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Missions 101

Ajith Fernando's Leadership Philosophy

Jan. 30, 2013By: Evan Burns

In his book, Jesus Driven Ministry, Ajith Fernando seeks primarily to answer the question: “What does it mean to be a Christian leader?”  Fernando’s concern does not include management techniques, but rather focuses on integrity, holiness, and biblical obedience.  The whole book is generally based on the model of Jesus’ ministry as revealed throughout Mark’s Gospel.  Fernando says that this book was birthed out of his search for the secrets of long-term ministry. 

Fernando’s leadership philosophy sounds drastically counter-cultural and somewhat reminiscent of Dietrich Bonheoffer’s radical call to discipleship.  He outlines his philosophy of leadership in the following points:

Identifying with People.  Fernando explains that in the West there is a lack of commitment to the church and one another especially when there is little enjoyment and great relational strain.  Instead of seeking out affinity and only those with whom we easily get along, biblical principles call leaders to pay the price in identifying and persevering with a group to which one is committed even when it is frustrating to do so.  Learning to pay the price of commitment is a key to developing deep fruit in ministry anywhere in the world.  Identifying with people and being patient with them through frustrating situations will help leaders minister more effectively to them.  We must believe that we will be blessed if we pursue the implications of the biblical understanding of the body of Christ.  To do this we must develop an approach to life where our theology is more important than our natural inclinations and preferences. 

Empowered by the Holy Spirit.  Fernando discusses how in the Bible there are two main evidences of the fullness of the Spirit—power for service and holy character.  He challenges leaders not to substitute the unction and anointing of the Spirit with more information-gathering, seminar-attending, and program-coordinating, though these things are helpful.  He calls the Christian leader to cultivate a heart of receptivity to the Holy Spirit that lingers in God’s presence and practices a lifestyle of prayerfulness and fasting.  He does not advocate a legalistic prayer schedule; rather, he says leaders should be so dedicated to prayer that even if they are too busy to pray during their normal prayer times, they will make time later in the day because they hunger for the presence of their Lord.  This hunger for and active pursuit of His presence is the key to being filled with His Spirit and the key to being empowered for ministry. 

Affirmed by God.  Fernando looks at the Father’s affirmation of Jesus at His baptism.  He says that if leaders were to accept God’s affirmation of them as He affirmed Jesus, it would give leaders the courage and perseverance necessary to brave the darkness of loneliness and discouragement.  He says that we must be so tethered to God’s promises of glory and joy, so that when tribulation and pain come, we have an immovable conviction that God is for us and He has a good design in our suffering.  He says that meditating on God’s promises and hearing the inner witness of the Spirit is a key to experiencing freshness for pushing forward despite ministry-related suffering.

Retreating from Activity.  The author demonstrates from Jesus’ life how little retreats to times of solitude were necessary even for Him, and even more so for us.  Retreats slow us down, they help make us receptive to God’s voice, and retreats help us escape the tyranny of busyness.  They can be long and planned, or they can be spontaneous and brief.  

Tags:  leadership
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