by P. T. Chandapilla
This discussion is intended to deal with our topic on a practical level. I shall endeavor to suggest a certain modus operandi to meet the great need of true Christian leadership in India.
This discussion is intended to deal with our topic on a practical level. I shall endeavor to suggest a certain modus operandi to meet the great need of true Christian leadership in India. There are two parts to consider in the development oï¿½ Christian leadership, the divine and the human. I shall dwell only briefly on the first, and give more attention to the latter. This is not done because of the order of importance, but with an eye to be as pragmatic as possible.
I. THE DIVINE PART IN DEVELOPING CHRISTIAN LEADERSHIP
There are two facets to keep in mind as we think of the part of God in developing Christian leadership.
A. God’s Prerogative in Developing Christian Leadership
I believe that all leadership in the human context comes from God. There is not a human leader who comes up or goes down without the hand of God in active involvement in it. This is a biblical postulate. When it comes to Christian leadership, this is particularly so. Because Christian leaders are essentially and primarily men who represent the program of God in Christ Jesus, God is peculiarly and directly responsible for this whole phenomenon of Christian leadership.
God plans and wills for Christian leadership. He brings forth such men as of His will to leadership. He watches over them. He prepares them. He gives the right and necessary atmosphere for them to develop into leaders for Him. Then at the appropriate time, or in the fulness of time, He sets His men in leadership. The lives of Moses and David, of John the Baptist, of Christ Jesus eminently declare this ultimate and real responsibility of God for leadership of His people. It is the sovereign work of God. There is only so little that men can really do to produce and develop Christian leadership.
In the New Testament, Christian leadership is developed in a particular way by the Holy Spirit. He decides the vocation; He gives the particular equipment for the vocation; He energizes the service of Christian leaders. Christian service or leadership is emphatically within the office and direction of the Holy Spirit under the New Covenant. God’s prerogative and responsibility for Christian leadership as a whole, and especially the developing of it, are unquestionable. All that we can discuss is what is the part of man within the prerogative and initiative of God to develop Christian leadership in India.
B. Man’s Response to God’s Prerogative in Developing Christian Leadership
There is a definite response that is to be evoked in us while the ultimate responsibility in the matter is God’s. I feel that the response may be threefold.
First, we must be conscious of the compelling need for Christian leadership. In other words, we must have our eyes open to the need, so that when God ordains and sends His leaders we will be able to receive them as from Him. In India we stand desperately in need of true and good Christian leadership on the national and even local levels. The discussion of this subject at this conference evidences the urgency of the need. Let this sense of need possess us in depth.
Secondly, our response must take full cognizance of the problems, difficulties and human impossibilities involved in the development of right and good leadership. We cannot meet the bill of this requirement. The need is beyond man to fulfill in its integrity and sufficiency. The more deeply we are aware of the difficulties and problems involved, the better it is on our part. Because it leads on to the third aspect of our response.
The third area of response is earnest, specific and expectant prayer to God to raise true Christian leadership in effective and sufficient measure, so as to match the needs of this country, and even to spare, toward the global program of God’s work. I believe God the Holy Spirit is going to raise the necessary leadership for all His program in this country. But this is also conditioned by our prayer in the specific areas and corners of need of which we are aware. Let us then pray, along with the various other needs of God’s work in India, for a good and continuing crop of Christian leaders who will bring honor and glory to our God in this nation.
This leads me on to the second and more practical part, which is the human part, in developing Christian leadership in India.
