Mission Issues

Thinking and re-thinking missionary issues

Patrick Lencioni: The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

One of the questions that I’m frequently asked when people hear about the work of Shiselweni Home-Based Care in Swaziland, is: “What’s the secret of your success?” Although the question might be flattering, my standard answer is: “I really don’t know.” (And this is not false humility!) God has been extremely gracious towards us and this, more than anything else, has been the major key to success. But then I do know that we also did certain things “right” which contributed towards our success. Through a number of – mostly negative – experiences in my life and more especially in church ministry, I decided many years ago that I’m not going to follow the leadership hierarchy approach in my ministry (or, in more Biblical terms, the shepherd / flock model) where everything that needs to be done in church has to be channeled up the hierarchy to the top in order to get approval and then channeled down again. In church the result of this approach is usually that the pastor is totally overworked as he / she tries to control everything happening down the line. I opted for the “body of Christ” model where I consider each church member to have certain gifts which they can and should use in service of Christ. And regardless what the gift is, if it is important to God, it is important to the church. This, I think, is the only way in which church members can fully function as a team. This does not make the role of the leader redundant. There are times when tough decisions need to be made and there are times when someone has to take responsibility when the buck can no longer be passed, but within a team approach this happens much less often than within the strictly hierarchal model.
The truth of this was further confirmed when I did some training on personality testing many years ago and realized that most business companies would probably be able to function far more productively if every employee was encouraged to use their strong personality traits (spiritual gifts and talents in the church) as part of a team, rather than one person making all or most of the decisions while the employees sit around waiting for someone to tell them what to do.
When a friend recently advised me to read Patrick Lencioni’sThe Five Dysfunctions of a Team” I had mixed feelings about it. (Raise your hand if you enjoy hearing how and where you are dysfunctional!) But I thoroughly enjoyed the book. I love his writing style. The book is written in the format of a fable, taking a real-life situation which is all too commonly experienced in the corporate world (as well as in the church), and applying certain principles in the fable to better help the reader to understand where things could be improved and what the best method would be to do so.
Lencioni goes out from the premise that there are basically five things which can cause a team to become dysfunctional, (with the actual problem causing the dysfunction in brackets):
  1. Absence of Trust (Invulnerability)
  2. Fear of Conflict (Artificial Harmony)
  3. Lack of Commitment (Ambiguity)
  4. Avoidance of Accountability (Low Standards)
  5. Inattention to Results (Status and Ego)
Through the fable, the reader gets the opportunity to fully understand how and why the problem leads to the specific dysfunction and obviously methods are explained and demonstrated through the fable on how these dysfunctions can be addressed – even to the point of having to fire someone who, although that person might be an excellent employee, does not serve the interests of the team any longer. The book ends with a more formal discussion on different methods that can be used to improve on the team’s productivity.
This is a book I can recommend to anyone working with teams and I would especially want to recommend it to any church leader, as many churches still fail to understand how to make teams work.
As I finished the book, I mentally evaluated Shiselweni Home-Based Care. After more than four years as project manager of this team, I still have to find a more dedicated and loyal team of volunteers to work with. Honestly! The problems we have are mostly minor. Through the grace of God, more than through my own wisdom, the team is functioning well. But as I thought about what Lencioni had written, I could see potential cracks. For one: Within the Swazi tradition, conflict is usually avoided. But gossip is not avoided! And gossip leads to a lack of trust. As I plan to start using this book with our twenty two coordinators, we will have to plan for a session on conflict management – and the only way to do this will be to teach and allow them to speak openly about frustrations they may experience with each other. But I’m excited to take this group of dedicated people up to an even higher level of productivity by focusing on still greater teamwork.
A great book that I absolutely enjoyed reading with great potential to make a bad team function properly and to make a good team function even better. Highly recommended!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010 Posted by | Book Review, Building relations, Church, HIV & AIDS, Home-based Caring, Leadership, Mission, Swaziland, Unity | 2 Comments

