Recently I spent two weeks in India observing an indigenous church planting movement. Operation Agape is a dynamic ministry of Indians reaching Indians in a holistic manner that is proving very fruitful. I was part of a three person design team that took 24 European emerging leaders to northern India to see if we could discern some movement building principles that could be imported back to Europe. This was the final experience of a 15 month European emerging leader training. I was fascinated by the simplicity and clarity of the vision and execution of this ministry. I was also amazed and grateful for how well they served us. We were not merely spectators, but full participants for four days of house church visitation. Here are three observations I made as I was blessed by their leadership.
1. The overall vision and goals were crystal clear. Dr. Alex Abraham is the director of Operation Agape. In a genius move by Dr. Alex we spent our last day hearing about their vision and missional approach. This was after four days of observing and participating in the mission with them. This provided a double learning opportunity. We finally were able to put meat on the bones of what we had observed in action. We were able to get the “whys” and “hows” nailed down. Dr. Alex humbly asked us to critique our experience according to their stated vision and approach. He wanted to know, in our opinion, were they living out their stated objectives? What came through loud and clear is that from top to bottom every leader in the organization clearly understood the vision and mission and lived it out with great enthusiasm. And we could see it, smell it, hear it, and taste it in our hands on experience with them. Operation Agape knew what God had called them to do. They talked about their vision a lot in many different ways. They equipped every leader and follower towards that vision. And they gave every willing person an opportunity to engage in the mission in a meaningful way. I think most of us could have stated their vision for them before we actually heard it articulated. We observed it and experienced it.
2. The missional approach was defined and executable. Every project they do is based on PEACE. P stands for proclaiming biblical truth. E stands for equipping and training quality leaders with character and competence. A stands for assisting the poor. C stands for caring for the sick. And E stands for educating the next generation through formal and non-formal schools. This was lived out across several different strategies and through a strong patterning effort. Even within the house churches themselves each committed follower knows that PEACE is the plan. Every member also understands a very simple, but powerful communication strategy for proclaiming Christ: listen to the other person’s story, tell them your story, tell them Jesus’ story. We were constantly being reminded of simple, yet profound and effective, approaches to carrying out the organization’s mission among a wide variety of it’s leaders and followers.
3. The number one objective of every leader was to raise up more leaders. Nothing stood out more than the concept of rapid mobilization through the empowering of new leaders. Every house church was expected to multiply itself. When six leaders could be identified they were put through a one year training program that consisted of theological and practical leadership development. Once the training was completed, four new leaders would be sent out to the next neighborhood and two would remain at the existing house church. In this manner they could ensure leadership continuity and supported expansion at the same time. The rest of their leadership training was “on the go.” These new leaders were mentored, monitored, and further equipped for what they would face in these new settings. What was clear is that they did not wait for some day, but empowered leaders as soon as they could be identified, prepared, and released. They rightly placed a premium on character and spiritual vibrancy, but not on experience or some indistinguishable leadership marker before they empowered them to lead. Dr. Alex strongly believes that the best trainer is leading itself.
I was deeply impacted by this brief experience in India. There are leadership principles to be observed and learned where ever you go.