There are two essential qualities of leadership that I think are extremely important for anybody who’s going to be leading any organization either church or secular or whatever. But I think they are particularly important for the church community. The first is I think a leader needs to be a networker.
Now at first, I didn’t like the term networker because it conjured up images to me of those people at parties who networked parties who were always coming up to you and telling you all their accomplishments and the whole time they are talking to you, they are peering over your shoulder to see if there is someone else in the room more important than you to go talk to.
I don’t like that idea of networker, so I resisted that term for a long time. I’m talking about a networker in the best sense of the word – who is one who multiplies relationships – who sees in relationships “adjacent possibilities,” as Steven Jordan says. Someone who can look at my relationship with you and discover that because we’ve come together, incredible new things can happen.
Ghana and Virginia Baptists are a good example of coming together and finding adjacent possibilities. And now thousands have been baptized, thousands of homes are now malaria free – all because of networking.
But I’ve also learned with networking, that you can network in too small of a circle. That’s one of the dangers of networking, and I think many of us are guilty of that. When you network in too small a circle, you essentially just reinforce your prejudices; you reinforce your small thinking; you just reinforce likes and dislikes you already have. You’re not challenged beyond those. You can do that by just going on the network on the web and still just going to the same sites over and over and over again. You don’t expand yourself.
So one more thing needs to be added to networking, and that’s crossing borders. That takes you into new places; into new cultures. And you cross borders into geographic areas – going to places you don’t normally go. You cross borders intellectually. Because of you crossing over into other cultures and thinking with other people, your way of thinking is stretched and expanded.
There is no organization I know of in the world that helps a leader grow in networking and crossing borders more than the Baptist World Alliance (BWA). Anybody in leadership today, in Baptist circles, in my opinion, needs to be a part of the Baptist World Alliance. It won’t happen anywhere else like it can happen there.
When you’re relating to people in over 140 different countries, 250 different Baptist groups, 100 million of us out there with God’s creativity and spirit moving through us, you want to be in the midst of that group. And we’re all going to gather together in 2015 in Durban, South Africa.
I know that’s a far distant place to go, I know it can be expensive, but I don’t know of anything that can sharpen you more as a leader, broaden your sense of network, help you cross intellectual borders and cultural understandings more than participating in that event. I hope you will put that on your calendar, I hope you will bring people from your church, and I hope you’ll be there in Durban in 2015.