Let me back up…the mission that we work with, New Testament Churches of Christ (NTCC), is connected to about 300 churches all over Uganda. These churches are grouped together into clusters that are near one another, and these clusters come together occasionally for mutual support, worship, encouragement, fundraising and unity. We at the mission office travel to visit churches and clusters in order to strengthen, teach, lead and encourage them. We are partners with them in the work they are doing in their local community.
Our current challenge (there are many, but let’s focus on this one for today) is helping spiritually immature churches to mature through local leadership. The trouble we see is often the leaders of the local churches are also spiritually immature and unable to help the flock grow in Christ beyond their own spiritual development. So we are trying to disciple these local leaders in a very intentional and life-on-life manner, but this takes time (We have to remind ourselves that Jesus spent three years mentoring only 12 men). So how do we minister to the 300 or so churches around Uganda while discipling 15 pastors? We must disciple leaders while also visiting churches and teaching along the way.
When we visit these churches, we try to paint for them a picture of what spiritual health and growth looks like for the mission, clusters and local churches. We remind people where we have come from, give them a good picture of where we are today, and then cast a vision for where we are going: spiritual growth and maturity through discipleship. We coach cluster leaders through leadership challenges and power struggles, and encourage churches to continue meeting to build one another up. We empower the church leaders and cluster members to address their challenges together and with confidence in the LORD. While we remind them that we stand with them, we also don’t want them to depend on us for everything or feel like they need our “permission” for progress. Our visits are also a good way for us to be informed about what is going on in the village churches.
We also teach local churches to focus on the mission of Jesus: to make DISCIPLES. We emphasize His call that ALL of His followers are to make disciples, not just pastors or leaders. And we teach what Christ-like leadership is so everyone can hear: servant-hearted, humble, self-sacrificing and loving. Passages such as John 13, Philippians 2 and Matthew 20 are central to our message, as are other passages about being a shepherd and a pastor.
It is humbling to preach on such matters. It is a regular reminder of where my heart should be as I challenge these other leaders to have hearts like Christ. The verse in 1 Corinthians 11 is a reminder that I can only lead others as far as I have gone, so I must continue to seek after the LORD. I am also honored to serve the Lord in these churches alongside my teammates: JP Robinson, Dennis Okoth, Peace Nanzala and Stephen Masaba. These men and women inspire, challenge and love me well.