A New Kind of Christian Leader

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In times of personal, professional, or societal crisis, we often look to leaders we trust to make sense of what we see and feel and to understand how to integrate disorienting new realities into our lives. When the events and experiences of our days overwhelm, we find confidence to re-engage through mentors who empathize with our experience, bosses who create space for us to regulate our emotions, and institutional leaders who point us toward truth.

But what happens when our society faces a crisis of leadership itself? Where do we turn when there are not enough leaders we trust? Data from a recent Barna Group study shows that more than four out of five young adults affirm that “society is facing a crisis of leadership because there are not enough good leaders right now.”1  This was one of the most widely endorsed statements from Barna’s 2019 survey of more than 15,000 people 18–35 years old from around the world, suggesting this leadership crisis is global.

Historically, leaders of churches or other spiritual communities have been the kind of leaders many have turned to in moments of crisis. And we are grateful that many pastors and congregational leaders serve as trustworthy resources today for those who seek support. Even still, trust in religious leaders as a group has fallen through the years. A recent Gallup poll found that just two out of five Americans believe clergy are honest and have high ethical standards.2 Pastors are now seen as less trustworthy than psychiatrists, teachers, police officers, medical doctors, and engineers. 

To whom, then, do we turn in this particular moment of multilayered crises—which include a global pandemic, national political turmoil, and any number of personal upheavals occurring on local and individual levels during these extraordinary times? If young people in the US are increasingly crying out for a new kind of leader they can turn to—one equipped to hold space as they express and regulate their emotions and  make sense of their experiences in an increasingly interconnected world—is there not an opportunity to train a new generation of trustworthy leaders across various sectors and industries who serve with theological depth, emotional health, and multicultural competence?

Over half of Fuller’s alumni serve and lead in contexts outside of a classic church or congregational setting. And while Fuller’s Master of Divinity program continues to attract the largest percentage of students across its degree programs, prospective student data increasingly shows that students desire training not only in each of Fuller’s major disciplines—theology, psychology, and intercultural studies—but also training for a call to which they are responding, to lead outside of a church or parish.

For example, this fall, Fuller welcomes one of its largest ever incoming classes into the PsyD in Clinical Psychology and PhD in Clinical Psychology degree programs. These students will join a rigorous learning community in the School of Psychology & Marriage and Family Therapy that forms in them the psychological, theological, and multicultural competencies that prepare them for licensure and successful careers in a variety of contexts and industries, not limited to a traditional church setting.

Fuller also welcomes a new cohort of students beginning studies in one of the seminary’s newest degree programs, the Master of Arts in Justice and Advocacy (MJA). This two-year program is intentionally designed to expose students to theories and practices from the classic disciplines of practical theology, psychological sciences, and urban studies. Rather than training in these areas for service in a congregational setting, graduates of this program will be prepared to serve as community developers and leaders of justice-oriented nonprofits. 

The MJA is the first of many new degrees to come, as Fuller continues to boldly and comprehensively recalibrate degree offerings to educate and form a new kind of Christian leader: one who embodies the theological depth, emotional health, and intercultural competency that Fuller has long excelled at. With a renewed focus on this formation across many integrated disciplines, Fuller graduates will begin to step in as leaders who are prepared to sit with others in moments of personal, professional, and societal crisis, to empathize with their increasingly diverse experiences, and to point them to God’s reorienting truth.

marcus sun

Marcus Sun is vice president for global recruitment, admissions, marketing, and retention at Fuller Seminary, where he has served in various roles since 2014. He holds an MBA from the University of Southern California and a BS in Business and Economics from Wheaton College.

In times of personal, professional, or societal crisis, we often look to leaders we trust to make sense of what we see and feel and to understand how to integrate disorienting new realities into our lives. When the events and experiences of our days overwhelm, we find confidence to re-engage through mentors who empathize with our experience, bosses who create space for us to regulate our emotions, and institutional leaders who point us toward truth.

But what happens when our society faces a crisis of leadership itself? Where do we turn when there are not enough leaders we trust? Data from a recent Barna Group study shows that more than four out of five young adults affirm that “society is facing a crisis of leadership because there are not enough good leaders right now.”1  This was one of the most widely endorsed statements from Barna’s 2019 survey of more than 15,000 people 18–35 years old from around the world, suggesting this leadership crisis is global.

Historically, leaders of churches or other spiritual communities have been the kind of leaders many have turned to in moments of crisis. And we are grateful that many pastors and congregational leaders serve as trustworthy resources today for those who seek support. Even still, trust in religious leaders as a group has fallen through the years. A recent Gallup poll found that just two out of five Americans believe clergy are honest and have high ethical standards.2 Pastors are now seen as less trustworthy than psychiatrists, teachers, police officers, medical doctors, and engineers. 

To whom, then, do we turn in this particular moment of multilayered crises—which include a global pandemic, national political turmoil, and any number of personal upheavals occurring on local and individual levels during these extraordinary times? If young people in the US are increasingly crying out for a new kind of leader they can turn to—one equipped to hold space as they express and regulate their emotions and  make sense of their experiences in an increasingly interconnected world—is there not an opportunity to train a new generation of trustworthy leaders across various sectors and industries who serve with theological depth, emotional health, and multicultural competence?

Over half of Fuller’s alumni serve and lead in contexts outside of a classic church or congregational setting. And while Fuller’s Master of Divinity program continues to attract the largest percentage of students across its degree programs, prospective student data increasingly shows that students desire training not only in each of Fuller’s major disciplines—theology, psychology, and intercultural studies—but also training for a call to which they are responding, to lead outside of a church or parish.

For example, this fall, Fuller welcomes one of its largest ever incoming classes into the PsyD in Clinical Psychology and PhD in Clinical Psychology degree programs. These students will join a rigorous learning community in the School of Psychology & Marriage and Family Therapy that forms in them the psychological, theological, and multicultural competencies that prepare them for licensure and successful careers in a variety of contexts and industries, not limited to a traditional church setting.

Fuller also welcomes a new cohort of students beginning studies in one of the seminary’s newest degree programs, the Master of Arts in Justice and Advocacy (MJA). This two-year program is intentionally designed to expose students to theories and practices from the classic disciplines of practical theology, psychological sciences, and urban studies. Rather than training in these areas for service in a congregational setting, graduates of this program will be prepared to serve as community developers and leaders of justice-oriented nonprofits. 

The MJA is the first of many new degrees to come, as Fuller continues to boldly and comprehensively recalibrate degree offerings to educate and form a new kind of Christian leader: one who embodies the theological depth, emotional health, and intercultural competency that Fuller has long excelled at. With a renewed focus on this formation across many integrated disciplines, Fuller graduates will begin to step in as leaders who are prepared to sit with others in moments of personal, professional, and societal crisis, to empathize with their increasingly diverse experiences, and to point them to God’s reorienting truth.

Written By

Marcus Sun is vice president for global recruitment, admissions, marketing, and retention at Fuller Seminary, where he has served in various roles since 2014. He holds an MBA from the University of Southern California and a BS in Business and Economics from Wheaton College.

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