Jim Belcher: Deep Church – A third way beyond emerging and traditional

I’ve just finished reading Jim Belcher’s book, Deep Church. Although I had heard a lot about postmodernism during the early to mid-nineties, I was really introduced to the topic of postmodernism while my wife and I attended a course in children’s evangelism in 1999 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. An extremely bright young New Testament professor (whose name I forgot) spoke to us on a number of occasions during the course of the training to open our eyes to the postmodern view of life to help us to understand that youth need to be approached in a different way than when we were their age. On his recommendation I later bought D A Carson’s The Gagging of God which extensively researches the topic of postmodernism.
Over the past few years I read a number of books from so-called emerging church authors and a lot of what they said impressed me – authors such as Alan Roxburgh, Brian McLaren and many others. From many of these books I could sense a desire for the church to reach its full potential as described in the book of Acts. But there were also things that I felt uncomfortable with, almost as if some of them wanted to apologize for being a follower of Christ. When I recently read a review on Jim Belcher’s Deep Church, I ordered a copy and immediately felt that I could resonate with his way of thinking. Starting with a discussion of the main points of concern that the emerging church has against the traditional church, Belcher, who comes from a Presbyterian background, then proceeds to discuss these points of concern by critically evaluating both the traditional view as well as the emerging view and then merging (no pun intended!) the positive points to come up with what he describes as a third way or the way of the deep church, a term borrowed from C S Lewis who described the body of believers committed to mere Christianity as “Deep Church”.
With positive reviews from leading authors such as Tim Keller, Scot McKnight, Mark Driscoll, Dan Kimball and Rob Bell, this is a book which cannot be ignored.
One of the concerns that Belcher has with certain proponents of the emerging church (not all of them) is that they recognize the problem of the postmodern world view which the church needs to address, but their solution is that the church itself and its message also needs to become postmodern. So instead of making adjustments in the method in which the message needs to be proclaimed, the message itself needs to be adjusted.
The seven points which Belcher identifies as the main points of concern that the emerging church has with the traditional church, are the following:

  1. Captivity to Enlightenment rationalism: The church had no way of standing apart from the world view of the culture which resulted either in a social gospel or fundamentalism
  2. A narrow view of salvation: The church focused too much on how an individual becomes saved and not enough on how such a person lives as a Christian
  3. Belief before belonging: A person needs to believe the correct theology before they are welcomed into the church
  4. Uncontextualized worship: Music and traditions that are hundreds of years old are used in the church and it does not speak to the present culture
  5. Ineffective preaching: The preacher is the fountain of all knowledge and therefore he is the only one who speaks
  6. Weak ecclesiology: The church is more concerned with form than mission. It cares more about institutional survival than being the sent people of God
  7. Tribalism: The church is known more for what it is against than what it is for. It has lost its ability to model a different way of life.

In the second part of the book Belcher looks at each of these points, both acknowledging the truth of the emerging church’s protest but also looking critically at its solution and indicating the weak points in their solutions – a method which I personally like to use when evaluating something. (At least this gives me the impression of greater objectivity.) Belcher’s solution then is to search for the “Deep Church”, through Deep Truth, Deep Evangelism, Deep Gospel, Deep Worship, Deep Preaching, Deep Ecclesiology and Deep Culture.
An excellent book as far as I’m concerned with serious challenges both to the traditional church as well as the emerging church.

Monday, January 11, 2010 Posted by | Book Review, Church, Evangelism, Mission, Theology | 5 Comments

Ed Stetzer & Mike Dodson: Comeback Churches

I’ve just finished reading Ed Stetzer & Mike Dodson’s book: Comeback Churches. The sub-title is: How 300 churches turned around and yours can too. This book reminded me somewhat of Jim Collins’ book: From Good to Great, although the method they used in doing their research is totally different. The two authors made use of questionnaires which was sent to churches. The criteria which was used to determine whether a church is a comeback church are:

  1. The church experienced five years of plateau and/or decline since 1995 (worship attendance grew less than 10% in a five-year period)
  2. That decline or plateau was followed by a significant growth over the past two to five years which included:

