Leadership is a subject very close to my heart, not only because of my long previous professional experience, but also in connection to God’s kingdom advancement here on earth. While we acknowledge the radical difference between secular leadership and the leadership of the cross, set through His own example by our Lord Christ Jesus, I can attest through my own corporate experience of the need of developing good leaders for the continuation of institutions over time. In this respect, nothing is more crucial for the continuation of the Lord’s work on earth than to recruit, and disciple redeemed men and women that can take on the post of leading the Christian church through future generations. Exposing and forming those future Christian leaders to Jesus’ model of leadership, is indeed a cornerstone of the work to build a strong church anywhere around the world.
Now, when you observe how leadership is carried on and exercised in most churches in Latin America, you clearly see the cultural and historical influence of how leadership is conceived in the Region. In essence, the Latin culture promotes strong individual leadership with significant concentration of power on few people and very limited intentional effort to develop other leaders. On the political front of course, the latter is almost neglected because of the threat this may bring to those in power. Most Christian church circles mirror some variant of the model described, reflecting lack of understanding of what the leadership of the cross is all about while limiting the healthy sustainable growth of the church. In the end, what you find in many countries South of the Rio Grande are numerous small congregations, which are born and buried generally with the tenure of the founding leader. Now, please do not get me wrong. There are notable and great exceptions to what I just described in many places in Latin America yet, there is a tangible need to bring in to the region, what biblical leadership is all about, and train pastors and leaders of the churches on Jesus’ leadership of the cross.
Now, this year I was able to persuade Bill to start our work in Latin America through what I call, a test in Costa Rica. We did deliver modules I and II of the standard Leader Formation training material, focusing on the realities of the leader’s heart. While Costa Rica is small by both, general and Christian population standards, it constitutes in my view, a good representation of the average Christian community found in most other countries in Latin America. So while we learn how effective we are with our initial curriculum and format, we can always adjust the aspects of the training material and format that can best work in the next countries where we will go.
With the initial learning in Costa Rica, we want to move further South, next year, and start pursuing our long term vision for the Region. In this regard, our strategy is to get into countries with solid evangelical presence, where the local church has grown steadily to become a reference to other countries and/or have become source of missions to other parts of the world.
Under this guidance, we aim at launching the leadership training for pastors and key leaders of churches either in Peru or Colombia where we have solid connections for engaging key local organizations. Both Peru and Colombia have experienced the most rapid growth of the Christian evangelical faith over the last 40 years, and many nationals have been going to the mission field in Latin America, Europe, the Middle East and even the US for work among the Hispanic population. By exposing local leaders in these two countries with the our leadership principles we may not only impact the local churches but indirectly, other countries hosting missionaries from Peru and Colombia in the long run.
Beyond Peru and Colombia, two key Spanish-speaking countries further South include Chile and Argentina, to be targeted in the following one-two year time frame. Brazil, a large Portuguese-speaking country, with perhaps the largest Christian evangelical population in Latin America, is a place where LF must enter independently of timing and plans for the rest of the Region. This step is more a matter of resources because the potential for reproduction is great.
Part of our strategy includes the recruiting of key leaders who, having been exposed to the Leader Formation training themselves in their own locations, and having internalized the principles of the leadership of the cross, realizing the impact this can make in the healthy growth of the church in Latin America, are willing to join our ministry for further work in their own countries and beyond. This brings in the need to identify a process for ‘recruiting, forming and sending’ of these leaders into new opportunities for the expansion of the LF ministry and program.
On behalf of the Christian community in Latin America, I thank you all for your continuing support of this great ministry.
God bless you!
Nestor R. Felix
Nestor is the Latin America Coordinator for Leader Formation. He pastors a church and lives with wife Norma in San Jose, Costa Rica.