One of the challenges of ministry - maybe especially in serving in a place surrounded by great needs - is to figure out how to spend our time. Out of the thousand good things that we could be doing, what are the things that we should be involved in? The answer to that question has evolved over time as we've struggled to discern how to have the biggest impact both personally and organizationally.
I recently listened to a podcast by Andy Stanley where he talked about the need to 'simply lead.' He shared how the study of leadership can get overly complex and there are times when we need to get things down to the basic level. He offered three simple questions a leader can use to examine his or her work in an organization. It was a good exercise for me to sit down and try to come up with a short answer to each of those questions.
1. What are you doing? (What does your organization do?)
This question addresses the area of objective or goal. I would say this: "Our team works towards cultivating communities of faith among the Makua-Metto of Cabo Delgado that will exist long after we are gone and who see their mission as developing disciples of Jesus around them."
Our team's mission statement puts it this way: "Disciple 30 men and women by emphasizing prayer and Bible study so that Cabo Delgado will have 25 mature churches that are reproducing and making disciples on their own and reaching the next generation."
2. Why are you doing it? (What would go missing if your organization disappeared?)
Now we look more closely at motivation. The 'why' is what gives us the fire to stick with it and push through tough challenges. My answer to this question would be: "Because the Makua-Metto are oppressed by dark forces (both physical and spiritual), we want to partner with God in setting them free and helping them live well in the Kingdom of God."
The second part of this question is difficult, especially for a group who is ideally trying to 'work themselves out of a job.' But I think one thing that has set us apart in this region has been a desire to work in the local language and plant churches in unreached areas.
Recently we hosted a meeting of church leaders where we talked openly for the first time in a this kind of gathering about the possibility of our team phasing out and leaving sometime in 2018 or beyond. The next day one of the participants, a young man named Amissi joined me as I went down to teach a seminar with church leaders in Namuno. As we bumped along the road I asked about his thoughts about the previous day's meeting. He told me, "Well, last night I went home and picked up my Bible. I was planning on reading from the Old Testament but my Bible fell open to this strange story of Elijah and Elisha. Elijah was about to leave and Elisha wanted that same prophetic spirit to fall on him and through some strange circumstances God gave it to him. So, last night I started praying that your team's missionary spirit would fall on me." Wow! I about stopped the truck when I heard him say that. Lord, please do that! Our team realizes that the way we do things is not reproducible, but what we are doing must be reproduced. And that depends on investing in people who are passionate about rescuing and blessing people who are struggling to escape the darkness.
3. Where do you fit in? (And do the people who report to you know where they fit in?)
The final question's challenge is to examine one's specific role. This one has taken me the longest to get a handle on, but over the past few years I've been specifically asking God to help me be good at three things - discipling, teaching and leading. So I would answer the question this way: "The biggest contribution I can make comes through intentional discipleship of those who will disciple others, equipping the church through transformational teaching, and consistently modeling apostolic/servant leadership." As far as whether the people we work with know where they fit in, I would say that dealing with an all-volunteer organization means that definition of roles is challenging but still necessary. I would say that those we work closest with have a greater sense of this and we often try to name the things we see them doing well and the contributions they make to the church.
May God help us answer these questions well and lead in ways that bless His people!
Grace and Peace,