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Leadership never seems
to look like what I
anticipate. I have led. I
have watched men and
women in leadership.
I have read books on
leadership. And still,
what is often differs
from what we tell
ourselves ought to be.
I have listened to leaders who seem to have all the     Pastor Asare’s Big Dreams
right words and principles and mantras. They have
                                                        What if leadership were less about the one leading and
busy schedules and acronyms distilling their visions
                                                        more about who is being led? What if we really held
for their followers. They tend to spend a lot of time
                                                        true and fast to what we say we believe as leaders, even
telling me how much they have on their plates. One
                                                        when it is unpopular or downright dangerous? What
past colleague proudly declared he was known as
                                                        if leadership wasn’t the goal but what happened along
the “blur in the parking lot” since he always had
                                                        the way to doing what is right?
somewhere else to be. I was so impressed with this. I
longed to be wanted, no, needed that much. Not every    Pastor Asare is a committed pastor with a contagious
busy person is unauthentic, but I do wonder how well    smile and a work ethic paralleled only by his faith. He
we lead when we are so busy and formulaic in our        has an uncanny ability to seek the Lord, cast vision
approach to leadership.                                 and see it come to pass. He has been at his ministry
                                                        for more than 30 years, and his successes have not
In too many settings the gospel has been replaced
                                                        been without great trial, struggle and failure. In his
by business principles, and the soul of ministry has
                                                        words, “A setback is a setup for a comeback.” Failure
been abandoned for the bottom line. I am ready for
                                                        in any particular area meant learning one more thing
the business model of leadership to be tempered by
                                                        that could be crossed off his list of what might work
a model that values discipleship. I embrace learning
                                                        to build the kingdom and, consequently, increase his
from non-theological disciplines (including business)
                                                        odds that the next thing would work. This is a far cry
in order to do church and life and leadership better.
                                                        from how most people I know view failure. This is
These principles, though, should not replace the core
                                                        also a far cry from how most leaders are described.
of what church and ministry are.
                                                        More than 10 years ago, I stood in an empty field with
There is a difference between a business and a min-
                                                        Pastor Asare, planting mango trees to help fund his
istry, and we walk a dangerous path when we forget
                                                        ministry and provide shade for the facility he dreamed
this. I once heard this distinction expressed in a
                                                        would be on that very property. I have returned sever-
sermon in which the preacher spoke of the difference
                                                        al times since then, the most recent trip occurring last
between being efficient and being productive. Efficien-
                                                        summer, when I took a group of high school students
cy was likened to an automated assembly line where
                                                        with me to Ghana. We stayed in the hotel built on this
time, standardization and the bottom line were val-
                                                        property and worshiped in the adjacent auditorium.
ued over creativity and opportunity for learning and
growth. Productivity was likened to growth on a tree.   The property houses the church Asare pastors; serves
The product comes as a result of pruning, caretaking,   as a training ground for pastors throughout the north-
sunshine, being left alone and more caretaking—and      ern region of Ghana; provides work for many converts
eventually develops into something that simply could    to Christianity (a big deal in this largely Muslim area);
not be rushed or standardized. In short, it demands a   and serves as a home base for a variety of ministries
different focus that values both the producer and the   that have been birthed through his vision.
product rather than merely the product.

   “A setback is a setup for a comeback.” Failure in any particular
    area meant learning one more thing that could be crossed o his
    list of what might work to build the kingdom and, consequently,
   increase his odds that the next thing would work.

                                                                                                     IMMERSE 29
   Holistic Discipleship

  Pastor Asare dreamed long ago of people not only be-       ing, temporary housing, loans for micro-enterprises,
  coming believers but faithful disciples and leaders in     a goat project for children, schooling, pastoral care
  their own ways. He has sought to do all of this through    and training, church planting, farming, a hotel and
  a ministry named Markaz Al Bishara, or, Center for         conference center—to name a few. In this part of the
  Good News. Now, here is the kicker.                        world, accepting Christ can literally mean your life
                                                             and livelihood are threatened. Evangelism demands
  When we sat with Pastor Asare on our first day of this      discipleship, and discipleship must be holistic.
  recent trip for orientation and to learn about all the
  ministries he oversees, he introduced himself as the       Our trip to Ghana ended with a time of debriefing
  chief servant. The teens talked of this introduction       with Pastor Asare. He talked of the work we had done,
  that night and for the weeks to come. That night the       the attitudes we had in the dining hall, the demeanor
  tone of that discussion was both humorous and skep-        we used when talking of time in town or in the vil-
  tical. They had heard the rhetoric before.                 lages and the willingness (and sadly, at times, the lack
                                                             thereof) to step out of our comfort zones to bring about
  By the end of our time, they believed him. We believed     the kingdom. In short, he left no stone unturned in
  him. They respected him and were willing to follow         naming where we fell short but always coupled his
  and take risks as he directed. He told them that he        comments with praise for what we had done well.
  was available to talk with them, to pray with them, to
  dream with them. He let them know that while he was        He then flipped the script and asked us to do the same
  the leader, he too still had room to grow and longed       of him and his staff. He took copious notes and fol-
  to be transformed in the image of Christ. This was his     lowed up with me on what had been said more than a
  wish for each of them as well.                             month after our return home. He began and ended the
                                                             meeting with another of his favorite phrases: “The larg-
  He also told us that he wanted to model what it means      est room in the world is the room for improvement!”
  to dream so big that it is impossible without God. This
  is what he had been doing since coming to know Christ      I once asked Pastor Asare what gives him the energy
  after being an Arabic teacher. He knows his community      to constantly dream anew and open himself to criti-
  and the needs around it. While every issue cannot be       cism. With a puzzled look, he responded, “What
  addressed by any single ministry, he has a solid be-       else is there to do? The world is broken, and Jesus
  lief that Jesus is the answer to every question and that   lets us help him to make it whole again.” Indeed, as a
  Jesus is creative and flexible enough to work in many       disciple of Jesus Christ, what else is there to do?
  ways. For this reason, the ministry includes job train-

         I am increasingly convinced that leadership for Christians
         is as much about discipleship as anything else. Discipleship
         is a tricky thing. While the word disciple is used in the New
         Testament, the word discipleship never occurs. We’ve created
         entire programs around something most of us have never really
         slowed down to try to understand.