2.1 A membership to baptism (conversion) ratio of 35:1 or lower each year and
2.2 At least a 10 percent increase in attendance each year

I am fully aware that one cannot necessarily determine a church’s spiritual status by looking at attendance. Our own church attendance in Swaziland is fairly low, for various reasons, mainly because we are “competing” against traditional churches where cultural traditions tend to take a higher priority than Biblical truths. But this research was done in the USA where increasingly, as in most first world countries, church members tend to leave the church. Comeback churches are those churches that are doing something to win people back into the church (and obviously to Christ), not by harvesting from other churches but by reaching people who are not traditionally church members (any more).
A few encouraging things I read in this book is that comeback churches are not restricted to churches with a certain type of worship, nor are they restricted to a certain type of pastor or pastors of a certain age. God can use any type of pastor and any type of church to reach people and the church can start growing.
The three factors that were dominant in the more than 300 churches that effectively turned around, were:

  • Renewed belief in Jesus Christ and the mission of the church
  • Renewed attitude for servanthood
  • More strategic prayer effort

The two other factors that followed in line were:

  • Setting goals
  • Valuing Relationships and Reconciliation

Going into more detail, the authors said that comeback churches were characterised by:

  • Growing deeply in love with Jesus
  • Growing deeply in love with the community
  • Growing deeply in love with the lost
  • Comeback leaders turned their churches outward
  • Comeback churches led people to care more about their communities than their own preferences

Looking at churches today, the focus seems to fall increasingly on larger buildings, more “wow” things, bigger and better bands, better video material, better sound systems. And although all of these things can play a role in the bigger picture, it does seem to me that we need to return to basics if we want the church to have an influence in the world.

  • Love Jesus
  • Love the community
  • Love the lost

Compare this with the attitude that we often find amongst Christians:

  • Love Jesus
  • Tolerate the community
  • Condemn the lost

This is a book that any church leader can benefit from, if they are serious in leading their churches to become the type of church that God intended it to be.

Monday, June 22, 2009 Posted by | Book Review, Building relations, Church, Culture, Evangelism, Jim Collins, Leadership, Mission, Swaziland, Vision, Worship | Leave a comment

A response to Scot McKnight

This post started off as a comment on another blog, but became so long that I decided to post it on my own blog instead.
Scot McKnight is in South Africa at the moment and my son had been attending some of his sessions. You can read more about this on his blog at McKnight on conversion theory and deconversion as well as Acts 15-20 for South Africa today. Tom Smith has also been blogging about these sessions and wrote two excellent summaries of what had been said at Scot McKnight – part 1 and Scot McKnight – part 2. I want to urge you to read these posts.
I absolutely agree with what many of the modern church leaders such as Scot McKnight, Brian McLaren, Ron Martoia and David Watson, to name just a few, are saying. What I hear is that they are telling Christians to treat much more seriously the whole story of the Bible. The story of salvation encompasses much more than only the story of the birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus. And I also hear them telling Christians to stop treating the gospel as a quick-fix for all problems. “Listen to me, pray with me and be blessed!”
What they do miss, in my humble opinion, is that each one we meet up with, is at a different place in their spiritual lives. (Actually, I think they are saying this, but I don’t think they take enough into consideration that a great number of people have been church attenders all their lives but have just not yet come into a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ.) If I go on a mission trip somewhere in the Amazon where people have never heard of the Bible or anything related to it, then my approach would be vastly different than when speaking with someone who had been a member of a Christian church from birth but who has never acknowledged Jesus as Messiah and Lord of all. In the latter case (although there would be exceptions) I would see no need to start with the story of Adam, Abraham, David, the exile, etc, as they would probably know it already. On the other hand, should I want to speak to someone from the Jewish religion (as we find in the first part of Acts) then this would obviously be a good place to start. And should I speak to a Muslim, starting with the story of the Old Testament also makes good sense. The same applies to someone who has no knowledge of what Christianity is all about.
My concern is that people are merely rejecting one method (and I am not a Four Spiritual Laws devotee) for another method – a much more elaborate method – which becomes so complicated, that the “normal Christian” (i.e. the non-theologian) will feel totally inadequate to master or share this story. I said the same thing in my review on Ron Martoia’s book, Static, which you can read here. I fear that our modern evangelism methods will eventually lead to people believing that evangelism is best left to the professionals, lest they make a mistake.
I think that it is extremely important that we re-think our evangelism methods, mainly to do away with the quick methods of rushing in and out of people’s lives. But if I look at the rate at which Christianity is expanding in countries like India and China, where Christians stand a good chance of paying with their lives because of this faith, then I’m not convinced that we need to reject everything that was done in the past as wrong.
Although I’m not a devotee of the Four Spiritual Laws, I think it also needs to be said that this booklet was intended to be used in conjunction with the Jesus Film (the word-by-word dramatization of the Gospel according to Luke). Where a group of people had been exposed to this movie, usually over a period of four days over which time certain parts of the movie are repeated, I can well think that sitting down with these people after the last session and explaining the essence of the gospel once again, with the use of something like the Four Spiritual Laws, may be extremely effective. In fact, there are thousands, if not millions of Christians who have indeed accepted Jesus as Messiah and Lord of their lives through this method.
We need to keep on thinking critically about evangelism. In certain countries we will need more professional evangelists. But if my next-door neighbour and his wife come to me (as has happened to me) and with tears in their eyes tell me that their lives are a mess and that they know that they need Jesus right now, then I don’t think that I need to start telling them the entire story of the Old Testament. Then I tell them “that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds” (Acts 26:20), or something to that effect.

