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Missionary Leadership

Missionary Leadership

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Missionary Leadership

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May 3, 2013


How does one go about leading a team of missionary volunteers, drawn from a variety of cultures and denominations? In his new book, Roland Muller examines the differences between secular and biblical leadership, focusing in on the two main aspects of leading multi-cultural volunteer teams: motivation and communication.This book includes a wealth of resources, worksheets, and more. It is illustrated with cartoons drawn by Jon Clime. A must for every missionary leader.

May 3, 2013

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Missionary Leadership - Roland Muller


By Motivation and Communication

by Roland Muller

Illustrated by Jon Clime



Missionary Leadership by Motivation and Communication copyright 2013 CanBooks

First edition 2000

Second edition, 2013

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form by any means - electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording or any other, except for brief quotations in printed reviews, without the prior permission of the publisher.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright 1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton Illinois, 60189. All rights reserved.

Smashwords Edition, License Notes

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

ISBN: 978-1-927581-09-4

For more information contact CanBooks:


I would like to thank all those who contributed to this writing. Many fellow laborers in Christ have given advice, imparted their wisdom, and shared their experiences as well as their frustrations. However, special thanks must go Ken Betts who spent many hours with me exploring the various concepts and facets of leading multinational cross-cultural teams, and others like Gordon Reid who provided stimulating ideas and corrections. Then, there is Brian Wylie who proofread the materials, and, of course, my wife Maria, who pointed out many areas that needed improvement. Without everyone’s help, this material would still be gathering the electronic equivalent of dust in my computer. Roland Muller

Also by the same author

The Messenger, the Message and the Community

Understanding Islam

The Man from Gadara

Tools for Muslim Evangelism

Honor and Shame, Unlocking the Door



Chapter 1: The Uniqueness of Missionary Leadership

Chapter 2: Rockets and Parachutes

Chapter 3: Biblical Leadership

Chapter 4: Stepping Out

Chapter 5: Motivation

Chapter 6: Exploring Motivation

Chapter 7: Communication

Chapter 8: Manipulation

Chapter 9: Teams

Chapter 10: Stress

Chapter 11: Pastoral Care

Chapter 12: Inter Personal Problems

Chapter 13: Discipline

Chapter 14: Putting It All Together

Appendix 1: Bibliography

Appendix 2: Advantages and Disadvantages of Multicultural Teams

Appendix 3: Motivational Activities for Organizations

Appendix 4: Management Tools for Motivation

Appendix 5: Orientation & Training of New Workers

Appendix 6: Evaluation Form for Team Building

Appendix 7: De-motivation Check sheet

Appendix 8: Leadership Styles

Appendix 9: Leadership Strategies

Appendix 10: Leadership Approaches to Avoid

Appendix 11: Ten Commandments of Leadership

Appendix 12: Notes on Conflict Resolution

Appendix 13: Instigating Change

Appendix 14: Fourteen: Missionary Debriefing

Appendix 15: The Insecure Leader


The materials I have included here have been gleaned from a wide variety of sources. I fear that I have included items that have been published elsewhere, but I have long forgotten the source; if so, I apologize to anyone from whom I may have borrowed materials without giving due credit.

In writing this book, I do not claim in any way to be an expert on leadership. I am simply a missionary practitioner who has become a writer. Originally, the materials I gathered were only for my own use. However, in realizing the needs of others in similar circumstances, I have compiled my materials together to form this book. It was originally published in the year 2000. This edition has been reworked with some much needed editing, some new materials, and formatting for distribution on electronic media devices.

I trust this material will be as great a blessing to you as it has been to me. This book is not intended to be a comprehensive manual on leadership. If you are looking for a good, well-rounded introduction to the basics of Christian leadership from a missionary perspective, then I recommend "You Can Learn to Lead" by Stewart Dinnen (available from WEC International).

Roland Muller

Chapter One: The Uniqueness of Missionary Leadership

The world is changing. In order to keep current in our world the church must also change. It must continually re-evaluate, refocus, and readjust. Our message is a never-changing message of grace and love, but the methods we use to communicate that message must be fresh and current.

