Freedom To Lead International https://freedomtolead.net UNLEASHING POTENTIAL IN STORYCENTRIC COMMUNITIES Wed, 17 Apr 2019 03:11:21 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://freedomtolead.net/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/cropped-Site_Image-32x32.png Freedom To Lead International https://freedomtolead.net 32 32 A False Hope https://freedomtolead.net/false-hope/ https://freedomtolead.net/false-hope/#respond Tue, 16 Apr 2019 13:06:51 +0000 https://freedomtolead.net/?p=10260

**The following post is the written text from a Palm Sunday sermon by Rick Sessoms given to a group of church and ministry leaders this past week. These men and women serve Jesus in the hard places of this world. Day of Expectation On a day filled with expectation, Jesus made His way to Jerusalem. His followers believed the Kingdom was about to be reborn. Those marching with Jesus had seen him raise Lazarus from

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Jesus’ Journey to Jerusalem scene from “The Jesus Film”

**The following post is the written text from a Palm Sunday sermon by Rick Sessoms given to a group of church and ministry leaders this past week. These men and women serve Jesus in the hard places of this world.


Day of Expectation

On a day filled with expectation, Jesus made His way to Jerusalem. His followers believed the Kingdom was about to be reborn. Those marching with Jesus had seen him raise Lazarus from the dead a few days before. You can understand their excitement. Along the parade’s path, crowds were shouting praises and dancing and singing, escorting Jesus on His “triumphal entry.”

“Hosanna!” they sang, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” Spreading their palm branches along the processional. We celebrate this on Palm Sunday. As parades go, it wasn’t very impressive. But for those who marched into the city with Jesus that day, it held all the promise of a new beginning.

Why was the crowd so joyous? What was it that created the excitement in these people, that caused them to sing, “Blessed is the King. Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”? What was it that inspired them?

In a word, it was “hope.” The people saw in Jesus the fulfillment of their dream. In Him they saw a Liberator who would lead them to freedom from the enemy Romans who occupied their land. They envisioned a Messiah who would lead them to take back what was rightfully theirs. They saw a warrior king who would rally them against their oppressors. One who would spill the blood of the Romans in the name of God.

And they had good reason to think that Jesus was the One they awaited. Jesus did fulfill the words of the Old Testament prophet Zechariah who spoke of Israel’s promised king coming to His people riding on a donkey’s colt.

When the people saw Jesus fulfilling the ancient prediction,, they couldn’t contain themselves. They were convinced He was the Promised One who would topple the old order and initiate the new. “Messiah has come! Deliverance is in sight.” A return to Israel’s glory days when we were respected and powerful. Back before the centuries of shame. This new day was long overdue.

When Jesus rode into Jerusalem, the crowds saw in the the Kingdom afresh. And they were beside themselves. Their hope was that God would rule again.

A False Hope

But it was a false hope. For soon their cheers choked in their throats. It took only days for this joyous crowd to swell into an angry mob. The people’s song of expectation turned into a horrible chant: “Crucify Him. We have no king but Caesar.” I imagine it was with a laugh a few days later when Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews? You, dusty little man, with no weapon, no army, King of the Jews?”

And so the scene is repeated, played over in each generation, year after year. The celebration of Palm Sunday. But celebration is quickly replaced by lamentation. And the hopes of many died that week..

Like the crowd on Palm Sunday, many Christian leaders begin with high hopes and strong resolve. They are eager to shout, “Hosanna!” Their excitement is contagious. But then comes a day when they understand that they haven’t quite counted the cost. Now, it seems, the enemy has the upper hand. And they think, “Maybe it’s time to take up another vision? To put aside naivete for a more ‘practical’ approach? The powers-that-be have made clear who is in charge. What we thought was triumph was only false hope.”

But before we draw the final conclusion, let’s look once more. In one sense, Palm Sunday is a story of false hope. But at second glance, Palm Sunday is also a foretaste of things to come.

This day reminds us, in the words of William Imhoff,

that we cannot move from Palm Sunday to Easter without passing over Golgotha and through the tomb.”

And Imhoff also says,

“Only when we have (personally) mastered that lesson are we free to live abundantly.”