II. THE HUMAN PART IN DEVELOPING CHRISTIAN LEADERSHIP IN INDIA
We have concluded that it is unquestionably true that the raising up of Christian leadership is the sovereign work of God and God’s prerogative. However, it cannot be gainsaid that man has a definite part to play, and that practical responsibilities rest on man in this enterprise. In this context I want to look at four aspects of the subject:
1. The area from where Christian leadership is to be expected and developed.
2. The prerequisites for the development of Christian leadership.
3. The types of Christian leadership to be developed.
4. Some practical steps to develop Christian leadership.
A. Where are we to look for Christian leadership to come from in India?
At the outset of answering this question, I must say that India must be considered as the geographical area from where Christian leadership must come for India. This statement appears to labor on the obvious and sounds elementary. However, I feel that is where I must begin. I need to say this because any idea that might linger in us that we can continue to provide Christian leadership from outside India must be dispensed with. Were it even possible or feasible, we should not give any more room for this consideration. We must resort ourselves, if we have not already done so, to develop Christian leadership in India particularly for the task in India. Even if this is a slow and difficult task, we must give ourselves to it. This is an objective that should possess both the national and foreign brethren who have anything to do with developing Christian leadership here. Once we set ourselves to that goal, our prayers and efforts will take a new depth and reality. So the simple question to be posed on a personal level is: Do I long to see Christian leadership developing in India, and if so what am I doing toward that? Or am I a hindrance for it?
The next obvious answer to the question, Where shall we look for Christian leadership? is that ordinarily the Christian community in India must be the social area out of which Christian leadership is to be developed. I say ordinarily because God in His sovereign activity and initiative is not limited to the Christian community. The vast non-Christian communities are potential ground out of which we must expect Christian leadership to come. The history of the Indian church is highlighted with outstanding Christian leadership coming out of the non-Christian people of India. Several living proofs are before us in India today. If the Christian church and the existing Christian leadership will be obedient to the Lord of the church, this glorious and challenging phenomenon of Christian leadership coming out of non-Christian India will go on in increasing measure. However, what I want to emphasize is that we have the heritage and abundant resource material to develop Christian leadership from the Christian community.
I wonder if we have adequately given ourselves to see this happen. I know of individual men of God who have applied themselves to this endeavor with great success. In different and isolated parts of India there are stories of great revivals in the past which threw up crops of persons into the Christian service and leadership. On delving deep one finds that certain individuals were used of God for those revivals and raising up Christian leadership after them. Therefore, I am contending that vast resources of leadership lie untapped in the existing Christian fold. These resources need to be exploited. This will be the result of revivals.
The third answer is that the youth of the Christian church in India must be made the intensive target field in order to develop Christian leadership. To confine and focus the target field further, the youth in educational institutions, especially on the tertiary level of education, should be the high priority area of concentration. Humanly speaking, that is where future leadership of India lies. So it is true for Christian leadership, because God works normally through the existing channels, though He is certainly not limited to them. God can and does raise leadership for Himself from the most unlikely corners of ignorance or illiteracy. I feel, however, that this is the extraordinary and not the normal occurrence.
In India there are Christian agencies who work among the youth. Particularly in the last two decades there has been a multiplication of such agencies. It augers well. Nevertheless, the question to be asked is how many of these agencies are working toward developing Christian leadership. I do not know except one or two of the agencies who have a sustained approach and program toward developing Christian leadership on the level we are dealing with in this discussion. I submit that Christian leadership will not develop if there is not a program clearly intended to that end. We reap what we sow. We get what we want and work for.
In this context I must also register my observation that the Indian church at large has not a sufficient vision or program geared to its youth which in turn will produce Christian leadership for India. Where any such program or concern exists, it is parochially and denominationally oriented and directed. Thus the majority of the potential of Indian Christian youth goes outside the pale of leadership development due to the inadequate thought and attention given to this potential. There needs to spring up a far more vigorous, enlightened, and extensive concern on the part of the present church leadership relating to its youth, if Christian leadership is to emerge in the next generation at least.
B. What prerequisites are to be met in order to develop Christian leadership in India?
This is the next practical question and a vital one requiring thought and sincere answers. I am more than convinced that certain preconditions must be there, if Christian leadership is to develop in contemporary India. I shall give a fourfold answer.
