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Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Derry Long

February 6, 2023 | YTI Staff

Dr. Derry Long has served in ministry for over 45 years in many roles – pastor, church planter, pastoral coach, regional overseer, and international teacher. His résumé includes serving as a lead pastor at Evangelical Churches in metro and rural areas for 27 years, as superintendent of the Western Conference of the Evangelical Church with oversight of 30 churches from 1994-2000, as chief strategy officer for Journey Church in Bozeman from 2006-2017, and as pastoral coach for Harvest Church and its five campuses in Montana and Wyoming. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Birmingham, England, and also started a consulting company. Derry has been married to Marcy for more than 50 years, and they have three children and five grandchildren.

Tell us a little about yourself—background, family, hobbies, etc.

I was raised on a farm in northwestern North Dakota. I’ve been married to Marcy for 51 years, and we have three children and five grandchildren. I enjoy camping, hiking, playing golf with my grandson who is nine, and trying some flyfishing. I particularly like to collect books and read. I just purchased a lovely set of the Works of Charles Dickens from Bauman’s Books.

Describe your responsibilities with YTI.

I am professor of Christian Leadership. Some years ago I got frustrated with the gap between rhetoric and reality in the church world so I moved to England and in a Ph.D. program at the University of Birmingham I studied how to create and sustain empowering social systems. Later, I studied how John Wesley empowered the working class of England in a movement that became known as Methodism.

My topics include basic and visionary leadership, turnaround church leadership, leadership and conflict, coaching as leadership, and creating an empowering church.

I am also assistant to the President and follow through on tasks, particularly organizational, that President Jay gives me.

You have extensive experience and expertise in church leadership, having served for a number of years as a lead pastor and as a denominational superintendent. What do you think churches tend to do well in leadership, and in what areas can they use improvement?

I believe that the North American church does a good job of creating servant leaders who care about those they are leading. But there are 400,000 churches in the United States and most of them are single-cell, or under 100 in attendance. And 97% of churches see almost no converts to Christ in a given year. So achieving goals set out for us in the New Testament is poor. And often, good best practices in leadership are dismissed as not in the Bible and thus not spiritual. There is not much about the law of gravity in the Bible either but I don’t dismiss it. This flat earth view of leadership, which certainly doesn’t take into account all the leadership practices of Nehemiah, leaves many leaders with a toolbox missing many tools necessary for the task at hand. Also, many of the features we say we want in our churches are declarations without structure. So we say we want to be a friendly church but have no system for hospitality. We want leadership but have no structured leadership pipeline. We want strong giving, but have a patchwork effort in donor development. We want workers, but have no system for volunteer recruitment and nurture. So, we have work to do, because we have a great message and the need is monumental.

In addition to your responsibilities with YTI, you keep busy helping churches and ministries across our country and around the world. Tell us about some of what you have going on.

I am a teaching fellow with OMS, a large missionary organization, and teach in Asia. Soon I will be going to Bangladesh. I also teach in the summer sessions at Seoul Theological University. My particular focus is to teach leaders how to create empowering social structures. I use the Scriptures and from church history the work of John Wesley with the marginalized population of the common laborers in England as guides.

What do you appreciate about YTI’s vision?

Early on, as our president, Jay Smith explained the vision I was attracted to it. It features a gracious theological stance toward others in the community of faith, is innovative with programs in adventure and the arts, and cares about our immediate community all while maintaining commitment to the centrality of Christ and the authority of the Scriptures.

Every organization wants to be thought of as innovative. For example, we are told that the primary identifier people now use is their preferred leisure activity, and that the average American spends 50% of their discretionary income on their leisure activities. Yet the church often ignores this arena of people’s lives or actually treats it as a threat. At YTI we want to help people find Christ in this arena and so we are training leaders to meet people where they already are.

How do you see YTI making a difference in the church and in our community?

I believe YTI is rising up at a point of incredible opportunity. Never, in my life-time has there been such cynicism about faith and religion. But I believe our message is life-giving and will stand out in this season of despair and anger. What makes it life-giving? I think the hospitality of our tone, the responsiveness to immediate need, the valuing of local community, and our commitment to lay development, just to name a few.

YTI Staff

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