After this past month's visit to Milange which included two vision conferences, two visits to congregations and a synodical meeting, I became more aware of uncomfortable differences in understanding of leadership. The way you think about leadership has big consequences. If you understand leadership as controlling people and that you are doing the important work and the people only give you the position by voting or by tradition, your way of managing is influenced by it. Your work as leader is therefore on a higher level and you are more important than the “normal person”. For anything to work well, you have to control and steer it because you are the one that knows the objectives. The normal person has to obey your rules.
My understanding of Biblical leadership is very different. Leadership is still very important and coordination is still very important. But think yourself in a position where the normal person or member in the church is the most important person. You handle them as more important than yourself although everybody has the same value – all created in the image of God. - You do not do the work, but you support the work that the members do. You do not control and are not in a position to control the outcome of tomorrow. You depend on the Lord to lead the normal person and you serve them to follow Him better. A big role for the servant leader is to coordinate the process where people continue to help one another grow in their capacity.
In Mozambique you see sometimes that if you work with members and empower them, the elders and pastors start to feel uncomfortable, because out of a authoritarian leadership, inherited from the tradition, you are taking away power from them. In discussing some empowerment ideas with the leadership in the synod, some sensitive discussions came to the fore. We were sometimes even attacked by asking “what are we doing that you have a problem with?” This question was asked after we only made a proposal to serving the goal of empowering better. This goal was previously accepted but not the consequences.
With this question hanging, we went back to the principle as we understand it in our interpretation of the Bible. The principle is that giving is close to the heart of our relationship with the Lord. From the beginning God gave Himself. We are His image and we believe that we have to grow into having this same attitude. Our freedom and wealth lie in giving ourselves to God and others, therefore we want to help the church also to give. If there is no participation from the church for a project, we are depriving the church from growth and God's blessing. We feel so strongly about it that we are not prepared to do projects if the church does not contribute something.
We believe that this principle is also true in the power you have as a leader. Your job is giving your power to the members. This should also be true of leaders in business and government. We explained to the leadership that we did not make the suggestion of this empowerment process because we are criticising leadership, but because of this principle.
After struggling with this principle we managed to find one another in this issue. I believe that struggles like these bring growth. It means not avoiding the issues, but looking for them and then going back to the biblical principles. These principles are built on a living, loving heart of a very real God. If you go back there, you find change, sometimes even painful, but with a better tomorrow as the result.