#KeynoteaddressThe Synod Clerk, PCC
The Financial Secretary, PCC
Dear Respectable and Credible Leaders of our Church.
A KEYNOTE ADDRESS AT THE CAPACITY TRAINING OF LEADERS OF THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH IN CAMEROON TODAY THE 2ND OF SEPTEMBER 2020 ON THE THEME: MANAGEMENT IN TIMES OF CRISIS
Beloved in the Lord Jesus Christ. Permit me begin this address by acknowledging your attendance in this three-day workshop with due respect of your corresponding profiles and portfolios in the ministry. We count it all joy that God has preserved our lives and bestowed upon us good health so that we are able to go about our routine activities without any critical perturbing challenge.
We thank God for the steering committee of this great workshop, they have done their best but every human effort remains an imperfect endeavour before God. A similar event happened on the 15th of August, 2015 at Church Centre, Mankon – Bamenda while we were setting the agenda, ‘Transformed Transformers’. Five years on, we can all evaluate the importance of this type of gathering of the leaders of the Church of God.
Sickness, pain, suffering, economic hardship, spiritual starvation and even death has plagued the lives of many both in the PCC workforce, among our Christians and followers, families and friends both at home and beyond our territorial boundaries. No one can dispute the fact that we are passing through very trying and unprecedented moments in the life of our Church in particular, the country and the world at large. It is a time that calls on everyone to think and rethink the purpose of one’s existence, the purpose of one’s calling as a Minister of the Word and Sacraments, and as an ecclesiastical, sectorial and unit leader of the Presbyterian Church in Cameroon (PCC). We must also have to think and rethink the purpose for making the choices we make, taking the decisions we take and acting the way we act. In the midst of the complex and uncertain way things are, the future seems bleak, but we can rebrand and reshape it. This is possible because God’s word refreshes, strengthens, heals and gives us hope even in the darkest and hopeless situation we may find ourselves. He called us for a moment like this not to fear and tremble, but to be strong and lead others in that divine strength, creativity, flexibility and dynamism.
Dear friends, we grew up knowing the famous ‘Church on fire’ crisis in the days of the late Very Rev. J.C Kangsen. The 1990’s political upheavals at the rebirth of multi-partism affected the church but not as it has hit us today. The late very Rev. H.A Awasom was accused for leaning the church on the opposition parties; something that earned the PCC a scant regard from the leaders of the nation. Later on, the church faced scarcity in financial resources due to the provocative, prompt and unilateral partial reduction of Mission 21 grants. Moderator emeritus, the Rev Dr. Nyasako-ni-Nku began the self-reliance drive to salvage the economy of the church.
Today, the crisis we are facing is like the many tentacles of a hydra. The hydra has at least 8 tentacles and so it is difficult to know which one to attack at a particular time. The political upheavals in the North West and South West regions now compounded by Covid-19 pandemic are multi-faceted and multi-dimensional in nature with local and global ramifications.
Spiritually, we cannot celebrate the liturgy conveniently as we used to do. Our fundamental mission of preaching, teaching, healing and liberating is facing frustration. Economically, our finances are dwindling, with negative effects on our capacity to replenish other Presbyteries and Departments and to guarantee the livelihood of our workers. While these problems are a force majeure, internally, we have a crisis in skilled leadership, effective management and egoism. This could be seen by the deliberate intentions of some colleagues and Christians to injure the church and disrupt her activities.
Besides these above-mentioned challenges, we are beginning a new mandate with the key phrase: ‘Wake up, Watch out’. It is important to make our vision clearer, to integrate new personnel and galvanize support as we aim at building the Church of Jesus Christ. Someone has said: _“It is better to look where you are going than to see where you have been”._ Faith is daring the soul to go farther than it can see.
The Chinese word for ‘Crisis’, is a combination of the symbols for ‘danger’ and ‘opportunity’. Every crisis, if properly analyzed, can be an opportunity to think. Thus, leading in times of crisis should not be ‘bad versus good’. Rather, it should be to prevent the ‘bad’ from getting worse. Crisis gives us the chance not for ad-hoc solutions, but to examine some root causes and structural problems. This workshop is a one-stop-shop wherein we can acquire team spirit, attitudes for hard work, innovative mindsets and effective management as strategic assets in times of crises. Anyone can lead when things are going on well and when plans are working but the best leaders emerge when plans fall apart.
