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Learning from Lausanne Mission Leaders

lausanne movementTo test these findings, I conducted and analyzed interviews with Lausanne Movement leaders to discern key issues, trends, and challenges they face, how they have grown and been formed as leaders, and how leadership has changed in the past twenty years.

I selected 20 key leaders of major initiatives and movements, collecting data through first-hand observations. Given that some of these interviews were conducted with leaders in shame-based or shame/honor cultures, Appreciative Inquiry methodology proved helpful. Appreciative Inquiry provides a positive approach to interviews, providing more fruitful and relevant material from those interviewed.

It became apparent that there were a number of common threads between the interviews. Long-standing leadership traits that several noted as constant included the spiritual aspects of missional leadership: being biblically formed, character formation, and Christ-like servant leadership. Other, more tangible threads related to the need for vision, passion, and relational competence.

Every leader pointed to a common thread in their life story--of how God clearly intervened and called them to ministry. One leader mentioned the crucial importance of a “private, personal and intimate worship of the Lord as being priority number one… [Further stating that] powerful public ministry comes from a passionate, private worship walk with the Lord.” Another leader stated, “The Church is yearning for this type of intimacy.” And another leader pointed to the importance of listening to the Lord as well as to the Lord’s speaking through others.

Globalization, economic disparity, migration, and technological advancement were all issues leaders identified as requiring changing forms of leadership. They also discussed moving away from a broad vision toward a more clearly defined set of outcomes, complete with measurable qualities, as being important in the current era.

One leader observed that “We are now living in a globalized world… We need to look at this more carefully because it impacts the Church… It impacts the whole life.” Another leader put it this way: “[We] live in an increased globalized world where issues are more than transnational. How do we fit into what others are doing and what pieces are missing and what can we do to create structures to help?”

Leaders emphasized the need for further collaboration and teamwork in diverse societies. The need for more strategic and directional leadership was also emphasized. One leader highlighted the importance of gift-based leadership rather than trait-based leadership. Another leader shared, “[Leadership is] much more dispersed and distributed (not management by objective). [We need a] vision and values approach– not [simply] by goals and objectives.”

The relational thread was strong in all of the interviews--that vision should emerge from the group more than an individual, and that people should be empowered. As one leader suggested, “giving away power” is critical to success in this age. “The ownership – confidence of indigenous leaders to lead their own way and let westerners get out of the way [will be key for leaders of the future].”

The final common thread in these interviews was a need for further creativity and innovation as we look to the future of mission. As one leader said, “[We are] constantly looking for innovative ways to engage around spiritual issues and lots of interesting methodologies in our network.” Another interviewee shared, “[We need] more emphasis on relationship, collaboration, prayer and listening to the Lord and experimentation.”

Discussing Polycentric Leadership

Joe Handley

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