In the face of these changes, many of our stereotyped images of the missionary must change. Mission agencies are caught in the never-ending circle of change, both on the field and on the home end. The mission field has changed, as many developing countries have made massive leaps forward in economy, culture, and technology.

At the same time, young people in our home countries have new values and focus. Along with this, the traditional sending nations have now been joined by a host of new nations that are now sending out fresh new waves of young missionaries. The world has gone global, and now missions must become global in order to effectively communicate the gospel message to a world that increasingly thinks globally.


The traditional team of western missionaries, all from the same culture and denominational background is quickly becoming a thing of the past. New missionary teams are increasingly multi-ethnic, multinational, and multi-denominational. They contain young and old, males and females, couples and singles, and experienced and novice. The job of leading these new missionary teams is tough for organizational issues, cultural issues, personal issues, and theological viewpoints can become confused and confusing. Leaders who are unprepared and untrained for such a task may eventually find their job of leadership an unbearable burden.

My own experience with WEC International has allowed me to participate in teams that were made up of missionaries from a wide variety of ethnic, national and denominational backgrounds. For many years I worked with team which was made up of nine nationalities, as diverse as American, Brazilian, British, Canadian, German, Singaporean, Korean, and New Zealander. Our ethnic backgrounds stemmed from Mennonite, Chinese, Hindi, Brazilian, Scottish, American, Canadian, German, Korean and more. Some WEC teams have had over a dozen nationalities serving on them.

In the last few years, our mission organization, WEC International, has grown to contain over seventy nationalities, with less than 22% of the missionary force coming from North America. The fastest growing sources for new missionaries are now countries such as Nigeria, India, Brazil, Indonesia and Korea. Even the churches in China are sending missionaries. The day of the North American missionary is quickly coming to an end, and is being replaced by an era of global cooperation. This trend has been welcomed in some circles and is being resisted in others. Nevertheless, no matter how great the resistance, the writing is on the wall. Almost every church denomination around the world has gone global. Our churches are filled with people from a wide variety of ethnic backgrounds. Even churches that were traditionally from one ethnic background have changed. For example, in my own denomination, there are now more Mennonites with brown skin or from Chinese descent than there are Mennonites from a traditional Dutch/German background.

Therefore, no matter where you turn, if you are serving as a missionary, the chances are you will be serving in a multi-ethnic and perhaps a multi-denominational team. Can this new globalization of missions be considered positive? Some answer a resounding yes but others see only the difficulties. To see a list of some of the advantages and disadvantages of working with international teams, turn to Appendix 2.


Along with the globalization of missionary teams, another recent trend has emerged in missionary leadership circles. During the past fifteen years I have noticed increasing numbers of Christian leaders turning to secular leadership styles. Most of this thinking originated in the USA where special organizations developed to study how to better lead America’s huge corporations. These organizations have produced leadership teachings that have slowly been adopted by a growing number of missionary leaders. In doing so, increasing numbers of Christian leaders are beginning to confuse and mix business leadership styles and principles with Christian leadership styles and principles as taught in the Bible.

The secular marketplace and even the Christian marketplace are full of excellent books on management and leadership. Secular books and many Christian books however, approach leadership and management from a western business perspective. This works fine for business.

However, the globalization of today’s Christian world and the inclusion of Christian workers from non-western, non-business backgrounds compel us as Christians to re-examine our understanding of the Christian leader. Many Christian organizations are expanding from being western oriented or eastern oriented to become increasingly globally oriented. They face the problem of how to develop leadership that meets the needs of this new globalization. The task, however, is not to define some new type of leadership style, but to discover basic Biblical principles that both east and west can accept, refer to, and operate from.

In this book I will attempt to introduce some Christian leadership principles from a Biblical perspective, and then examine some of the issues that have come to my attention during my years as a full time Christian worker.

As I researched this topic, I was amazed at the amount of material available to leaders and managers today. Upon further study I began to realize that a great deal this material is applicable only to the business place. The needs of missionary leaders, especially those leading volunteer missionaries are very different from leaders and managers who can hire and fire employees according to corporate need. For them, there is a huge labor pool of experienced people available, so their task is to find and attract the best talent to their organization. Mission agencies on the other hand are always looking for people, and often have to accept whoever comes to them. When it comes to a question of leadership, they usually have to develop leadership ability in their own workers rather than hiring leaders from outside their organization.