The Context of our Leadership
To say the least, we are living in a very complex and complicated context with multifarious challenges globally, nationally and within the PCC. The devastating advent of the coronavirus (COVID 19) with its multiplier negative effects are immeasurable.
While lives are being taken away in hundreds of thousands globally; countries, organizations and institutions are gasping for survival. Global and national economies are at the brink of collapse. The global and national social orders have been distorted. North-North, North-South, East-North, East-South and South-South diplomacy and cooperation are facing a new orientation. Political and economic choices and orientations are being determined by the unfamiliar spirit of the coronavirus. The world now stands to adopt a new paradigm, fashioned by the influence of this pandemic.
It is very likely that the world after the coronavirus will not be the same again. Concepts or theories of the New World Order are already flooding the media. We can’t, as leaders, fold our arms and continue dispassionately without taking a critical look at this and arming ourselves accordingly for any eventuality, although the challenges are already breaking our backs.
Our Church is presently facing a kind of a double-blow of a challenge or a double tragedy. The Anglophone crisis/war has continued to be a piercing thorn in our flesh. Thousands of lives have been lost and the killing is still ongoing and taking various inhuman forms, creating terror in the Anglophone communities. The destruction of both private and public properties is so serial that many communities have been extinct. What critical minds see happening within Anglophone Cameroon is no longer a struggle to solve a problem, but calculated actions to ruin a people, their communities, economy and way of life. The masterminds, the manipulators, the perpetrators and the executors will surely face justice somehow and someday.
For emphatic purposes, more than 98% of our educational institutions in the North West and South West Regions are not functioning. No matter what criticisms are levelled on us by our detractors that our educational institutions are there merely for economic reasons, because of perceived high fees, which is more a biased assumption, we provide the best and give a holistic approach to the development of the human person morally, spiritually and socially. Take away the spiritual and moral elements from the society today, the society collapses the next day.
We also, by those institutions, provide a means of livelihood to thousands of families out there through their direct and indirect employments. Hundreds of thousands have benefited from our presence and activities wherever we have been. Communities have been developed by our physical, moral and spiritual presence in our efforts to serve God and humankind. Tens of thousands have benefited from our various scholarship programs and are now well-to-do personalities in the country and around the globe.
I have taken time to talk about the educational sector of our Church because that is the hardest hit by the crisis/war and the coronavirus pandemic. We need this information as leaders in order to correctly tell our story and give to the people the right perspective of things and hope in the midst of hopelessness and uncertainty.
The evangelistic arm of our raison d’être, our congregations where we worship, have faced a serious puncture because of the coronavirus, in addition to the troubles of the Anglophone crisis/war. Services were and are still being seriously hampered by governmental restrictions. Invariably, this has drastically affected our income.
Traditionally, the congregations and presbyteries where principal sources of income for the whole Church are made to replenish the financially limping Presbyteries and departments of our Church are now bankrupt. Generally, all the sectors, institutions and units of the entire Church are passing through these crises.
Reports presented during the just ended series of Board Meetings for Presbook PLC, Presprint PLC, Tellco-Preswood, show that the pointers are on a downward trend and debt levels are on the rise. Do not forget that Prescraft, PRCT Fonta and PRTC Manyemen have even more disturbing economic and financial situations. The adversities have not spared Prestech Services.
We cannot be leaders without a full knowledge of who and what we are leading. A comprehensive knowledge of the stakes equips us better to take informed decisions and actions that can enhance our collective work, vision and goal. As leaders or managers called to lead within this challenging, difficult, complex and unpredictable context, what approach(es) are we to adopt as our modus operandi?
- Be Committed
It is true that one’s perception in life defines his/her dreams, and dreams can only become realities if planted on the fertile soil of commitment. Talking about commitment, Abraham Lincoln, one of the founding Presidents of the American civilization says:
Commitment is what transforms a promise into reality. It is the words that speak boldly of your intentions and actions which speak louder than the words. It is making time when there is none, coming through time after time, year after year. Commitment is the stuff character is made of; the power to change the face of things. It is the daily triumph of integrity over skepticism.
