The Future Global New Christian Leaders. A missiological reflection on the nature and ethos of global mission leadership - by Dr. K. Rajendran

Global Christian Leadership and Global Christian Leaders

In the 21st century, to be effective in meeting the world with Christ and His ethos, there is a need for a new caliber of leadership. Any movement will only go as far as where the leader takes it. There are ample of examples in the Bible such as Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Joseph, Paul and others. Leaders create momentums to impact the world. Therefore, it has become a very important issue both in the secular and Christian world to input into leadership that will spearhead the changes.

A New Day: In the history of Christianity, there have been many different eras of change. Today, the churches and missions are at a brink of a new road. Historically, the churches and missions are at post-colonial, post-modern, post-European and at the post-European mission endeavours. Now, there are numerically more non-Western Christians than ever. In the post-colonial era, with all the visa restrictions, rise of national religions, communalism and non-tolerance, those who received Christianity in many of the 2/3rd world are now active in bringing the Gospel to their own and to others across the world.

Some of these issues are new and some are old. All of them need answers some need new answers. If new answers are not given, the Christian world will lose the cutting edge and the momentum in addressing Christ’s solutions to world needs.

In this historical juncture there is a great need for leadership who think clear, articulate well, disciple/mentor many, create a momentum with relevance and will positively address the nations with the Gospel. Finding and creating people with such caliber, wider outlook, ability to relate to a variety of places, people, issues, theologies, missiologies, biblical but able to relate to the real contemporary world and above all spiritually minded is a challenge. That has to become a major mandate of the church and missions. Just dependency in the theological institututions and monasteries to create such leaders will only give a certain type of leaders. Therefore, the evangelical world has quite a task in preparing such leaders to face the new world order to clearly and unashamedly introduce Christ to individual salvation and corporate communities to follow Christ and His ethos as the solution to community harmony, eradication of poverty and other social evils of the world without thrusting Judaistic Europeanism or Africanism or Latinism or Koreanism or Singapore-ianism or any other -isms. Get on your knees and ask God to help!

How do the Global New Leaders Look-like?

The following are some of the leadership qualities for the contemporary leadership if missions have to go forward.

1. Relate to a Big God:

Global Christian Leadership and Global Christian Leaders

The new leader must relate to the God, the Creator and continue to practice His design and ethos in life with out being culturally biased and blind. Often, great leaders make the mistake of portraying God as the local deities and give an impression of God being like the American or African or Indian or Koreans or others depending upon where the persons come from. God is above all nations, all colors, all races and all known and unknown creatures. His creation is vast. All that we know are what we see on this earth including the endangered and extinct animals and the creatures explained in the book like Revelation in the Bible. The leader must continually learn the attributes of the biblical God revealed personally in Christ through whom comes salvation and redemption from sin. Following and committing to that biblical God who is continuing to make a new community of His own with different ethos than the situational ethics practiced by the godless world.

2.  Relate to the Big Global Picture - Broad thinkers:

Global Christian Leadership and Global Christian Leaders

The new leader has to think broadly with out majoring in micro issues but constantly have a perspective of the bigger picture. Often, in the Christian circles, there is a tendency to minutely sidetrack into micro issues than macro issues ending up in minor doctrinal or personal flaws (such as, should a mission leader have a long hair or watch a movie etc into super “holiness” track). The leader must able to relate with broad spectrum of denominations, personalities, and genders and be able to see a bigger picture to guide and mentor people for a broader cause, including to be able to dialogue with not-so Christians, NGOs, Government civilians and politicians. Only a macro man could fit many micro things in perspective for a bigger impact of the nations. Thus he must be able to see the bigger picture of what the Lord is trying to do in the world.

3. Relate to all Peoples - Neutral - unprejudiced – unbiased – just:

Global Christian Leadership and Global Christian Leaders

In the globalised phenomena of the world, there is no place for Christian leaders to be biased or prejudiced about peoples’ origin, color or even the denomination (unless cultic). There is a tendency to lean on known world in developing the new leadership. This has to be worked very consciously in our world especially among the Christians. Just like Jesus was able to relate to the poor, rich, thinkers, simpletons, the new leader must able to relate from the grassroots to the top of the societies.