The first prerequisite is a core of Indian Christian leaders with the burden to develop Christian leadership in India. As I mentioned earlier, it is inadequate if this burden rests on good and well-meaning non-Indian brethren alone. Until this vision and concern becomes the passion of qualified Indian brethren, the project is not going to take off the ground. The Indian Christian leaders who intend to develop Christian leadership in India must possess the following five qualities:
1. They must be leaders who have a definite vision to develop Christian leadership in, from and for India.
2. They must be leaders with the willingness to abandon themselves for this purpose on a constant and consistent pace. They will not be elated by success and undaunted by difficulties. They will carry on their vocation with the satisfaction that they are fulfilling God’s purpose for them and this nation.
3. They must be leaders who are truly Christian and essentially Indian. Nominality both as a Christian and an Indian is a basic disqualification.
4. They must be leaders who have a knowledge of the history of both Christianity and India, and who have an understanding of and insight into the contemporary India.
5. They must be leaders who are Christ-like in their lives. They will exemplify their precepts in their lives, and they will challenge their comrades with lives of sacrifice which are the result of deep devotion to Jesus Christ.
The second prerequisite is the wide dissemination of information on the contemporary situations, challenges, needs and the hopes of India in relation to Jesus Christ and His cause. It is presumed that the audiences to whom the information is given are those who know Christ on a personal level, and those who are individually willing to face the claims of Christ. This means that certain practical steps need to be implemented. Conferences, camps, study groups and discussion forums with this purpose will have to be organized. Suitable literature and other media of communication dealing with such information are necessary. These programs will be carried on by the core leaders mentioned above, or under their clear and immediate direction. By and large, the audiences and participants in these programs will be those who are young. Of course, graduation and adjustments of the activities will have to be done depending on the age, educational status, language representation and other criteria.
A third prerequisite is the contacting, challenging and inviting young people personally to get into areas of needs and problems in the contexts on which they have been informed. It is not enough to impart information or news. There must be a provision for young people to act and to get involved in live, practical situations. This is particularly true of young people. They respond well and nobly when they experience and are confronted with challenges and needs. One basic reason for this is that youth is a period of idealism. It is sharpened by challenges. So the programming needs to be prepared with this provision in view. It needs to be done in a responsible way in the context of this nation.
The fourth prerequisite is opportunity for responsible young persons to exercise the stewardship of leadership. They must be entrusted with responsibilities under supervision and comradeship of the core leaders. They will need counsel and encouragement which they will also receive unstintingly from the core leaders. They will be evaluated and corrected too. I do not refer here to programs of institutions, organizations or churches where the novices are placed on probation or apprenticeship. That is a more advanced stage for those who have selected their vocation. I am dealing here with potential leaders in general before the vocational call has been faced. The young people exercising leadership in various contexts to which I refer will be helped in vocational guidance through the very same practical experiences.
An extensive and careful program on these four levels of prerequisites is certainly fraught with the possibility of generating and developing Christian leadership anywhere in this country in its present context. The higher the standard and quality of the program will be, the better the leadership produced. If such programs can be fitted in for the young people while they are still fully engaged in another activity for life, such as studies or work, there is no loss of time and they need not become economic casualties. Leadership abilities can be developed almost imperceptibly and in parallel programs. Eventually when young people take vocational decisions for Christian service they are better prepared.
C. What are the kinds of Christian leadership to be developed?
There are two major types of Christian leadership. The first is lay Christian leadership. This is the area in which general and overall attention needs to be given. By lay Christian leadership I mean persons who are in leadership capacity and who are leaders in the secular, matter-of-fact-world, outside the organization of the church, yet who are genuinely Christians with the concerns of Jesus Christ at heart and in life. Lay leadership is the backbone of the Christian church and the cause of Christ anywhere in the world. This is especially applicable in India which is basically a non-Christian nation. The ordained leadership represents the specific functions of the church. Consequently, lay Christian leadership is the area in which definite continuous and overall attention for development is to be given. Without lay Christian leaders the church can easily become cloistered and withdrawn from the world. That is the abnormal Christian church indeed.