Our leadership and management approach in the crisis context we find ourselves demands that we do as much as possible not to find excuses for not realizing our goals, but develop creative strategies to bring positive results. We may have to be result-based oriented rather than routine-trapped.
- Be Proactive
Five years ago, by the grace of God, we began a drum beat to move from self-reliance to self-sufficiency, as if we knew that troubles laid ahead. We started putting in place economic ventures to make the church self-sufficient. See where we are today, in a global social and financial meltdown – worse than the great depression of the 1920s. The current crisis we are immersed in met us unprepared. We trust that it shall not happen again. When our investments would have ‘ripened’, a financial crisis will not meet the church unprepared. This is the spirit we are implanting not only at the central level but down to the Presbyteries.
Remember our slogans: “Spend Less, Evangelize More” (SLEM), “one congregation, one farm”, “From self-reliance to self-sufficiency”, “from minimal to optimal exploitation of resources” etc. It is in this light that PC Bonamoussadi, Douala is constructing a Secondary School under something like a public-private partnership scheme. PCC Bastos, Yaounde has invested on real estate at the Nyom neighborhood. PCC Azire, Bamenda has invested in shopping stores around their church compound. We would have been happier to hear that Dikome and Akwaya Presbyteries now own sizable cocoa and bush mango farms respectively – perhaps it is work in progress. This is how we should be thinking. Thus, this workshop should empower you to go out, go forth, break camp and advance.
Our second mandate is pegged on the theme, “Wake Up and Watch Out”. We are waking up to new spiritual realities and watching out on anything that compromises our mission and the true gospel of Christ. We are putting an extra eye on the devil and his cohorts (or the synagogue of Satan). Spiritually, there should be no middle ground for the church. This has been well-captured by the strategic orientation policy paper presented by the new Secretary, Committee of the Ministry. Let us use the social media positively to bring the gospel to every home. The good thing with the social media is that whether people are present in church of not, they still have the possibility of knowing what happened there. We are calling for the digitalization of the congregations wherein E-evangelism and E-Gospel will reach every member of the congregation regardless of distance.
Economically and socially, we shall continue with our investment policy towards self-sufficiency. The Financial Secretary has stated this in the Corporate Resource Empowerment Plan (CREP). Recently, we have created a huge production and warehouse in Limbe (former PYC) for production of some school consumables; the Vocational college for carpentry and joinery attached to Tellco-Preswood shall soon start and the new Synod Office project shall remain one of the legacies of our second mandate. This new Synod Office project will not bring money directly but it increases our credit worthiness at a time when we have created a permanent office to design and source for project funds from all over the world.
Personnel wise, the Synod Clerk has come out with the Monthly Administrative Report form to enhance productivity, rationalize promotions, rewards and to tighten discipline.
The Book of books brings to us the wisdom of the Hebrew sages that; _“Where there is no vision, the people perish” (cf. Proverbs 29:18). As leaders, we must be proactive in order to be preemptive so as to sustain our Church, institutions and marching on vibrantly and viably forward.
- Be a corporate and Integral Personality
The concept of corporate personality is a Christian theological concept first articulated by H. Wheeler Robinson dealing with areas of divine collective punishment in the Old Testament because of one person’s fault. Here, allusion is made to the stoning to death of Achan and his entire family in the valley of Achor as directed by the Lord because Achan stole a beautiful robe, two hundred shekels of silver, and a bag of gold when Israel plundered Babylon (cf. Joshua 7:20-26).
It is today used as a concept making someone or a leader an integral part of the organization or institution he/she leads. The corporate personality who plays an integral role as a leader, incarnates the mission, vision and ideals of the institution and moves along positively with the institution, thinks the institution, dreams the institution, talks the institution, defends the institution and protects the institution. Of course, we have seen time and again that there are corporate personalities who do not act corporately, but exploitatively and destructively for their selfish interests.
