, “I think when we talk about leadership, a lot of times we are not addressing the most fundamental issue, which is our own fear. Often that starts in this very internal, personal, identity level reality for Christians. Until we deal with that, we’re either not going to lead, or lead in really destructive ways, distorted ways, ways that hurt people, not help people.

Mitch Tidwell:

Wow. That’s really good. As you’re talking about that, there’s something that I have been thinking on for a little bit, just as I’m a very observant person, just always trying to take in all these different things I’m seeing. I’ve noticed one in myself, and then also in others that usually that fear really does … I’ll put it this way, I remember as a single guy feeling very confident about who I was, and as myself as a Christian, as a leader, probably because nobody was following me, and I didn’t have a wife or any kids until I got married, then I’m like, “Okay, I’m a boy that needs to become a man.” Then, I had a child, and I’m like, “I’m maybe a young adult that needs to become a man.”

Mitch Tidwell:

It’s like in each of these stages, and then with responsibility with work and leading at work, it’s like I feel like all of these things, what they do is they bring our insecurities to the surface, and I think there’s a way that we can respond. It’s like I can either choose to make my decisions and choices based on protecting this maybe wound or hurt spot that I have, or overcoming that. I’ve noticed for myself being leaders, that I think one of the most dangerous things is an insecure leader. Having to follow that kind of person is just, it can be really hard.

Mitch Tidwell:

I’m not trying to beat up on anyone here, but I think even looking at myself, I think I’ve, as a 34 year old man, it’s like man, there’s still so much in me, insecurity in me, that I need to, I think, be built up in faith, and probably be more secure in my identity because if not, I think that could be really detrimental down the road, especially if the Lord does decide to give larger influence with people.

Dr. Smith:

Absolutely. Yeah absolutely. The question is, what we have to be careful of, and I’m glad you’re sensitive to that, is to not say, “We shouldn’t fear,” right? We look in scripture and go, “Man, fear is appropriate.” The question is what are we fearful of? Why are we fearful? The same is true of insecurity. There’s a sense in which a highly sanctified Christian ought to still be rightly insecure about their own flesh, about their own weaknesses, their own limitations, those sorts of things.

Dr. Smith:

You’ve got to be nevertheless pretty bold, increasingly bold, about the right things. About God’s needing us in these spaces. About those weaknesses being for our good. About the making us more dependent upon other brothers and sisters with different gifts in the bodies. It’s like anything. One of the ways I think Satan preys on us is taking a partial truth, which is we are weak, we ought to be insecure, and we should fear, and distorting it just enough where it’s now a lie, but it’s a believable lie. It’s something that’s hard to combat.

Dr. Smith:

Yeah, the trick is, for guys like me, and you, and so many others that are trying to raise up a generation of young men and women to lead, is helping them fear the right things, and know how to process their fear, and acknowledge it, and acknowledge their insecurities, but respond the right way. We don’t lead for approval. We lead from approval. We don’t lead for success, we lead from acceptance. Those sorts of things. Yeah, it’s super relevant.

Mitch Tidwell:

Well, how would you say, kind of going, just kind of coming back down to like a, I guess some language here, how would you define Biblical or Christian leadership? In the simplest form kind of define that, whether that’s a person in a local church, or a non-profit, that kind of thing?

Dr. Smith:

Yeah, here’s what I’ve learned, and it’s going to sound like I’m geeking out as an academic, but just please, please, please, please trust me when I tell you this is in the pews of your church. When we talk about leadership, and we talk about developing leaders for the church, we’ve got to be really crystal clear about what we’re talking about in how we define leadership. Here’s what I’ve learned what happens. When you stand up, almost in any context, there are 15 different definitions of leadership in the room, so people stand up and say, “Hey, we need to be leaders.”

Dr. Smith:

For example, in an evangelical context, it’s probably largely complementarian, the women just tuned out. That’s something the men do. Also, in just about any context, the introverted people check out. The young people check out. The people not called to be a pastor check out, and so what I tried to do is give some thought to just anytime we talk about leadership, I want to be really clear about what we’re talking about, so really quickly, when you look in scripture, leadership is referenced in four ways.

Dr. Smith:

As a spiritual gift. A lot of people talk about they have the gift of leadership. We see leadership as a pastoral responsibility. This is something pastors are called to do. This is the church office. We also see leadership as something men are called to do. They’re called to lead their wives, and their family, that sort of thing, so there’s leadership in that context, but I would say the most fundamental leadership reality that really ought to shape how we define leadership is what I call missional leadership.