Saturday, May 16, 2009 Posted by | Book Review, Building relations, Church, Cross-cultural experiences, Evangelism, Mission, Theology | 2 Comments

So Beautiful: Leonard Sweet

I’ve been “audio-reading” Leonard Sweet’s book, So Beautiful: Divine Design for Life and the Church over the weekend and today, as I had to spend many hours driving. Before sharing some thoughts on the book: If you’re not aware of it yet, you should take note that www.christianaudio.com has a free audio book each month and for April it is this book by Leonard Sweet. Make a point to check the Free Downloads each month if you like books and want to save some money.
As I was listening to the book, I thought of the story we used to share in South Africa in the pre-1994 (Apartheid) years. It went something like this: How do Americans, the Germans and the South African Police catch an alligator?
The Americans: One hundred people, armed with rifles, all driving in pickup trucks move down to Florida for a weekend, wade into the swamps and with a lot of shouting, drag an alligator out of the water.
The Germans: Get a group of biologists to study the habits of the alligator, determine where the best place would be catch it and send a two-man team to do the job.
The South African Police: Catch a lizard and hit it until it admits that it is an alligator!
Leonard Sweet uses the well-known medical abbreviation MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) to explain what he believes the church should look like. For him, MRI stands for:

  • Missional
  • Relational
  • Incarnational

I found myself in agreement with most of the things he writes, except that I came to the point that I felt that he was, at times, hitting the Bible until it fits into one of these characteristics of the church. And I just felt at times that he was overdoing it in an attempt to make his point. Leonard Sweet is an excellent writer and has the ability to use the English language in a remarkable way, constantly playing with words to get his point across. Now, I’m not sure whether it was because I was listening to the book instead of reading it, but after a few hours it became an effort to keep on listening to the word-play. And here I had the same impression, that he likes playing with words and formulates his sentences specifically to enable him to do so, but in the end this makes it very difficult to follow his arguments, because the sentences are formulated to accommodate the word-play rather than to strengthen his arguments. He also constantly uses quotes from a wide variety of authors to prove his point. Some of these are excellent. But at times I had the feeling (and my wife, who had been in the car with me over the weekend felt the same) that he had read a good quotation and then adapted his own text to be able to use the quotation.
Those who can still remember the 1984 movie, Amadeus, will remember that Salieri was once asked what he had against Mozart’s music, to which he answered: “Too many notes!” And this is almost the feeling I had while listening to this audio book: It was just becoming too much towards the end. Too much word-play (although remarkable taken one at a time), too many quotes, too much saying the same thing over and over again in different words and eventually losing the thread on what the argument was that he was trying to defend.
I think the voice of the reader contributes to the fatigue I experienced while listening to the book. For one thing, I felt he was reading too fast. The book fits on six CDs (six MP3s which have to be downloaded) but it was impossible for me to listen to more than two CDs at a time, after which I just had to listen to something else.
Would I recommend the book? Certainly. Leonard Sweet is a highly respected author and he undoubtedly challenges the church to re-think its purpose in the world.
Would I recommend the audio book? This depends. I find that I have so little time to read nowadays and so many books which I want to read and also I spend so many hours unproductively driving my car, that I would recommend that anyone in the same position download the MP3s and listen to them. But if your circumstances are different, with more time on hand to read, then I would probably recommend that you rather read the book yourself.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009 Posted by | Book Review, Building relations, Church, Culture, Evangelism, Indigenous church, Mission, Theology | 1 Comment

