Everyone wants to know the secret when it comes to developing successful leaders. One can find books, television interviews, magazine articles and blogs which chronicle the elements of long-term success in developing leaders. Even the most trite resources will give a list of ten items that will ensure a leader’s skills; more enlightened authors will talk about the hard work and diligence necessary to see personal development realized. We tend to buy the Top-Ten list just for the sake of convenience.
But deep down most of us know the truth about leadership development—especially when it involves work in God’s harvest. We know that it is God’s hand that guides, and it is only in his time that people’s hearts are engaged. So with a kingdom perspective on leadership, what lessons can we learn about the development of leadership?
Lessons from the Past
HCJB World Radio is charting a course for the future that views leadership development as a core methodology. As we press forward, we have learned a few simple lessons and are developing new strategies. We share these not to serve as a roadmap, but rather as the story of a fellow traveler.
Lesson #1: Long-term dedication to the work of discipleship in a given place. HCJB World Radio is a unique mission agency because technology caused us to do the opposite of what a mission agency usually does. Instead of sending people around the world to share the good news, people from around the world began to come to one location—Quito, Ecuador. The reason was simple: Due to high-power shortwave technology, it was possible to make Christian broadcasts available to a significant portion of the world’s landmass from one location high in the Andes Mountains.
This created an interesting dynamic. All of the broadcasters spent time in the studio ministering to invisible audiences globally; however, their work did not stop there. Out of the momentum of a single missionary radio station launched in Quito on Christmas Day 1931, HCJB World Radio has helped start churches, found growing healthcare ministries and spearhead leadership development efforts.
Because the radio ministry started when there were just a handful of radio receivers, the work was very local. But as it gained global impact, the local leadership development continued. While we have seen many struggles in our passion for leadership development, the long-term investment has allowed God to work through those struggles. Nothing can replace the long-term investment we make in people and their development as leaders.
Today, many Ecuadorians consider HCJB World Radio a national treasure. They see the ministry training Ecuadorians and Latin Americans in media, medicine and, most importantly, God’s Word. Long-term investment has great rewards. Two examples of this include (1) the Bible Institute of the Air, launched in 1949, which helps people study scripture via the airwaves and (2) the Palmer School of Nursing, founded in Quito in 1955, which trained nurses to practice medicine throughout Ecuador and Latin America for a time. Both efforts have expanded in many ways. HCJB World Radio is involved in Bible teaching around the world via the mass media, and its medical training includes new areas such as family practice residency programs.
Lesson #2: The importance placed on leadership development at HCJB World Radio. Every organization shows its priorities in the programs that receive funding and attention. HCJB has seen many twists and turns in its journey to invest in leaders. However, one thing is certain: We have seen great blessing when we have made the development of leaders a priority.
Two examples of this are the Christian Center for Communications (CCC), launched in 1984, and the training of medical interns that started in 1978. Both efforts are affiliated with accredited universities; more importantly, these programs are one of the few places in Latin America where training media and medical professionals is done within a Christian context.
Training in media or in healthcare is not easy; it is technical and expensive. Yet we believe that God wants it to be done. We have seen 139 CCC graduates go on to run media companies, work in radio and television around the continent and even enter missions. Many of the students in whom we have invested are today valuable partners in ministry. Some of the doctors who have been through the training programs are now traveling with HCJB World Radio on emergency medical response teams to places such as Indonesia and Pakistan.
Lesson #3: As HCJB World Radio looks at leadership development within the context of partnership, God is glorified to multiply the efforts. With the fall of the Berlin Wall and the rise of local FM stations in many countries, the ministry model for HCJB World Radio’s media ministry changed. We realized that we had to move out of Ecuador and begin on-the-ground ministry to respond effectively. As we did this, people who had been listening to Radio Station HCJB or had heard of the radio ministry began asking, “Can you help us set up our own stations?”