Waiting

When I was a church pastor, my assistant was a man named Jonathan. Jonathan and his wife Mary prepared to be missionaries to Africa. Not long after marriage, they had a baby girl. Soon after that God gave them a beautiful little boy. Several months after Nathan was born, they discovered that one of the walls in his heart was undeveloped. They were told, “We need to do open-heart surgery.” They were told, “This will take care of Nathan’s problem.” Then they could be on their way to Nigeria as scheduled.”

The church prayed that Nathan would be healed and the operation would be unnecessary, but God saw fit to allow the surgery to be performed. The surgery went well. Nathan recovered more quickly than expected. After the surgery, we praised the Lord together as a church. “Thank you, Lord, that’s behind us. Now we’ll see Nathan blossom into a healthy child, and Jonathan and Mary can be on their way to Nigeria.”

But it was a false hope. Nathan continued to have fevers. He had a hard time with infections. Jonathan and Mary took him to a doctor. They were told that it will probably take several years for Nathan to get well, so their plans for going to Africa would have to be put on hold.

That was 27 years ago. Jonathan and Mary are still waiting.

To First Pass the Cross and the Tomb

For others here who are enduring a difficult circumstance in your life today, don’t despair. Because today, Palm Sunday is a symbol of things to come, of things as they can be someday, perhaps not yet, but someday. For on Palm Sunday, Jesus did not just ride into a “Holy City;” He rode to a destiny to assure that the Kingdom will come to those with faith.

Even as the cross throws a long shadow over the Palm Sunday parade, and our celebration today will be interrupted this week by the tears of Good Friday, nevertheless, let this day encourage you to walk in faith toward the hill of suffering, .
And perhaps Jesus is saying to you on this Palm Sunday, “Someday. Not yet. Wait a little longer. You must first pass the cross and the tomb.” But wait a little longer, because Easter is coming.

 

 

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These Are Their Stories – Stephen https://freedomtolead.net/these-are-their-stories-stephen/ https://freedomtolead.net/these-are-their-stories-stephen/#respond Wed, 03 Apr 2019 14:21:28 +0000 https://freedomtolead.net/?p=10253

  Throughout the course of this year, we at Freedom to Lead will be intermittently featuring segments called “These Are Their Stories.” We will be telling stories of men and women throughout Asia and Africa who have been impacted by God’s work in their lives and leadership through Freedom to Lead. In our first edition we heard from “Owen” in Zimbabwe. This week we hear the story of “Stephen” from Nigeria. Stephen just started participating

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Throughout the course of this year, we at Freedom to Lead will be intermittently featuring segments called “These Are Their Stories.” We will be telling stories of men and women throughout Asia and Africa who have been impacted by God’s work in their lives and leadership through Freedom to Lead.

In our first edition we heard from “Owen” in Zimbabwe. This week we hear the story of “Stephen” from Nigeria. Stephen just started participating in Freedom to Lead’s The Garden Project. He is the husband of one, father of two. Stephen works as a church planter among his people in Nigeria.

After spending a few hours that morning discussing Leadership for a Healthy Church through stories, images and music, Stephen leaned over the table to me and said with light in his eyes,

“I have been craving for something like this! Something that I can take back to my people. I’m just getting started in my ministry and this will be very helpful.”

He went on to share his story with me.

Stephen’s Story

Like many places in Africa, Nigeria operates regionally by tribe. There are “Muslim” tribes and there are “Christian” tribes. Whoever is dominant in that region maintains the power. Stephen was born in the north where the power belongs to the Muslims. That means that the Muslims have a say in what kind of job one is allowed to have once he reaches age. Stephen grew up with a military father and an Anglican mother. From the time he was young he knew he wanted to help people. He thought that meant he would become a doctor someday. However, the Muslims in his area would not allow Christians to have “professional” jobs. Not sure of the options that he had, he discovered that he had an uncle living in the south. His uncle took him under his care and became Stephen’s guardian. Stephen was able to get an education in the south. His uncle’s Christian influence encouraged Stephen to walk away from medicine and begin a journey toward studying to be an Anglican priest.

