Yesterday we began our leadership training sessions at New Life Missionary Church. We had a schedule planned but assumed that changes would be made throughout the day. Pastors have come from different parts of Uganda to take part in this time, as well as some of the local congregants of New Life. The focus of these sessions is to work together to learn how to become better leaders, and also how to mentor and disciple the people in our communities. Today and yesterday we focused more on what it looks like to be a spiritual leader, and later on in the week we will discuss how we are to go and make disciples.
Yesterday we started off with around 30 people and as the day went on more and more people began to show up. By the end of our time we had over 50 people in attendance. The schedule for the day is separated into 5 sessions with breaks and worship times in between. Courtney, Venice, Shelly, and Zifus each lead a session, covering a variety of topics that are important for spiritual leaders to understand.
Courtney began the time with an introduction to what we will be discussing over the next few days. The sessions are interactive, requiring people to share their thoughts and ideas about the material that is being presented. The first idea that Courtney brought up was about how “everything rises and falls on leadership.” The people then went on to explain what this meant to them. Many spoke about how without effective leaders in any area of life (family, work, church, the nation) things will fall apart. Courtney went on to say that if we want to be effective leaders we must be imitators of Christ. This time concluded by answering a couple of questions. The first was “What is leadership?” and the second, “What is spiritual leadership?” This was defined as people moving on to God’s agenda rather than their own. Moving beyond self, listening to what God was trying to tell them.
Next Pastor Zifus came and led a session looking at the theology of leadership. He had the people give seven words that describe leadership, which were supervision, humility, hospitality, trust, tolerance, integrity, and transparency. These terms were then placed into categories of nature, method, and purpose. Then we discussed the nature, method, and purpose of leadership in terms of God. There were many important examples and ideas that helped to emphasize the points that Zifus was making. He said that we must understand that God overthrows human systems. God is above these systems and has authority over them. He also mentioned how Jesus was a servant leader. He should have been the one sitting at the table getting his feet washed but instead he was the one washing the feet of his followers. We must be servant leaders who are also going out and making disciples. Not only should be making disciples but we, too, should be disciples. You must be a disciple who goes out and makes disciples, who then go out and make their own disciples. This is a key part of our training this week.
After this Courtney stated how we must not only learn these things, but also need to practice them. As Pastor William stated on Sunday, we must pray, open the Word, meditate, pray, and then go and do. After this Courtney had the people split up into pairs in which they rated themselves and each other from 0-10 on the leadership qualities that they had come up with earlier. This was an important and necessary activity for everyone to take part in. After this we ate a delicious lunch and then moved into a time of singing.
Next to share was Shelly. She spoke about how we are all created in the image of God. Not one is greater than another. She was mainly speaking about the need of equality between men and women. The women need to be empowered and understand that they can also be effective leaders and teachers of the church. This brought about some interesting questions and discussion time. One of the overarching themes of these teachings has been that doing flows out of being. This means that who we are effects how we act, or what we do. Our being must reflect that of Christ Jesus, which may mean going against the cultural norms. The Kingdom of God calls us to a different culture.
Venice Jackson led the last session of the day. He led us in some glorious singing and dancing. His energy and joy brought about new life to the congregation. After teaching us a song he spoke on the meaning of worship. A few key points he made include: All worship is for the glory of God, God desires all praise, when we praise we must be ourselves, if you are entertained by worship you are missing the point, and if you receive a genuine sense of joy while worshiping you know that you are bringing glory to God. All of these points are valuable and I would push you to reflect on these ideas. At the end of his time Venice played “Amazing Grace” on his saxophone and we entered into a time of meditation and prayer. The first day went well and today was even better.
Today was planned out to be a similar schedule as yesterday, but God had different plans in mind. The day began with Courtney again and he spoke about the character and integrity of leadership. We discussed the image of God, how God is love, how God is holy, how we must be repentant and open, we must have integrity, and also how we must go against the culture. In every culture there are practices and habits that Christians follow even though they go against the teachings of Jesus. Each country is different and I would urge you to reflect on your life and analyze the areas of your life that may need to change in order to match the example of Christ. It was interesting learning about the Ugandan culture and some of the things Christians must reject. One man mentioned that some Christians go to witch doctors to find help, or others will seek the guidance and blessing of evil spirits. Another person mentioned how some worship the dead and name their children after the deceased in order that their spirit may protect them. There were some more common troubles as well such as selfishness and gossiping. It is apparent that this culture is a very spiritual culture. Venice pointed out that without spirits the people would not know what to do. That is why so many Christians are still seeking spirits other than God.
The next session Zifus spoke about theological leadership again and this time looked at the story of Nehemiah. He has the people separate into 6 groups and each group analyzed a chapter of the book and looked for different aspects of leadership within the passage. There was some fascinating discussion during this time, so much so that only three chapters were covered in the time. The last three will be discussed tomorrow. After this session we took a break for lunch and then came back to a time of worship.
We sang some wonderful songs of praise and then began to transition into the next session. God had different plans. Courtney came up and wondered why we should stop singing. He loved the tune we were singing even though he didn’t understand the language. We discovered that the people were repeating over and over that God is the one and only God, it’s all about you Lord. The music and words were powerful. We continued singing and praying. The Spirit was moving and doing incredible works. Many were moved to tears, some fell to their knees or faces in adoration of God. Others bowed and prayed, while some shouted out praises to God.
As I listened and witnessed this incredible sight I felt the presence of God. I felt the Spirit moving and I could feel grace pouring out over that place. This type of worship is much different than I am used to but I must say it was incredibly powerful and a great experience. I sat with my head in my hands, tears forming, asking God to fill me with His Spirit so that I may serve Him with my entire life. I asked God to take away my temptations and worries. I sought freedom. Freedom from sin and freedom to be the person that God has made me to be, forgetting about how the world may see me, but focusing in on serving God and glorifying Him in all I do. I’m not even sure how long we sang. I was so engaged in the present moment that time did not exist. C.S. Lewis said that when we are fully engaged in the Present we get a glimpse of Eternity. That is exactly what occurred on this day. The present is powerful. It transforms lives and gives life. In the present grace flows in abundance and is overwhelming. We must strive to live in the present in order to be filled with the Spirit and be open to what God may have for us.
I apologize for another long post but there is just so much to share! Writing is how I process the world and make sense of what is going on around me. It gives me life and understanding. It is a form of therapy for me. A form of worship. Thank you for reading and supporting me in this journey. I greatly appreciate your prayers and messages of encouragement. Be transformed and know that you can serve God wherever you are at. No one is greater than another. We are all serving the same God for the same purpose. Go out and be alive. Live and learn. Allow yourself to be changed each day. Blessings.