I Am Reverend Fofana

Big Boss Leader

Imagine 27 church and mission leaders from Cote d’Ivoire, Benin, and Madagascar gathering together to engage in stories and discussions about Leadership for a Healthy Church. This is what we have been privileged to witness this past month.

Water Pump or Rice Field

One participant shared that he had a vision the night before of a water pump that would not yield water. He said, “in my vision, I was so thirsty so I used the water pump but no water came out. I did not know what the vision meant.” What he later came to learn was that the image of a rice field vs. water pump style of leadership is our driving image for this first leadership module. We encourage the leaders to be “rice-field” (Christ-centered) leaders rather than “water pump” (power, big boss) leaders. It’s a simple image, but it has profound impact.

Example of a Big Boss Leader

Also central to this first module is a story that we use about “Reverend Fofana.” In Ethiopia his name is “Brother Benyam.” In South Asia his name is “Reverend Gupta.” It is a fictionalized story about a leader who started well, but finished poorly. He let ministry “success” drive him and gradually became a “Big Boss leader” that is prevalent in so many ministries today. To us in this West this seems like simply a story or an illustration. However, for the storycentric communicator “Reverend Fofana” is treated like a real person. Because of this participants are able to engage deeply. Participants not only talk as if he is sitting in the room with them. They also feel compelled to recognize and say out loud, “I am Reverend Fofana.”

One participant said,

I’ve been in ministry for 29 years. Maybe I would have turned out like Jeroboam [in 1 Kings 11] or Reverend Fofana. God is using me. I am Reverend Fofana. I have been taught to depend on God and trust others to advise me. I confess that this week here has showed me my mistakes.

Another leader gave this testimony:

Sometimes I am crushed because I want [my people to catch] my vision. But I need to let God give them the vision. My challenge is to let Jesus be reflected through me. God is the one who gives the fruit in my life. Now is the time to wait. I do not want to do this on my own strength. I want to be transformed.

Pray it may be so for ALL of us as Christ-centered leaders.

As the participants shared more and more stories and interacted with the principles of “rice-field” (Christ-centered) leadership, their responses were profoundly soul-searching. Many confessed and repented of “Big Boss Sickness” and committed to changing their approach to leadership. Many of the participants also expressed excitement to transfer the module immediately to their ministry colleagues.

One participant said, “If you feel called by God to do this training, we cannot wait 6 months. We need to give this training tomorrow.”

Another said, “I’ve been quietly listening and I am thankful for Gods servants [the FTL facilitators]. The Lord has transformed many. I pray that they may be enabled to transform many more lives. For us, let us not keep to ourselves but be like rabbits.”

Let us be rabbits, indeed.

It was a great blessing to see how God worked in their lives this month.  We anticipate a strong collaborative relationship with this network in the months and years ahead. Thank you for your prayers and support for these precious brothers and sisters who are pivotal for the church’s future in West Africa.

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