Serving and changing the world as a foundation CEO
John Wesley would understand why someone pursuing a doctorate in a secular field might apply for a scholarship that bears his name. He himself admonished, “The world is our parish.”
Steve Moore had completed seminary and was executive director of the Wesleyan Foundation Campus Ministry at Texas Tech University, where he was also on faculty, when he decided to pursue additional graduate work. Rather than study church history or delve deeper into theology, he chose a doctoral program in philosophy and higher education at the University of Michigan. He applied for a John Wesley Fellowship, and A Foundation for Theological Education took a chance on him.
“The way we serve in the world is as important as the way we serve in the church,” Moore said. “If I was going to be in ministry on college campuses, I wanted to better understand the philosophical foundations of higher education.”
As he neared completion of his studies in 1989, Moore was invited to become vice president of campus life at Seattle Pacific University, a Wesleyan school, and he later took an equivalent position at Baylor University before moving to Asbury Theological Seminary, his alma mater, as senior vice president, as well as president of the Asbury Foundation.
As his career developed, he stayed immersed in the fellowship — participating in the annual Christmas conferences and individual mentoring relationships he had developed with other fellows.
“I wanted to make sure I was preparing myself as an innovative educator, not just a technician or simply a participant in the guild,” he said. “The fellowship helped me do that. Rather than get caught up in the preoccupations of the academy, I had to understand the larger role of being an educator, a mentor and a leader.”
Three themes held constant as Moore’s career progressed: the way faith engages culture; how mission-driven institutions develop leaders who are missional and strategic; and how to bring faith to bear on the challenges the world serves up. In 2006, he was offered a job that brought those three themes together in a unique way.
Moore was asked to serve as CEO and executive director of the Murdock Trust, a private foundation that has invested more than $700 million in leaders and organizations that nurture the educational, cultural and social life of the Pacific Northwest since the trust’s inception in 1975. Before he said yes, he called a John Wesley Fellow who held a similar position to talk over the role of philanthropy from a Wesleyan perspective and in the larger work of ministry. That fellow helped Moore see what a unique and strategic opportunity this was.
“Many in the fellowship have helped me understand common grace for the common good, how to apply Wesleyan distinctives in the 21st-century context, and the ways that ideas and world views have implications long into the future, in lives as well as institutions,” Moore said.
The relationships he has formed in the fellowship have sharpened the idea of leadership from a Biblical perspective, which is a very different perspective and practice of leadership than in popular literature or culture.
“Our conversations have helped me identify ways and places I can bring my gifts to serve the church and the development of its leaders, often upstream and in unique ways,” he said. “Whether you’re in higher education or a hospital or military chaplaincy or missions or a teaching role, the Church is bigger than the local church.”
The fellowship also casts a vision for being transformational educators, Moore said, and for keeping the commitment of adaptive leadership a priority. Are church leaders today able to adapt and grow their leadership to fit the new challenges life presents?
“Our culture is always in need of leaders,” Moore said, “holistic leaders who are about helping people find the fullness of life in Christ regardless of their vocation. It’s not about maintaining institutions; it’s about forming faithful disciples who are helping serve and change the world.”