Afghanistan or Alabama – Leadership Is Essential

The Latest Word from John Ed Mathison

We have been in Afghanistan for eight years and spent billions of dollars trying to stabilize that country. Today coalition officials are concluding that a lack of qualified leaders is the biggest obstacle to creating a force there capable of standing on its own.

Mark Moyer, a Harvard-educated professor, said it takes about 10 years to develop effective leaders for the military. He said, “We still have a long way to go because we didn’t focus on leadership development in years past. Had we focused earlier, we’d now be plucking more fruit from the trees.”

Leadership development is essential for any organization to move forward. Many people suggest that in any organization leadership is the most important thing.

General Stanley McChrystal, the top allied commander in Afghanistan said, “Leadership is more important than equipment. It’s more important than doctrine. It’s more important even than ideology.” This is one reason I am excited about devoting the rest of my ministry to learning more about leadership and striving to teach leadership to pastors and lay persons. I believe that the future of the United Methodist Church (or any denomination) rest on the shoulders of the kind of leaders that are being trained and produced.

Several years ago I met a wonderful Methodist leader in North Carolina named Royce Reynolds. About two years ago I was with him at Lake Junaluska and he said to me, “The biggest problem I see in the United Methodist Church is a lack of emphasis on leadership. We must be training and producing more leaders.” He also gave a huge amount of money to the Western North Carolina Conference to establish a vehicle to train and equip leaders.

Leaders are people who have to be “in the trenches.” One of the problems listed by U. S. Major General David Hogg was the fact that some leaders in Afghanistan were selected because of money rather than merit. The influence of friends and family would sometimes pull strings to get them comfortable jobs away from fighting. Marine Colonel Gregory Breazile says, “We want them to go into the field.”

Leaders don’t lead from behind desks in safe plush offices. Leaders don’t lead by simply issuing edits. Leaders lead by going into the arena, moving to the front of the issue, and inviting people to follow the leader. And people do follow!

The John Ed Mathison Leadership Ministries is partnering with Stewardship Resources from North Alabama to provide such a venue. The request came from the United Methodist Bishop in North Alabama to select about some pastors to be in a process of training to serve churches at the next level. I requested that pastors from our Annual Conference also participate. On April 15, we have about 50 pastors who will be meeting for the initial session. The plan is to meet periodically over the next year and bring in excellent teachers who are proven leaders. The pastors will meet pastors from another Annual Conference and share best practices.

Please pray for this endeavor. I think it has great possibilities. I can even see adding other Annual Conferences to participate in the process in the future.

Whether it is Afghanistan or Alabama – military or ministry – training leaders is essential!!


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