Because we have had a history of developing leaders and investing in people, the answer was, “Yes, but you need to own it!” The move to partner with local believers with a passion to use media ministry has made all the difference. One of the earlier efforts in global training came in 1992 when we began producing training courses at Donetsk Christian University in the Ukraine (in the former Soviet Union). Today, there are more than three hundred radio plants.
Refocusing the Present
Proactive leadership development is a discipline, and it ebbs and flows in importance within any organization. Recently HCJB World Radio leadership decided that we needed to refocus our efforts and make leadership development and discipleship a central focus. Here are some of the things we have done:
- Added a new core value called “passionate discipleship” that helps articulate a heart for leadership development.
- Undertook a missionwide study of the book Master Plan of Evangelism by Robert Coleman. This study helped us focus on how Jesus viewed evangelism and discipleship.
- Produced a booklet that gives a context for discipleship specific to HCJB World Radio ministry in media and healthcare.
- Made leadership development a core methodology that should be a part of everything that we do.
Questions for the Future
As we reflect on how far the Lord has brought us and look through the lenses of faith into the future, more questions have emerged:
- What have we learned from sobering and humbling lessons of our history and heritage?
- How do our core values, based on biblical and relevant cultural tenets, affect the way we pursue our ends and goals?
- To what extent are we going to continuously engage in the biblical mandate of evangelism and discipleship without compromising our faith?
- What kinds of leaders do we envision to train and develop?
- What strategies or methods are we going to employ as we strive to stay true to the timeless message God has entrusted into our care?
HCJB World Radio is moving forward with an ardent belief that our God desires us to be proactive in training and developing a new generation of servants who would be agents of transformation in each of the regions where we serve.
We strongly believe that one of the underlining variables that would help us touch the lives of people is the development of transformational leaders. That means training and developing leaders whose lives are sold out to the transforming power of Jesus Christ, and who would stop at nothing in demonstrating Christ-like values in their daily walk. By focusing training and discipleship efforts on media and healthcare professionals, we hope to equip a new generation of leaders with these very practical tools.
As we look to the future, we are strategizing ways in which we can maintain a biblically-sound and culturally-appropriate leadership development program/system. Also, in order to equip and empower nationals to be transforming agents, plans are underway to launch a “mobilization center” in Ecuador and possibly other locations. This facility would serve the purpose of training nationals on their own turf and empowering them to become multiplying agents in God’s hands. The hope is that as we combine a dynamic missiology with practical tools, God will use these emerging leaders to have great impact in their communities and around the world.
As a global organization, HCJB World Radio is very sensitive to being responsive to the cultural nuances that confront us in each region of the world. This is why we encourage all of our workers to engage in training programs that would enable them to develop global cultural competencies. The insights gained from the global cultural training would be invaluable assets in helping them understand the multi-faceted differences that they will encounter as they serve with cooperating local and international ministries.
Additionally, as much as possible, we work with these cooperating ministries to develop region-specific training and leadership development modules. This is to ensure that we uphold our heritage for respect of the scriptures and the cultures that God has called us to serve.
As we proactively engage the opportunities that God has given us in media and healthcare, we realize that there are three pivotal things that should happen in order for us to leave a lasting Christ-like influence:
- Sobering commitment to the tasks. For the evangelization task to be effective, the leaders we train and develop must have an unwavering commitment to following Christ fully as we participate in kingdom extension.
- Solid content of the program. In order to counteract the consistent movement of secularism and syncretism, radio and healthcare practitioners should have a sound biblical basis and be competent in the contextual realities to produce and air programs and engage in healthcare practices that will touch and transform lives for an eternity with God.
- Service to the community/local church. Every local station and healthcare program should have the cooperation of the local communities where they operate. In order for our partners to own the ministries, they must see a clear demonstration of respect for them and their cultures. Above all, they must see that we are living out what we preach and teach.
We see success measured as Paul does in 2 Timothy 2:2—as leaders develop and successfully reproduce themselves in other leaders. The third generation is the true test of leadership development and that is our passion as God helps us to use media and healthcare ministry around the world.