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Course: Leading Healthy Church Culture
Lecture 4: The Shadow of a Leader – A Case Study
The Shadow of a Leader is an example of what leadership can devolve into.
A. The Shadow of a Leader
We have been talking about remembering our leaders and we have moved on to discuss some of the challenges of leading in the 21st century. Today, we have a case study called a Shadow of a Leader. It is not a true story, but you may recognize some of the characters as we go along.
The Shadow of a Leader: The crowds listened attentively as the program began. The celebration was organized to recognize Dr. Robert Abella and twenty years of successful ministry. In addition Dr. Abella was being ordained as the president of the Grace of God denomination in the country of Acacia. Praise for Dr. Abella was observed in many ways. Dr. Abella had been a young gifted Christian leader. He had been a consistent voice of integrity and change in the church in his community. He founded the Fishers of Men Ministry - FMM, a ministry of equipping church leaders to reach their own people. Everyone rose to their feet as Dr. Abella was announced as the new president of the Grace of God denomination. The charge was given for all to awaken from their slumber and make the Grace of God denomination the shadow of a great leader. No one in the audience would disagree with the impact of Dr. Abella’s ministry. But one person was overheard to say, ‘if Fishers of Men Ministries is his shadow, then the Grace of God denomination is in trouble. A cruel assessment looking back; you would say that Robert who was called in 1990 was the same person on the platform in 2010. Marian and Sergio, the only two members of the originally Fishers of Men Ministry left the celebration and talked about how Robert’s testimony had changed. The first years of FMM were exciting; at that time Robert was forty five years old. He had grown up with a father who ruled with an iron hand. Because Robert was his interest, he was often harshly punished as a child; in fact, he could never forget his father’s most often used words, ‘you fool, can’t you do anything right?’ Robert was also ridiculed by others when he was growing up because of his intelligence. He could still remember times of great rejection. When he became an adult, he was driven to make a difference. When the opportunity came, he started FMM.
Even though he now enjoyed a great deal of success, there was always a nagging sense of self-doubt and insecurity. Early on, Robert was a team player and inspired others with his vision and encouragement. Churches welcomed FMM evangelism training which proved ideal for those who were eager to reach their friends for Christ. As FMM grew under Robert’s leadership, he was invited to travel and teach and in the process, he became a sought after conference speaker. It wasn’t long however before the early signs boss sickness began to appear. At first, no one seemed to have noticed, there was no objection when Robert took a large office. After all, this is common among church leaders in Acacia as is a privilege of a car and driver. Marian and Sergio could not help from remembering however that Robert had previously lived a humble and simply life. Also, no one seemed to think it strange when Robert spent less time with the FMM team. As pressure on his time increased, his spontaneous prayer time gave way to a weekly chapel session which was always led by the director and who by now was always addressed as Dr. Abella. The difficulty of seeing Dr. Abella without scheduling an appointment should have been a danger sign. In fact the policy was put in place for restricting access to Dr. Abella. As Marian and Sergio discussed the past, they agreed that they should have been more forthright with Dr. Abella who seemed changed after an embezzlement of mission funds took place. Looking back, they could see how he had lost all sense of trust in others and willingness to delegate. He instituted a policy insisting that he approve all ministry and financial decisions. This action resulted in many delays and many lost ministry opportunities. Instead of encouraging new ideas and initiatives, Dr. Abella no longer tolerated deviation from his directive. Those who often gave opinions, staff and board members, suffered in many ways ranging from loss of faith to being fired. Morale began to decay in all departments of FMM. Promising young leaders left as quickly as possible hoping to find an atmosphere that offered more accessible support. It was then that Marian and Sergio realized that the original sense of community with their friend and brother probably was lost. Marian and Sergio were forced to conclude Dr. Robert Abella had fallen guilty of misusing the power of his office to become a means for self fulfilment and advancement. Both agreed that fellow Christians including the two of them did not help this struggling man of God as he was distracted from his Christ centered leadership as he received more and more expressions of worldly honor.’
B. Three Questions
Rick now instructs us to consider these three questions: How would you describe Robert Abella’s early leadership? How would you describe his later leadership? And perhaps the most important question; what explanations can you give for some of Robert’s actions as a leadership. There are clues throughout the narrative. So, consider the story and try to answer the questions.
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