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Leadership: Becoming a Christian Influencer [L1]

Updated: Feb 3


Leadership is influence [1]. Influencing others for Christ.


In this episode “L”, we will consider “Leadership” in terms of urgency, humility and availability:

  • The urgency of our evangelization is proportional to the fervency of our faith, out of which motivates one to lead. Authentic conversion leads to ardent mission.

  • Leadership springs forth from true humility, a kenosis of self, whereby Christ is identified, and glorified.

  • Mission requires leaders. Each and everyone of us (including and especially the laity) is called to increase our availability to lead, to influence others for Christ, i.e. to become Christian influencers.

Let us ponder what the Bible [2], the Church and the Saints teach us about this crucial topic.


Listen to the podcast here:



Opening Prayer – “A Prayer for Catholic Leaders” by Catholic Leadership Centre


Dear Jesus,


We thank you for the gift of our Catholic leaders who have so generously answered your call to labour in your Father’s vineyard.


We pray that they will always walk closely with you and have the heart of a servant leader just like you.


We pray that in all things you will grant them wisdom to discern your will, clarity of purpose, a creative mind to find new ways, and courage and fortitude to persevere in the service of your kingdom.


And may the hearts of our leaders be ever filled with joy and peace, entrusting the results of their efforts into your hands, and knowing that they have been faithful to your calling to the very end.


This we ask in your most precious name. Amen.


1. Urgency of Evangelization, Fervency of Faith


Authentic Conversion, Ardent Mission

Authentic conversion is connected with and followed by ardent mission. When God converts, He also sends.

When Saul was converted along the road to Damascus, the Lord sent Ananias to minister to Saul and to heal his blindness. But when Ananias hesitated due to Saul’s notorious reputation for persecuting the Christians, the Lord insisted to Ananias, “Go, for [Saul] is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel” (Acts 9:16). Saul, who became St. Paul, himself later recognized the intimate connection between his conversion and his mission, writing to the Galatians that God “was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles” (Gal 1:16).

When the prophet Isaiah saw a gloriously holy vision of the Lord of hosts in the Temple, he recognized and declared his own sinfulness and unworthiness. One of the seraphim then used a burning coal from the altar to touch Isaiah’s mouth and said, “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin forgiven.” Immediately after that, in response to the Lord’s call to mission, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us”, i.e. to speak the Lord’s words to the unfaithful Israelites, Isaiah responded with his generous and famous answer, “Here am I! Send me.” (see Isa 6:1-13).


The same applies to us. Upon our conversion, each and every one of us is called to a mission for Christ.

Let us pause here for a moment and soberly ask ourselves this question: Have you discerned your mission, and are you currently carrying it out for Jesus?


Urgency and Fervency

The urgency of our evangelization is proportional to the fervency of our faith.

Where faith is fervent, i.e. when we are closely connected with the Lord and His desires, in particular, His desire to save souls, there is strong missionary impulse. There will be an almost irresistible desire to share Christ with others and to minister to their needs.


Three saintly examples come to mind.

First, St. Mary Faustina wrote on Good Friday in 1936 that she:

“saw the Lord Jesus, crucified, who looked at me and said, ‘I thirst.’ Then I saw two rays issue from His side, just as they appear in the image. I then felt in my soul the desire to save souls and to empty myself for the sake of poor sinners ...” (Diary, 648).


Thereafter, St. Faustina carried out her mission of initiating the apostolic movement of the Divine Mercy.

"I Thirst": The Vinegar Given to Jesus by James Tissot (1836–1902). Jesus' 'thirst' includes his desire to have his love returned by those he redeemed. As Mother Teresa said, 'Until you know deep inside that Jesus thirsts for you—you can’t begin to know who He wants to be for you. Or who He wants you to be for Him.'

“[A] great crowd — they were covered in darkness yet I could see them. Our Lord on the Cross. Our Lady at a little distance from the Cross — and myself as a little child in front of her. Her left hand was on my left shoulder and her right hand was holding my right arm. We were both facing the Cross. Our Lord said, “I have asked you. They have asked you and she, my mother, has asked you. Will you refuse to do this for me, to take care of them, to bring them to me?”


I answered, “You know, Jesus, I am ready to go at a moment’s notice.”


Shortly after, when the permission of her Archbishop was finally granted, Mother Teresa started her mission to minister to the material and spiritual needs of the poorest of the poor in the slums of Calcutta, aided by her former students who joined her one by one. This informal group of women was recognized by the Church as an official religious order in 1950, taking the name that, as we would later learn, Jesus had given to Mother Teresa – the Missionaries of Charity.


Third, St. Patrick received this vision from the Lord to return to Ireland, where he was kidnapped and sold into slavery for 6 years before escaping and he had pledged never to return to Ireland:


“And thus they [the Irish people] cried, as with one mouth: "We beseech thee, O holy youth, to come and walk once more among us." And I was exceedingly broken in heart, and would read no further. And so I awoke. Thanks be to God, that after very many years the Lord granted to them according to their cry”.

