Adelani Akande, PhD. (2011)
Paul and Barnabas were great servants of God who were exemplary in missionary activities in the early church. They carried great grace of God upon themselves which the church attested to. As spiritual as these men were, the issue of including John Mark in the team for another mission trip caused a great division to the extent that Paul and Barnabas parted ways. Paul went with Silas while Barnabas went with John Mark. The good news is that the issue was later resolved amicably in the spirit of Christ and John Mark was a welcome person in the company of Paul.
This summary of a narrative in the book of Acts underscores the fact that anointing, and grace notwithstanding, crisis do occur among leaders in mission organizations. When they occur, they should not be allowed to destroy the mission endeavor of the organization; rather the crisis should be an occasion for evaluation, realignment and repositioning for greater exploits.
What factors can precipitate crisis in a mission organization? Writing on “Leadership Pitfalls: Preventing the Killer Disease” in Effective Christian Leadership in the 21st Century, Supo Ayokunle identified ten of such factors.They are: authoritarianism, communication gap, nepotism, failure to learn, failure to maintain focus, conflicting signals, apathy to workers’ welfare, and incorrigibility. The list is by no means exhaustive but it covers a wide spectrum which accounts for the crises which occur on our mission fields.
Leadership is so crucial to success in mission endeavors that it becomes prime target of the devil as it seeks where to throw the spanner with the aim to halt the wheel of progress. Or how can one explain the rigidity of Paul and Barnabas on an issue that appeared so simple?
What are the effects of crisis when they occur? Crises do cause temporary setback, separation, bad blood, rancor, distraction, low morale among other things. The degree to which all these effects take root depends on the skills employed to deal with the crisis. Where the crisis is managed with prayer and God’s wisdom, the effects are minimal and the hurts are soon healed. But where the crisis is full blown and things go haywire, the loss can be of great magnitude. The body of Christ is fractured, the testimony of the church is weakened and members are in spiritual and emotional disarray.
What can be done to avoid or minimize the effect of crisis in any missionary organization? As it is in the physical so it is in the spiritual that prevention is better and cheaper than cure. The more effective leaders are, the less vulnerable the organization is to crisis. And when crisis occurs, it will not be difficult to handle it.
In essence, leaders in missionary organizations should endeavor to grow in their relationship with God, grow in the grace of humility, be committed to a life of integrity, sincerity and accountability. They should be patient, focus on their vision, demonstrate courage in the face of crisis. They should grow in the skills that enhance leadership – communication skill, motivational skill, decision making skill, relational skill, organizational skills, and forecasting skill (Ayokunle 13-14).
Crises are inevitable because the principal actors in mission enterprise are imperfect beings with flaws, weaknesses, and prejudice tucked away from easy detection. When these vices rear their heads, crisis ensues. If the crisis is not well handled, it can cause serious damage to the overall plan of the organization. It behooves leaders to avail themselves of necessary skills to deal with it.