Dr. Smith:

I think when you look from Genesis through Revelation, you see God inviting us to participate in His mission, and make himself known as Lord over all creation. God’s moving. He’s progressively revealing himself to us, pursing us, and He calls us as little image bearers, to join Him in that. What a privilege. What I want to do is come alongside of that and go there’s a lot of ways we can categorize that, we can describe that, but I think one helpful way is to call that missional leadership, to take dominion.

Dr. Smith:

We define, in answer to your question, kind of the bedrock of the leadership is taking initiative for the glory of God and the good of others. Biblical leadership happens when we take initiative for the glory of God and the good of others. The reason that’s relevant, Mitch, is if we think about that definition, there’s a whole lot of Christianity packed within that, right? It helps us speak to women, and say, “Women, are you not called to take initiative in appropriate ways, but take initiative for the glory of God and the good of others.”

Dr. Smith:

Young men and women that are 12 and 13, but have put their faith in Christ, are you not called in your sphere of influence? Take initiative for the glory of God and the good of others. The other thing I’d point out about that definition, just really quickly, Mitch, and I’ll stop droning on here, this is relevant. A lot of definitions, in fact, I’d say the most popular definitions of leadership today talk about influence. It’s all about influence, about platform.

Dr. Smith:

My point is not to say influence is inconsequential, or it doesn’t matter, but what I want to say emphatically, like if people hear anything in this podcast today, I want to say is when you look to scripture, God demands of us obedience. He demands of us faith. He demands that we take steps towards Him, and respond in faith with feet to move. He does not demand of us, necessarily, a big Twitter platform, influence with city-wide influence, those sorts of things.

Dr. Smith:

I think we should pray for those things. We should work towards those things. We should hope God would give that to us, and then steward it carefully. The challenge is, if that’s the only way you define leadership, when you start talking about developing leaders, in most rooms, there aren’t a lot of people with a ton of influence, and so what people do is go, I mean as silly as this is, Mitch, but practically speaking, I don’t have a lot of Twitter followers. I’m not an Enneagram whatever. I don’t like people that much. On, and on, and on, and on, and on, and they self-disqualify themselves.

Dr. Smith:

What you and I are talking about, if missional leadership is true, if it’s true that every believer is called to take initiative for the glory of God and the good of others, they can’t do that. They’re disobedient to do that. I think a good analogy is, in the same way we are called to avenge wise, and yet some have the gift of evangelism, I would say that it’s also true that all are called to take initiative for the glory of God and the good of others, and yet it comes easier for some.

Dr. Smith:

Some may have the gift of that. It’s the extraordinary results and influence as a result of their initiative, but we’re all called to do it. I don’t know if that’s helpful to you, but taking initiative for the glory of God and the good of others, and I think we’ve got to be abundantly clear about that, so that we don’t disqualify people before they begin.

Mitch Tidwell:

I love that. I feel like with, as you said, as you’re communicating that, you’re not singling … I think part of like when you’re communicating that, you’re not tuning people out, and it’s kind of communicating to whoever you have around you that hey, this is really biblical leadership. Christian leadership is for all people, and it’s not just for people with your Enneagram 7s or 8s that have got a lot of charisma, that kind of thing, to build influence. I love that, which by the way, I did look up, you do have 8,000 followers on Twitter so it’s time for a blue check mark, so just FYI for one.

Dr. Smith:

Oh man.

Mitch Tidwell:

I don’t know how you get those, but I’m sure somebody can figure that out.

Dr. Smith:

I don’t either. If you know a guy, let me know.

Mitch Tidwell:

All right, I will. I love it man. That was really great. Dr. Smith, how would you say that …Can you give us like a couple examples of where you’ve seen that really play out, just that missional leadership? Who are the people that you watch that you say, “These are the people that you probably ought to watch and learn from,” when it comes to missional leadership?

Dr. Smith:

Oh man. It’s easy to name big names, right? Good grief, can you believe what Kevin Ezell’s doing? Believe what there in Texas that Adam Greenway is doing? Those would be perfectly good examples, right? They’re taking the initiative for the glory of God and the good of others. The things that are the most persuasive to me though, and again, those are amazing stories. The things I find the most joy in are kind of the unlikely leader stories.

