Responding to Failure

While listening to Dr. Alfred Kalembo share in the video interview for the Phase 4 discussion, I was impacted by his statement regarding the importance that national leaders be given the opportunity to make decisions, even make mistakes, regarding the future of the ministry in the country.  A Facilitator M in these types of situations can and should do a great deal of work behind the scenes (aside from the critical work of praying and trusting in the Holy Spirit), but I wanted to begin a specific discussion about two potential areas of work that could significantly assist national leadership in the process of making healthy decisions.

The first, and I will admit that I oftentimes overlook this step (Tiffany actually had to remind me to include it in this post), is to build in a method of evaluating decisions and especially results of those decisions.  Decisions without healthy evaluative measures regarding the results of the decision would be akin to putting a car into drive and hitting the accelerator without taking a look at the speedometer, out the windows as you speed along, or even checking to see if you arrived at your destination.  This practice is not only unhelpful; it can oftentimes be unhealthy and can lead to some negative consequences.

I think that it is important for national leadership, in conjunction with Facilitator Ms, to create a habit of setting results-oriented decisions with specific evaluation points.  That way, the leaders have both articulated the goal and set in place a method of seeing whether or not they have achieved it, and maybe even looking at some of the intended or unintended byproducts of the decision.  This will open the door the second area of work for a Facilitator M, namely, “what do you do when your evaluation shows that the decision ended badly?”

I recently listened to an evocative TED Talk podcast where educator and activist Brittany Packnett talked about building personal confidence and sparking confidence in others.  At one point in the talk, Packnett spoke of a time in her professional career when a large-scale event she had planned ended terribly.  In debriefing the event with her manager, rather than examining what went wrong, the manager asked the powerful question, “what was your intention?”  Packnett described how this question invited her to learn from her mistakes rather than damaging her confidence.

Our goal as Facilitators is to strengthen the local leaders on the various fields to become stronger, more confident, and better equipped leaders in the life and work of the Church in their local contexts and on the national/district levels.  One of the greatest environments in achieving these goals is to guide the leaders in dealing with mistakes and/or lack of achieving goals in a healthy way that invites further ingenuity and venture.  However, lack of clear intentionality in utilizing these opportunities afforded by failure can result in these same leaders either continuing to make the same mistakes or becoming immobilized in an effort to avoid future failure.

What would it look like for us as Facilitator Missionaries to have in our toolbox a list of questions, like the one above, that invite reflection:

  • What was your strategy?
  • How did this event/incident intersect with past experiences?
  • Which of your values were you trying to honor?
  • What opportunities are arising out of this?

Dr. Tom Steffen, in the Zoom call, talked about how we can influence through dynamic questions, guiding a discussion without really inserting any of our own opinions or ideas.  This skill is critical in these areas of setting evaluation criteria and then dealing with the results of the decision.  So the question is, “what Questions do you have in your toolbelt?”  It might sound contrived to have questions prepared ahead of time, but I believe that the Holy Spirit works through our preparation in all situations, especially in ones as critical as assisting national leaders in making healthy decisions.

Note: for the content of Brittany Packnett’s TED Talk, click HERE.



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Conflict, Culture, and Christ's Command


Jerome Van Kuiken

 Conflict. Some people thrive on it, but many of us prefer to avoid it. Yet conflict is inevitable—even among Christians. This is especially the case in cross-cultural settings, in which conflict easily arises because of misunderstanding.

In Matthew 18:15–17 (NIV), Jesus outlines a four-level process for addressing conflict between believers:

  1. “If your brother [or sister] sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.”
  2. “But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’”
  3. “If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church.”
  4. But “if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.”

This outline of conflict management seems straightforward enough. The trouble is that not every culture countenances such a direct approach to conflict resolution. While Westerners prize “plain dealing” or “straight shooting,” other cultures place such value on personal honor and social harmony that direct, face-to-face confrontation between offended and offender is unacceptable. These cultures have developed indirect methods of handling conflict so that individual and communal shame or “loss of face” is avoided as much as possible.[1]

The challenge for Christians, then, is to navigate between Scripture and culture. This is no new dilemma, as the church has been discerning how to apply biblical teaching to fresh cultural scenarios ever since Peter, Paul, and the Jerusalem Council decided that Gentile believers didn’t need circumcision for salvation (Acts 10–11, 15). The interpretation and application of Scripture is called hermeneutics. In what follows, I’ll use the five-step method (with my own expansion at Step 4) from Scott Duvall and Daniel Hays’ popular hermeneutics textbook Grasping God’s Word.[2] The goal, remember, is to faithfully apply Matthew 18:15–17 to cultures with indirect methods of conflict management. Let’s take this text through Duvall and Hays’ “interpretive journey”:

Step 1: “Their Town” (the world of the text) – Matthew’s Gospel addresses a situation in which Christianity is a fledgling, minority religion without established institutions. The “church” of verse 17 is neither a church building nor a large group of people. We should think of an intimate house church. It’s a peer group without laity-clergy distinctions.[3] Also, these are believers steeped in Jewish culture, in which direct confrontation is acceptable (as we’ll see in Step 4 below).

