Thursday, March 31, 2011

How do you define "servant leadership"?

Great mentoring group this week! Five pastors cram into my office. Worship. Praise. Prayer. Open hearts. Electric.

We wrestle with the idea of “servant leadership.” Luke 22:24-26 (NIV) describes an interesting interaction among the disciples and Jesus’ response: Also a dispute arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest. Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves.” Like many things, Jesus turns the idea of leadership upside down.

After each has a chance write a personal definition of servant leadership, personal opinions, explanations, beg-to-differs begin to pop up. Smiling as I leave the room, I ask them to put their heads together and come up with a definition they can all agree on. One guideline: “No blood on the floor, boys!” One replies, “But bruises are OK, right?”

The results are informative, enlightening. “Servant leadership is struggling by His grace to empty oneself as Christ emptied Himself out. Servant leadership is being Christ-like.” The definition carries us for nearly two more hours of interaction and application.

“Struggling.” Servant leadership definitely is not easy. That seems especially true when it comes to serving those church leaders that always seem to oppose you. One pastor laments, “Moses had only one Pharaoh. I have three!” It is not easy to serve self-motivated power-grabbers. “Struggling.”

“By His grace.” Unmerited favor. The gift of character, strength, graciousness that flows from God’s heart. It is God at work, not the pastor when servant leadership is in operation.

“To empty oneself as Christ emptied Himself.” Philippians 2:6, 7 (NIV) talks about Jesus’ servant-spirit: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant. “Made himself nothing,” literally to empty himself, to give up his power position (Swanson, James. Dictionary of Biblical Languages With Semantic Domains : Greek (New Testament)).

Wow! How do we do that? Stories are shared. Pain is felt. Tears are shed. Love is expressed.

Jesus’ command to love one another, even our enemies, rings in our ears. That’s the Christ-likeness of servant leadership. How did Jesus love his enemies? He did it on the cross even as we our very selves, in our sin, hammered the nails into his hands. He served us laying down his life, emptying himself. We hear Jesus’ cry on the cross, Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing. Love.

Jesus continues to speak: If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me (Luke 9:23). Daily love. Daily denial of self. Daily servant-leadership. Daily the cross. Daily Christ-like. By your grace, Lord.

We continue to struggle in the mentoring group to understand, to apply. Yes, Lord, sometimes those we serve do not know what they are doing. Forgive. Love. Christ-like. Yes, Lord, sometimes it’s what you want to do in us! Forgive. Love. Christ-like.

“About my three Pharoahs. Truthfully, it is now only two.” A story of love and listening unfolds. A story of caring and sharing. Serving. Setting aside personal agendas. Going the extra mile. An enemy becomes a friend and ally.

How do you define “servant leadership”? How do you live it?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Personal and Small Group Mentoring

Like a pebble plunking into a pond, mentoring pastors in the Philippines involves expanding concentric circles. With Christ at the center of all, spheres of one-on-one personal mentoring, small group mentoring, conferences and mentoring retreats, a pastoral letter of encouragement, and a national pastoral mentoring strategy radiate to strengthen pastors in character and personal effectiveness in ministry. Steve co-labors with a mature Filipino team of pastoral mentors, learning and growing together as they seek to equip fellow pastors.

One example of a ripple of mentoring is “personal and small group mentoring”. Pastor Erwin is a good example of strength of quality of a more-than-two-year mentoring relationship.

Pastor Erwin has known the Lord for 21 years, for seven years in pastoral ministry. He has a lovely wife and daughter. Though he has little formal theological education, he faithfully pastors Tagumpay Baptist Church, a congregation of about 80 believers, mostly very poor from a nearby squatter area.

Meeting regularly, the mentoring journey carries us through many rough waters, and the Master of the storms speaks and guides us. As pastors, we long to be like Christ, so character issues often are at the heart of mentoring discussions, marriage and child rearing at times. Church challenges also offer opportunity for growth in ministry. For example, what do you do when your worship leader gets a youth member pregnant? Or the head elder’s unmarried daughter is with child? And the elders don’t really understand biblical eldership? Or when the mother of a leader has a brain tumor but the church family is so poor, sufficient funds aren’t available for much needed surgery? Or when a church leader begins to distance from you without saying why? Or when 20 visiting American short term missionaries from another nearby ministry invade the wake (visitation)in the squatter home of one of your church members, and they insist that the casket be opened so they can pray over the dead to be raised back to life, when you have already prayed for healing for weeks and now have been working so hard to demonstrate to the community the dignity of dying peacefully in surrender to Christ with the support of a loving Christian church family?

