Kilns Update & Interview with Ed Underwood

By Ken Wytsma

I’ve been sharing a lot recently about how much I’m excited about the new Master of Arts in Innovation & Leadership at Kilns College— let me tell you a little bit more about why.

First, we live in an age of anxiety. Globalization and technology have brought on a high rate of cultural change and everywhere people feel like they’re struggling to keep up. This new program not only speaks to leadership, management and efficiency, but develops a robust theology of creativity and speaks to the role of imagination and innovation in navigating change and adapting to shifting cultural dynamics.

Like the justice degree at Kilns, this course will be full of theology, history, sociology and provide a rich platform for students to explore and develop thoughts in their own unique areas of interest.

The new Masters in Innovation and Leadership is the 2nd of 3 Master of Arts programs the Kilns will eventually offer (with the third being a 2 Year Masters in Theology and Culture beginning in Fall of 2017).

Additionally, the new degree allows us to add to our rich list of adjunct professors and voices who shape the conversation. Among those is HD Weddel, former Principal of the Year in Oregon and who I was able to brag about in a previous post, and my friend and mentor, Ed Underwood. Ed is the Sr. Pastor of Church of the Open Door and has been at the forefront of developing emerging leaders for decades.

In fact, Ed has taught at the university level for 30 years, in an Army veteran and has a Th.M from Dallas Theological Seminary.

I’m excited for everything Ed will bring to this program, and I’m excited to have him joining us in Bend. I thought it would be cool to hear a bit from him about why he’s committed to be part of Kilns College and why he is specifically excited for this degree.

KW: Why are you committed to Kilns College?

EU: Through most of church history social reform was viewed as a corollary to the gospel. As recently as 1873, renowned British preacher Joseph Angus spoke on the expectation that the gospel transformed hearts toward other-centeredness at the Evangelical Alliance:

“Christianity is a universal philanthropist. It trains the young; it feeds the hungry; it heals the sick. It rejoices in the increase of the elements of material civilization. But it maintains that all these agencies are subordinate. The divine method of human improvement begins in the human hearts through evangelical truths, and it spreads from within outwardly till all is renewed.”

As he spoke these words a reactionary movement was birthing among more conservative evangelicals. Academic and social trends sparked a profound mistrust of science and philosophy. The hopelessness of world events ignited a preoccupation with the world to come.

By the time I met Christ in the Jesus Movement of the 60s most Bible believing churches had disengaged from intellectualism and issues of justice. It bothered me that what mattered most to my generation—civil rights, the war on poverty, and the war in Vietnam—were rarely mentioned. But what did I know? I had to admit that Jesus had rescued me from the mess of my life, so I decided to focus on the spiritual side of life. And if what they were telling me about the end times was right, I better get about the business of telling people about Jesus before the world ended.

The Holy Spirit has used forty-plus years of walking with the Savior, exegeting the text, studying theology, and building and living in community to reconnect my heart and my mind and to return me to my more radical social justice roots.

This is why I’m committed to the vision of Kilns College. Those of us who believe in the Bible and orthodoxy should let the world know that we want to be defined by what we’re for, not what we’re against. We should be on the forefront of reclaiming intellectualism in our historic faith and redeeming the language of justice.

KW: Why are you specifically excited about the new degree in Innovation & Leadership? 

EU: My role in this vision is to integrate this vision into leadership training. More specifically to answer the question: How do those of us who say we care about the kingdom of love and justice in this world ensure that our leadership lives out the message we’re committed to.

Who can doubt the need to build high trust leadership cultures in our churches and organizations that stop chewing people up and spitting them out in the name of missional vision? It’s absolutely true that we can’t give away what we don’t possess. Until we become intentional about maintaining atmospheres of grace in leadership we’re going to continue embarrassing the gospel by the hurtful and unjust ways our leaders relate to one another.

I’m thrilled to play a small part in closing the gap between what churches and Christian organizations say about the kingdom of love and justice and what we live inside our leadership cultures. The new degree in Innovation and Leadership provides the context for me to offer insights from my years of study and experience in discipleship, education, and leadership.

Discipleship is Christian-talk for mentoring, but it’s a special type of mentoring. To make disciples is to build into others in such a way that they are encouraged to follow Christ and live for him in this world. The love of the lamb of God is the bedrock of discipleship that calls us to follow Jesus, to go to dry the tears of this world. But until that love is modeled by mentors and experienced by those they lead, our lofty desires have no sustaining power.

That’s where my heart is. I long to build deeply into the few who will live out kingdom values and lead the many in the Way.

Do you resonate with the need for creative leaders, advocates, and culture-shapers with a sound theology of influence?

Have you always wanted to pursue your Masters, but never thought you could or that it would be relevant to your context?

Contact Melissa McCreery for more information on how you can join us in Bend or online via our Distance Learning platform.

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Categories: Church & Theology,Innovation & Leadership,Justice & Culture

Ken Wytsma is a teacher, entrepreneur and author. He is the founder of The Justice Conference and president of Kilns College, as well as the author of Pursuing Justice: The Call to Live and Die for Bigger Things, The Grand Paradox: The Messiness of Life, the Mystery of God and the Necessity of Faith, and Create vs. Copy:Embrace Change. Ignite Creativity. Break Through with Imagination.

Theology and Culture