Step 2: “The River” (the cultural and historical differences between us and the text) – In our world, Christianity is the largest religion, complete with church buildings, megachurches and highly-developed hierarchical institutions. As mentioned above, in the West direct confrontation is not only acceptable but normal, while elsewhere it is often unacceptable.

Step 3: “The Bridge” (the transcultural principles in the text) – Commentators identify the following overarching principles in Jesus’ instructions: first, “minimum exposure” so that the matter is settled as discreetly as possible; secondly, the purpose of the process is reconciliation, not punishment.[4] Whatever accommodations we make to diverse cultures must stay true to these principles.

Step 4: “The Map” (the redemptive-historical context) – Here Duvall and Hays examine how a particular passage fits with the overall sweep of Scripture. Matthew 18:15–17 builds on the Law of Moses: first, Leviticus 19:17–18’s command to love one’s neighbors and rebuke them rather than secretly hating them, holding a grudge, or seeking revenge; secondly, the legal requirement of two or three witnesses for a case to go to trial (Deuteronomy 19:15). Yet Jesus goes well beyond the Old Testament legislation in pushing for reconciliation. The offender is given multiple chances to repent; the most extreme measure is disfellowshipping, not the death penalty (as in Moses’ Law); and there’s always hope for restoration upon repentance—as underscored by Jesus’ follow-up command to forgive “seventy-seven times” (Matthew 18:21–22).

The biblical context also gives us examples from both Testaments of indirect confrontation. For instance, when King Saul’s jealousy of David threatens their relationship, David asks Jonathan to serve as his intercessor (1 Samuel 20). Later Absalom reconciles with his father David via go-betweens (2 Samuel 14). Christ stands in as the ultimate Mediator between God and sinners (1 Timothy 2:5–6; the book of Hebrews). Paul acts as arbiter between the runaway slave Onesimus and his master Philemon, and the letter to Philemon is itself a masterpiece of indirectness as Paul employs artful persuasion and insinuation rather than direct orders. There’s a sharp contrast between Paul’s approach with Philemon and his direct, public rebukes of Peter and the Galatians (Galatians 2:11–14; 3:1). As former missionary Duane Elmer concludes, the direct confrontation taught in Matthew 18 is one biblical approach but not the only one.[5]

We may take Duvall and Hays’ redemptive-historical step further than they do. Redemptive history doesn’t stop with Scripture but carries on through church history, so it’s wise to see how a biblical passage has been understood and applied across time and space. Church tradition mustn’t trump Scripture, but it can provide insight. Ulrich Luz notes that Jesus’ instructions have been followed most literally by communities that closely approximate Matthew’s own: “small, manageable congregations” like pre-Constantinian house churches, medieval monasteries, Anabaptist assemblies and Pietist discipleship groups. Where the church becomes large and entangled with the state, Matthew 18’s procedure has been adapted: private sins are handled through confession to a priest or minister, while public sins are punished by the state.[6] Both of these are forms of indirect confrontation since clergy or the government rather than just the offender and offended party are involved.

Step 5: “Our Town” (application to our situation) – How may the transcultural principles of Matthew 18 apply in an indirect-confrontation culture? First, the principle of “minimum exposure” applies in a direct-confrontation culture by including only the offended and the offender at first to avoid needlessly shaming the offender and involving more community members than necessary. But in an indirect-confrontation culture, for the offender to be addressed directly by the offended will produce unnecessary shame that can be avoided by indirect means like bringing in a mediator. In such a culture, a go-between may be deemed a necessary figure for settling a conflict peacefully. This ties in with the second transcultural principle: if the goal is reconciliation, then the means to achieve that goal may be adapted to best meet it, provided that the means are righteous.

In closing, I have presented a case that Scripture and its use throughout church history include flexibility to allow for the indirect approach to conflict resolution that is the norm in many non-Western cultures.

Maybe the hermeneutical method or conclusion that I’ve recommended disagrees with yours, dear reader.