Eric Bryant: Peppermint-filled Piñatas (Audio book)

More than a year ago I wrote a review on Eric Bryant’s book: Peppermint-filled piñatas. You can read it here. And then I recently wrote how I’ve now discovered audio books which gives me the chance to listen to books while I’m driving, in this way getting to read a book during time that would otherwise have been wasted. I’ve been wanting to re-read Eric’s book for some time now, but with books almost waist-high next to my bed, all waiting to be read, I realised that this would not happen soon. That is, until I heard that Peppermint-filled piñatas is also available as an audio book which you can purchase and download online. I downloaded the mp3 files, copied them onto five CDs and had them ready in my car in preparation for a long trip I had to undertake this past weekend.
Eric, if you’re reading this: My wife and two of my children travelled with me, but we’ve had a hectic time the past few weeks and my wife asked me whether I would mind if they sleep while I drive. I agreed to that but asked them whether I could listen to this book while they sleep. And in the end, they all remained awake for the greater part of the journey. Not only that, on returning Monday morning, leaving Pretoria just after 4 am, they all complained when I said that I’m going to continue listening to the book while I’m driving, as they actually wanted to sleep and would miss out on the book! Consider this a compliment.
It surprised me how much of the book I could still remember after a year. I think the chapter that spoke the most to me on this round, was Chapter 7, The Untouchables. This is about compassion for the poor and the destitute. By far the majority of people that I know, have a feeling for the poor, but will never reach out to them to do something practical to help them, probably because they lack true compassion. For most of my life I’ve been surrounded by poor people, having grown up in South Africa with its harsh distinction between races. After moving to Swaziland in 1985, the reality of extreme poverty just became all that more clear to me. I definitely had a feeling for the poor and the destitute, but it still took me a long time to develop true compassion for The Untouchables. As I listened to this chapter, I realised how important it is for church leaders to expose their members to this part of reality. But this is not enough. Without a plan to get involved in other people’s lives, it will not be possible to develop true compassion. Without wanting to repeat what I wrote in my earlier review, I can say that this book should be read by church leaders looking for ways to break through their own feelings of prejudice in order to share their love with others different from themselves, so that they can lead their members into doing the same.

Thursday, March 26, 2009 Posted by | Book Review, Church, Mission, Poverty, Social issues, Stigma, Swaziland, Vision | Leave a comment