But Stephen began to discover that he had different giftings from formal priesthood. People would come to his room at school for bible study. And then more people would come. And the next week even more people would come. From a young age he was planting a church without realizing that’s what he was doing. The school didn’t like what was happening and told him to stop. He tried to stop, but the people kept coming. One day he met someone from the Church of the Nazarene. Different from his Anglican upbringing, there was something appealing to him about the Nazarenes.

The story from here gets a little confusing. Stephen was out of school at this point and was pastoring a church of his own. Keep in mind he was now in the “Christian” south of Nigeria. Perhaps Christian in name only, the chief of the town began to get agitated with Stephen and his church. Then people from another “church” went to the chief of the town and collaborated together with members of the military. In the middle of the night they came to Stephen’s house and beat him and tortured him. He spent three days in the hospital recovering from his wounds. He has scars on his back today as a testament. But this did not stop Stephen from pastoring his flock. He remains there to this day.

I should probably point out that when this all got back to his military father he was not too happy. Let’s just say that he had a “word” with the chief of the town and they haven’t bothered Stephen much since.

We Have a Lot to Learn

As Stephen finished his story he said, “what you are doing in the west is very important to bring these materials for us because we have a lot to learn from the western church.” I took that opportunity to say with utmost sincerity, “No, Stephen, we have a lot to learn from YOU. At the beginning of this week remember how we counted around the room and to discover that a total of 620 years of ministry experience are represented among the leaders here? 620 years! And your story, Stephen? It needs to be told. Much of the American church is in decline. We need to learn from leaders like you who serve in the Global South. Freedom to Lead is not here in Dakar just to give you materials to take back to your churches. We are asking you to be contributors as well. No, Stephen…we have a lot to learn from you.”

He looked at me with tears in his eyes when he told me that nobody had said it that way before. To be told that he is not just a receiver, but a contributor moved him greatly.

We hear a lot in the news about Nigeria these days. We’ve been hearing stories lately of fundamentalist Muslims ransacking Christian villages and churches and killing the people. What neglects to be mentioned is that “Christians” are also beating their own. We put the face of Stephen as the poster child for the persecuted church. We should certainly be invited to pray for Christians in Nigeria. But after meeting Stephen this week, “the persecuted church” is not ALL that he is. That’s not all of his identity. Stephen is a man full of joy in the Lord. He is a man who delights in his children. He is animated as he tells stories and role plays dramas. He is a deep thinker and passionate follower of Jesus. He doesn’t’ shy away from the hard questions. He has a true desire to learn what it means to be a Christ-centered leader.

Closing Words

We talked with Stephen again last week. He said to us,

“I am putting plans together to begin (FTL) conferences to spread the word across my country beginning this month. I am blessed to have been associated with this. You are changing the world for Christ.”

We have a lot to learn from our brother Stephen.

 

 

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These Are Their Stories – Owen https://freedomtolead.net/these-are-their-stories/ https://freedomtolead.net/these-are-their-stories/#respond Mon, 18 Mar 2019 18:52:54 +0000 https://freedomtolead.net/?p=10234

Throughout the course of this year, we at Freedom to Lead will be intermittently featuring segments called “These Are Their Stories.” We will be telling stories of men and women throughout Asia and Africa who have been impacted by God’s work in their lives and leadership through Freedom to Lead. In this first edition of “These Are Their Stories” we hear from “Owen” (not his real name). Owen is a young leader in his late

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Throughout the course of this year, we at Freedom to Lead will be intermittently featuring segments called “These Are Their Stories.” We will be telling stories of men and women throughout Asia and Africa who have been impacted by God’s work in their lives and leadership through Freedom to Lead.

In this first edition of “These Are Their Stories” we hear from “Owen” (not his real name). Owen is a young leader in his late 30s who just started participating in Freedom to Lead’s The Garden Project. He and his wife have 4-year old twin girls. Owen works with the Church of the Nazarene among his people in Zimbabwe. He tells these stories in his own words.


