Mentoring Gone Sideways

Deo Mwamba, (MCNet Africa) – In September of last year Phil joined Deo in West Africa as they taught on leadership health and reproduction. After the sessions a Liberian pastor, Nathaniel, shared with them a personal story of how he had personally learned the valuable (and painful) lesson of the importance of correctly mentoring others.

During our workshops, Pastor Nathaniel was in Senegal to pick of the pieces of a leader and ministry that had gone sideways. His personal experience underscored what can happen when mentoring a leader is not done well. It began 15 years earlier while he was pastoring in Liberia. A man came to his church and wanted to follow Jesus. This was not just any man. He was a Senegalese who had been trained in Libya by Colonel Muammar Gaddafi and was now(1990s) a rebel fighter with Charles Taylor in the civil war in Liberia. He was a general in the rebel army and was a key player in the atrocities that occurred during that war.

Nathaniel described how he had discipled this general in the faith and had eventually sent him to Dakar (from Liberia) to plant a church in the early 2000s. Now, fifteen years later, he was back in Senegal to deal with this man who had set himself up as a Bishop and was essentially running a personality cult out of his church. He had even threatened he would “make Nathaniel disappear” if he tried to come and take the building back. The sordid tale and the ensuing court case was front page in the local papers. Though a so-called “Christian” leader, he had just switched the tool with which he abused others — not much had changed.

This was a sobering story for the rest of the participants of the conference as to the important of understanding the mentoring process and not giving authority and position to others prematurely. This man’s understanding of leadership was never transformed. While an extreme example, there is no shortage of leaders within the church that are using their giftings and authority for their own advantage and ambition. As Phil 2:5 states, even Jesus took on the nature of a servant and did not use his authority for his own advantage. Christian leadership has to do with authority, but never power. (Matt. 20:26 “with you it should not be so. . .”) Leadership in the church is about using our gifts and calling to serve and benefit others, not our selves.

As one of the other pastors stated, “This is why this teaching is what we need in Africa today” It is about serving not being served; it is about developing and releasing others, not controlling and using them for our own purposes. He was right that this is what is needed, but it is not only needed in Africa. We do what we do, for we see this need in every country and region which have been affected by humanity’s sin (at last check, that’s all of us, every country, every culture).

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