When The Rev. Dennis Estill takes the pulpit on Sunday mornings, he looks across the pews to the congregation in front of him, and smiles. The attendees and the community have been entrusted to him and he takes the responsibility of leadership very seriously, which is a nice compliment to his natural sense of humor.
Dennis is the senior pastor of El Cajon Foursquare Church, and district supervisor for his denomination. Just a few years ago he was very comfortable with his church in El Segundo. But seemingly out of the blue, he was asked to accept a transfer, move, and take over the San Diego area church that needed immediate attention.
Having enrolled in the Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership graduate degree program at Biola University in the Fall of 2001, Dennis had no desire to leave his church and the people he cared about.
While attending the Leadership Challenge course [the third course in the core sequence of the MOL], God spoke to me about 'taking risks, leaving my comfort zone and stepping out on the edge,' he said.
"Leadership is an art and no one is born a good leader. It takes time, experience and discipline."
That's quite a contrast to playing it safe.
Nine days after completing the Leadership Challenge course, he received a phone call from his district superintendent and was presented with the request to move. That was in January of 2002.
"I was offered a church with unbelievable challenges that would require me to take risks and leave my comfortable pastorate of 14 years," Dennis continues. "I accepted the new pastorate and eight months later I was offered and accepted the additional challenge of being a district supervisor and being involved in the complete makeover of our denomination."
A risk? Absolutely.
His education in the MOL program made the risk, well, less risky.
"I came to the realization that even with 25 years of pastoral experience, I lacked understanding of leadership theory," says Estill. "To be more effective as a leader who could influence and mentor other leaders meant I needed to prepare myself. Biola's MOL program provided the academic excellence and practical knowledge I was looking for."
Little did he know that when he entered the MOL, it was just the beginning of filling his toolbox of leadership theory, character development and biblical integration of marketplace and business best-practice models.
"I chose Biola's MOL program after I attended one of the information sessions. I heard from students and alumni, and their desire to integrate a Christian perspective with the marketplace. As a pastor I saw the need to help my people integrate their faith with their jobs. Biola has equipped me so that I can equip my people to do just that," he says.
"Leadership is an art and no one is born a good leader," Dennis continues. "It takes time, experience and discipline."
"If you are a leader, you owe it to those entrusted to your care to become the best leader possible. The MOL will give you the theoretical and practical tools to help you achieve excellence in leadership."