St. Patrick then received formation, training and ordination, formed a team of missionaries, and returned to Ireland and evangelized much of it.

Where there is no missionary impulse, it is a strong red flag that our faith has diminished. Our love for Christ has gone cold. We would then need an Awakening or re-Awakening, i.e. to search for, to encounter and to follow Jesus wholeheartedly (for the first time, or again). Indeed, as Pope St. John Paul II exhorts the Church in Asia, “A fire can only be lit by something that is itself on fire [3].”

And then mission will necessarily follow.


Mission requires Leadership

But mission requires leadership.

St. Faustina, St. Mother Teresa and St. Patrick. Each of them, being fervent in faith, and urgent in evangelization, received and discerned a mission, and they initiated, organized and led others to accomplish such missions.


The success of the Singapore Church’s mission of evangelization depends on there being leaders, both the clergy and the laity, to initiate, to organize and to lead others to take part in the manifold and varied missions, ministries and organizations (both existing ones and the new ones to be birthed) both in the Church and in the world [4].

Pope St. John Paul II in Ecclesia in Asia (1999) at [22], which was written specifically with respect to Jesus’ mission of love and service in Asia, emphasized that the role of the laity is of paramount importance in transforming society:


“Moreover, since the inculturation of the Gospel involves the entire People of God, the role of the laity is of paramount importance. It is they above all who are called to transform society, in collaboration with the Bishops, clergy and religious, by infusing the ‘mind of Christ’ into the mentality, customs, laws and structures of the secular world in which they live.”

It is time for, and it is urgent that many more lay leaders from the Singapore Church be raised and to rise up.

To this end, the Catholic Leadership Centre (CLC) is a new organisation in the Singapore Archdiocese, to form and equip Catholic leaders to build a vibrant, evangelising and missionary Church.


2. Humility – A Kenosis of Self, whereby Christ is Identified and Glorified


It is important to emphasize that leadership is not a call to external recognition or personal glory. It is very much the opposite. In fact, the greater is one’s humility, the more effective is the leader.


Four biblical examples come to mind.


First, Isaiah cried out, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” (Isa 6:5)


The Calling of Isaiah by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (1726–1729). Having his sins cleansed with a burning coal touched to his lips, the Prophet Isaiah immediately said yes to his calling.

Second, St. Paul wrote, “… I am the foremost of sinners” (1 Tim 1:15), “For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the Church of God” (1 Cor 15:9), and “… I am the very least of all the saints” (Eph 3:8).


The ministries of Isaiah and St. Paul, grounded in their deep humility and authentic grasp of themselves against the truth of who God is, were exceedingly powerful.


Third, John the Baptist declared of Jesus, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). He lived this out by pointing his own disciples to Jesus, “Behold, the Lamb of God!”, and his “two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus” (John 1:35-37). John’s model of humble leadership was to ensure that Jesus was identified to others, and glorified, while he himself faded into the background. John was not interested in his own glory.


Fourth, Jesus declared of himself that “the Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many”, commanding his Apostles that “whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave” (Matt 20:26-28).


St. Paul exhorts us to have the mind of Jesus Christ, “who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant” being born as a man, he “humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross” (Phil 2:5-8).


This self-emptying, or kenosis, is the indispensable foundation for servant leadership.


3. Availability – Christian Influencers


So we now understand that we need converted, fervent, urgent, missional, and humble servant leaders, especially from amongst the laity.

But is leadership reserved for only a gifted few? The answer is a resounding “No” [5].


In this regard, leadership is influence [6], influencing others for Christ. As long as we influence just one other person to think, say or do something for Christ, that is leadership.

A model of modern Christian influencer, Bl. Ivan Merz was called 'Apostle of the Youth' for his work in building the faith and holiness of the youth with an apostolate that he founded. He was a professor of language and French literature and studied philosophy and theology in his spare time. He died in 1928, leaving us with spiritual writings and testimonies to his intense spiritual life. For complete attribution, see footnote [9].

Here are some non-exhaustive hypothetical examples of how a need can be identified, and leadership (by way of influencing others for Christ) can be self-initiated and exercised:

  • In your parish, there are young married couples with small children with no one journeying with them. Start a support group or small Christian community with them.

  • Several youths in your parish are not in community or youth ministries after their Confirmation. Befriend them and bring them to a café playing good / anointed live Christian music, so that they can encounter God, and then help direct them to programs, ministries or communities where they can start or continue their journey of discipleship.

  • In your workplace, you meet several Catholics who are struggling with the balance between work, faith, life and family. Initiate meeting with them once a month for lunch, to read the Bible, to pray, and to encourage one another.

  • You notice low-income families in your neighbourhood. Work together with the SVDP or your CDC to see how these families’ needs may be ministered to.

In short, all of us are called to increase our availability to such service and leadership. Faithfulness in little acts of service and leadership, will result in greater responsibility from God gradually and over time [7], and form part of the important eco-system of Christian influencers to build the Lord’s Church and to transform society [8].