David Batstone: Not for Sale

While attending the Leadership Summit at Willow Creek in 2008, I had the privilege of listening to Gary Haugan, President and CEO of International Justice Mission. He inspired me to such an extent that, had I been a lawyer, I would probably have resigned from my regular job to join this group in fighting against modern slavery. His book, Just Courage, is a must-read. I wrote a review on this book which you can read here.
Although I love reading, I do find that my time is getting more and more restricted and a book that I would have read in a few days in the past is taking me weeks to finish. When I heard that David Batstone’s book, “Not for Sale: The Return of the Global Slave Trade – and How We Can Fight It” was available in an audio format, I decided to venture on this new road of “reading”. I spend literally hours on the road every week and I decided that I might as well use this “dead” time to listen to someone else reading a book which I wanted to read. I downloaded the audio book from http://christianaudio.com, copied the MP3s to eight CDs and started listening to the book each time that I had to drive somewhere.
David Batstone’s book is not for the squeamish. On more than one occasion I didn’t know whether I wanted to cry or whether I wanted to vomit, when listening to real-life accounts of how people, mostly poor people, are being exploited in various ways. There’s stories of children being kidnapped and used as soldiers in Uganda. There’s stories of families, including four-year old children being used as slaves in rice mills in Asian countries. There’s stories of children abducted and used in the sex trade in various countries, such as Thailand and Cambodia. But there’s also stories of the very same things happening on our doorsteps, with examples from cities like Los Angeles, Chicago and Washington DC.
But there’s also stories of hope. Organisations such as Gary Haugan’s International Justice Mission are discussed at length as well as many individuals who had made it their life vocation, in spite of death threats, to expose the criminals and syndicates involved in human trafficking and to get organisations such as the UN involved in speaking out against it. I was challenged to sign a petition on World Vision’s website to end child soldier use. The challenge was to get 1 million signatures in order to move Congress in the USA to adopt laws prohibiting the use of children as soldiers. When I entered the website I was pleasantly surprised to read: “Good News! Congress has passed the Child Soldier Prevention Act!” Although my signature won’t make a difference in this regard, I did join the cause on Facebook: Not for Sale.
It is said that at least 27 million people worldwide are living in slavery today. It is encouraging to hear how individual Christians, churches and other Christian organisations are also becoming involved in the fight against this crime against humanity.
Batstone’s book is highly recommended – in either regular book form or in audio format. The reader, Lloyd James, by the way, is excellent. I assume that not all audio books would be of the same quality as this one, but I thoroughly enjoyed listening to it – in spite of the distressing contents.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009 Posted by | Book Review, Hope, Mission, Mission Sites, Missionary Organisations, Social issues, Theology | 2 Comments

Transforming Mission – Chapter 1

My oldest son, Cobus, together with some friends, have started a discussion group on David Bosch’s magnum opus, Transforming Mission. To top it, they are extremely privileged to have David’s wife, Annemie, as part of this discussion group. They are meeting from time to time to discuss a specific chapter from the book and then they blog about their findings. You can read more about this exciting venture here. I’ve asked Cobus to allow me (and I assume others would also be welcome) who do not have the privilege to meet with this group but who want to read the book on their own, to take part in this discussion by way of our blogs. So here goes:
Perhaps some personal background may be of interest. The first time I read Transforming Mission was before it was published. I was busy with my doctorate in Missiology and although Prof Bosch was not my promoter, I regularly visited him, sometimes at his office and sometimes at his home, to discuss certain issues with him. He had also done research on the topic of Mission and Eschatology (the theme of my thesis) and often told me about his own findings about this topic as he was busy writing his book. And each time I was there he would print out a few chapters of the manuscript so that I could use it for my own research. (I just find it incredible that he was so unselfish with his academic knowledge!)
Chapter 1 has as its title: Reflections on the New Testament and in this chapter Bosch touches on a number of issues, each of which one can blog about. I’ve decided to concentrate on two paragraphs, from page 28-31, where he writes about the all-inclusiveness of Jesus’ mission as well as His attitude towards the gentiles. I consider this important, mostly because a topic like this can lead to great misunderstanding. In 1988 I was part of a synod where the Bible Study was led by David Bosch and where I, for the first time, heard him speak about this topic. I actually urge you to read more about this remarkable time here.
When speaking about the all-inclusiveness of Jesus’ mission, it may be easy to think that this would mean that anyone, regardless of their faith or relationship with God, is automatically “saved”. This, however, is not what I heard him saying nor how he writes about the topic. Although, what Bosch is saying when he discusses the topic, could be considered as a universal truth, I think it is also important to understand the time-frame within which it was written (although, I am convinced that, had he been alive today, he would still have maintained virtually the same viewpoint.) In 1988, when he discussed the topic in the Bible Study mentioned above, and in the years leading up to the publishing of the book in 1991, South Africa was virtually caught up in a civil war. A state of emergency had been announced in 1985. The effects of the political turmoil was felt even in the church. In the same year the Kairos Document was published, which challenged the church in one paragraph to “demand that the oppressed stand up for their rights and wage a struggle against their oppressors.” In 1986 the Belhar Confession was accepted by a church consisting predominantly of coloured members in which it was stated, amongst other, “that God is on the side of those who suffer physically, those who are poor and those who have had injustice done to them.”
The situation in 1988 was thus one of great tension between the different race groups in South Africa. The Whites had previously considered themselves almost to be “God’s chosen people” (I know I’m generalizing when I say this) and the Blacks and coloured people who had been the victims of great oppression in the past, now started seeing themselves as being on the side of God (while God had obviously chosen against the White people who were seen as the oppressors.)
It was within this situation that David Bosch stood up and announced that God’s love is all-inclusive. Jesus did not only love one group of people, but specifically chose disciples from a variety of groups. And this is how I understand it when Bosch says that Jesus’ mission is all-inclusive. Jesus came for the rich and the poor, for Black and White (and whatever other race group there may be), for tax-collectors and other sinners. No group has the right to claim that Jesus only loves them. Because His love is all-inclusive, anybody who accepts the sacrificial death of Jesus unto salvation, will be saved – even the gentiles, as Bosch explains in the paragraph on pages 29-31.

