Sunday, October 22, 2006

THE LAW OF THE LID: REFLECTING ON THE FREE METHODIST CHURCH IN TANZANIA




Renowned teacher and speaker on the subject of Leadership, John Maxwell says that leadership ability determines a person’s level of effectiveness. In essence, our leadership level determines our organization’s level of growth in all aspects. It determines our church’s size, maturity etc.Our leadership is like a lid. It keeps anything underneath from going higher. The lid keeps everything underneath from growing and reaching it’s potential. It is almost impossible to see a situation where the organization grew beyond the lid of the organization. Leadership determines the size of the organization. If my leadership is 4 out of 10, my organization will most likely grow to 3-out-of-10. You don’t have a 4-out-of-10 type of leader leading a 7-out-of-10 type of church or organization. It just doesn’t happen.

A growing organization is the result of a growing leader. Grow a leader and you grow his church or organization. The leader is the lid. Grow it up. Lifting the lid is serious business. It needs to be taken seriously. We cannot have growth without growing leaders. In Proverbs 29 we see that when good people run things, everyone is glad. In the Old Testament, when Israel had a good king they prospered. When they had an evil king they went down the tubes.

The very fact that an organization is going down means that we have the wrong leader. If the organization is declining, it’s because you have a declining leader. If an organization is on a plateau, it’s because it has a leader who is on a plateau. He cannot climb higher.

Don Stevenson, Former President of Global Hospitality in San Diego, CA, a company that bought out other resorts that were going under said that they would take over a resort that was going under, fire the President, turn it around by re-training the workers, make a profit and sell it.According to Stevenson, everything rises and falls on leadership. You cannot expect a church, business, institution, organization or country to turn around and become successful when you have the wrong leader in the highest office. It just does not happen!

The Free Methodist Church in Tanzania has been on a plateau for several years now. In fact, right from the beginning there were problems in the FMCT. Tribalism, nepotism, corruption, witchcraft etc Most of them were because of poor leadership. The leaders that the FMCT has had in the last 10 years have been people who are either not growing or are declining. As a result, the FMCT has been going under in almost every aspect. The establishment of a leadership training program (The Free Methodist Bible College) for the leaders of the FMCT was meant to address this problem. Unfortunately, for reasons beyond explanation, that program had to be closed down. This has only served to aggravate the leadership problem in the FMCT.

Expecting people with very little or no ministry training at all to grow vibrant churches, lead departments in the denomination and have a vision and ministry plan of action in the whole country is a mere joke. It would take a miracle for that to happen. Let us be realistic. Where else have we seen it happening? I know some of you will ask me to look at the disciples of Jesus Christ and see how many of them had high school education or a college degree. Doing that is only being myopic. It is irrelevant and naïve to cast Greek paradigms in a country like Tanzania which has a totally different context all together.

I hate to say it but the reality is that the FMCT is fast becoming a graveyard of spirituality and it’s only a matter of days before it is erased from the books of the church. Many of her members, though not taken out in a coffin, have been left crippled or stunted in ways either subtle or conspicuous.I hope someone with a burden for that church is reading this. The FMCT needs immediate attention if it is to survive. I do not care what you say but the truth is, the FMCT is in a “spiritual intensive unit”! Get me right, I am not being arrogant. I am speaking this from the bottom of my heart knowing very well that it may not go down within some quarters but history would judge me if I did not speak out at such a time.

In such times, it doesn’t help to bring up Chanceldonian controversies. What needs to happen is just to address the question of leadership in that church and save it or ignore it and let it go under. Godliness does not automatically translate into great leadership. That is a fact. Following the laid-down procedures of electing and selecting leaders is not the solution in the FMCT crisis. Something more urgent needs to be down possibly by the Congo General Conference and the East and Central Africa Area Fellowship if it still exists.Spiritual laissez-faire will not help in any way.Eugene Peterson says, “The French have a wonderful phrase, deformation professionale, to refer to maladies that we are particularly liable to in the course of pursuing our line of work. Physicians are in constant danger of becoming calloused to suffering, lawyers in danger of cynicism about justice, and those of us who think and talk and read and write God are in danger of having the very words we use about God separate us from God, the most damning deformation of all". In the same light, those of us who think and talk and read and write the FMC Book of Discipline are in danger of having the very words we use about church discipline separate us from the Church.

I am not suggesting that the leaders of the FMCT are not saved. Neither am I implying that they are not sanctified. I am only saying that they do not have the capacity to grow great churches. The law of the lid in their case dictates so at the moment. The only thing we can do to help the FMCT is to first have the will to save that church. Lack of goodwill at all upper levels in the worldwide FMC is a major hindrance at the moment.There maybe genuine reasons for this and they may need to be addressed too.But the next crucial thing that needs to happen is to come up with a practical plan for leadership training. Then we can recruit suitable leaders to oversee the leadership development plan. Let me hasten to say that a patient cannot treat himself so it is childish for any of the leaders in the FMCT to be entrusted with the responsibility of heading the leadership training program should it become a reality one day.It is not going to be easy. Some of us will not come out unscathed, but that is the price of leadership.It is not without considerable trepidation that I have opted to walk this path.

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