In November 2018 I had the opportunity to attend a training workshop on leadership which was conducted by the Freedom to Lead International® (FTL). The FTL team took us on a one-week intensive leadership training program which helped me have a new perspective on leadership and how I can influence my world. Delivery and presentation of the lessons was storycentric whereby a biblical text was taken from the Bible and lessons/concepts were thereafter applied from the text to real life experiences.

From that workshop on Leadership for a Healthy Church my mind has been enlightened to a new way of effectively leading people to a living a fulfilling life; a life that has been God destined and is full of His presence. This is a life that is characterized by fully yielding to God’s will and purpose for our lives such that we allow Him to work in and through us.

Beginning at Home

As the saying goes, “charity begins at home,” My first port of call was to share with my wife everything that I learned during the workshop. The principles were so simple yet profound, as I later on realized during this time of reflection and discussion. As the head of my family, I am applying the principles of good leadership to my wife and to my children to ensure that each one of them sees the possibilities of who God created them to be.

To the Local Church

I am a pastor of a local church in Zimbabwe. As the pastor, I have realized that I must train the church leadership and the entire congregation on many aspects of the church. However, through the lessons learned from FTL, my perspective on how I should handle the gaps has shifted. I learned the principles of the “rice field” and “water pumps” during the course. A rice field is nurtured to grow and produce results, whose yield or produce is entirely based on God’s will and purpose. On the other hand, a water pump kind of leadership would continuously be pushing the people being led. This has the negative effect of making them feel inadequate and can potentially cause them to give up on the possibility of achieving anything. Hence, the style of leadership I am now building and nurturing is that of the rice field. I am practicing the principle by being exemplary to the people in the local church board and to the entire congregation.

In the few months since I participated in this program I have carried out both formal lessons to the leadership of the church as well as more informal lessons with the rest of the congregation, using materials, knowledge, and wisdom gained from this FTL workshop.

Through FTL, I have learned — and am still learning —the joys and advantages of servant leadership as opposed to having a “big boss” mentality. I try to give my two junior pastors opportunities to exercise their God given gifts without feeling threatened. Their suggestions and contributions are welcomed to encourage their full participation and involvement, which will inevitably lead to their growth.

And Beyond

As I prayed about it, God put it in my heart to record myself teaching FTL materials. I have come up with 7-minute recordings of the FTL materials that I am sending to my friends to listen. I also have a Facebook account from where I intend to start posting some of the recordings I have made of the lessons. With the rapid global developments in technology, I have realized that with audio and video recorded lessons I have been able to reach out to many people who are not in my vicinity. These lessons are also very short and exciting such that they do not take too much of anyone’s bandwidth

In January of 2019, I had the opportunity of meeting about 40 pastors and church leaders for a formal session on Leadership using FTL materials. From the feedback I received from all the pastors and leaders it was truly a valuable lesson. It brought a different perspective to their way of leading the church and their way of participating to what the Holy Spirit is doing in the life of the church in general.

Currently I am running a program for training pastors in Zimbabwe for the Diploma in Theology/Ministry. I work with a team of 4 other lecturers. First and foremost I have purposed to train the other trainers the concepts learned at FTL. As a team leader, I have also modeled the concepts in the style of leadership. Everyone is involved in decision-making and in executing them. Everyone is an equal participator and contributor to the success of the training program. Currently we have in our database about 34 students studying to be pastors within our district to whom we are exposing to lessons learned from FTL.

A Personal Mission

In conclusion, I would say taking part in the Freedom to Lead program is helping me to become a good and effective leader who is not only concerned about my own growth and development but also that of the people I lead. Leadership is not about being a “one man show” but one of moving in one direction with all.

I do realize that the work on leadership development is a process and not an event and by the grace of God it is my purpose and desire to continue on this road. My passion is to be used of God to train a lot of leaders and pastors into the ministry of the Word. I believe the only way the church will be able to fulfill the Great Commission is by training more pastors and in good administration. FTL is the much-needed iron-sharpening tool that I desperately needed. I look forward to further time with the FTL team over these next several years.