If so, Scripture tells us how to settle our conflict.


[1] Duane Elmer, Cross-Cultural Conflict: Building Relationships for Effective Ministry (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1993). I thank former Wesleyan missionary Dr. Mike Fullingim for alerting me to Elmer’s work.

[2] J. Scott Duvall and J. Daniel Hays, Grasping God’s Word: A Hands-On Approach to Reading, Interpreting, and Applying the Bible (3rd ed.; Grand Rapids: Zondervan Academic, 2012).

[3] Ulrich Luz, Matthew 8–20 (trans. James E. Crouch; Hermeneia; Minneapolis: Fortress, 2001), 457; Michael J. Wilkins, Matthew (NIVAC; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2004), 619; R. T. France, The Gospel of Matthew (NICNT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2007), 691.

[4] France, Gospel of Matthew, 692; Wilkins, Matthew, 628, respectively.

[5] Elmer, Cross-Cultural Conflict, 43–44, 77–79.

[6] Luz, Matthew 8–20, 457.

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The 8 Roles of a Facilitator

“It’s worth a Google” is a phrase my family has adopted as a silly quick response to any interesting question or topic that comes up in family discussions.  My 10 year old son asks, “Dad, what is the largest fish ever caught?”  My response… “It’s worth a Google.”  As I thought yesterday about what to write a Facilitator M blog about I realized it was “worth a Google.”  The result that caught my attention was a very short article titled, “The 8 Roles of a Facilitator.”  Although the article is referring to professional facilitators of meetings and events, I believe many of the descriptions and ideas translate well over to what we are doing in our roles as Facilitator M’s.

The 8 Roles of a Facilitator (from

By definition, a facilitator is “a person…that makes an action or process easy or easier.” If ever there was an insufficient definition for something, this is it.

Effective facilitators have to wear many hats in any given session. The role encompasses presentation abilities, training abilities, people skills, project management – and more. This person has to keep the group focused, take them deeper with a topic, and (sometimes) keep a potentially volatile situation at bay. This is a dynamic role in which the facilitator is delivering important content and helping to engage productive interactions without necessarily knowing as much as the individuals he or she is facilitating.

In short, a good facilitator is focused on the topic at hand, the interaction process and participants, and the optimal path to reach the objective. This is a complex balancing act that requires numerous skill sets.

We have identified eight distinct roles that a facilitator is likely to play during a session.

  1. Motivator: From the rousing opening statement to the closing words of cheer, you ignite a fire within the group, establish momentum, and keep the pace.
  2. Guide: You know the steps of the process the group will execute from beginning to end and carefully guide the participants through each step in turn.
  3. Questioner: You listen carefully to the discussion and quickly analyze comments to formulate questions that help guide a productive group discussion and challenge the group when appropriate.
  4. Bridge Builder: You create and maintain a safe and open environment for sharing ideas. Where other people see differences, you find and use similarities to establish a foundation for building bridges to consensus.
  5. Clairvoyant: Throughout the session, you are attuned to signs of strain, weariness, aggravation, and disempowerment, and respond in advance to prevent dysfunctional behavior.
  6. Peacemaker: Although it is generally better to avoid direct confrontations, should it happen, you step in quickly to reestablish order and direct the group toward a constructive resolution.
  7. Taskmaster: You are ultimately responsible for keeping the session on track. This entails tactfully cutting short irrelevant discussions, preventing detours, and maintaining a consistent level of detail throughout the session.
  8. Praiser: At every opportunity, you should praise participants for good effort, progress, and results – praise well, praise often, praise specifically.

It can seem difficult to pinpoint impact of a professional facilitation. By understanding all of the many roles that a professional facilitator must play during a session, however, you are equipped to ask the right questions and evaluate whether your facilitator will ensure efficient use of resources (time and money), high participation, and productive outcomes.

Link to article above:

Questions to ponder…

Which of the 8 role(s) are you good at? 

Which role(s) do you need to improve?

Are there any roles that should be added to this list? 

Any roles on this list that should be taken away?


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The Biggest Lesson We Learned in Helping Haiti Send Missionaries

My perspective in this article might be very different than most missionaries since my story as a missionary in GP is quite uncommon. Growing up in Haiti, I had met many missionaries and at least two things were usual to all of them: they were white and spoke a different language. This was therefore my idea of a typical missionary. So, you would understand my surprise when Dan Irvine (Haiti Mission’s director at that time) approached me, during my 3rd year working as a French Pastor in New Brunswick Canada, about returning to Haiti as a missionary. That possibility was totally out of my purview. 