And so I began to collect clippings and notes to help me get a better grasp of what it means to lead a group of volunteer missionaries. In time, the clippings and notes were gathered together, and eventually this book began to take shape. I trust that what I have written here will be of help to those trying to sort through the many schools of leadership and management thought.

Understanding Some Terms

There are many types of Christians serving in ministry. Some are employed by Christian organizations and their relationship with their organization is very similar to an employee/employer relationship. There are many good books for leaders of employed workers in the market place. On the other hand many Christians minister as volunteers (such as most Sunday school teachers or evangelistic teams). These people work for nothing or they may receive a small stipend to help with their needs. Below I have illustrated this with a list showing the two extremes: employed and volunteer.

Employed Missionaries (usually denominational)

Paid Missionaries (often in para-church organizations)

Faith Missionaries (usually para-church organizations)

Volunteers (many local ministries)

In the middle, (between number one and four) are many mission organizations with their complex systems of raising support and paying their missionaries. Some of these mission organizations are very similar to employers. They collect money from their supporters and pay their missionaries. A percentage is skimmed off to run the central operation. Some of these organizations use their missionaries as fund-raisers. Rather than have the organization raise support for the missionaries, the missionaries themselves have to raise their own support and they also have to pay the home office for the privilege of being a member of that particular organization. This is done through a system of levies or deductions for administration. This payment can vary from a small percentage to over thirty percent in some organizations. However you calculate it, in this book I will classify these as Paid Missionaries. There is another group of missionaries, which I consider Faith Missionaries. These missionaries and their organizations simply trust God for their daily needs little fund raising activity. The amount that these missionaries receive may vary from month to month depending on the funds available. The missionaries do not generally ay a levy to their organizations, but rather the mission organization does all it can to support the workers on the field and stands in prayer with their workers to see them receive an adequate amount of support each month. Many of these organizations exist in the developing world. These I call Faith Missionaries. In practice, various organizations fall somewhere between these extremes and where they fall varies according to who is doing the evaluation.

Along with this, there are a wide variety of organizational structures. Some organizations make all the decisions at the top of a pyramid-like structure, while others have empowered local teams to make decisions. Whatever the structure, most Christian organizations desire to know the will of God for their organization and for the daily work of their missionaries. In the western world, in the last several decades, Christian organizations that have given more and more freedom and empowerment to local teams to discover God’s leading for their ministries have experienced an unprecedented popularity with Christian young people. My tendency in writing this material is to focus on these kinds of groups.

Please understand that in this book I am not suggesting that anyone change their organizational structure. However, recent studies in the business world have indicated that organizations that empower local teams are far more successful than those who dictate policies from a head office.

It has also been my observation that organizations on the top of the list above tend to be more centrally structured, while organizations on the bottom seem to have more success in empowering local teams.

The Task

Leading a team of volunteer Christian workers can be challenging, difficult, and immensely rewarding. It can be challenging because there are few good role models that we are all acquainted with and only a few good practical Christian resources available. It can be difficult because it usually means bringing together highly motivated people, each with their own worldview and way of doing things, and molding them into a team with a single vision. It can be very rewarding because many Christian workers are the kind of people who set out to do the impossible against incredible odds, and when a team is successful the elation and sense of fulfillment can be tremendous.

The great challenge for Christian leaders is to know how to go about the task of bringing these diverse people together, finding the will of God together, and keeping people focused on the task until God directs differently. I believe this requires that we understand the Biblical perspective of leadership and that we apply good leadership principles, as found in the scriptures, and as the Lord (and common sense) leads us.

In the business world, leaders and managers can use leadership and management principles to build effective teams of people. Life in the missionary world is quite different. The two lists below illustrate the challenge that missionary leaders can face.

In the Business World

Leaders provide and promote vision.

Leaders direct people.

Employees do the company wishes and pursue company goals.

Companies pay lip service to employee vision.

Leaders recruit team members.

Leaders can recruit high performers for their teams.

Leaders promise benefits to performers.

Leaders promise good working conditions.

Leaders can provide rewards now.

Leaders can fire people for poor performance, but have little to say about their moral life.

Employees usually

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