By Amos Esele
Willow Creek Association, a non-profit organization based in the United State was in Nigeria recently under the auspices of the Global Leadership Summit, to discuss leadership challenges in the African Continent.
The NGO and its Nigerian partners, the Vision International Christian Ministries, organized the two-day conference, which took place at the conference hall of Golfview Hotel and Suites, Ikeja, G.R.A, Lagos.
It drew participants from 21 African countries. Most of the participants were church leaders with vast experiences in public affairs.
At the opening ceremony on March 14, oil magnate and church leader, Mrs. Ibikunle Awosika, set the tone of the conference with a sobering address, which linked the success of leadership of any society to the leadership success or failure of the Church.
The president of Willow Creek Association, Mr. Gary Schwammlein, moderated the confab, which highlighted video presentation of previous summits on leadership, an event that holds simultaneously in 130 other countries, group discussion sessions and power point presentation on marketing strategies.
Pastor Felix Fahunwa, one of the local organizing committee members described the annual conference as the greatest thing that has ever happened to Africa in terms of its capacity to inspire accountability, due process and transparency in leadership at all levels of human endeavor.
Felix, who said the annual summit’s approach and content is “unapologetically Christian”, explained that the conference, “which is to develop leaders with the effective skills and capacity in the belief that everyone wins when the leader gets better,” debuted in Nigeria in 2007 and through “video cast of leaders who have made impact in politics, academia, business, the arts and family, it has been able to uplift many in the continent to become better in what they are doing”.
In Nigeria, for instance, over 80 churches have since become hooked to the program since the presentation of the video cast of the leadership program, with a record number of 19,000 attendees of live program in 2016 as against an average number of 2,000 recorded in the previous years’ attendance, said Felix.
To keep the concept running, according to Pastor Kunle Olusanya, another local organizing committee member, current video cast of leadership conferences are always presented in the over 50 church affiliates in the country.
Amazingly, delegates from African countries shared identical leadership challenges plaguing their organizations and their countries.
Whether the speaker was from Uganda, Kenya, Sierra Leone, Ghana, or the Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Gabon, Niger and Chad to name a few, the issues were the same.
The common trait undoing leadership in the churches and countries in Africa, to all of them, were these: Hero worship; visionless leadership, autocracy, corruption fueled by personal greed, nepotism, weak institutions and structures; political interference from public leaders, influence of traditional mode of worship and religious bigotry.
The solution? They all agreed that the Global Leadership Summit should make fresh and archival materials available to member countries for edification of members. In addition, they canvassed the need for churches to devise an inclusive policy in all their activities.
Other suggestions included focus on discipleship and the influence of servant-leadership style among church leaders.
At a point, when these issues raised the tempo of activity in the hall, the Willow Creek President, Schwammlein, had to step in and calm nerves with a wise response.
Responding to the general observation of the influence of traditional leadership, such as Oba ship, on the church, which drew a buzz, he said: “Jesus said leadership was not bound by culture but by the word of God”. Applause and laughter followed.
Pastor Olusanya, wrapped it all up by saying that, “These conferences are helping to correct leadership errors raised by participants and with the church as rallying point for persons from all works of life, the impact cannot be underestimated.”