Having grown up in Haiti and having had the chance to spend time in the US and in Canada, I slowly became convinced that one of my country’s struggles is of a deep vacuum in the area of leadership. During my short time working as a pastor in a good size church, and watching different styles of leadership models, I had learned enough to know that I needed more training in that area. I also developed a deep desire to share what I was learning with my fellow countrymen. So, I saw the invitation to return to Haiti as my opportunity to give myself to both of these passions. I decided to continue my post-graduate studies in Christian leadership with Liberty University online. I would then use that as a base to teach some leadership notions to fellow pastors.

This became my assignment in my first term as a missionary to Haiti. I had become the first Haitian missionary doing missions in my own country. The concept was awkward even for my fellow brothers in Haiti. Needless to say, ministry was not always a party. I often thought about how true that saying once quoted by Jesus: “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town and in his own home” (Math. 13:57).  However, in the midst of the hardship with my own fellow brothers, I saw many positives for which I consider all the hardship worth it.

First, there was instant connection between me and the “nationals”. The fact that I looked like them, spoke like them and loved their food, gave me an advantage on my “more revered white missionaries”. I am sure at times the “nationals” started to like me until they remembered my title “missionary”, then the feelings welled up again. I so understand them.  At the same time, that title served me very much, in that I did not have to work my way up from the bottom of the chain to be heard. Without it, I would have had to wait until I was in my 60’s to have the influence I had in my late 30’s.

Second, difficult concepts both in leadership and in our Wesleyan Discipline finally started to make sense to them. During my first two years, I kept being startled at questions that came up about the Discipline and the doctrines of the Wesleyan church. I could not believe that 60 years after the first Wesleyan missionaries came to Haiti, so much was still obscure to my fellow pastors.

Third, we had the chance to be involved in preparing a couple to go as missionaries in Burkina Faso. Like me, they too have much in common with the people in their field: they look alike, have similarities in culture and have the French language in common. While they still have a big gap to fill to connect the two cultures, there is no doubt that the chance of a successful ministry is higher than if they had come from Italy or the US.

All this brings about the biggest lesson I learned from my experience as a missionary ministering to my own countrymen and sending missionaries from Haiti. Here it is: in my opinion the most effective missionaries are people chosen from their own field and among their own people (or from a closed neighboring country or culture), who are passionate about helping their own, who are being equipped for the missions’ task and are unleashed.  

Let me start with the concept of effectiveness. In general, mission agencies put a lot of emphasis on recruiting potential missionaries among people who are educated and passionate about helping people of other nations, and who can raise their support. While there is a lot to be said positively about this approach, I am not sure it's the most efficient way to get the job done. For one, experience shows that the greater the gap between the missionaries’ culture and their assigning field, the greater the suspicions and resistance to their message. This is also true in terms of time of adjustment; the greater the cultural gap, the longer it takes to adjust to the field. What should we say about language learning, diet, financial costs, and so on?

Another advantage is the avoidance of the difficult transition found in the 4th phase of mission whereas missionaries are to transfer all keys of the "kingdom" to nationals. In choosing nationals as missionaries, that transition is no longer an issue. There are so many positives to choosing a national instead of a foreigner as a missionary that we cannot take the time here to present each of them. 

All this said, this approach is not without its own challenges. For example, finding a national with no personal agendas might be a difficult task at times. Funding a national in his/her own country brings another set of problem. These are just a couple of examples among dozens more. However, say we are looking for the right person to bring a message on a specific field, and we find a potential person within that culture versus another fine person outside of that culture, which one you think might bring the greatest result?  Bring up your own argument, and let's discuss.

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Cross Cultural Conflict Resolution

He pulled me aside after teaching English to a rowdy group of kindergartners.

Sweat was dripping down my neck and hair stuck to my forehead. I tried to brush it away but my hands were a sticky mess of homemade play-dough. My head was throbbing after trying to keep my voice and energy level up in 90 degree heat as the rooster crowed in the yard next door and the chanting of multiplication tables by third grade drowned me out. 

I was already exhausted and overwhelmed. The smells of smoke drifting in from a neighbor lady cooking beans over an open fire as well as rotten mangoes that had been baking in the sun were so pungent I sometimes felt the need to gasp for breath. 

It was as hard as it was loud and nothing seemed to be going well. Were my students even learning? After every class I left with so many doubts. 

"Hermana, (sister), some pastors are upset. When they called your phone, the song playing in the background was a vulgar one. It's bad. If you were Nicaraguan, the church would put you in discipline. You need to change it." My Nicaraguan coworker was kind when he said it, but my heart sunk.