The second type is ordained Christian leadership. In this category is included not only the clergy, ministers and pastors of the Christian communities, but also all types of full-time workers of the Christian church, such as missionaries, evangelists, teachers, administrators, and other charismatic workers. This area of leadership is a must for the Christian cause. Therefore, when we talk of Christian leadership we naturally think of this group of Christian leaders. Such leadership needs special call and preparation, since it involves specific vocations and specialized ministries. Development of good leadership in this category is of course the vital part in the development of Christian leadership. This echelon of leadership has the possibilities of breaking or making of the Christian cause.
All these vital facts point out that we must be deeply concerned about the development of the right kind of ordained Christian leadership in this country. The one quality that I feel the need of stressing, as I think of the ordained Christian leadership for India, is the desperate need for persons in the ordained leadership who will place a premium beyond their immediate areas or groups or service, and who have a concern for the Christian cause in India and the nation at large. We in India need full-time or ordained Christian leaders with the heart of John Wesley who maintained, "The world is my parish." Developing this quality of ordained Christian leadership ought to become our concern and vision.
D. What practical steps should we take to develop Christian leadership an India?
This is the crux of this whole discussion. Here I shall try to outline the lines of approach and possible programs we may adopt in order to develop the kind of Christian leadership I have endeavored to portray. I propose the following seven steps:
1. An all-India Christian agency or group with the purpose of developing Christian leadership in India could be formed. I propose this because I do not see any agency that fulfills this purpose on a national span. This is a committee or agency which is outside and beyond other agencies, which give attention to the academic, social, economic or theological concerns of the Christian church. My proposal sounds apparently nebulous because the agency I have in mind will need to concern itself with qualitative functions. It will need to be made up of people like "core leaders" I have denoted earlier. It should not go under the authority of officers and administrators. It may take the form of a national cell for development of Christian leadership, with both Indian and foreign persons of concern as members. It will be even better to have two separate and simultaneous cells functioning with the same objective made up of Indian composition and non-Indian composition, and with close liaison between them. The care to be taken is that they will not become organized bodies but will remain as cells of the concerned. The best beginning for such cells will be through the concerned persons meeting in prayer. I throw out this step as a suggestion for what it is worth.
2. Till such a nationwide agency or national cells come into being, the existing Christian agencies who work with the youth of India must concern themselves with this goal, namely development of Christian leadership in and from India. What I mean is that the goal must not be left to chance. Definite plans and programs relevant to this concern must be incorporated into their course of action. Care needs to be taken that leadership is to be developed with the whole nation and the total Christian cause in mind. The individual organizations must not think of producing leaders with inbuilt loyalties, except the loyalty to Jesus Christ, to God’s authoritative Word, and to the household of God in Christ. The aim is to liberate people within the above frame of reference and not to straightjacket men of leadership to uphold sectarianism, denominationalism, or other narrow polarizations. In so saying, I am not assuming these men will not function as leaders within denominations, groups or regions, but maintaining that they must be leaders with their feet in such locations and with their heads concerned with broad and wide outlook.
3. More good institutions that will impart training on the level of day and ministerial Christian leadership need to be set up in this country now. There are a few institutions that train ordained and full-time leadership. They are not enough. Institutions that will impart leadership training on the lay level is a definite need to be answered. Whatever is done in setting up institutions, quality must be the emphasis over members. In order to raise first class institutes and seminaries, it may become necessary for the existing institutions to pool their resources. There are practical difficulties here. At any rate, the thrust must be to see that quality institutions of training come up. I feel that quality Christian leadership so produced will uphold the honor and penetration of the Lord Jesus and His people in this nation in the long run, compared to multitudes of mediocre leadership turned out. So we must aim at quality. By quality leadership I do not exclusively mean highly-educated or literary leadership. Spiritual quality or Christ-likeness is what I have primarily in mind.