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The Year Ahead https://freedomtolead.net/the-year-ahead/ https://freedomtolead.net/the-year-ahead/#respond Mon, 04 Mar 2019 16:22:52 +0000 https://freedomtolead.net/?p=10228

  As winter creeps slowly into spring, Freedom to Lead is also experiencing a new season. Our travel calendars are packed full from now until December. We are grateful for being able to continue what was birthed back in 2009. At the same time we wonder how to cover all the opportunities. New initiatives are being started and new dreams are being explored. 2019 is a year of possibility. This year Freedom to Lead will be

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With leaders in Togo last month

 

As winter creeps slowly into spring, Freedom to Lead is also experiencing a new season. Our travel calendars are packed full from now until December. We are grateful for being able to continue what was birthed back in 2009. At the same time we wonder how to cover all the opportunities. New initiatives are being started and new dreams are being explored. 2019 is a year of possibility.

This year Freedom to Lead will be celebrating ten years. In the coming months you will be hearing more about this as you will be invited to celebrate with us. Celebrate what God has done. Celebrate how The Garden Project has taken root in churches and communities. Celebrate that we get to see impact on the lives of ministry leaders around the world as they are set free to be all that God would have them be. 2019 is a year of celebration.

Changes are on the horizon. Big changes. As we cross from one decade of ministry into a new decade of ministry we are at the forefront of an ever changing world. This means FTL and the organization has to evolve accordingly. The continuing rise of globalization and the role of the internet poses great opportunities…and great risks. While some regions of the world are becoming more open, other regions are tightening up. 2019 is a year to trust God as never before.

 As we celebrate the past and trust God for the future, of this much we can be certain: Our mission of cultivating competent Christ-centered leaders to unleash their potential to impact local communities for the whole gospel has not changed. The methods may change. The strategies may change. The countries of service may change. FTL’s team may change. But our mission remains the same. For as long as God wills it.

We have a lot to look forward to in 2019. We also have a lot that we are uncertain about in 2019. But our prayer is that FTL will remain faithful to the mission that God has placed in our hearts. Until all have heard.

 

 

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The Sleepy Invasion https://freedomtolead.net/sleepy-invasion/ https://freedomtolead.net/sleepy-invasion/#respond Wed, 26 Dec 2018 17:10:02 +0000 https://freedomtolead.net/?p=9594 The Sleepy Invasion The Stage was set. God was about to make His move, to enter time. Would He come with mighty wonders and signs? Would He light the skies as far as one could see? Would angels shout His arrival with trumpets and drums? Would the whole earth rock from the impact of his landing? The Great Sustainer, by whom and through whom and for whom are all things. The Almighty who is more powerful

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The Sleepy Invasion

The Stage was set.
God was about to make His move, to enter time.

Would He come with mighty wonders and signs? Would He light the skies as far as one could see? Would angels shout His arrival with trumpets and drums? Would the whole earth rock from the impact of his landing?

The Great Sustainer, by whom and through whom and for whom are all things. The Almighty who is more powerful than any army. The One who holds in His hand all life. The moment came for His invasion.

And the only sound we hear is the gentle breathing of a sleeping baby.

While most everyone’s attention was on Governor Quirinius’ census, few noticed the birth of all births lying in a cattle trough behind a hotel in Bethlehem. In the words of Martin Luther, “He whom the world could not enwrap / yonder lies in Mary’s lap.”

The baby in Mary’s lap reminds us that Truth and Virtue are not determined by the amplified voices, the powerful, or the majority. Only through God’s gracious self-disclosure through His Son who came to live among us can we know the Way and the Life that sets us free.

On behalf of the staff at Freedom to Lead International, may you experience a Christ-filled Christmas and a blessed year ahead.

Rick Sessoms
President, Freedom to Lead International

 

 

 

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Savoring New Stories that are Old Stories https://freedomtolead.net/savoring-new-stories-that-are-old-stories/ https://freedomtolead.net/savoring-new-stories-that-are-old-stories/#respond Mon, 17 Dec 2018 10:00:42 +0000 https://freedomtolead.net/?p=9527

Before Luke launches into Christmas, he issues a call to remember. Luke starts with a new story that is really a familiar story. It’s a story about a childless, old couple. Luke called them “righteous.” They were careful to follow all God’s commandments. They were good people, models of piety. But now they are old and childless. One day God sent his messenger, the angel Gabriel, to Zechariah, and scared the old man half to

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Savoring New Stories that are Old Stories

Before Luke launches into Christmas, he issues a call to remember. Luke starts with a new story that is really a familiar story. It’s a story about a childless, old couple. Luke called them “righteous.” They were careful to follow all God’s commandments. They were good people, models of piety. But now they are old and childless.