Dr. Smith:

The introverted, shy person that had the courage to take an initiative, step across the road, and share the gospel with their neighbor. It’s the stay-at-home mom that had the courage to get some other ladies together, and work on changes at the local school. Those sorts of things, as cheesy as that may sound, that really is where the world courses forward, through millions of little iteration of courage. Just gospel courage.

Dr. Smith:

Those sorts of things. I mean, for me, because the definition is so oriented about the first step, initiative versus influence, there’s just a lot. It lends itself to just a lot of stories that you never heard of yet. Just little faithful obedience in the shadows that only God sees, and those are the things … I think as a people, God’s people, as a church, when we catch a vision for that, and see the beauty of that, and the necessity of that, the importance of that, I think that’s part of what you’re seeing when you see so many leaders fall, and you see so few people desire to lead, or begin to lead, it’s because we’ve lost a love for the significance of just these small steps.

Dr. Smith:

That’s not to say we don’t pray for revival, we don’t pray for big jobs, big opportunities, and lots of influence, and all those sorts of things, but it’s pretty rare that we parachute into those things. It usually just starts with faithful obedience. One of favorite stories in scripture is the story of Joseph. What I love about Joseph, I mean you can’t say Joseph doesn’t have influence. I mean there’s a sense in which Joseph may have more influence than anyone in the known world at that time, at the end of story, and yet it seems like the writer is so consistently focusing our attention on just his faithfulness.

Dr. Smith:

He’s keeping his nose down. He’s looking to God. He’s concerned about the right things, and it’s almost like God, he can’t help but be blessed. The point is to not be blessed, and I hope it doesn’t sound like I’m promoting some sort of prosperity gospel here, but the point is it doesn’t seem like Joseph is busy updating his LinkedIn profile. He’s just being faithful, and continuing to hammer the same nail, pray to the same God, and over time, the Lord seems to bless that, but it starts not with thinking about influence, it starts with faithful obedience.

Mitch Tidwell:

That’s good. What would you say, by the way, I graduated from Midwestern with my Master’s, theological studies, and when I got towards, I think I had two semesters left, I didn’t realize there was a focus in leadership, and I had already committed to preaching and pastoral ministry. I thought for a second and I was like, “I think I would rather do the leadership one, just because I don’t sense in me, I love to preach. I’m called to preach. I don’t necessarily feel called to pastor, and so I wanted to switch, but then it was like, “Man, then I’ll have to take two more classes, and yeah, I’m just going to go ahead and get the preaching and pastoral degree.”

Mitch Tidwell:

I wish I would have changed though. I miss that, but the reason why I share that is because I was thinking about students. You see students that come into Midwestern all the time. What do you think for them, we have a lot of listeners who have college aged students, or around that young adult age. What do you think is, in light of missional leadership, what do you think is some of the optimism you see among college students, and then what’s maybe some traps that you see in college students as well?

Dr. Smith:

That’s a great question. I had the opportunity to teach on this recently, and I tried to answer the question, what are the few things standing between us and what I think is biblical leadership, or just effective engagement? The two words I landed on was that we have a crisis of clarity and we have a crisis of courage. There’s a crisis of clarity about what biblical leadership is and is not, and how to go about doing that, and then I think there’s some of us that know exactly what leadership is and what biblical leadership requires of us, and that’s precisely why we’re unwilling to do it. Precisely why we’re sitting in the stands, and simulating acts of real leadership when God’s demanding inviting us into some much deeper.

Dr. Smith:

One of the reasons I’m nerding out on the front end of this call on definitions of biblical leadership is for precisely this reason. I’m telling you, Mitch, if I stand up in front of 30 men and women, in a Master’s level class on leadership, and pour truth serum down their throat, and ask the question are you a leader, you would be amazed at how few people would respond in the affirmative. Again, it’s what men do. I don’t have influence. Woe is me. Who am I? In some sense, those are Godly responses, right? Humility that sorts of things.

Dr. Smith:

My fear is you have those realities going on in our heart. You also have just kind of an anti-institutionalism by going in culture where we hate big institutions. We don’t like people with a lot of power. We don’t like success, unless it’s with sports. We really just like rooting for the underdog, and so there’s sense in which to call yourself a leader feels to go against the cultural grain and what we think leadership is. I think we’ve got to be really careful about that.

