I remember a long time ago a number of people told me that I was going to be the president of a (certain) mission one day. I remember thinking they were crazy. When I think of being a mission agency president, I don’t really think of leadership, I think of administration. Most mission agencies have such a culture and structure already fossilized around the leader, whoever he (or her) may be, that his hands are tied before he gets into the ring. These are the parameters. Don’t rock the boat. Appease the old dudes, they have the resources. Be dynamic and eclectic to attract the kids. Now go raise money. I’m sure a president is no doubt told he has lots of liberty…until he actually tries to change something.
Administration and me…well, they just don’t get along very well. But over this past week, when I was fighting a funky sort of low-grade fever, I began to think about what I would do if I were a mission agency president. What I would say. How I would say it. This is the first in a series of blog posts of some of what I came up with, sweaty pillow and all.
Before I start, I should recommend that you never do an Internet search on Fevers of Unknown Origin (FUOs). You will be convinced afterward that you will most surely die of a tumor or cancer. I am still kicking, however, so my body must have known why it was heating up, even though I didn’t.
My mind wandered to the times I’ve heard George Verwer speak. Two words summarize George in my mind…passionate and funny. It is difficult to separate George from his globe-ball, which he invariably throws into the crowd during or after his talks, and his annoying globe-sweater. George is not terribly eloquent, and not a great expository preacher. But he tells good stories. They are not second-hand stories that he’s heard from someone. They are his stories. I believe him because he is believable, and because he believes. His self-effacing sense of humor makes him human.
If I were a mission agency president, I would be passionate, I would tell my own stories, and I would never get too far removed from the real life ministry and the grit of the real life mission field. I would never get too distant from first-generation believers and I would never want to get to the place where I would be inapproachable or out of touch with the fact that the gospel is messy, imperfect, imprecise and glorious work. I would refuse to spend too much time in the office, because I would not want to be an administrator, I would want to lead by example, and what a mission agency needs to be able, above all else, is relate to real people who have real needs.
Why do “promotions” in Christian ministries including mission agencies take us farther and farther from real-world, grass roots Jesus-sharing? How has “leadership” come to mean the sterile organization and re-shuffling of people and resources, from the comfort of my swivel leather chair? Really? When Jesus promoted leadership, he put his disciples in more social situations, and seemingly delighted in telling them “Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Do not take a purse or bag or sandals.”
If I were a mission agency president, I would lead from some God-forsaken corner of the world, so that everyone who had the guts to follow could see that God had not forsaken that part of the world…He had sent me there.