One day God sent his messenger, the angel Gabriel, to Zechariah, and scared the old man half to death. Gabriel’s message: Your prayers have been answered. Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will call him John. Zechariah had understandable doubts. Would his wife really celebrate in the tradition of Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, and Hannah?

Luke is telling a new story while allowing us to savor an old one. He invites his reader to remember God’s kept covenant. Zechariah knew the old stories. Maybe this is why Zechariah didn’t laugh – like his ancestors – at Gabriel’s news. Instead, Zechariah quietly remembered, then watched God fulfill his promise.

Luke reminds us that remembering our story shapes our present, and in turn bolsters our hope for the future. Six months after appearing to Zechariah, Gabriel carried another message to Mary, the mother of Jesus. She believed the message because she knew the old story: nothing is impossible with God.

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Will You Give Us a Seat at the Table? https://freedomtolead.net/will-you-give-us-a-seat-at-the-table/ https://freedomtolead.net/will-you-give-us-a-seat-at-the-table/#respond Tue, 11 Dec 2018 12:44:00 +0000 https://freedomtolead.net/?p=9563

As we approach the Christmas holidays, we can’t help thinking back to our Thanksgiving. Uncle Ed likes white meat; cousin Megan dark meat. Oh yes, can’t forget the onion casserole. And we must remember to get a highchair for little Chrissy. Let’s not forget that Aunt Beth needs someone to pick her up. And we need to make the dining room table bigger. Where did we put those extension slats? It’s all so busy but so exciting

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As we approach the Christmas holidays, we can’t help thinking back to our Thanksgiving. Uncle Ed likes white meat; cousin Megan dark meat. Oh yes, can’t forget the onion casserole. And we must remember to get a highchair for little Chrissy. Let’s not forget that Aunt Beth needs someone to pick her up. And we need to make the dining room table bigger. Where did we put those extension slats?
 
It’s all so busy but so exciting – great food, familiar conversation. Catching up with those we haven’t seen in a while. And, at the center of all of it, thanking the Lord for all He has provided.
 
Could I ask you, in this season between Thanksgiving and Christmas, as you gather with family and friends this year, to “give FTL a seat at the table?” To remember Freedom to Lead International in your prayer as you sit down to eat?

I don’t know about your family, but after a sumptuous holiday dinner, one of the “blessings” I look forward to are the leftovers! Honestly, I think great meals are even better after they’ve had opportunity to sit in the fridge for a day or two.
 
Think about it. Leftovers are in no way an after-thought. They’re deliberate; meant for extending the joy of a bounteous past blessing. So, how about some spiritual leftovers? How about taking from this year’s bounteous provision the Lord has spread on your table and investing a generous portion of it with Freedom to Lead International to build leaders?

Thanksgiving is over and Christmas is coming. You can extend the blessing to future leaders in Asia, India and Africa with a deliberate and bounteous gift.

Freedom to Lead International is being inundated by appeals from ministry networks that need to raise up strong Christ-centered leaders who will plant churches in difficult places. Because there is a greater likelihood that strong Christ-centered leaders will lead healthier churches. And healthy churches have a better chance of drawing more people to Christ and having a positive impact in their communities.

We never know how many “shopping days” are left between now and Christmas, and between us and eternity. But with your investment, many more people will have a better chance to hear the greatest story ever told. 

We’re so very thankful for you! It is with partners like you that we are able to mold men and women of influence into Christ-centered leaders.