Dr. Smith:

Then, the second thing then is courage. I could talk about this until the sun goes down, but I think most of us, when we talk about leadership, and we even think about developing our own leadership capacity of others, we tend to go to surface level things. We talk about productivity, efficiency, organizational structure, vision and values, mission statements, on, and on, and on, and on. Listen, there’s not a person in the world that would geek out on this stuff more than me.

Dr. Smith:

I’m not minimizing that. I think the Lord uses that stuff, and it’s valuable, and it’s virtuous. All I’m saying is we would be foolish to merely talk about those things, and not begin with where scripture begins, which is our heart. I mean who is God? What has He said about us, and what does that imply for how we live and lead in the world around us? What we will find as we dig into those things, and that’s hard. I mean that takes real discipleship. It takes real life situations with people. You almost have to introduce people, Mitch, to crisis, the hard situations.

Dr. Smith:

We think in sports, there’s a reason coaches push people to the point of exhaustion. It’s because character spills out. Who you really are shows up when you’re doing suicides. In the same way, when you’re doing leadership development, it’s hard to do all this theoretical. I think if we get to where the rubber really meets the road, a lot of that stuff is just at the heart level. It’s at the identity level. It’s at the trust and faith in who God is, who He’s promised He will be for us, and what that means for us.

Dr. Smith:

Again, clarity about what leadership is. It’s a trap. People just immediately disqualifying themselves from the responsibility of taking initiative of glory of God and the good of others. This is really, really big. Then, the second thing is, once we get clear, lacking the courage to do that in really meaningful ways, and if you’ll allow me, I want to say one more thing on that.

Mitch Tidwell:

Yeah.

Dr. Smith:

There’s an author by the name of Andy Crouch whose written a lot of really helpful books, but one of the books he wrote is called Strong and Weak. In that book, he talks about the very question you’re asking. What are some of the traps young men and women are falling into? He mentioned a phrase in there called simulated risk, simulated risk, and what he argues is most men and women today, let’s assume that they want to lead, they want to have influence, they want to make an impact, and studies have shown, of course, they do. Where they’re getting tripped up, often times, is they’re engaging in simulated versions of risk and leadership.

Dr. Smith:

For example, you do video games. In video games, we simulate this reality of valor. We simulate this reality of taking the initiative. The same is true of social media. Instead of really leading change, and risking something for justice or whatever, instead we tweet about it. I’m not saying tweeting is bad, but Crouch would argue if you consider all these things together, there’s a theme here, and this theme seems to be we’re unwilling to really step into this arena called risk, and called life, and called, I think, meaning, what we’re called to do as Christians.

Dr. Smith:

I think those are massive, massive issues that we’ve got to learn to fair it out, but I think it begins with the church. We’re the only people that have really clear answers on what this whole thing called reality is about, and it’s about God’s glory, and it’s about extending this kingdom to every corner of the earth, and God’s not only invited but obligated us to participate in that by taking initiative for glory of God and the good of others. I think that’s meaning you’ve got to be really clear about that, and we’ve got to patiently walk with people as they engage in that.

Mitch Tidwell:

That’s great. I’m going to soak in some of that for a minute. That’s really good. Let me ask you this. Really I’ve got two more questions here, but what is, have you seen any, like between now and let’s say 20 or 30 years ago, have you seen any real difference on how leading today versus 20 or 30 years ago. Is there anything, I know that we kind of talked about definitions, but is there anything specific that you would say, “Hey, these are things that we’ve got to do today, that maybe 20, 30 years ago, that we didn’t have to?”

Dr. Smith:

Yeah, that’s a great question. I think a lot of people would talk about 20 years ago, there was more, believe it or not, there was more respect for authority. There was more respect for an [inaudible 00:42:42] chart. It was clear what boss meant. Things like that. Organizations, and just culture was more top down. You would more naturally respect the office of President or pastor, or things like that, whereas today, it’s much more collaborative. You see that even in work spaces. There are a lot more just offices in the year 2000, and today there’s a lot more open floor plan. We’re all hanging out together, sitting in a bean bag chair, working on our computers.

Dr. Smith:

I’m not assessing that it’s right or wrong. I think that’s a reality more collaborative today. I’d say 20 years ago more task oriented, and today more people oriented. That’s both what leaders should be thinking about. I think that’s a good thing, but I think people by and large employees are expecting more for their bosses to care about their personal lives, personal ambitions, what’s going on, how they’re doing. I think that was less true 20 years ago.