4. Closing Prayer and a Call to Action – I Will Go & I Will Hold Your People in My Heart

In summary:

  • Authentic conversion leads to ardent mission, and the more fervent our faith is, the more urgent our evangelization is.

  • To fulfil the missionary impulse to evangelize, we need to raise up many more leaders, especially amongst the laity, servant leaders with Christ-like humility to serve, that Christ may be identified, and glorified.

  • All of us are called to increase our availability to such service and leadership, to influence others for Christ and to help accomplish the missions that He has given to each of us, i.e. to become Christian influencers.

May we, in response to the Lord’s call to mission, to lead, and to be a shepherd for the many lost and hurting sheep, generously and lovingly respond with the lyrics of the famous and beautiful song based on the prophet Isaiah (let us pray):


Here I am, Lord

Is it I, Lord?

I have heard You calling in the night

I will go, Lord

If You lead me

I will hold Your people in my heart.


Through the same Christ Our Lord. Amen.


* Is there anything in this session which struck you or any thoughts, experiences or ideas which come to your mind? Please leave a comment below. We would love to hear from you.


** Thank you for joining us on the A-Z of DiscipleSHIP. We look forward to having you with us again next month, as we study the letter “M”, for Moral Theology.


Recommended Closing Song


(Schutte/Hayes) – Choir & Orchestra of St. Lillian



(Jeremy Camp) – listen intently to the lyrics to hear the singer’s palpable sense of urgency and desperate need for all of us reach this generation for Christ)


Recommended Reading / Resources

  1. John C. Maxwell, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership

  2. Consider the Open Schedule Training Courses and the Customised Training Courses offered by the Catholic Leadership Centre. See also their Training Calendar.

Reflection and Sharing Questions


This month’s podcast considers “Leadership” in terms of urgency, humility and availability:

  1. The urgency of our evangelization is proportional to the fervency of our faith, out of which motivates one to lead. Authentic conversion leads to ardent mission;

  2. Leadership springs forth from true humility, a kenosis of self, whereby Christ is identified, and glorified.

  3. Mission require leaders. Each and everyone of us (including and especially the laity) is called to increase our availability to lead, to influence others for Christ, i.e. to become Christian influencers.

Have you discerned your mission, and are you currently carrying it out for Jesus? If “Yes”, share more to encourage and inspire one another. If “No”, why not?

Name 1-2 practical steps you can take today (or within the coming weeks) to begin to lead, to influence others for Christ, in order to accomplish the missions He has given to each of us, i.e. to become Christian influencers.


Download the slides here:

L1 Leadership - Slides
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© Presented by the Catholic Theology Network (writers / contributors / sound): Dominic Chan (M.A., Theology, Augustine Institute), Nick Chui (MTS, JPII Institute for Marriage and Family, AU), Keenan Tan (M.A., Theology, Augustine Institute), Debra Dass (Diploma in Theology, CTIS), Marcia Vanderstraaten (Diploma in Theology, CTIS); publicity & design: Chandra Nugraha.


Footnotes


1. John C. Maxwell.


2. Unless otherwise stated, all Scripture references are taken from the RSV 2nd CE.


3. Ecclesia in Asia (1999) at [23]. Pope St. John Paul II continues, “So, too, successful proclamation in Asia of the Good News of salvation can only take place if Bishops, clergy, those in the consecrated life and the laity are themselves on fire with the love of Christ and burning with zeal to make him known more widely, loved more deeply and followed more closely.”


4. This is echoed by the purpose statement of the Singapore Catholic Church’s Catholic Leadership Centre, that “to build a vibrant, evangelising and missionary Church, we need vibrant, evangelising and missionary leaders”, and therefore, they “want to ignite the hearts of lay Catholic leaders and nurture them with the necessary formation and skills to lead and act as a catalyst to those under their care, helping their parish priests unite the Body of Christ to make disciples and build the Kingdom of God in society” (i.e. missions in the Church and in the world).


5. While some may have organisational charisms of leadership and administration (see “G” for Gifts and Talents for more), which help with running groups and organisations, and which help to make things efficient and move things along, this does not preclude everyone from influencing others for Christ, i.e. to lead within their own spheres and to the best of one’s abilities.


6. John C. Maxwell.


7. “Well done, good servant! Because you have been faithful in a very little, you shall have authority over ten cities” (Luke 19:17; The Parable of the Ten Pounds). See also The Parable of the Talents (Matt 25:14-30). See also Luke 16:10, “He who is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much” (Luke 16:10) (albeit in the context of the stewardship of money).


8. Of course, over time, one should intentionally hone one’s leadership skills and qualities, especially (but not limited to) those with the charisms of leadership and administration. See the recommended training courses offered by the Catholic Leadership Centre at the end of this article.


9. A painting of Bl. Ivan Merz in the Basilica of the Heart of Jesus in Zagreb, Croatia. Photograph by SpeedyGonsales, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported. The brightness and contrast of the image have been adjusted, with the frame and background removed.

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