By Yii-shyun Lin and Katie Rawson

Developing Internationals as Leaders

I.  Why develop leaders?

  1. It is Jesus’ method of evangelism and ministry: though he certainly ministered to the crowds and had significant single interactions with individuals, his main strategy is to gather 12 around him.  And even within the 12, he focused his time with three.  Master Plan of Evangelism by Robert Coleman
  2. Especially in ISM, we are tempted to skip over this and do more “outreach” because it is more difficult.  But in the process, we ignore Jesus’ difficult commands to “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them…, teaching them to obey”
  3. Investing in individuals leads to deeper kingdom impact (inch wide, mile deep versus mile wide, inch deep)
  4. They begin to develop ownership of the group and of the direction of the group
  5. Internationals are much more effective ministers to their own people.
  6. Giving people experience in leadership now trains them for future ministry

II. Lessons from Barnabas and Paul

A.  ENCOURAGEMENT:  We first meet Barnabas in Acts 4:36-37.  We learn that he is a Jewish believer from Cyprus (he is a bicultural person).  He was also highlighted as an extremely generous person who holds the Christian community close to his heart.  We also learn something of his character through the renaming.  The apostles change his name from “Joseph” to Barnabas, “son of encouragement”.   Significance of names in this culture.  This probably played a very big role in his relationship with Paul.

Internationals need to be encouraged over and over.  It’s difficult to lead in a multi-cultural context!  It is often times difficult to believe that God is calling us into leadership.  Affirm their gifts and talents individually and in the group.  How can I bless someone today?  How can I encourage them in their leadership?  How can I be generous with praise?  (examples:  Miriam asking our group what our gifts are, leaders’ team affirming one another, Jen calling me at Urbana when I was leading my first study, etc.)

Our model at UCLA:  start with Americans, but put internationals in places of leadership as soon as possible.  This has required a great deal of encouraging. Being a person of encouragement has required that we celebrate not perfection but progress.  We are working with young leaders, many of whom have just become Christians.  I can do things much better than them—but I have to let them try, and be an encouraging presence (10 to 1 feedback).  Let people fail and encourage them to get back on the horse.

B. DISCERNMENT:  Barnabas was able to see God’s hand and potential where others can’t.  (Acts 9:26-28).  Saul/Paul looked like a very unlikely Christian leader.  In fact, most of the Jerusalem believers were afraid of Paul and wanted nothing to do with him. 

International leadership often looks different—not “upfront” leadership.  Juliana pointed this out.  Example—Leila (intimidated in social situations with lots of Americans), Tony (never given the opportunity before to speak).  Others (like Melanie) may have lots of leadership experience but be hesitant to lead in a new context.  You need to genuinely believe in people in order for this to work.  How to decide whether or not to invest in someone?  What to look for?  Reliable, Available, Teachable.  Other qualities: does this person have relational influence?  Does this person take initiative in their personal life to obey Jesus or in the community to relate with others?  Does this person think of what the community needs?

C. OPPORTUNITY:  Many times, nobody will ask young leaders to lead.  Our main paradigm of ministry is to get the best people to do it.  But people will never grow unless they are given opportunities to lead and to discover their gifts.  It’s important to be sponsor people into opportunity.  Barnabas sponsors Paul into a position of leadership in the Jerusalem church “But Barnabas took him, brought him to the apostles, and described for them how on the road he had seen the Lord, …so he went in and out among them in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord.”  Acts 9: 27-28.  By himself, Paul would never have been given a chance to lead in Jerusalem, but because Barnabas advocates for him and sponsors him in front of the apostles, he is accepted into that community.

As people interested in developing young leaders, we can open doors of leadership opportunity for people that do not open by themselves.  It is important in developing young leaders that we provide them with opportunities to practice their gifts.  (e.g. Lisa suggesting that we let students plan our next retreat, finding teaching gigs for young staff, sending Bo to IGIG writing, giving young leaders opportunities to teach—finding what Catherine would enjoy, letting William do fliers, etc.). 

International students like to be able to contribute (don’t force), but they may lose interest if everything is done for them.  How can you use your influence to open doors for others?  How can you provide young leaders with opportunities to lead?  This is a humbling thing because many times this means we need to step back to let others lead.  He also starts taking a back-seat role (their name order changes in Acts 13 on their first missionary journey)  Katy’s attitude.

D. TRAINING:  Barnabas sees a good training opportunity (Antioch), and invites Paul to it.  After seeing how the church in Antioch was growing and filled with the Spirit, “Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch…” (Acts 11:25-26)  They meet together in Antioch for an entire year.  Antioch is where Paul receives the call and sent to his first missionary journey with Barnabas.

Of course, we don’t just want to set someone to lead without any training.  That’s recipe for disaster.  Look at how Barnabas does it:  he sees a good training opportunity and thinks, “who will benefit from it?”.  He goes looking for Saul to bring him here.  Train, Prepare, Experience together, Debrief, repeat.  (e.g. Training people to do Bible studies.  Let them practice on each other first on the leaders’ team, sit in on their studies to give input).   Or giving testimonies.

