Everything Rises and Falls on Leadership
The American pastor and communicator John Maxwell likes to make the following provocative statement: “Everything rises and falls on leadership.”
When they first hear that statement many people choose to disagree with it. I was formerly one of those people. Now I have come to see the profound truth of what is being said.
If you are involved in a project that only includes yourself, then the statement doesn’t apply. For mowing a lawn, or even perhaps writing a novel, leadership is not required. But for anything that requires two or more people to come together, leadership is essential for a vision to be cast, people to be motivated into a team, and any obstacles to be overcome in order to reach the goal. Every building ever built, every organisation ever created, every youth club ever run, even this magazine you are reading – all required someone to exercise leadership in order to fulfil the vision and make it happen.
The Jesus MethodL~
Jesus knew the crucial value of leadership. That’s why in his three year ministry on earth He dedicated the majority of his time to raising up a team of 12 leaders – people who would continue the radical movement called the Kingdom of God which He had begun. The crowds came and went during Jesus’ ministry but the apostles stayed, and went on to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth, whilst also training a new generation of Timothy’s and Titus’ to go even further than they had reached. Jesus knew that for his movement to continue and succeed he needed good leaders, so he spent the majority of his time on developing them.
The same is true today. That’s why Ionut Corlan, the History Makers Team Leader for Romania, believes that the most powerful way that he can fulfil the Great Commission is to train and empower emerging Christian leaders. He wants to see Romania transformed by the Gospel. And he’s working towards this by investing in leaders, just like Jesus did. Every church that is planted, every orphanage ever begun, every evangelistic project ever attempted – all require effective leadership to get off the ground and flourish.
In Romania 40,000 children are abandoned or given up for adoption each year. The consequences of this on society are devastating. Children growing up without love, without homes and without parents are far more likely to commit crimes, to become drug addicts, and to have children out of wedlock themselves. That’s why the History Makers Romania Journey begun in June 09 was so exciting. One of the emerging leaders shared that his vision was to see “empty orphanages” across Romania – to see all children in the nation placed in loving families, and therefore rendering the orphanages redundant. He will work towards this by adopting children himself, but more importantly by encouraging other Christian families in Romania to also adopt. By himself he can adopt maybe 10 or 20 children throughout his lifetime. But through his leadership potential he can influence hundreds and thousands of children.
History Makers helps emerging leaders to discern God’s vision for their life, and empowers them to live that vision out. A History Makers Journey takes groups of around 30 emerging Christian leaders on a path of two residential retreats packed with teaching on Christian leadership, and also involves them receiving some of the best books on the subject, receiving Christian mentors, creating an action plan to begin fulfilling their vision, beginning their own life-long study programme of Christian leadership, and being given the resources to begin training other Christian leaders themselves. From these Journeys, delegates are networked together into History Makers Communities – groups of local emerging leaders who commit to meeting together to encourage each other in fulfilling God’s vision for their lives, in praying for their town or city, and in working together to raise up the next generation of leaders. Our goal is to establish such History Makers Communities in every major city around the world.
In April 2008 a History Makers Journey began in Kenya, empowering a group of 27 outstanding emerging leaders. At the same time, we took a small mission team to serve some of the poorest people of Kenya. During that time, following the riots that took place after the January 08 elections, thousands of Kenyans had fled their homes and were living in refugee camps.
Our mission team arrived at one such camp to find out what they could do to help. The hundreds of Kenyans living there had not eaten all day, and the camp authorities had no money to provide them with food. We were able to buy them food not only for that day, but also enough to keep them going for the next two weeks. Through our contact the local churches were also put better in touch with them, so they could continue supporting them for as long as people remained having to live in the camps.
When telling the story of our miraculous turning up at the camp at the right time, a friend told me “Well that’s what you should do full time. It may well have saved those people’s lives. Shut down the leadership training you do, and concentrate on the relief work.” The problem with this approach is its short term nature. It saves lives in the short term, but does nothing to address the long term problems of Kenya. But by investing in emerging Kenyan leaders, empowering them to be servant leaders, and men and women of integrity, we are supporting them to build a better future in Kenya. In a generation’s time, when these leaders are holding key posts in government, in business, and in the church, hopefully they can ensure that future elections do not degenerate into violence, murder and hatred. The short term relief works remains important, hence History Makers and many other organisations continue to offer it. But our main focus is raising up leaders. It is not an instant solution, but it yields far greater results over the long term.
The Nigerian novelist Chinua Achebe, writing in 1983 about the chaos in his nation, stated:
“The trouble with Nigeria is simply and squarely a failure of leadership. There is nothing basically wrong with the Nigerian character. There is nothing wrong with the Nigerian land or climate or water or air or anything else. The Nigerian problem is the unwillingness or inability of its leaders to rise to the responsibility, to the challenge of personal example which are the hallmarks of true leadership.”
The same is true for all of the failed states of Africa, and indeed throughout the world. If we are to see an end to corruption, genocide and civil war destroying the nation states of Africa we need to raise up a generation of African leaders who will reverse these issues. If we are to see democracy and religious freedom brought to the oppressed states of south and central Asia we need to invest in a generation of Asian leaders who will bring these things into being. If we are to see a broken world come to know Jesus Christ as Lord and saviour, we need to so invest in our emerging Christian leaders that they might lead their peers, their communities, their towns and ultimately their nations to the truth about God. That’s why History Makers remains committed to doing all it can to empower emerging Christian leaders across the world, that they might use their leadership to transform their nations for Christ.
Mark Williamson is a History Makers Co-Executive Director
METConnexion Spring 2009 pp.10-11