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Thanksgiving Looks A Little Different This Year https://freedomtolead.net/thanksgiving2018/ https://freedomtolead.net/thanksgiving2018/#respond Mon, 26 Nov 2018 10:00:30 +0000 https://freedomtolead.net/?p=9498

Thanksgiving looks a little different this year. Today I am exchanging turkey, stuffing, and pumpkin for ugali, chapatti, and mandazi. Instead of watching schoolchildren perform plays about pilgrims and Indians I am watching a host of nationalities and tribal groups as they role play stories of old. But one thing remains the same: I am deeply grateful. This week Freedom to Lead is in Kenya. Next week we will go on to Zambia. In these

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Thanksgiving looks a little different this year.

Today I am exchanging turkey, stuffing, and pumpkin for ugali, chapatti, and mandazi. Instead of watching schoolchildren perform plays about pilgrims and Indians I am watching a host of nationalities and tribal groups as they role play stories of old. But one thing remains the same: I am deeply grateful.

This week Freedom to Lead is in Kenya. Next week we will go on to Zambia. In these weeks I am rubbing shoulders with men and women leaders from many nations who are deeply committed to the work of Christ and to leading well in their spaces. And I am deeply grateful.

My large extended family in Florida is gathering potluck-style on folded tables outside. And while I miss being with them this year, I have a different kind of family right across the table from me here.

My Family Across the Table This Year

My brother from Rwanda talks about how in a few short years his church community went from having 80 baptisms over an 8-year period to 8000 baptisms just within the past few years. His church network is experiencing a lot of changes and he’s asking a lot of questions throughout our module on Leading Change.

My Kenyan sister from the north talks about how she has a great desire to revert away from traditional models to disciple making movements that focus on mentoring. However, many within the community are very resistant to this. How does she lead people through this change?

At the other end of the table are two brothers from Uganda and Congo. They talk about house church movements in their countries that look a lot like the churches of the first century. They don’t get caught up in positional places such as lead pastor, elders, and deacons, nor do they spend a lot of time arguing over whether certain people should be in places of leadership. They are simply the church.

After diving deep into the story of Jesus’ call to Peter from his boat of fish in Luke 5, I learn that there are fishermen villages in Tanzania that are the home to many riff-raffs (namely, people hiding from the law). My Tanzanian brother wants to start a ministry there. These fishermen aren’t exactly your typical churchgoers (never mind the dangers of “turf wars” when coming upon their territory), so how will the congregation respond to this ministry?

My friend from the Maasai tribe in Kenya talks about wrestling with how to lead his young church community through deep issues, especially in a culture that honors men taking up to seven wives! You can’t just abandon your six other wives when you come to Christ. Talk about leading people through change! There’s nothing clear-cut about any of this.

And then there’s my friend from Ethiopia. Without getting into specifics, he came out of a “false” church when he dared proclaim that he followed the leading of the Holy Spirit rather than man. He talks about how within this “false” church there is a wave of persecution happening right now, but he and his people have a strong burden to reach the people within these structures.

This Thanksgiving I sit across the table from these men and women and I am deeply grateful.

I am deeply grateful to even be able to sit among these world changers and be invited into the conversation about leadership in the church.


As we gather around the Thanksgiving table – however form or fashion that table might be shaped – we, too, are brought together by a story. It’s a story of people coming to a New World and finding compassion among the local people who’ve resided there for generations. And it was in the middle of a war that divided the nation that a President commemorated this story as a national day to give thanks.

Today – with my East African brothers and sisters nearby and with my family afar – I am deeply grateful.

 

 

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Investing In My Twelve Year Old Self https://freedomtolead.net/mr-rhodes/ https://freedomtolead.net/mr-rhodes/#respond Mon, 19 Nov 2018 10:00:23 +0000 https://freedomtolead.net/?p=8829

As I approach Thanksgiving this year in the context of being a member of a ministry that seeks to raise up Christ-centered leaders, I think of a man who poured character and principles of leadership into my own life. Mr. Rhodes Bob Rhodes was my scoutmaster in the little town where I grew up. I can still see him in my mind’s eye, standing in front of the small group of us rowdy twelve- and

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As I approach Thanksgiving this year in the context of being a member of a ministry that seeks to raise up Christ-centered leaders, I think of a man who poured character and principles of leadership into my own life.

