Competent Christ-centered leaders foster healthier churches and impact their communities with the gospel.
By partnering with indigenous ministries, we reach leaders across South Asia and Africa: rural pastors leading churches along the Pakistan border, leaders in interiors of Francophone Africa, leaders in remote East Africa, and influencers among persecuted believers in northern India and Nepal.
Together we can address two critical, crippling church problems:
- A lack of biblical teaching that connects with people’s hearts, minds, and learning style; and
- A default “buy in” of existing power-driven leadership styles —instead of Christ-centered leadership — that threatens church growth and fidelity.
WHAT WE DO AND WHY
We equip and invest in leaders from hard-to-reach places that have never been helped before, mentoring them to follow the the leadership principles of Jesus.
These equipped leader go back to their hard-to-reach communities, so that they can educate and influence leaders in their local communities.
Competent Christ-centered leaders area being developed to sustain and extend church planting movements.
Why Storycentric Communication?
80% of the world do not learn as the West does. Instead of books and academic teaching, they learn as Jesus’ disciples learnt from Him — through parables, stories, hands-on experience, and deep, personal interaction.
Though the church often grows numerically in these second- and third-world communities, there is very little material to teach new believers in the way Christ taught His disciples. In many places the “growing” church is a mile wide and an inch deep.
Why competent Christ-centered Leadership?
Instead of encouraging and practicing radically different, Christ-like leadership, churches buy into age-old power-driven leadership practices.
|Region||Culturally dominant power model|
|Middle East||Tribal patriarch|
Often the buy-in is by default rather than design. Most simply don’t know how to “do leadership” differently. But the result is the same: growth of cults, loss of leaders, shriveling of newly planted churches, and a growing disillusionment with Christianity.
Instead of church growth, we are seeing church loss because we aren’t teaching as Jesus taught, not leading as Jesus led.
What can be lost when power-centric leadership models prevail?
An unbiblical reliance on power-centric leadership models is resulting in the church missing out on leaders who could be extraordinary fruitful. Kaba, of the Kasena people in northern Ghana, is an example of a godly leader who was overlooked because he does not fit dominant, power-centric leadership standards.
The Kasena people are storycentric learners who primarily practice folk Islam. Years ago a number of the people in one Kasena village came to faith in Jesus through Kaba, a local believer. Sometime later, foreign missionaries came to the village, seeking to establish a church and to look for spiritual leaders.
Kaba was overlooked because he was not literate.
One of Kaba’s converts, a young man named Kwotua, explains:
I was a child in an idol-worshipping home when my spiritual father, Kaba, took an interest in me. He spoke with me, encouraged me, and guided me more than any other person. Kaba mentored me and many others of our village. But Kaba was never identified as a leader because he could not read. He tried three times to pass the literacy exam, but failed. Kaba’s prayer was that, although he could not be a
Christian leader on earth, the Lord would ordain him in heaven.
Leaders like Kaba possess the intelligence, the capacity, the heart, and the trust of their communities to serve as recognized Christ-centered leaders. But because all too many in the church are buying into power-centric leadership paradigms, they are being overlooked. Freedom to Lead exists to help remedy this situation.
The first step to building true disciples and faithful leaders is to teach them in a way that deeply, personally connects with them… as Jesus taught. His example remains the cornerstone.
Thus, we developed a leadership curriculum, The Garden Project. Unlike conventional classroom methods, The Garden Project uses proven tools that emphasizes personal discipleship relationships and Word-centric stories, parables, songs, drama, and music. All are faithful to Scripture; all are memorable; all are easily transferable.
We focus on competencies and objectives derived primarily from principles and practices exemplified in Jesus’ life and leadership among His followers. To complement His core leadership principles, we highlight principles and practices from character studies and stories from both testaments.
The Garden Project remains the only program that gears leadership development for storycentric learners. We are both blessed and challenged with this sacred trust that has the potential to cultivate countless, competent Christ-centered leaders.
We go on-site to lead deep, personal, Christ-centered leadership development cohorts. Each consists of 20 or so leaders, usually pastors and missions’ leaders, covering eight modules taught over four years, with 4 in-person training days occurring twice each year.
Please note that these men and women do not sign up for our training to become leaders. They have already been identified by their communities as leaders. The question is whether they will conform to their culture’s power model, or can they become humble, servanthood-driven, competent Christ-centered leaders?
We help them opt for the latter. The project’s eight modules aim to grow the characteristics of Christ-centered leaders and lessen the influence of the power leader norm. Each cohort completes the curriculum over 2-4 years.
The Garden Project is more than a curriculum though. It’s a developmental experience. Leaders absorbing its principles transfer these colleagues in their networks and areas of ministry.
Over 11 years, in 50 nations and 10,000 lives, we have found that this oral, storycentric approach is more fruitful than academic teaching and “throwing books” at people. Its beauty is that leaders can learn Christ-centered leadership regardless of their level of literacy. People learn best when the material touches their minds, their hearts, and their personal experience. They remember it, they share it. They unleash the full potential of the gospel in their communities.
Characteristics of a Christ-centered Leader
We believe competent Christ-centered leaders should focus on four core characteristics:
1. Founded on relationship, rather than control
Jesus’ leadership was based on His relationship with His disciples. Rather than controlling them, He led by sharing their lives, speaking to them freely, and answering their questions.
His disciples knew Jesus loved them; therefore, they trusted Him even when they found His words or acts hard to understand or accept.
2. Activated by influence, rather than hierarchy
Though He had supreme spiritual authority, Jesus did not force anyone. People could choose to follow Him or reject His invitation.
God granted them choice, so we may know what true leadership means.
3. Focused on a follower’s potential, rather than their production
Today’s organizations try to maximize an individual’s productivity. But Jesus wanted each to reach his highest potential. For He saw God in man.
4. Committed to shared Kingdom purpose, rather than leader’s personal agenda
The famous fish story in the Bible ends thus: “And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.” (Luke 5: 10-11)
Jesus shaped His disciples’ lives by nurturing true relationships with them; so, His vision became theirs, and they shaped the course of history.
These four characteristics don’t provide an exhaustive definition of Christ-centered leadership. But they’re the core differences between His leadership and power-centered leadership.