by David Seibel, Head of School
This post is the thirteenth in Project Legacy, a series of interviews that aim to learn from leaders outside of education to influence those inside education. See our most popular posts in Project Legacy on Mayor James Brainard and Northview Pastor Steve Poe.
Pastor Gavin Ortlund writes,
“In theology, just as in battle, some hills are worth dying on. But how do we know which ones? When should doctrine divide, and when should unity prevail?”
With covid, race and an election, the opportunities to ‘choose a hill to die on’ are endless— in this post, the Executive Director of Circle City Fellows, David Bell, provides direction for those working in education.
David Bell’s Background
Before becoming the founder and executive director of Circle City Fellows, David Bell served as a pastor at Grace Church and a professor of Christian ministries at Taylor University. David also functions in a counseling and coaching role with Enneagram Insight. Circle City Fellows exist to train young adults to see that their work is meaningful to God and should be done as ministry. The 9 month fellowship focuses on these key areas of professional development, personal development, and civic engagement. I was excited to spend time with David, because of the amount of people that he has effectively developed to work meaningfully in the Kingdom of God.
Here is one big lesson that I learned from David for students, teachers and parents.
Find Common Ground to Do Common Good
David Bell incarnates something that I would like the next generation of graduates to embody: a charitable yet convictional spirit. Although I personally do not agree with all of David’s philosophical and theological conclusions (e.g. my perspective on the Enneagram expressed here and here), I have massive respect for the way he arrives at them and expresses them. In fact, I would likely feel more comfortable aligning myself with someone like David instead of someone who shares many of my personal convictions, because of the way in which David carries himself.
Unfortunately, I have noticed that it is common among certain leaders who I share convictions with to carry themselves in a manner I disagree with. Having been a college professor, college ministry leader, counselor and leadership coach, David has a big heart for helping others grow, learn and overcome their hurts and hangups. His office is ‘lined with many leather-bound books’ yet his heart is lined with affection, charity and care.
I think this charity is much more common among leaders in cities than in the suburbs. I am unable to find the author of this quote, but ‘cities are marked by their density, diversity and destiny.’ Suburbs are often marked with homogeneity where the diversity of backgrounds and ideas is far less colorful. This is critical for schools like Coram Deo and any school in a suburb — the ability to participate in the Great Conversation with both humility and boldness. Issues like race, covid, and the 2020 election will be hills that many die upon. Parents and educators today could learn something from the way David Bell carries himself as he invests in others.
Our character should be marked by charity and conviction, humility and boldness, strength and weakness. In essence, David Bell reminds me a lot of Jesus Christ.
Grace and Truth
I recently heard Pastor Mark Vroegop quote author Randy Alcorn saying that we need “to build bridges of grace that can handle the weight of truth.”
In an increasingly secular and divided culture, we need students who are able to unite diverse backgrounds and ideas without compromising in a pitiful mess. Many ‘unity mongers’ think of unity as a big group-hug. Their basic thesis is that religion, politics, and anywhere where people express their ideas with precision is the biggest obstacle to unity. This cotton candy approach to unity does more harm than good, because it melts in the heat of battle, because there are no real convictions.
On the other side, the ‘truth mongers’ believe that only deep convictions can unite diverse people. It is all about describing reality with such precision that our minds will inevitably fall in line and bring about relational harmony. Unfortunately, in a fallen world genuine unity is not so easy to attain.
I think the answer is what David Bell envisioned in his quote “find common ground to do common good.” We need to build bridges of grace that can handle the weight of truth. In other words, we need to clothe our lion-like convictions with lamb-like humility. The posture of leaders like David Bell could do the next generation some good!
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