III. Challenges

  1. Cross-cultural factors influencing leadership development/ discipling
    • Communication pattern differences: direct versus indirect (ex. Yoshi, people I interviewed, group dynamics in leadership meetings)
    • Issue of face (shame) and how it affects accountability, dealing with sin
    • Power distance (ex. students’ refusal to question or challenge pastors)
    • Different assumptions about:
      • Teaching/ learning styles
      • Requirements for, ideals of a leader (age, gender)
      • Leadership styles, decision-making
    • Culturally conditioned understandings of the gospel and of discipleship- ours and theirs: our cultural blind spots and theirs (ex. How Chris and Piyush have challenged my views of community)
      • Some typical American cultural blind spots: individualistic, privatized view of Christian life, avoiding suffering and teaching about suffering (me at Discovery), seeing discipling primarily as teaching knowledge and habits
      • Some typical cultural blind spots of certain groups of internationals: following the group rather than God, belief that one has to be very virtuous before becoming a Christian, seeing discipleship in terms of working hard to please God
    • Language differences: students need to learn to worship and pray in the heart language: may need to learn how to address God in their language: Xiaoling
  2. How do we deal with cross-cultural factors?
  • Bring them to the surface- talk about them in leadership meetings, training times for the fellowship, individual meetings (ways Curt used Patty Lane and  Craig Storti (Figuring Foreigners Out)  book to train IBS people)
  • Deliberately put ourselves in peer relationships with internationals so we can have our cultural blind spots challenged (ex. Friendships with Hitomi, Chris and Piyush)
  • Partner with international staff, volunteers, ethnic churches
  • Be people of grace and acceptance so that people can be real with us, confess si
  1. Issues in discipling internationals
  • Is their conversion thorough and genuine?  (Could be just a conversion to community or a choice of Jesus for good luck, experience may not be backed up by worldview change at a deep level- diagrams from dissertation, examples (Huiren, Yoshi), recommend Beginning Well by  Gordon Smith).   See starred questions below for discerning a genuine conversion and for evaluating discipleship.  Attention to worldview change and to relationships is necessary for a surface level conversion to become a core level conversion.


  • Crucial worldview assumptions necessary for a deep level conversion:
    • God is a personal Creator who desires intimate relationship with human beings, not a god who must be pleased in order to receive blessing or good luck. 
    • Relationship with God is a dynamic, ongoing dance, not a “be good for Santa Claus” or fear-based dynamic.
    • Jesus is the only way to the Father, not the Western way.
  • Relationship with God
    • How do they relate to the Father, Son and Spirit?
    • Is the relationship shamanistic, legalistic or dynamic?
    • Do they hunger and thirst for more of God?
    • Is experience of God reinforced by conviction of truth at the worldview level?
  • Relationship with self:
  • Do they have a strong sense of identity in Christ?
    • Are they being freed from personal and family bondages?
    • Are they learning to count themselves dead to sin and depend on the Spirit to defeat sin in their lives?
    • What strongholds need to be pulled down: academics, security, money, etc.?
  • Relationships with others: parents, extended family, peers, other sex
    • Are these relationships characterized by openness, grace and forgiveness?
    • How does one honor non-Christian parents with certain expectations about career and/or marriage?
    • How do they relate to people of other ethnicities?
    • Are they beginning to fear the Lord more than they fear human beings?
  • Relationships in the fellowship and in the Kingdom
    • Are they using their gifts to serve in community?
    • Do they have a vision of how God can use them in the Kingdom?
    • Have they been baptized? (Needs to be God led, can be a crucial growth step)
  • Facilitating these relationships: involvement in a dynamic community with many role models; wrestling in prayer with and for them (healing prayer and Neil Anderson material); helping them take in large amounts of the Word:  Akiko
  • Culturally and personally appropriate spiritual disciplines
    • (Hitomi, Akiko, Indian Christian Fellowship- see Streams of Living Water, R. Foster)
  • Living out the gospel appropriately back home: Indian Fellowship, discussion groups at Discovery, Global Servant Leaders group
  • We may need to prepare them for things we’ve never experienced: ex. persecution, dealing with family altars.

IV. Practical Lessons Learned

  • Investing deeply in people naturally motivates them to lead
  • Step back so they can lead (my successes and failures, Jenn with  IBS)
  • View  the community as the instrument of discipling and ourselves as orchestrators, facilitators
  • Prepare the followers for the leader-give the leader legitimacy in their eyes
  • Partner with them in ministry and sponsor them so they get greater opportunities (Clinton book on mentoring, Akiko)
  • Teach-demonstrate-observe-evaluate-encourage: apprentice leaders
  • Progression: teaching the basics, ministry in community, mentoring, mutual discipleship: importance of role reversals
  • Importance of being a cheerleader: quote from Jim Berney
  • One-shot opportunities can lead to ongoing leadership (Discovery)
  • Pray for a double portion anointing (Akiko)
  • Suggested passages for discipling new converts:
    • Sermon on the Mount: Jesus’ upside down values, suffering for Jesus, heart religion versus legalistic or shamanistic religion, identity as children of the Father;  Ephesians: salvation by grace, position and identity in Christ, racial reconciliation, conflict with the world, flesh, devil, putting off and putting on, forgiveness
  • Some evaluation questions for us:
    • Do I put myself in situations where my cultural blind spots can be challenged (Robert)?
    • Am I praying and expecting that they will do greater works of ministry than I have?  (what Mei-leng and Akiko did, African IFES students)
    • Am I pulling back so they can lead?

More lessons learned

  • We (as staff) provide the framework and the materials, they provide the creativity and the effort
  • You have to believe in your students for this to work
  • You have to communicate over and over again to your students that you believe in the work of God in their lives and that God has invested each of them with talents and gifts.
  • You have to step back in order to let your students lead.
  • They won’t do it as well as you (initially).  Be okay with mistakes—they are how everyone learns. 

V. Your turn: Question and Answer

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