    In this part of the world, accepting Christ can
    literally mean your life and livelihood are
    threatened. Evangelism demands discipleship,
    and discipleship must be holistic.

Pastor Asare is clearly a leader, but he would never        Somewhere between studying leadership and disci-
describe himself that way. He would say he is first and      pleship and receiving a heavy dose of influence from
foremost a disciple, and as a disciple, he must be obe-     Pastor Asare, I have gleaned many things, like…
dient to share the gospel. He knows he cannot meet
every need, but that does not stop him from trying.
                                                            …the importance of theological reflection.
                                                            If we don’t know what we believe or how it fits into
Broadening “Discipleship”                                   our contexts, it is too easy to get swept up in every
                                                            passing trend. Study, read, ask questions and have
I am increasingly convinced that leadership for Chris-
                                                            conversations with others. Theology isn’t only the
tians is as much about discipleship as anything else.
                                                            territory of professors and pastors. It is open to all.
Discipleship is a tricky thing. While the word disciple
                                                            Equally important, theological reflection is not some-
is used in the New Testament, the word discipleship
                                                            thing that is fixed once and never reevaluated. There
never occurs. We’ve created entire programs around
                                                            are, of course, non-negotiables, but these are often
something most of us have never really slowed down
                                                            fewer than we care to admit.
to try to understand. A disciple is often explained as a
follower. But what the heck does this mean?
                                                            …the engagement of community.              Churches
David Bauer helps us by drawing a distinction between       have a bad reputation of answering questions that
a follower and an adherent. A follower is one who is        are not being asked and meeting needs that don’t ex-
willing to go where the crowds are and join while it is     ist while ignoring what is really present. Being pro-
popular or easy. Many of us begin as followers, check-      tected, cloistered or so busy that we cannot connect
ing things out but not actually changing the way we         with the very people we serve or those with whom
live, behave or think.                                      we serve renders us figureheads who are all too
                                                            quickly out of touch.
An adherent goes beyond showing up when it is cool
or trendy. An adherent is someone “who was commit-
ted to the teaching and ethos of a city or state, to the    …the essentiality of self-evaluation. We need
doctrines of a philosophical school, or to a teacher, re-   to keep a metaphorical mirror close at hand. We must
ligious figure, or great thinker who lived either in the     learn to recognize our own limits and be willing to ask
distant past or was a contemporary of the adherent.”1       for help. It is better to do something small and do it
                                                            well than to attempt everything and accomplish noth-
Being committed is the key. Commitment is not a part-       ing. Slowing down to reflect can be painful, but it is
time option. It infiltrates every corner of your life and    always helpful.
colors how you interpret and approach every situation.

                                                                                                       IMMERSE 31
   Holistic Discipleship

 …the importance of the village. This is not solo             memorate significant events and locations. We should
  work. We are not alone in this. We have to surround         do this more often. Maybe we don’t need to build
  ourselves with co-laborers we trust. Be careful here.       actual altars. Maybe we need to celebrate a rela-
  Sometimes the village mentality leads us to create bar-     tionship, a salvation or a moment when God made
  riers to others, and co-laboring becomes more about         himself unmistakably evident.
  us leading from an ivory tower. Instead, we should
                                                              Discipleship is not the typical entry point for discuss-
  surround ourselves with people who are our biggest
                                                              ing leadership, especially given that the common
  cheerleaders and most stringent critics. There is a true
                                                              explanation of disciple is that of a follower. But what
  reciprocal relationship with these people. Celebrate as
                                                              if all of us in big and small roles as leaders focused
  each person brings his or her perspective to the table in
                                                              more on being faithful adherents of the ways of Christ
  order to better move forward.
                                                              and less on what others thought of us? What would this
                                                              require, and what would it look like?
 …the need to invest, regardless of the cost.
                                                              What if we approached every day seeking to be chief
  There are some decisions that demand an immediate,
  black-and-white response. As leaders grounded in
  being disciples, what is right may outweigh what
                                                              1. Katherine Sakenfeld, ed., “Discipleship.” The New Interpreters Dictionary
  makes political or financial sense. We may have
                                                              vol. 2 (Louisville, KY: Abingdon, 2009), p. 128.
  to stand up for someone or something at the risk of
  losing our leadership positions. Good decisions aren’t
  always easy, and easy decisions aren’t always good.         Amy Jacober is a youth ministry veteran, having served in a variety
                                                              of ways. She currently teaches at Truett Theological Seminary, is a
                                                              staff consultant with Youth Ministry Architects and spends much of
                                                              her time with teens or writing for those who do. Her areas of interest
 …the unity that comes through corporate                      include urban issues, teens with disabilities and marginalized
                                                              groups. She is supported by her husband and two daughters.
 celebration. Those who play well together tend to
  work well together. Celebration is not only about the
  ending of a job well done; it is about the appreciation
  of the relationships. The Israelites built altars to com-


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