Leadership training

Sunday, April 01, 2018
Bujumbura, Bujumbura Mairie, Burundi
This morning we again left just after 07:00 and started out toward Mugina. It was raining, which didn’t bode well for the road, especially the last stretch toward our destination. If it rained heavily there, we might not be able to pass. That was a frustrating thought because the whole trip could be for naught, but we wouldn’t know until the very end.
The rain turned the dirt road to mud, but also kept down the dust. And since it was Easter Sunday, there were fewer vehicles on the roads. As we moved north, the rain slackened, then stopped, which indicated we weren’t wasting our time on the road.
There were signs of the celebration of the holiday. People were dressed in their finest. There were long lines in front of Catholic Churches. There were markets open, and people carrying or otherwise transporting various wares to them. Most strikingly there were men pushing butchered cattle parts, wrapped in the animals’ skins, on the backs of bicycles. This I had not seen before. No matter how much one has seen, there will still be surprises.
We finally arrived in Mugina again, to find about 50 congregational leaders seated and waiting. We greeted everyone before singing a hymn and having an opening prayer. I began, with Nathan interpreting phrase by phrase, going through the manual I’ve put together to guide local leaders in organizing church activities. There are chapters on Sabbath service organization, on particularities of Holy Days services, quite a lot about the Feast of Tabernacles, about handling tithes and offerings, and a chapter about women’s roles in the Church.
I started by discussing church service format. We have guidelines from our HQ office which are binding on all our church congregations. I explained that every church makes administrative decisions on certain procedures in order to have organizational cohesion. I reminded them that if they wish to be part of COGWA, they may have to change some habits or customs they have. It’s a package deal, so to speak.
I ask the questions “why is there a church? Why did God organize things this way?” His goal is to bring many sons unto glory (Hebrews 2:10). This happens as we grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus-Christ (2 Peter 3:18). Inspired preaching (“prophecy”) was one of the most important gifts of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 14:1).
With such passages, we have concluded that the main reason we go to church is to learn more about the Bible and God’s way. We do have short congregational prayers, there is some music, we do fellowship and encourage one another, and all these are important, but mostly we go to learn.
We read through Nehemiah 8:1-8 from where we take the overall format of our Church service. Nehemiah’s service was about learning more about the meaning of the word of God.
Then I asked, “so if we have 80 minutes of special music and 30 minutes of learning from the word of God, is that a proper priority?” I could see them processing this, and several shook their heads to show they did not believe that was right. “But” came the objection, “everyone wants to sing, won’t some people be disappointed if they don’t get to sing?” I explained that we need to learn to take turns. Several indicated they didn’t think that would work, every chorale wants to sing every week.  I asked which was more important, for people to be happy singing or to fulfill the instructions and examples we have in the Bible. Well.... 
This led to discussion of Church organization. I explained that the Bible model for church organization is for the ordained ministry to make decisions about church activity. We don’t have a congregational system where members vote and decide. That is not biblical. This was a new thought to some of them. Nathan, I said, has the authority to decide who sings special music and when. Or if it’s a problem, he can decided not to have any special music during combined services.
As a group they seemed willing to accept this, though some skepticism remained about the practicality of it all.
I went point by point through our service format, including the role of the song leader, and how all the speaking should be done from behind the lectern. I addressed opening and closing prayers among other points. I explained how it is important to have a schedule for service responsibilities at least a week in advance. One fellow objected that having a schedule prevented the Holy Spirit from working. I responded that the Holy Spirit does not only work spontaneously, and that we have seen the Holy Spirit inspire men in their preparation for speaking. In fact usually the best speaking happens when speakers have time to prepare carefully under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. I’m not sure he was convinced, but was happy to be able to explain the question to the whole group.
There were questions. What qualifies someone to be a group leader? What would disqualify him? Could someone be a good speaker, but behave in such a way that he would be removed from a position? A number of questions showed that some were very concerned with status, having a position and a title.
I read some passages about what Christ said regarding that, such as Mark 10:35-45. I explained that one of the most important traits of a Christian leaders is humility, the will to serve not to be served. The success or failure of the Church in Burundi, I explained, will be heavily impacted by the spirit of service among the leaders. Since I was being translated, gestures helped make my point. I mimed climbing a ladder to illustrate a wrong attitude and they laughed at the thought. 
We took a 20 minute break to stretch after 2 ½ hours of discussion, after which I turned to another sensitive subject, the role of women in the Church. Some of them have come from churches where women give congregational prayers or even preach in their services. So I explained carefully and respectfully that we want to do what the Bible says, not what any human being reasons is right. We read through scriptures about older women teaching younger women, and the role of deaconesses, and the spiritual equality of men and women before God.
Then we read the scriptures where Paul explained that women were not to teach or have authority over men during church services. Giving a prayer is a sort of authority since the one praying is doing so on behalf of the congregation, speaking for others. I could see a few were disappointed, but it’s not helpful or productive to argue with clear statements in the scripture. I explained also that we all have to submit to someone, Christianity is about submission to God and His will. And I explained that in the Kingdom there will not be male and female at least as we understand such things now, as Jesus said in Matthew 22:30. So we who are husbands now may end up working under those who are our wives now. In this light I encouraged the men to be gentle and kind to their wives!
This discussion took us to mid-afternoon, when it was time to wrap up so everyone could get home. Some of the attendees would walk several hours to get home, and we had a two-hour drive to make.
I took some group photos, and we said goodbye to everyone, and went our separate ways. We now have one more day to go before traveling on to Rwanda.
 

Comments

Mary
2018-04-07

Thanks for including an overview of how the church should function in Burundi...and everywhere. It must be a lot for the men and women to grasp the order and structure we follow, but it will be helpful for Nathan to have the groundwork you've so carefully explained. Nice to see the photos as always.

2022-05-20