servant leadership and coffee-dipping cowboys

I just got back from a couple of days out in villages, and thought I’d share with you guys a little about my trip in short form.  I often get requests for more information about day-to-day life and work in Tanzania:

  • I ate rice (just about) every two hours, always accompanied by beans, chicken, or (once) beef.  Except for breakfast yesterday morning, when we had just rice.
  • I was blessed to preach five different sermons from five different texts in five different churches, all on the topic of discipleship.
  • I have finally reached the point at which I can preach in Swahili without notes!  I felt really good about my sermons — which is not at all the point but as far as my own confidence goes (and my feelings of whether I’m accomplishing anything or not), this was very helpful.
  • I say that I preached sermons; this is not completely true.  One of the first things I do when asked to preach is explain that I’m not really a preacher, and don’t enjoy preaching.  But that I fancy myself more like a teacher, and prefer it because it allows us to talk with one another.  Then I ask if I can sit on a stool while we discuss God’s word together.
  • I drove some 250 kilometers in two days, almost always with at least 5 or 6 others along for the ride — and had only one person vomit in the truck.  That’s better than average numbers, it seems.
  • During one 30-minute trip, we fit 18 people in the truck.  This number included 3 very small babies.  Still, it’s a record.
  • Five of us men slept in two single beds.  Apparently, since I was the “guest of honor” (read the only white one), I was given one of the spots in the bed of two.  Or maybe it was simply because I was the biggest guy?
  • In addition to speaking to churches, I was asked to teach a group of church leaders (from several churches) for a little over an hour yesterday morning while waiting for our breakfast of rice.  I taught on servant leadership.  [More on this below.*]
  • I don’t think I’ve ever shared this on the blog before, but you might find it interesting (or gross):  Because of my addiction to caffeine, and an inability to get coffee while out in villages, I regularly dip coffee grounds during my village stays.  And I usually listen to George Strait, Garth Brooks, and Mark Chesnutt during my drives — while dipping.  I imagine myself as a cowboy.

* Servant Leadership

Concerning servant leadership I often get the feeling here (I say this as if it’s not a problem in the U.S. as well) that church leaders take great joy in being important.  [I’m not necessarily speaking of the leaders with whom I was with this week.]  It could be that I don’t yet fully understand the culture, but it seems that anyone who can introduce himself as a preacher, pastor, or apostle always makes sure these words find their way into introductions.

Another word often used is mtumishi, which means servant — some guys introduce themselves as watumishi wa mungu (servants of God).  I’ve got no qualms with this title, but one idea we discussed during the leaders’ class is that it’s impossible to be an mtumishi wa Mungu (servant of God) without also being an mtumishi wa watu (servant of men).

There’s a lot being said in the American church (or at least the Christian American blogosphere) about leadership these days.  I think we’d do well to reflect on Jesus’ words concerning Christian leadership in Matthew 23:6-12.  Speaking about the Pharisees, but to his disciples, he says the following (my own modern-day translation):

They get high on being the keynote speakers at conferences and the honored guests at churches.  They thrive on being introduced as Pastor so-and-so or Doctor what’s-his-name.

But if you want to be my disciples, don’t let anyone call you “pastor” because there’s only one true pastor — and all of you are sheep.  And don’t call anyone “Father” because there’s only one Father — and his address is in heaven.  Don’t even let anyone call you “teacher,” because you have only one teacher, Jesus Christ.

The leaders among you will be your servants.  Because whoever exalts himself will be humbled, but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

It’s impossible to be a servant of God without also being a servant of man.  But we try, don’t we?



Filed under living in africa, modern-day retelling

12 responses to “servant leadership and coffee-dipping cowboys

  1. Brenda Chance

    Really good. Very true–both the imperative to serve and the tendency to enjoy being the served one. Thank you for the post.

    • thanks for the comment, brenda. i’m a firm believer that selfishness is at the core of nearly every sin (if not every sin). it would only follow, then, that positions of leadership would often be used to benefit the leaders in some way or another — even if it’s only to stroke their own egos.

  2. I like reading the day-to-day stuff. I really like beans and rice, but maybe I would get tired of it if I lived there. I have also become particular about my sleeping arrangements in my old age, so I could not do what you did…or if I did, I probably would not have slept very well. Did you? I’ve also never heard of dipping coffee grounds. Where did you get this idea? Does it give you the caffeine jolt I assume you are looking for? Stain your teeth? Rot your gums?

    • old age, huh, janie? but, no, i didn’t sleep great. not any worse than i would’ve in my tent by myself, though. [i always take a tent in case i’m not offered a place to stay. but if they offer me a bed, i sleep in it.]

      i made up the idea of dipping coffee grounds (though surely someone else has done it before me). it doesn’t seem to give me as much caffeine as would my normal 4+ cups of morning coffee — but it does keep the headache away. my teeth and gums are fine for now…

      • Back in the days of high school and college, I think I was more flexible with my sleeping arrangements than I am now. Well, I know I was. Now I am old and persnickety and maybe even cranky. So the thought of sharing a twin bed with two other people I don’t know (or even people in general)…well, I think I was sleepy the rest of the day after reading that.

  3. Loved reading this you coffee-dipping-cowboy-want-a-be. Not only that, It is cool that you got to do what you love to do in so many ways (teaching).

  4. great post–think I will quote you next time I have the chance to be with some leaders.

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