I miss my Norwegian friend Knud Jorgensen who died last year. He was a Lutheran pastor, missionary, journalist, editor and strategist from whom I learned much over the past two decades. He was especially concerned about the formation of leaders for church and society.
He liked to quote a Chinese proverb:
If you want one year of prosperity, grow grain.
If you want ten years of prosperity, grow trees.
If you want one hundred years of prosperity, grow people.
A challenge for me, as I look forward to sharing with African churches in their formation work, is to ask myself what I can do to help to “grow people”.
This will be a journey of discovery but one thing I have learned from Knud already is that the overriding biblical perspective on leadership is service. We know all about leaders who seek to dominate and exploit. Jesus models something else: the servant leader.
“And Jesus said to them, ‘The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you. Rather let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.” Luke 22:25-27
When Knud was teaching at a seminary in Addis Ababa he had a poster on the wall of his office, displaying these words:
Go to people
Start with what they know.
Build on what they have.
When their task is fulfilled
And their work is accomplished,
The people will say
To their leaders:
WE DID IT OURSELVES!