I had no idea. I felt panicked. How could this have happened? I hadn't chosen the song, it was chosen by the phone company. Was there a meeting about me? Shame washed over me. 

My eyes brimmed with tears, "What do I do? I don't even know how to change it. Please help me."

He did of course and eyed me sympathetically. But trust had already been lost and that is a hard thing to regain in Nicaragua. 

I drove home with a heavy sense of failure but also of frustration. Why was I not given the benefit of the doubt? Why had the pastors not spoken directly to me? 

This was the first of many times when I experienced triangulation. Conflict in my country of service is rarely face to face. Direct confrontation provokes even more shame and usually ends in the permanent severing of a relationship. But is triangulation the Biblical model for dealing with problems within the Christian community? How do you process moments of doubts and failure when some obviously stem from culture stress (loud classrooms) while others stem from more rooted causes like how cultures address problems? 

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A Missionary as a Laxative at all Phases

The word facilitator does not exist in the Croatian language.  If we tried to translate it directly, it would come across as ‘laxative’.  Maybe it is not such a bad word as our goal is to facilitate movements in partnership with the Holy Spirit - in other words we are some kind of laxative for a different kind of movement. ;-)  

Our goal in Croatia has been “reproducing disciple-making churches” from the very beginning.  We begin by focusing on evangelism and discipleship and then as leaders emerge, we begin using our facilitator cap to try to get them to buy-in to the vision and take on ministry responsibilities. Why the vision has remained very similar, our approach has been moving us more toward seeing ourselves as facilitators at all phases of ministry.

Toward the end of every year - we struggle with identifying what level our churches are at in the 5 phases.  We usually identify a church in several phases and it becomes frustrating if we identify a church at that same phase year after year.  This last year, we identified a relatively new church plant at roughly the same level as a mature church, but they are obviously at very different stages of development.  I think the way that we do this evaluation is highly influenced by how well we see ourselves as facilitators.  So in an exercise to help our churches and team, I wrote out a strategic vision and plan to explain what we would be doing with our most recent church plant at every phase.  It looked something like this:

Vision: Self-sustaining, self-governing disciple-making church with a national pastor and house fellowships in every neighborhood where we have members.

Goals for 2020: Be operating in all 5 phases.

1. Establishing relationships

- Identified all the ways we (as m’s and as church members) are building redemptive relationships.
- Included the goal of making sure everyone knows that they are loved and cared for.

2. Discipling believers

- Identified discipleship strategies and people who are or could be discipling others as well as those that we should be engaging as new disciples. 
- Identified dates for possible public baptisms as well as for discipleship training opportunities.

3. Developing leaders

- Identified ways to develop our church board as well as to develop and cast vision for ministry.
- Identified people ready for theological training opportunities.
- Share my job description (as pastor) with the board and let them speak into it and encourage them to hold me accountable.
- Identified opportunities for others to preach, lead and serve in our various ministry venues.
- Identified plans to engage certain leaders in the areas of spiritual formation strategies.
- Identified training opportunities in DMM and small group leadership.

4. Advancing sustainability

- Monthly emphasis on stewardship on services and testimonies.
- Allow the board to help me govern, plan and lead the church.
- Develop a budget with the board and develop a plan for financial transparency with the church.
- Simplify events – affordable to everyone.
- Encourage participation in every area of ministry and identify ministry opportunities for all kinds of gifts.

5. Multiplying movements

- Training for facilitators and opportunities to practice.
- Shared specific ideas for casting vision for a healthy multiplying church 
- DMM training & Materials

Obviously, you can tell that our church is very young by the kinds of goals and things that we are focusing on.  But my point is that we should be thinking about all phases at all times.  Jesus was already focused on multiplying movements when he invited Peter to follow Him and added the vision that he would make him into a "fisher of men.”  I would add that we do a lot of fishing as a non-profit org in our community and our members get to speak into our vision and are invited to participate as a part of their membership, which helps facilitate participation in establishing relationships. So we are effectively facilitating/laxativing at all five phases. 

I like the DMM approach to discipleship for they are effectively creating a method of discovery that can be reproduced with little training and thus facilitating the reproduction of disciples.  We are currently trying to morph our objective-based discipleship into a DMM form for simpler reproduction while assuring that key objectives are being met.

I think we can facilitate even while we are leading.  A lot of the discussion about this new era of facilitating in missions seems to discourage missionaries from roles of leadership.  But I think some of our contexts need to see servant-leadership modeled successfully before it can be reproduced.  That seems to be Jesus’ approach.  For the leadership style in the church of His day did not facilitate reproduction for a healthy movement.  But that is the subject for another blog I guess.