We are leaders of various departments, presbyteries and units; by dint or virtue of our positions, we are corporate and integral personalities. Corporate personalities are to manifest these three characteristics-
I. Identification. That is; identifying body and soul, mind and spirit with your institution, presbytery, department and unit. Therefore, every manager must treat his/her structure passionately to maximize productivity. Positive results should always be the preoccupation of the manager or leader.
II. Extension. The leader/manager must extend his/her influence over the organization or institution or structure so that nothing happens outside his/her vigilance. His/her extension and influence must be vertical and horizontal; liaising between his/her subordinates and hierarchy in a productive fashion.
III. Oscillation. The leader/manager must oscillate creatively and productively back and forth between the key actors and stakeholders to mobilize and organize for the success of the institution, unit or presbytery. Success is always the motivating factor for management oscillation or movement.
- An Economic Theology
Dear colleagues, I would like to introduce “Economic theology” as a concept for us to engage in within this crisis moment of our history. In the theological world theologians have developed theologies in different areas of life. I can sight Ethical Theology, Moral Theology, Environmental Theology, Feminist Theology, Womanist Theology, Systematic Theology and the different theologies you can think of. One of the theological disciplines is the Economic Theology. I think in this era an economic theology is needed for us to use in facing the challenging times. Time has come for us to have a God driven and God centred economic mind set as we manage the resources of our Church. I know in every sermon we preach, in every retreat we offer, and in every evangelistic and humanitarian activity we engage in, the Spiritual goal of the above activities have often taken central stage.
Thus, while we focus on the spiritual outcomes of our activities in Church, we should start asking ourselves what economic value do we gain in a preached sermon or retreat that will guarantee our sustainability in times like this. One would think – as many have already concluded, that I Fonki Samuel Forba have killed the church spiritually because of my love for the economic sustainability of our Church. God is my witness that I have tried my best in enhancing the spirituality of our Church. I do accept that I am also prone to the economic sustainability of our Church. And those who have accused me are those who need the money most. Remember that while the church is much more than a business, it is at least a business.
If your church pays people, pays bills, owns or rents property, uses software, it is legally a business. People need to have their spiritual, emotional and physical needs met no doubt. The truth is that we are living in a crazy world today. II Timothy 3:1 helps me put this in perspective, “but know this, that in the last days perilous times will come.” I’ll take the liberty to say that perilous times are here. More and more children are growing up in broken homes, unemployment is on the rise and Christians are sinking deeper into debt like never before. Many churchgoers are struggling to make ends meet in their everyday lives, and we feel the pinch of reality just like everyone else. Believers are not exempted from trials of the world. The crises in our country coupled with the COVID 19 pandemic are glaring proves that all is not well. We are living in perilous and drastic times. Drastic times call for drastic measures. There are times when acting like a business is the right thing to do. There are things great businesses do that great churches should do as well.
Of course, I will follow my dream for this great Church. I will continue to copy and paste from my Master and Teacher Jesus the Christ who taught me this theological concept in the parable of the talent recorded in Matthew 25:14-30
Jesus helps us to understand our calling as leaders and our responsibility to use what God has given us to bring Him glory and honour! God has given all of us talents. He gives them to us according to our ability and we are supposed to use them in a creative manner.
I am conscious of the fact that our economic arena in Cameroon is very slippery and dirty, yet we can still introduce credibility, honesty, transparency on this platform; thus fulfilling our Economic theology and its God centred ethical and moral values.
To achieve this concept, we must minimize waste and be better stewards of the resources God has placed in our hands at this critical moment of our church. We have to explore innovative resource mobilization strategies to complement local funds. All leaders must seek to develop resilience and tenacity at all levels of the organization; and work hard to sustain the gains of the past. We must be proactive and forward looking.
In ominous times of multi-dimensional challenges and crises like ours, we must consider that God called us at this time to stand for his Church in every way possible. Victory or success does not come to the faint-hearted but to the faithful, resilient and foresighted. When God calls, He equips; when He equips, He anoints; when He anoints, He empowers; when He empowers, He inspires; and when He inspires, where others see obstacles, we see miracles; where others see sinking sand, we see stepping stones; and where others see failure, we see splendour.