Pastor Erwin is a growing pastor, sensitive to the Spirit’s leading, a blessing to his church, and a good friend. Lord, when the storms of ministry come, may quiet ripples of your presence bless lives of pastors like Erwin who seek to lead with integrity and love, growing in grace, faithfully shepherding your flock.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

TOPIC Regional Leaders Consultation

Had a great time this past week with pastor leaders from all over the Philippines at the TOPIC Regional Leaders Consultation. The following is a report I filed with Action International Ministries.


Christian Community Development Centre, Tagaytay, Cavite, Philippines

March 8-11, 2011

TOPIC (Trainers of Pastors International Coalition) is a coalition of primarily nonformal education ministries with the common goal of equipping undertrained pastors for the burgeoning worldwide church. In the Philippines, TOPIC is a commission of the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches (PCEC). The vision of TOPIC Philippines is “Every church with equipped and maturing pastoral leadership teams.”

TOPIC Philippines has 200 trained pastor equippers in all sixteen regions of the country. March 8-11, 2011, thirty-three regional leaders from fourteen regions gathered at the Christian Development Centre in Tagaytay, Cavite. The purpose of the consultation was to (1) equip and encourage the pastors and to (2) plan and coordinate regional plans for 2011.

Equip and encourage

With the vision of equipped and maturing pastoral leadership teams in every church, the consultation delegates explored the scriptural roots of multiplication. The group noted, along with other insights, that multiplication is God’s will with roots in the creation account and the Abrahamic covenant. Multiplication is natural in creation with creatures procreating after their own kind. Spiritually, God connected obedience and blessing with multiplication. Considering the scope of all Scripture, multiplication not only has to do with quantity but quality as well, multiplying character through discipling and mentoring.

The delegates also discussed “Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership: The Paradox of Personal Dysfunction” (Gary L. McIntosh and Samuel D. Rima, Sr.). The pastors offered heartfelt sharing, support and prayer with each other as they confessed their dark sides to each other. The “dark side” is the dysfunctional stuff we carry with us that must be brought under the healing hand of God. Everyone has a dark side but in leadership, especially Christian leadership with its pressures and unwritten expectations, sinful stuff can come out in unexpected ways and times. We hear of pastors falling into sin, immorality, anger issues, lack of integrity, and the like. As we face these issues God can bring healing and transformation. Like Paul, weakness can become the springboard for the grace of God to be displayed, victory experienced, growth realized.

Group devotionals also encouraged and inspired, offering much appreciated feeding to pastors who usually feeding others on a weekly basis. Executive committee member Pastor Roli Manuel shared that true success in God’s eyes is through a life of FAITH: faithfulness, availability, integrity, and humility. Ex com member Pastor Gil Balignasay led the pastors to the life of King Josiah. In Josiah’s devotion to God, he was a seeker of God, loyalist to God, promoter of God, and a revivalist in passion for God.

Plan and coordinate

In addition to coordinating schedules for ongoing regional training in 2011, long term goals were established called CORE 10K. CORE stands for Community of Regional Equippers. 10K expresses the goal to raise up 10,000 trained pastoral equippers by 2020. This goal will be fulfilled through widespread recruitment, mentoring, and training. Each of the 200 current trained TOPIC pastors will recruit and mentor four new potential pastors. The new recruits will be mentored and trained for three years, after which they in turn will each mentor four more for three years. The numbers crunch to well over 10,000 by 2020, leaving a buffer for attrition.

A role-up-our-sleeves spirit infects the TOPIC regional leadership team in anticipation of all that God will do in the coming years. In a land with a rapidly multiplying church, there is a critical need for multiplying leadership as well. By God’s grace, TOPIC Philippines will continue to fulfill the scriptural multiplying mandate as it seeks to establish equipped and maturing pastoral leadership teams in every church.