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Mindful of our Words

Recently I was sitting at the dinner table with my family.  As the kids grow up this doesn’t happen as often as we’d like so we cherish the time more than ever and often take time to pray together.   As we shared prayer requests, I made a comment that we should continue praying for my daughter Marlena as she transitions.  I assumed the context was understood as we all knew she had recently graduated and would be moving to start a job in another city.  I was a little taken aback by the strange smiles from my kids. Finally, one of them said, “you know Dad, that has a different meaning these days.”   I’ll let you figure out what they were talking about in today’s American context. 

As disturbing as the above example is, it’s a good reminder that we need to be mindful of the context in which words are received.  In the North American church and phase 4 & 5 fields there are often established patterns of thinking regarding missionaries and their engagement on the field.  Whether it’s North Americans thinking missions is only about evangelism or an established national church thinking money to run the church will always come from overseas.   Using and defining new terminology can open up doors to address these patterns of thinking and move the church towards greater maturity. 

I used a simple change in terminology at one of our Bible schools in Africa to try and deal with an issue that was demoralizing the staff.  We worked together to change from a program of student ‘sponsorship’ to student ‘scholarship’. The word sponsorship was used widely by students and staff and fostered a sense of outside dependency in both.  We decided to ban the use of the word sponsorship and began working on a structure for distributing scholarships, giving the staff a greater sense of responsibility and control in the process.   Very little actually changed in how money came in and was distributed but it did have an impact on how students related to the school.  This simple change in terminology gave opportunity to address thought patterns of dependency and gave a platform to empower staff.  And, I believe the staff is the key to helping the institution move toward a more sustainable operation.

I believe Global Partners has good mission strategy that’s on point with God’s mission and engaged with the changing context of our world.  Terminology of the facilitator era missionary can give us new opportunity to communicate and work in phase 4&5 area ministries.  I’d be interested to hear from others on how the simple use of terminology has or might impact your area of ministry.

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Rebooting GP

From time to time my computer starts to operate slower and slower. Programs don’t open as quickly as they ought, Zoom conferences cut in and out, and video clips halt for “buffering”. Often my computer woes can be solved by simply rebooting my system. I just shut down all the programs and power down my machine. Then when I restart I find that things are humming along smoothly again. Rebooting helps clear my computer of clutter that has kept it from working with maximum efficiency.

Period “rebootings” can be good for us as individuals as well as good for us as an organization. Essentially that’s what happens when a person takes a sabbatical – they shut down normal activities so that they can later power up and engage with fresh energy and perspective. In the “good old days” furlough served that purpose for missionaries. There were responsibilities for sure, but it provided a year free from normal missionary activity in preparation for returning to the field. Now with the pressure of support raising compressed into a shorter period, for many PD does not provide a reboot.

To varying degrees the Covid pandemic has shut us down individually and corporately from our normal activities. While we have managed to continue with some things remotely, other things have been put on hold until who knows when. It is an ideal time for us to reboot our lives and ministries. If we return to business as usual when/if this is over, then we have lost a good opportunity to clean out our systems in order to restart with fresh energy and focus. Over time our lives and ministries accumulate clutter that hinder our effectiveness and periodically needs to be cleared out.

It will be easy for to simply pick up where we left off and continue along the same path we had been traveling prior to the pandemic – much like pressing “pause” and then pressing “resume” to pick up exactly where we left off. For us to have a true reboot that changes our trajectory we will need to consciously reflect and identify the clutter that is bogging down the mission.

Andy Stanley, pastor of North Point Church in Atlanta, has challenged his staff to think through three questions as they reboot their ministries (Leadership podcast, 3 August 2020). 1) What should we never do again that we stopped doing because of Covid-19? 2) What should we start doing that we haven’t been doing but that we should begin doing now? 3) What have we learned during this time that we should carry with us into the future? They started processing through these questions before they started discussing the nitty gritty logistics of reopening their churches.

Those same questions can be helpful to us too, to ensure that we take advantage of the opportunity to reboot instead of simply pausing and then resuming. The questions can be asked at different levels – individually, as teams, as fields/Areas, and as an organization as a whole.

For example, here are some of the questions I’m asking myself or conclusions I’ve been drawing.