4. Relate to all Cultures:

Global Christian Leadership and Global Christian Leaders

The new global leaders have to recognise that people formed all cultures and countries for particular people, location and circumstance. Therefore, there is no absolute culture and habits. The only absolute habits are what have been explained in the Bible as absolute rules to follow such as the Ten Commandments. Even in that, the Sabbath is interpreted as Friday, Saturday and Sunday depending upon where we are. 

Some countries may be economically poor but may have rich cultures more closer to the Bible than the so-called “Christian countries”. Especially when the leadership becomes global, there has to an attitude and commitment to be unbiased and not influenced and pressured by lobbies and threat to confirm to certain known habits and interpretations of theology instead of dwelling in the broad biblical basis. As leaders must learn to discern the unction of God on people to lead global phenomena of being engaged in the Great Commission of Christ with out being biased of color or origins.

In many globalised developing nations  for economic and other reasons people from other nations migrate and thus all cultures are in their doorsteps. Today’s world is not like the days of William Carey, David Livingstone and C. T Studd when they had to go far distant to find people of other cultures  and learn languages and cultures to effectively communicate the Gospel. So, in the days of David Livingstone - when he was in Africa, some friends wrote to him, “We would like to send other men to you.  Have you found a good road into your area yet?” Dr Livingstone sent this reply \"If you have men who will only come if they know there is a good road, I don\'t want them.  I want men who will come if there is no road at all\".

Today Europe, America, Austral-Asia and many other parts of the world have people from other countries apart from the original aborigines. Should the church and missions wake up to this reality, learn and be sensitive to the cultures and food to communicate the Gospel. In God’s providence He brought the people to be reached into the doorsteps of the developing nations. If the Christians do not wake up to this, they and their children will be following yoga  and the gods of the Canaanites apart from the gods of mammon!

5. Relate to new Paradigms and respond pragmatically:

Global Christian Leadership and Global Christian Leaders

In relating to new paradigms, the new leader of today must learn to ask relevant questions and think pragmatically to address issues and solutions instead of accepting statuesque, pet answers and theories. Very few think pragmatically and “outside the usual box”. Many tend to be just mute followers than godly leadership. The new leader should not be afraid of asking difficult questions and ingeniously change, if need arises, to new paradigms with out breaking the absolute laws of the biblical God. He also should be aware that any new thing would take time to pick up and thus cannot loose heart and give up prematurely. In many cases Christians tend to follow traditions than the meanings, in the long run traditions becomes more important than the meaning. Thus, Christianity carries many loaded traditions. These have to be looked carefully in each culture and reevaluated without plummeting the essence of the Gospel. The marriage ceremonies, selection of brides and grooms, treatment of the elders, presentation of the Gospel, different styles of local worship than the high church or synagogue types of worship and several others things have to be reconsidered. The questions and the new paradigms are not to destabilize the systems but to become relevant to the societies in which the Gospel is being presented. The leadership is to lead people to be effective followers of the Lord Jesus Christ and bring others to the Lord.

6. Relate to changes and change:

Global Christian Leadership and Global Christian Leaders

One of the greatest tests of the new leaders will continue to adjust to new challenges and readjust. Comfortable stability and order wreck many leaders to be complacent and statuesque oriented. Comfort and stability are good but it does not speak of innovation and continuous growth. As movements grow there are many challenges for growing leaders. Leaders are constantly thrown into new challenges for which thy have to be trained to look for the right personnel (men and women leaders), recruit, draft, educate, train, give leadership, delegate, evaluate, give pastoral care and help them to be most efficient to their upper most level even better than their bosses themselves. The greatest joy would be to see the juniors become the seniors and experts better than the one who recruited and trained them. If there is willingness to change, adapt and experiment, there will be the heights of achievements for the Lord. If the leaders are happy to sit in their air-cooled offices and drive by remote control, the movement will not grow and people will not be mentored but the movements will become bureaucratic agencies perpetuating the highest degree of hierarchy, competition, positions and vain glory achieving fat bodies! Therefore there should be willingness to change from the leaders and set models, leading from the front. These decisions have to come from the persons himself and not induced and judged by others. Personal willingness first as a disciple of Christ has to come instead of throwing the authorities as the CEOs.