Dr. Smith:

The other thing that comes to mind is just change. What’s funny is, and I’m old enough to remember what people were saying in 2020, and in 2020, it was, “Oh my goodness, things are changing. You can’t do long-term planning anymore. You just have to be ready to make these constant iterations and evolutions.” In 2021, it is almost laughable to talk about, you still should do it and it’s still important, but to be able to establish long-term plans. I mean even a one-year. It’s not just COVID. It’s like before COVID we had a one-year budgeting process. It can be tough. Man, everything is so competitive.

Dr. Smith:

Technology is changing so fast. Culture’s changing so fast. We’ve got to hold this with open hands, and so for me, the people side of that, and just the operational side, flexibility is the word in 2021, and it’s hard as the people listening to this podcast lead people, I’m just going to tell you, if you don’t name that buzz word today, the thing needed organizationally today if both focus and flexibility, you’ll burn people out.

Dr. Smith:

I mean people will just get tired because they don’t know that’s just to be expected, and they think either you’re a poor leader, or good grief, we keep changing the vision, and often times it’s neither of those things is true. It’s just the world’s changing at lightning pace, and you’re just having to hang on and do your best.

Mitch Tidwell:

That’s so true. I often wonder even with larger, I mean I think we’ve seen this some even just in the middle of COVID, and just the rapid change that came there, in some ways, you had larger churches were more equipped even online type of ministries, but it’s kind of the bigger the ship, the harder it was to turn, and it just seems with that culture is so rapidly changing, it being nimble is really quite the asset to just in leadership. Dr. Smith, one last question here. What books would you kind of recommend, or any resources that you’ve found helpful that may be helpful for some of our college leaders?

Dr. Smith:

Oh goodness. Man, there are so many, and that is such a wide question. It’s also a fascinating question. Right now, I’m leading some students and staff through two books. I’ll recommend those here. One is a book you’ve probably read called Leading From the Second Chair.

Mitch Tidwell:

Yeah.

Dr. Smith:

Leading From the Second Chair, and the truth is we’re all second chair leaders. All of us are men and women under authority, but most young men and women, serving in collegiate ministries, and things like that, they find themselves very clearly in a second chair, and they’re caught between wanting to lead, and dream, and unburden themselves from responsibilities [inaudible 00:46:51], and also knowing they should. How do you live in that world? It’s one of those common questions I get is how to balance that tension. This particular book does a great job answering it. Leading From the Second Chair.

Dr. Smith:

The other book we’re working through is called Canoeing the Mountains. Canoeing the Mountains. With any book, any book I recommend, I don’t endorse every syllable or agree with every idea, but it is also a really good book, working through just what does it mean to lead, and in particular, lead in the 21st Century where, to use his words, so much is uncharted territory. If you like history, it follows two great explorers.

Mitch Tidwell:

Lewis and Clark, yeah.

Dr. Smith:

Lewis and Clark and their expedition. It’s just even fun to kind of read through some of what was going on even out here in Missouri and their explorations, and then comparing that to what it was like to lead in the 21st Century. Both of those are big books. Those will be good recommendations for you.

Mitch Tidwell:

Awesome. Dr. Smith, I appreciate you being on, and man, you gave us a lot to think about. I thought some really helpful … I think so much we can get caught up when it comes to leadership of just more of a platform mentality or even in today’s generation, really thinking influence is more about what we see online than actually what it is in person, and leading people, and obedience, and faith in God, so thanks for your time, and thanks for just your insight and wisdom. I know that myself and our listeners are very appreciative of it.

Dr. Smith:

Oh my goodness. Thank you for letting me drone on, and Mitch, no problem. You, I’m grateful for your work in Texas, and all that you’re doing. Let me know if I can do anything else for you guys.

Mitch Tidwell:

Yes sir. All right. Well, thank you, Dr. Smith, and friends, thanks for listening. This is The Roundup Podcast. Feel free to like, subscribe, comment. We’d love to hear from you when it comes to the podcast. Just get your feedback. Follow us on social media. It’s @sbtccollegiate on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and we have a Facebook group called Roundup Network. You can jump in there. We’ve got tons of leaders. You can idea share, collaborate. Tons of stuff in there. We’d love to have you join. Thanks for listening in, and we will see you next time.