Ladies and gentlemen, at the end of this training, it will be categorically imperative for institutions and departments, presbyteries alike to develop action plans and implementation strategies for the period 2020 to 2022 (3 years). These plans should be finalized when participants return to their respective workplaces. We will expect you to submit signed copies of the respective action plans to the Office of the Synod Clerk on or before 15th September 2020.
The theme of this workshop has been carefully chosen. The modules have been well thought of. The organizers of the workshop have challenged the facilitators to be result oriented and practical. Therefore, this training will not be business as usual. We do expect that all the participants will devote time and be attentive in all sessions of the workshop. We urge you dear brethren to apply yourself fully to the business of these three days. Pay close attention to every subject matter and details. Beware of the key words enshrined in the mega themes of the training menu.
In the mid-twentieth century, in Bangkok, Thailand, the government wanted to build a large highway through a village. Yet in the path of the planned road was a Buddhist monastery with a little chapel, so they had to relocate the monastery including a heavy, eleven-foot clay statue of Buddha to another place. Using a crane, the government workers moved the monastery in sections. When the workers transport the statue of Buddha to the new location and began to lower it into place however, the clay on the statue started to crumble and fall off. The people were afraid because this was a precious religious symbol to them, and they didn’t want it to be destroyed. Yet the more the workers tried to place the statue the more it fell apart until eventually, all the clay was falling off. Suddenly, the workers stared in amazement because, as the clay fell away, something unexpected was revealed: The statue was pure gold underneath. Before the statue was removed, people thought it was worth about fifty thousand Dollars. Today, that golden Buddha is worth millions of Dollars and, because of the story behind it, the statue is visited by hundreds of thousands of people every year. This story illustrates that what we can see is not necessarily what really is. I believe that many of us are living as clay vessels when, in reality, we are pure gold inside. Our lives do not reflect who we truly are or what we can be.
Dear friends you are not clay. Even if you are clay from the outside, I believe you are pure gold from the inside. I pray that this conference will reveal the gold you really are and enable you to know you were created by your creator for service. You are Gold that is well selected by God to lead this church into a transformative prosperity. You are Gold created by God to make PCC Gold.
John C. Maxwell, the leadership guru, once stated that: “A manager says ‘Go’, a leader says: ‘Let’s go’”. By this definition, we are afraid to say most of us are managers and not leaders. Often, as managers, we maintain control and order instead of creating an environment for change. As managers, we focus so much on things, procedures and meetings instead of focusing on motivating and inspiring human resources at our disposal. As managers, we react instead of being proactive and creating opportunities. As managers, we try to control risks instead of seeking opportunities. As managers, we follow instructions instead of creating our own sub – visions that strategically aligns with the main vision. John Paul Kotter, the Emeritus Professor of Leadership at the Harvard Business School, concluded that: “The real challenge is to combine strong leadership and strong management and use each one to balance the other”.
Dear colleagues, let us go and be leaders and not bosses. Today, in the PCC, everybody wants to be a boss. Most of us reckon public offices in terms of the size of the budget, the brand of car and size of one’s own benefit. It must not be so with you. Let us go back and motivate the very Christians we have demotivated due to the weaknesses in our leadership. Let us go back and generate enthusiasm amongst our colleagues and people under our charge. Ministry in times of crisis must evoke compassion, empathy, social action and appropriate pastoral care
Fellow labourers in the Lord’s, Vineyard, we do not take your presence here for granted. It is not fashionable for people to travel now. Some of you have come from hard to reach areas. Usually the rainy season possess great distress to travellers. We recognize that some participants have come from localities plagued with security threats associated with the conflict in the North West Region and South West Regions of our country.
Above all, it is not usually a delight when people have to move away from their routine places of stay given the COVID-19 Pandemic scare. For all these sacrifices that we make for the sake of the ministry and kingdom building efforts, we pray that God will take care of your respective concerns as you take care of His Business.
“I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery, they deceive the minds of naive people. Everyone has heard about your obedience, so I rejoice because of you; but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil.” (Rom 16:17-19).
We cannot wrap-up this address without extending our profound gratitude to the work that the facilitators have done in preparing for the workshop. We sincerely appreciate the contributions made by the organizers as well. We wish you well during this period of stay here in Buea. To God be the glory!
Yours for the Sake of the Faith,