Saturday, March 14, 2009 Posted by | Africa, Book Review, Church, Cross-cultural experiences, David Bosch, Eschatology, Grace, Meetings, Mission, Social issues, Theology | 1 Comment

James Autry: the Servant Leader

Some leaders are born while others are developed. And there are thousands of books available to teach people how to become better leaders. I’ve read many of them. Some are good. Some are less helpful. But James Autry’s book, The Servant Leader, is, as far as I am concerned, a winner. I am of the opinion that every leader, be it in the corporate world or in the church, should read this book. It’s not written from a Christian perspective. In fact, the author never mentions anything about his own religious beliefs, but what amazed me was to find how this book brings into practice the principles of leadership as taught to us in the Bible.
I myself have often spoken about the necessity of servant leadership, especially in the church but also in the corporate world where Christians often fill leadership positions. In fact, I published a post on my blog on 14 April last year, with this exact heading: “Servant Leadership” and on another occasion I tried to explain something of how we try and put servant leadership into practice in Swaziland in my post with the title: “Washing each other’s feet”. Each time we train a new group of home-based caregivers, I refer to the occasion when Jesus washed his disciples’ feet and when he said, in Matthew 18:4: “Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
What makes this book by James Autry authentic, is that he himself applied these principles in real-life situations in various leadership positions that he filled and he also coached others to apply the same principles, with good results. And in most other books about leadership, the authors only write about successes, while Autry also writes about the problems which may occur – such as layoffs, legal battles, personal problems in the lives of employees and their family members, and many more. As I read this, I realised that he was echoing many principles which I try to apply (with varying success) in our ministry in Swaziland. Working with volunteers make it both easier and more difficult for a leader. It is easier in the sense that the people who are doing the work actually want to be there. They’re not doing anything because they are forced to do so through some contract. But it is also more difficult because people can leave at any time, without fearing that they will lose their income (because there ís no income).
I’ve had to make some serious decisions about my personal leadership style and I have chosen for the servant model, believing that this is the closest to the model that Jesus demonstrated. And I believe that we are reaping the fruit because of this decision.
Servant leadership is scarce amongst church leaders. And for this reason I want to recommend that every church leader read this book. If it doesn’t change your life, hopefully it will at least get you thinking about your leadership style.

Monday, March 2, 2009 Posted by | Book Review, Church, Home-based Caring, Leadership, Mission, Swaziland, Theology | Leave a comment