Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A little point on leadership

If you want to "up" you blog views, including a word like "leadership" in the title is not a bad start. Leadership is a very popular topic at the moment - you can read books on it, do degrees in it, go to training courses to make you a better one...etc.

I have no intention on writing a full manifesto on leadership at this point! All I'm doing is making one, isolated observation.

In my personal Bible reading time at the moment I'm reading through Exodus and Proverbs. Kind-of a strange combination, but that's what my system produced for me. Today I was reading Exodus 18 and Proverbs 12.

In Exodus 18 Jethro (Moses's father-in-law) comes to visit the newly liberated Israel under the leadership of Moses. And, he sees that Moses is, well, snowed under. It seems that everyone who has a dispute comes to Moses for him to sort it out.

Jethro's advice is to get a bit of help - delegate this task of 'judging'. But what caught my eye in the context of leadership was the qualifications of these delegates. Jethro says "look for able men from all people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe." (Ex 18:21)

What was interesting for me was that yes, they were to be able (we are not told what their abilities should be, but maybe it was something to do with understanding the legal system), but just as, or even more important is their character. They are to be god-fearers, trustworthy, honourable.

That sounds very Proverbs-ish don't you think?

"The thoughts of the righteous are just; the counsels of the wicked are deceitful." (Pr 12:5)
"Whoever speaks the truth gives honest evidence, but a false witness utters deceit." (Pr 12:17)
"One who is righteous is a guide to his neighbour, but the way of the wicked leaders them astray."(Pr 12:26)

When we are looking for leaders, critiquing leaders, choosing new leaders, I wonder how we manage the balance of character and competence? I think the world pretty quickly sense - competency is king and character is a distant second - as long as character doesn't impinge on your ability to do the job.

But I think this little snippet from Exodus and Proverbs maybe says we can't separate the two. Perhaps character is more important, or even defines your competency?

If this is true, it is of course a great challenge for those of us who have positions of leadership. I don't know about you, but I have moments when the writer of Proverbs could well use me as his anti-example (if you know what I mean).

Exodus 18 and Provers 12 was a good reminder for me to keep on shaping my character according the scriptures.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

671 exams!

I'd like to tell you about two things.

1. A big number.
2. Some individuals.

1. A big number.
The number is 671. That's the number of MOCLAM exams that are currently being sent to me from the famous Island C. Over the past couple of months we've had a bit of a 'catch up on your exams' campaign going, and it seems to have worked! Of course this is really great news. It means that a whole stack of pastors (many will have done more than one exam, so I don't know what the number of students is) have been busy studying their Bibles and course notes, which can only be a good thing for their churches.

It is also great news that 98 of those exams have already been marked by tutors who I've been teaching over the last couple of years. I'll moderate some of their marked papers, but I am sure they will be fine - they certainly have been in the past.

So it is great to see that under God's hand, the effort we are putting in to teaching and equipping tutors is bearing fruit.

2. Some individuals.
Andrew Cox is a CMS missionary working in Bolivia. One of the things he does is teach MOCLAM courses. He teaches a couple of classes locally, but also teaches a class in another city of Bolivia using skype. In Andrew and Paulina's latest news, they share some reflections from their students. In the context of throwing around big numbers, to read the personal testimony of these amazing Bolivian people is encouraging, and also an important reminder of how important individuals are.

I'm quoting from Andrew:

"I have never preached directly from a book of the bible and only heard it done two or three times. I've been learning a lot and the congregation are more keen than ever to know God's word." (Local pastor)

"Discipling like this is the key to our denomination's survival. I've never had this sort of encouragement in my Christian life - even in seminary." (Local pastor)

"I've been a Christian since I was a teenager but I never realised how much God is sovereign and that the Bible is actually about him. I want my children to learn this!" (MOCLAM student)

"I was studying at a national seminary but now I really feel like I am learning from God's word through these courses - there is so much I didn't know before." (MOCLAM student)

I wanted to make a comment about the importance of long term missionary workers for these people, but Andrew does it better than I can, so over to him again.

"Each of these comments represents a person whose life has been enriched through relationship with the Lord of life in his word. In Bolivia, such discipling normally comes about through a believer's long-term faithfulness in personal relationship. There are no short-cuts to building this trust and respect; it cannot be developed by remote-control. It is necessary to send well prepared, servant-hearted sharers of the word."

I hope that you are encouraged by reading this. In the midst of our struggles, the heat, the difficulties and our tiredness, we are.

We're also really encouraged to know that there are many people who see this work as something really valuable, and you give generously so that we can continue doing it.

If you're encouraged, but aren't yet giving to CMS, can I encourage you to start doing so today. We can only be here doing this work because people like you give money. Andrew is right. Well prepared, servant-hearted sharers of the word are necessary for long term relationships, and that costs money.

If you'd like to give, this month is a great time to do it because the CMS annual appeal is on. The target of $1.4M is slowly being chipped away - as I write something in the order of $470K has been given. But that means there is still a way to go and June is well and truly underway.

Please visit today and give generously and cheerfully, so we, Andrew and Paulina and many other CMS missionaries around the world can keep working with individual people.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Taking a stand

One of our daughters "nailed her colours to the mast" at school the other day.

The kids are practicing for their end of year concert at the moment - music is a pretty big part of our school and each year they do a performance where the whole primary school sings 6-8 songs, with some bits of drama etc interspersed. They practice every day for an hour for 3-4 weeks. Generally good fun, some 'Over the Rainbow" type songs, other more traditional mexican, lots of good variety.

But this year, one of them had the Mexican equivalent of "Oh my God" in it. ie: a pretty commonly used expression of surprise, but using the word God. The sort of thing that we hear 100 times a day, we may kindof cringe a bit but don't say anything.

Well, one of our daughters said something. She quietly said to the (very senior) teacher leading the rehearsal that she didn't think it was appropriate to use the word "God" like that because he is very important and perhaps they should consider using a different expression.

The teacher said "OK - lets raise the issue with everyone else and see what they think?" So, she stopped the rehearsal, said that "______ (used her name but I won't because she was embarrassed) thinks we should change this phrase because some people might find it offensive. What do you think?"

After some discussion, the overwhelming opinion of all the assembled students (and _____'s peers) was to change!

Good on you ______ . We are proud of you.

(Random picture - taken in the Sierra Madre mountains. We live on the edge of this range.)

Friday, June 1, 2012

Teaching this weekend

I'm about to head to the airport to go to Tampico - a city down on the Gulf of Mexico - where I'll be teaching an intensive of Old Testament 1 tomorrow.

The way this has all worked out is a great example of networking, relationship and who knows who.

I was originally invited to go to Tampico because of friend of mine here has a cousin there who is part of a great church. They had heard about 'The Trellis and the Vine' ('El enrejado y la vid' in Spanish) and wondered if I'd go down and do a day seminar for local pastors.

I did, and it was great.

Then, the pastors asked me if I could help them in their training, so we talked about the MOCLAM courses, and off we went.

We came up with a mode of delivery which works really well. I go and teach a 5 hour intensive on Saturday morning, which gives them an introduction to the course and we work through 3 or 4 chapters of the subject. Then, over the the next couple of months they study individually or in small groups to complete the course. They then do their exam, and off we go again.

Tomorrow will be the beginning of their 3rd subject for this group of about 20 pastors.

I think there are two keys to the success of this group.

1. The material is great, and self contained. They can work at it as and when they are able.
2. There is a great local guy, Rolando, who is the organiser, motivator, all round good guy. Without him, things would certainly be much more difficult.

Gotta go - VivaAerobus waits for no one!