Mr. Rhodes

Bob Rhodes was my scoutmaster in the little town where I grew up. I can still see him in my mind’s eye, standing in front of the small group of us rowdy twelve- and thirteen-year olds. I can still picture him speaking of the importance of being men of excellence, doing acts of kindness, and putting others before ourselves. Every Monday night he would meet us in the basement of the Lutheran church and help us work on how to be better citizens. He would teach us how to address our elders or someone on the phone. Every year he took us to camp and spent a week hiking in the woods. During this week he would do things like point out poisonous plants and showing us how to apply a tourniquet should the need ever arise.

But There Was a Problem

But there was a problem. I didn’t want to learn. I wanted to play. I was a troublemaker. I would be whispering the latest joke I heard when Mr. Rhodes was talking to us. I thought it was cute to pull the chair out from behind a buddy who was about to sit down. I thought it was cool to pull out my Scout knife and try to pitch it into the wall to see if it would stick.

Finally, the day came when Mr. Rhodes pulled me aside. He sat me in a chair in front of his own and told me, eyeball to eyeball, that I was one of his favorite young men. He said that out of all the boys in the troop, I had the greatest potential. He said I could really help some of the younger guys if I wanted to. But then he put his hand gently on my shoulder and said he was going to have to ask me to leave the Scouts. He said that in this troop there was only room enough for people who were team players and that I was not one of those. He didn’t say another word after that. He simply got up, walked back into the other room filled with a crowd of waiting scouts, and resumed his teaching.

A Turning Point

To this day, I remember that encounter as a turning point in my life. I went to Mr. Rhodes after the meeting and asked if he would give me another chance. He did. And by God’s grace it changed the outlook and trajectory of my life.

I will be forever grateful for a man who was willing to invest some of his life in an ignorant and rebellious young teen in order to make him a better person and to cultivate in him elements of leadership.

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The Impact of Images https://freedomtolead.net/the-impact-of-images/ https://freedomtolead.net/the-impact-of-images/#respond Tue, 16 Oct 2018 18:31:00 +0000 https://freedomtolead.net/?p=8528

Freedom to Lead International® (FTL) uses culture-specific images, objects, and sketches that reinforce learning about Christ-centered leadership. In this post, one of the participants shares with FTL the impact of these images in his own life and ministry. Video Transcript (English translation) Rice Field Well, of all the modules we have gone through – I remember the one that spoke of the field from which I learned patience. And often as-as I said from the

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Freedom to Lead International® (FTL) uses culture-specific images, objects, and sketches that reinforce learning about Christ-centered leadership. In this post, one of the participants shares with FTL the impact of these images in his own life and ministry.


Video Transcript

(English translation)

Rice Field

Well, of all the modules we have gone through – I remember the one that spoke of the field from which I learned patience. And often as-as I said from the beginning, I’m very sanguine, I like to rush things and get results as soon as possible. But with this module I learned how to prepare people like a field – to sow the seed, to maintain and nurture it until the harvest. It can be a long process. — Often when someone comes to church or has just accepted the Lord, I have learned that I should be patient and work alongside the person until the person reaches maturity.

Water Pump

I also remember learning from the image of the water pump, and that we should not use people like water pumps, like machines, to get results – to simply throw them away when they do not produce results; but we should really walk aside people -even if they do not give the results right away – because the person is more important than what he is called to do. So we have to consider them and walk alongside them.

The Blacksmith

I also learned about leadership from the image of the blacksmith, because for the blacksmith to succeed in making a tool, there are stages; it must be heated, it must be molded to give shape, and it must cool — change really takes a lot of time, energy and it costs.

I really learned a lot.

Until today by the grace of God I remember well I was talking with the pastor – Dr. Rick and I had a problem in my church, because I gave the pulpit to one of the elders, and when he came and preached, he mixed things up – he wasn’t clear. So I was very frustrated; but having an interview with Dr. Rick, he advised me to accompany him, to reform him again and to accompany him. And even today, even last Sunday, he preached. After each sermon I make a few remarks and he is getting better and people are starting to appreciate his preaching.

And thanks to this training, I am learning another kind of leadership and it is building me in my ministry.

 

 

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