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African Pastor Models Christ-like Leadership

Ramez Attalah, general director at The Bible Society of Egypt, attended an international conference (the Lausanne Conference) for Christian leaders in 1974. He was thrilled to be with top-notch leaders from around the globe—sharing and reading interesting papers on important subjects—but the most meaningful insight actually came to him on the flight home:

It was a long flight back to Canada, and I had many papers to go through. I had taken a lot of business cards from all sorts of [important global Christian leaders] that I had met. We all know we collect these cards, put them in our pockets, and often forget about them. As I looked through my cards from Lausanne, I noticed one that was not very well printed, and I looked at it carefully. I still get emotional when I remember this story. It broke me.

At Lausanne we had small groups every night. About ten of us met in our dormitory rooms to pray and share together. The first night we introduced ourselves: president of a seminary, pastor of a church with 2,000 people, and so on. Everybody was showing how great they were. I said I led the InterVarsity movement in the province of Quebec. It was actually a very small ministry, but it sounded good. One African man who was with us said, "I'm a pastor in Kenya." During the week we all listened to each other. I didn't pay much attention to the pastor from Kenya; I wanted to get close to the important people. But I was moved by the Kenyan pastor's stories of how God had touched him as a school teacher during the African revival and changed his life. I thought he was a deep man. I pictured him working in a humble little village in Africa.

But when I picked up that business card on the plane back to Canada I discovered that it said "Festo Olang, Archbishop of Kenya." Olang was a man who could pull rank on anybody in our group. He was a bigwig. But we didn't know it, and he didn't tell us. He did not use his position to secure his identity. He was a simple pastor who loved Jesus. I am still moved to the core when I remember this incident thirty-two years later. I said to myself on the plane, that's the kind of leader I want to be. That's leadership, Jesus-style.

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