4. While evangelism in general is to be encouraged, evangelism and training of leadership among the educated youth of India must be stepped up. The educated youth possess the repository of Christian leadership more than any other social group. So it is here we must give stress and accent when we are concerned with developing Christian leadership. Every thing must be done to encourage evangelistic and leadership training ministry in the tertiary academic world.
5. There mush be means provided whereby developing Christian leadership in India will be exposed to the ‘streams of the church universal. Just as there are the inbuilt tendencies for Indian Christian leadership to be regional, parochial or clannish, there is the similar possibility for the leadership to be governed by a narrow nationalism. Petty and self-centered nationalism is not Christian. Self-giving and open-hearted people from all nations and tongues under the Lordship of Christ Jesus is the Christian ideal. Intermingling of Christians of various nationalities is a good means in order to overcome exclusivism and superiority complex, for that matter even inferiority complex, along nationality lines. This as a primary step needs to be effected on the level of leadership. How this can be best and fruitfully done needs to be carefully thought out.
6. In order to fulfill effectively some of the above objects, activities need to be planned and carried out regionwise and language-wise. Conferences, institutes and seminars may be arranged with these purposes in view. Effective outreach is definitely possible on such regional and local levels. However, all-India activities are also a must. There must be a balance maintained in terms of local, regional and national activities on the basis of evaluation of results and needs. At this point an all-India agency or cell becomes necessary to plan and coordinate the projects. If not, the comprehensive characteristics and national and international outlook, which we have been stressing, will become casualties.
7. Finally I want to direct my attention to the non-Indian Christian leadership in India. This takes in mainly the missionary force in the country. The leadership deployed in India from abroad must do everything to train Indian brethren, keeping the following lines of action before them:
First, the foreign brethren must willingly give first line of leadership to Indian Christians, assuming second or third line of leadership as tie case may be. In this effort the missionary brethren must be engaged sincerely to see that indigenous leadership develops and forms on all levels of Christian ministry or action. I am deeply conscious that this is the hardest thing to do in any context. It is easier to assume full responsibility for leadership or to quit summarily than to let others have it. But I am pointing to the vocation of remaining effectively behind the curtains, letting others take credit for one’s work and be unrecognized. I humbly remind that this is the basic principle and course of action necessary if we want to see leadership developed by anyone and anywhere geographically or professionally, and applies to Indians too. It is simply putting the law of Christ in John 12:24 into action: "Except a grain of wheat fall to the ground and die it abideth alone, but if it die it beareth much fruit." The urgency of this step is all the greater as we face realistically the writing on the wall in terms of the foreign missionary force in India.
Second, the missionary brethren must have encouragement to implement the steps I have outlined in items one to six above. They may have to give the initiative and counsel to see that practical steps are taken for the tremendous goal we have in view. Various practical steps toward developing Christian leadership other than I have mentioned could be outlined and set into motion. Whatever the defects of it, the point is that encouragement and impetus along these lines could be given by missionary friends.
Third, the missionary brethren must deliberately give way for national characteristics and indigenous genius not contrary to the Scriptures to develop and take strength. Putting it in other words, in the development of leadership or in general Christian practices, non-Indian (Western) ways familiar to the missionary leaders should not be placed as the only possible choice in any given situation. Missionary friends may need to take the initiative to do research and suggest positive Indian ways that Indian Christian leaders could adopt in their programs in India. Even if this were not possible, at least encouragement could be given to developing Indian leaders to exercise their imagination, initiative and genius in the implementation of any Christian program, so that Indian cultural patterns can develop. The automatic look to Western Christianity for modes and methods of Christian behavior and manner of life must be discouraged. Let indigenous ways develop and grow. One can be sure that they will remain without external assistance. They are the ways that will commend themselves to the non-Christian India for whom we are commonly concerned. I am only referring to the external forms and practices. The content of Christian leadership is always to be had from the Scriptures and subject to the Scriptures.
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