Friday, September 30, 2011


The name "Sierra Leone" dates back to the 15th century when a Portuguese explorer sailing down the coast of West Africa came upon the hilly coastline, heard the roaring thunderstorms over the mountainous peninsula, and described the place he saw as Sierra Leone--or "Lion Mountains" in Portuguese. Below is Sierra Leone's coat of arms depicting two lions as well as a picture I took of some mountains in Sierra Leone.  

Sierra Leone's Coat of Arms
Sierra Leone's hilly mountains in the background.
 We have often described the leadership concept of working in a team in terms of a lion pride (lion's always win because they work together), and one can appreciate the strong image of Jesus as the "Lion of Judah," so the concept of a lion's head for our logo was born! I'm really pleased with it and I can't wait to see this image multiplied in villages throughout Sierra Leone as a symbol of Christian service and transformation! Here's our new logo ...

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Baptizing "Leadership"

I remember the first time a Christian leader encouraged me to engage in the leadership skill of "networking." I was a bit shocked that this godly minister would suggest I participate in what I understood to be such a "worldly" tactic. But as I observed my friend, I noticed that he used his networking skills often to benefit and uplift others rather than himself. It was then that I became convinced that it was okay for me, as a Christian, to engage in networking. After all, I concluded, if my networking can help build up God's Kingdom, wouldn't that be a good thing? (This friend, by the way, is Bruce McNicol--a true networker and President of a ministry called Leadership Catalyst/TrueFaced).

Quite often I've gotten the distinct impression that--just as I had my hesitations about networking--many Christians are skeptical when they hear the word leadership. Such uneasiness about something which is usually associated with "business" is understandable. I've often heard people say, "a church isn't a business"--to which I reply, "yes and no." While the bottom line of a business is often to make money or even to contribute to society (with making a profit a mere by-product), churches and ministries often do have radically different goals than most businesses. Ministries feed the homeless, help orphans and widows, or preach salvation (hence the "non-profit" nature of what we do). But shouldn't these efforts be run as well as if not better than a business, especially if we ministers claim that our goals are among the most noble of efforts? Employees and volunteers in the church are managed just like in any organization. Shouldn't they be managed well? Each church is headed somewhere. Shouldn't a church set goals and regularly revisit them to maintain disciplined direction? Pastors perform multiple services for the church. Shouldn't they be evaluated on their performance so their weaknesses can be shored up and their strengths be accentuated?

Stained-glass window of St. Augustine reading.
The hesitation to adopt leadership practices within the world of ministry is understandable. But the church has had to wrestle with such issues before. In the first few centuries after Christ, many Christian thinkers struggled with how to handle the Greek philosophy so prevalent in their world (think "Aristotle" and "Plato"). Some rejected it altogether thinking the philosophers too pagan to be a good influence in the church; others embraced philosophy whole-heartedly, believing these pre-Christian philosophers to have discovered truth which Christians could build upon. It was the church leader Saint Augustine who finally provided a helpful way forward. Augustine said that just as the ancient Hebrews had plundered the Egyptians on their way out of Egypt, so Christians could "plunder" secular philosophers by carefully taking what is good and true from philosophy but rejected that which is bad or in error. 
Bill Hybels interviewing Jack Welch.
This same approach suggested by Augustine regarding secular philosophy can be adopted regarding modern leadership principles. Should the church uncritically appropriate "all things leadership"? Of course not. But can the church benefit from listening carefully to wise leaders--be they Christian or non-Christian, secular or sacred--taking that which is good and rejecting that which is bad? I believe so. I'm a fan of Bill Hybels and his annual Leadership Summit has been a great example of this. Each year the Summit hosts both church and business leaders. The speakers include Christians, agnostics, and even those of other religions. In the 2007 video below, Hybels does a great job of helping those who "get their underwear in a bundle" navigate the issue of appropriating leadership principles for ministry. Enjoy!