  • On a personal level – I’ve been to quick to accept travel invitations and need to be more strategically selective.
  • On a team level – my regular virtual check-ins with the missionary team leaders need to continue.
  • On an Area level – how do we help African churches to work collaboratively across national borders, instead of each of them having to reinvent the wheel – thinking specifically of missions mobilization and theological education?
  • On an organizational level – are we as an organization structured well to move into the emerging E2E era – everything from governance to mobilization to finances?

What about you? Are you rebooting or are you simply pausing? How would you answer these questions on the different levels?

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Financing E2E

In the past I have been very concerned about providing too much financial support for anything outside of infrastructural development. You know the buildings and equipment needed for the workers to train and serve.

Over the last few years I have had that concept challenged by what I have seen happening in Iberoamerica. We have organized a large number of events over the years with a key guide in place related to the financing of these events and ministry.

The guiding principle is basically this, “everyone needs to contribute to what is being planned and done.” At first the contributions were set at a lower level with the idea that as people learned the value of what was being done then, over time there would be a growing willingness to commit more finances to the ministry and work being done. Even the members of the Jibacam board contribute to the finances for board meetings and other events. They are expected to raise the money to cover their share of the costs.

The balance is then raised from interested people and churches who want to support the work being done. This has worked well and we have seen a growing willingness of the churches of Iberoamerica to increase their giving. It has a slow process but has been encouraging.

At one point I was thinking that it was time to bring an end to outside support. At some point you need to cut the umbilical cord so to speak. To this end I prepared some fairly complex guidelines for seeking help. They were well structured and laid out. A good set of protocols. But as I thought about them I realized they were designed to prevent the churches from wanting to run the gauntlet to get approval for such action.

I have rethought this and thrown it all in the garbage. Mostly because of all that is happening and the realization that it will be impossible to sustain the work God is calling the region to do if there is not outside involvement.

This has led me to review even what we do in raising funds. We seek out patrons to help us carry out the work. We talk to people, to groups of people, and churches, hoping and praying they will see the need and give, as well as pray. I say patrons because that is what they are. They are giving so we can focus on a key activity, much like the patrons of the arts who give so musicians, artists, and others can do what they do. Without this patronage we would be poorer in these areas.

If you think about this you will realize there are different levels of patronage. Ordinary people can be patrons, based on a specific level of giving. From there the scale ascends. The more you are able to give the fancier your title is and the more privileges you gain. An example, a first-tier giver may be given two free passes to events sponsored by the organization, while a top tier give has a free pass for every event, as well as other perks.

Think of E2E as just this, the chance to make it possible for gifted people to carry out their call. People who, without such patronage, will not be able to use the gifts they have been given by God.

If we apply this concept to missions then the local churches that are sending them, churches in poorer countries, would be the first-tier givers. (Another interesting fact is that the giving tiers are like a pyramid. The lowest level is populated by a great number of people. The farther up the pyramid you go the fewer people there are. Each level may give the same amount but it takes fewer and fewer people to reach that amount.)

Other countries could be involved in the patronage system as well. Each country could represent a tier in the structure. What will be different is that each tier will represent two key differences from the fine arts pyramid.

To understand this let me create a hypothetical structure. First we have the national church that is sending the person, second would be partnering national churches from that region. The third would be other national churches not from that region. In the case of this pyramid being part of a tier does not always define the giving capacity of the group. What it defines is nearness to the sending agency and the one being sent.

 The other key relates to responsibility and supervision. This will be different from patronage of the arts where the higher you are up the pyramid the more authority and input you have. It is like a shareholders event. There are a lot of people with few shares and a few with a large number of shares. Who do you think has the controlling vote?

That will be different in this system. It will be the sending church who has authority over what is being done and how it will be supervised. But this needs to be done so that there is still input from those involved in supporting what is done. There always needs to be a process of accountability.

This structure will make people nervous. It should. But managed correctly we could find ourselves creating a system that allows those who have the greater access to finances to make it possible for those with limited finances to go where we cannot go and often at a lower cost.

As you can see my thinking on this concept has shifted from what it used to be. I used to be fully behind the concept of being self-sufficient in relation to finances. And I still am strongly in favor of this as related to the internal operations of a church. But this is not what we are talking about. We are talking about E2E which is clearly different.

Do we have a Biblical example for this? Nothing that seems clear but only hints at this. The first time Jesus sent the disciples out he told them to depend on the generosity of the people where they served. At the end he changed this and told them to take supplies with them. He knew that things would change and there would be a need to find new sources of resources.

Paul used a number of financial plans. He worked and earned a living (Corinth), he depended on local resources (likely in Ephesus), and at time he received help from others (Philippi). On at least two occasions he was involved in raising funds from his area to support the people and work in Israel.

