Four Years, Eight Modules. What is Freedom to Lead International doing that is really so unique? 

Spiritual Leadership

This post is part of a series on Spiritual Leadership.

When FTL went into South Asia for the first time in 2010 we knew we were committing to a specific group of church and ministry leaders for the long haul.  And they were committing to us.  Although our initial commitment was a four-year program that would feature eight leadership development modules and one-on-one mentoring, we really didn’t know just how much God would stretch and mold and use us for His purposes.  We heard the calling and had the vision.  We even had what we thought was a clear strategy for Phase 1 of this ministry.  We set out to make a dent on the world.  But I don’t think any of us really expected the impact it would have, both on our lives personally and in the way we look at Christ-centered leadership.

Nor did we really have any idea how hard it would be.

Think about each of these topics:

  • Healthy Church Culture
  • Mentoring
  • Accountability and Stewardship
  • Peacemaking
  • Leading Change
  • Leading Teams
  • Strategic Leadership
  • Spiritual Leadership

Perhaps you have taken a course or two on these topics.  Perhaps you have heard them in sermon illustrations, or took part in a team building activity that featured these.  Perhaps you even hold degrees in these subjects.  Perhaps you, too, have taught on these topics to groups of church leaders.  So, what’s the big deal?

What is FTL doing that is really so unique?

Perhaps you are saying to yourself, “aren’t they just reinventing the wheel?

But take these topics and try it this way: Tell the stories of Jesus.

Teach leadership by teaching Jesus.

Teach Jesus not just as the Savior of our sins, but as a leader of our church.  Take out the charts and diagrams and inventories and replace it with story.  Take concepts and replace them with something tangible.  Take words and replace them with symbols.  Take elaborate PowerPoint presentations and replace them with discussion over rice and dal.  Use the exact words of the Scriptures and let them speak in and of themselves.  Use the stories of Jesus as he interacted with key players like Peter.  Use historical examples in the 2000 years since.  Write songs about Christ-centered leadership and incorporate them into your curriculum.  Use these songs as a ballad for the sake of remembering and ingraining these principles into day-to-day life.  Share your own life stories- of success, certainly, but also, and maybe more often, of failure.  Create real-to-life fictional stories with three-dimensional characters that invites people into a case study in order to wrestle with realities before them as leaders.  Allow story to become the driving point.

Now take it and make it contextualized so that it translates across a culture so different from our own.  Wrestle to the ground these issues alongside national colleagues.  Ask people to think differently from everything they’d ever been taught about leadership. Come face to face with the realities of complex communication styles, and, in humility, come to terms with your own limitations.  Realize that even though you have a plan and a curriculum in place, it’s probably going to change 53 times before you get there.

We would be lying if we told you it’s been a walk in the park these last four years.  It would be dishonest to tell you that we never came close to completely shutting down.  The Enemy has been real.  Our own shortcomings have gotten in the way.  And yes, even our own pride.

As we dive into the themes of Spiritual Leadership this month, we will look at the tension between our faithfulness and God’s grace.  Amazing grace has gotten us this far.  Nothing more, nothing less.

What can God do with 18 ministry leaders in South Asia?  The same thing he can do with 12 fishermen, zealots, and young professionals from Galilee.  And like Jesus told them before he left them with his Spirit,  “you will see even greater things than these.”

Seven modules down, one more to go.  With prayer as the vehicle that drives us forward, let’s finish Phase 1 strong!

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