7. Relate to the globalised modern world:

Global Christian Leadership and Global Christian Leaders

Firstly, in leadership, especially in Christian leadership, the new paradigms and changes are difficult to cope with. Often when new paradigms are introduced, some who would uncomfortably hide behind the cloak of ”let us seek God”, “let us pray about it”, “God has not spoken” etc. When some thing they would like others to do or follow the opposite effect takes place saying that “God has spoken” etc.  When Christians hide behind these games it is difficult to dialogue with them in sense as it has been communicated that the matter of discussion is over as it was left with God. This some times become hindrance to dialogue and reasoning. Who, sensible in the world, will argue with a person who says either God has spoken or not spoken?

Secondly, it is more and more recognised that missions and churches to and in the 2/3rd world nations tend to equate church planting and reaching the unreached to “civilizing” the downtrodden and the poor.  This compassionate aspect of sharing the love of Christ is good. But making disciples does not end with the downtrodden and the poor. There are more people in the world than just the poor and the “unreached”  for all whom Christ died to save. If the missions only work on the “civilizing” of the poor and the downtrodden, it might cause a revolution of the poor against the rich causing another revolution equivalent to Communist Russia, Cuba and other nations where there were uprising, hatred and slaughtering of the rich. In the New Testament because all classes of people came to Christ, there were harmony and human respect for each other recognizing that they all were redeemed by Christ death to Himself and thus they were to behave as new people with new ethos of love and care for each other.  If the church missions were not careful and not pass on the message of love, equality and concern for all people, it will end up with an upset society of poor and downtrodden against the rich and the influential.

Lastly, the new leaders must be able to relate to the modern technological world. It is sad that in most countries where Internet is a phenomenon, missions still function primitively with out even having the facility to be in the email network. Often, it is not a lack of funds but the mentality of the old styled leadership, which says that my predecessors did not have the facility, so it will not be necessary. Thus even the modern young people who want to be with the missions either start thinking like this by the influence of their heroes or just would not come to missions and relate to the Prehistoric, archaic, outdated mission leaders’ stubbornness to change in the name of spirituality. Thus the old-fashioned missions have lost good caliber young people who want to be in missions and want to share Christ meaningfully to their colleagues apart from the fantasy of going with the Gospel to cross-cultural jungles as in “the good old days”. Many new missions minded Christians feel more and more unable to fit into missions that does not accept new ideas and into lowest paid salary structures.

Thus there is a new phenomenon of Tent-making missionaries into many parts of the world who do not need to be relating to any missions or churches that would restrict them to share Christ new liberated ways. This move of Tent-Makers will continue increase even if the missions will not adapt to the new moves. New leaders must learn new technologies that will catapult them into a society that will respond to people who are of their status. Hence the new leaders must learn and continuously learn if they want to be relating to the new world.

8. Relate to movements / building momentum and not just to the structure and events:

Global Christian Leadership and Global Christian Leaders

Many missions plan events without counting the cost of follow up and preparation for follow-ups. For example Urbana was a great idea to mobilise the students at one point. Now I am not sure if any one evaluates the results of such event to see what happens to the students who get all wound up for missions. There have to be questions like who absorb all these people after the events, if they are not absorbed and guided why? If the participants of any of these events have to be absorbed what are some of the preparatory issues to look into before the events have to be planned and executed. Or else there will be many events with out the follow-ups and it would be waste of resources of funds and people. Should Christian workers be callous on stewardship of the funds and the people whom God has given? Think my friend!