There was no take care of yourself and do everything on your own. It was more we are serving together and we need to discover what will work in every situation so that the work will go forward.

I don’t have a final plan. In fact, I believe we will have to analyze each E2E situation and come up with the best plan that provides the right access to the funds from all the sources available. There is no one plan. What I have tried to do here is open our hearts and minds to the possibility of new avenues of combining what we have to carry out the work in the best way possible.

I hope that is what I have accomplished, opened the door to a greater vision of a united church working to reach everyone everywhere.

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Characteristics of Good Facilitators

Last month, I wrote a post about being comfortable in the middle, commenting on John Maxwell’s book The 360-Degree Leader: Developing Your Influence from Anywhere in the Organization. It bears repeating (since we currently prefer the term ‘facilitator’), that we are all leaders even just in simple ways in our homes, neighborhoods, in class, etc. Being a 360-Degree leader is about showing healthy support and positive influence to everyone below, around, and above us. It’s not about being the boss.

Today I want to make an additional comment on a second chapter of Maxwell’s book which states that “Good leaders in the middle make better leaders at the top”. In other words, good middle-leaders improve the effectiveness of their top leaders. And, that is what we as facilitators want to do.

Maxwell goes on to say that in industrialized nations we have a whole culture around leadership training and expectations. But in developing countries, leadership is more ‘positional’, keeping distance between the leader and followers. The challenge, particularly for those of us who live in “highly positional” cultures, is how to model and/or encourage various levels of leadership. We don’t want to just train people how to be a ‘western’ leader.

In my opinion, the suggestions in the book apply to all cultures, though living them out may be different. So, how do leaders who excel in the middle (facilitators), add to the leaders over them?


1. Make a better team by helping carry some of the weight and/or the vision of the local leader above them.

Example: Our National Supt. Graça Nhatelo sometimes asks Jim and I to be main speakers at District Conferences. He always gives us his theme to promote for the year. One time he asked Jim to promote the idea of every member giving 10 mt monthly ($0.15) for National Church leaders’ transportation budget. Even though Jim doesn’t like to be the one talking about money, in promoting this, Jim carried Rev. Nhatelo’s vision and gave it extra weight, as it came from both the National leader and the M. 

2. Allow top leaders to be free to focus on other priorities.

Example: When a donation was sent for Bibles, Rev. Nhatelo asked me to be in charge of purchasing and distributing them. When I tried to get out of it by saying someone local might be better, he said no, because I was the one who had had the passion to organize it and would see the money was spent correctly. I accepted, but I had a local pastor work with me so that he could also gain the vision and experience. In the past I have tried to decline certain things, saying I am no longer “the leader”, but I have been reminded I am also part of the team. So this is a dynamic that facilitators have to wrestle with. 

3. Bring out the best in others by modeling the ‘A’ game ourselves.

Examples: Sometimes we do this without even realizing. (1) Years ago. we were in a local church and the pastor said that our young son set a good example. Our ears perked up. He said that Ben brought his Bible to church every week. We didn’t even realize we were setting an example; it was simply the way we were raised. (2) A young pastor said he takes good care of the car he has purchased and that he learned to do that by observing how the Ms took care of theirs.

4. Add value to top leaders by being a positive influence on other team members.

Example: Projects have been challenging in Mozambique as the culture values being with people more than tasks and many are not a fan of paperwork. I have tried to stress that if money is received from Western donors, they need to understand the Western importance of time and of reports in order to have good communication. In multiple meetings, I would ask the status of a project. There were times I would make multiple calls to see if something was done. There were times I would offer to take a picture and send it to the person responsible so they could give a progress report. Sometimes, I was concerned that, as a facilitator, I was being too pushy or annoying. However, I spoke to the National Supt. and he told me that I was doing the right things and I needed to continue patiently teaching and modeling. (Your country may have different dynamics. But it is always helpful when you are able to have open communication with the top leader.) This week, a leader said, “I think we must make a commitment to begin a project as soon as the funds are received.” -- Music to my ears.

5. Motivate other leaders to learn and grow. As others see us reading, taking webinars, going to conferences, accepting advice, we model the value of learning.

6. Advance the future by training others in leadership and innovation skills. – Pastoral training and leadership training, such as Leadership Matters, are areas in which GP has been strong in the past. GP has also recognized that overseas long-term training can have unintended negative effects. While we continue promoting different types of training, I believe we need to be careful that we don’t simply copy Western methods/skills.

Some of these points may seem obvious, but is there is an area in which we need to be more intentional?

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