Being before Doing

Dr. Samuel Wells, noted author and minister in London, England, recently released his latest book, Incarnational Ministry: Being with the Church. [1] Wells explores various dimensions of ministerial leadership, using the reality of the Trinity to guide his helpful insights. One of those insights that particularly stands out to me (and something I’ve noted before), is the primal nature of discipleship for leaders.

Before I can speak or act as a leader, I must first reckon with my identity as a believer in Jesus Christ. My primary identity is found in discipleship; not my role as pastor, elder, preacher or educator. Discipleship – my relationship with God – is lived out daily as a relationship comprised of mystery and grace, hope and failure, repentance and renewal. Who I am as a disciple constructs and nurtures my being, while the various forms of leadership that I may take on or that may come to me are things, tasks or roles that I do. Being and doing are related but quite distinct. For me (and for many others, I think) we often can get these confused!

A sad inversion occurs when the things I do – leadership, preaching, shepherding and all the rest – become the center of my identity, and when who I am – living in the mystery and grace of a life with God – becomes something that I do. My soul wilts, and churches and communities suffer, because I am no longer attending to the primal reality that keeps me sane and whole.

I find Wells’s book so helpful because he encourages a deeper look at our being. What does it mean for us to be with God, with ourselves or with others? What happens when we recognize the vital and life-giving possibilities of simply attending to the presence of God as God is mediated to us through Scripture or silence or music or in the company of prayerful persons?

Rather than thinking that ministry or church leadership is diminished by taking time to pray, practice silence or read a good book, perhaps it is in being attentive to God’s presence that we truly learn how to be attentive to others in our work and ministry.

As this new year begins, I encourage you to be people grounded in being disciples, first and foremost! For the sake of your ministry and your leadership in the church, let your life with Christ shape all that you are and all that you do.

[1] Samuel Wells, Incarnational Ministry: Being with the Church (Eerdmans, 2017).


Dr. Carson Reed is Vice President for Church Relations at Abilene Christian University and Executive Director of the Siburt Institute for Church Ministry. He also serves as the Director for the Doctor of Ministry Program and holds the Frazer Endowed Chair for Church Enrichment in the Graduate School of Theology. Through the Siburt Institute, Carson does consulting work with congregations and church leaders across the country. His teaching and research centers on leadership, preaching, and issues surrounding faith and culture. Carson and his wife Vickie have been married for over 30 years and have four grown children.

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Author:  Publish Date: January 24, 2018

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The CHARIS website hosts conversations of and about Churches of Christ. In partnership with the ACU Library and the Siburt Institute for Church Ministry at Abilene Christian University (Abilene, TX), the website is supported and led by the Center for Heritage and Renewal in Spirituality (CHARIS) at ACU. The Center’s mission is to renew Christian spirituality through engagement of Christian heritage, at Abilene Christian University and beyond. The views expressed on the CHARIS website are those of the various authors, and do not necessarily represent the views of Abilene Christian University or CHARIS at ACU. Questions or comments about the CHARIS website can be directed to charis @

2017-18 CHARIS Editorial Board:
Dr. Carisse Berryhill
Dr. Jason Fikes
Karissa Herchenroeder
Mac Ice
Chai Green
Tammy Marcelain
Molly Scherer
Dr. John Weaver

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