9. Relate to Mentoring people & Facilitate:

Global Christian Leadership and Global Christian Leaders

No organisation is good if there is no element of mentoring people and building capacity in their own people in it. If a culture of learning is not inherent in the ethos/organizational culture, people will only become clerks and slaves and not give their full potentials as leaders of the movement. The new leader must have this quality seen in action his life or else he will perpetuate a high sense of bureaucracy and hierarchy. Persons in the organisation for a time have already learnt the culture of the organisation and the ethos, depending upon their growth, attitude and aptitude to learn, they have to be placed in new experiences than constantly look outside for expertise. There might be expertise outside but they may not have your organizational ethos. To coach them will take a long period. Therefore mentor people and continuously upgrade their skills for the challenges of the job in the framework of their gifting and job satisfaction. Create an ethos and atmosphere for continuous learning and development.

In many leaders there is a great ambition to become famous (even if they do not become rich as in Rich and Famous) where their names appears all over. The ambition may be alright but not at the cost of others (especially in your own organisation) who would be “used” for the leader to climb. If the leader mentors others to become better, he will anyway become famous through those whom he mentored and served. Watch out my leader friends! The greatest need for the new day is for leaders who are humble enough to lead groups of people who will excel better than them. Leaders who are humble enough to lead better caliber people than themselves will go far. For this a leader had to become a servant, a facilitator and let others shine. A facilitator is a one who talks less and uplifts others to leadership. If all that needs to be done centres around a few heavyweights, world evangelism will take a longtime.

10. Relate to independent thinking balanced with community thinking:

Global Christian Leadership and Global Christian Leaders

A young Asian man, in his mid thirties, went abroad for a seminar. This is his new experience. Within two days there were ten different phone calls about the welfare of their son who already is married and has children. This may be prevalent in most cultures but more so in the Asian and African cultures where the broods are kept under the control of the parents and elders at times till the “old man” passes away. Independency and independent thinking are not encouraged which has its bad side in leadership. Many wives / husbands complain that their spouses are controlled by the respective parents and especially by the mothers. Even several years after the marriage the couple or individuals of the house were not able to make any decisions that frustrated the other partners. Several couples in these cultures lived pathetically quiet blaming their “fates” (misfortunes) as it is was not common to divorce.

This inability to make decisions reflects in all areas of life and has its consequence in leadership. Many budding leaders, being under the wings of their elders toooooo long, are unable to make independent decisions. Some of those suppressed, when they come to leadership become dictators like their predecessors as they have seen only that model all their lives. The dictatorship then seen with the spouses and children where once again this cycle of suppression exercised. This ends up in hero worship, high hierarchism, high structures based on positions and dictatorial and clan leaderships. Generally this is the case in most situations with some exceptions. New leaders must know how to make decisions in the global new cultures and shed their own bad cultural practices (only bad cultural practices - keep the good cultural habits).

In some, especially Western, cultures, independence and individualism are the hallmarks. This may be good in decision-making but very bad in communities where things have to be somewhat discussed and make combined decisions that eventually gives better ownership by the community. In the modern management language it is called the “team building”, where people are involved in making some decisions . Asians and Africans may be good community decision makers and may be poor individual thinkers and decision makers. The individualists may bulldoze people and make many decisions, but will soon be forsaken as soon as the power of the dictator is stripped. Therefore there has to be a balance in individual and community decision-makings.

Finish Line:

Global Christian Leadership and Global Christian Leaders

Developing such leaders is a challenge. But we have to begin and it is better to begin mentoring potential young people and also input into others. When people are mentored, it must be remembered that the perspective has to be long-term. The mentored ones will only beget what they see more than what they hear. In the globalising international scenario of missions and churches there has to be more efforts and thoughts on developing international Christian leadership. There must be a special emphasis on this. May the World Evangelical Association be marked by creating good leaders who will make the world to consider Jesus and strengthen the bands of the followers of Christ.