Monday, June 04, 2007

A Conversation with Sid Rice of Literacy and Evangelism: Part I - Leadership

This weekend, we had as our guest preacher Sid Rice, the director of Literacy and Evangelism International. In an effort to maximize his visit, I invited Sid to be the very first Eagle and Child official interview -- I told him that I'd like to talk with him about leadership (because of his extensive years of corporate experience prior to his taking this position), the world mission scene, and what exciting things he sees happening in churches in America (because he travels a lot and sees many different things).

Today we focus on the first topic -- leadership:

Russell: Let’s talk about leadership, to start with.

Sid: Right. When you get in a leadership role it seems like you’re bombarded with so many things. You know that in the pastorate. The verse at the end of Matthew 11 – Jesus was teaching his disciples and he says that when you feel tired from carrying so many burdens, take on his yoke – take on the yoke.

I remember reading that. It goes from the plural of burdens to the singular of the yoke that He has for you. To me it really spoke to singular focus: when you’re in leadership roles, you need to key in on those things that God is calling to you.

From a leadership perspective the most huge thing that you can do is connect with the yoke. It’s intimate singular relationship with Jesus Christ. To take burdens, issues, cares to God every morning – for me I’m a morning person, I crank at the outset of the day. That’s my best time, my optimum time. To spend your optimum, whether it’s at night or at morning, your best energy in the presence of God.

I found that navigating through the breadth of scripture is hugely helpful. And yet when you find those pieces that resonate with you, where you sense God speaking through His word to you, you pause. You begin to enter into a time of on-your-knees-sacred-reading where you’re praying the words and contemplating on what God is speaking to you. For me, in a position of leadership, it’s just been so refreshing. I’ve recently had some sweet times in the presence of God on my knees early in the morning before anybody else gets to our campus or office. I just find that as being key to my ability to appropriately lead and direct a mission or ministry.

Russ: So leadership is really rooted in spiritual discipline.

Sid: I would say that absolutely. It’s the ultimate foundation. And yet within a leadership role, as you know, there are myriads of pressures. To be able to come into the presence of God and have him speak directly to you through his word is just a huge spiritually foundational core to how we do life and do ministry.

And that segues into what we do at Literacy and Evangelism. I’m constantly struck that with some of the foundational things that I do for me spiritually – half the world cannot go there. This whole gift of sacred reading and being able to read God’s word, to meditate on it, to pray in it, to bask in it in a dialogue with God – half the world can’t do that because they cannot read God’s word or pray God’s word back to him like we do. It’s hard for me within the context of all of what I do. I’m surrounded by missionaries who come back from the field. I’m out in 2/3 world scenarios and I see it. But I'm constantly struggling to bend my mind around the poverty of not being able to feast upon the word of God and consume God’s word. That’s really a driving force for the passion I have for the ministry of Literacy and Evangelism. That overwhelming foundational resource that we have what half the world doesn’t. I struggle to bend my mind around that concept.

Russ: That's a huge task. You’re talking half the world – you’re talking about the enormity of the spiritual challenge. That must drive you.

Sid: The enormity of the task – having been to Urbana last December and seeing huge mission agencies like Wycliffe and Pioneers and Lutheran Bible Translators say ‘Hey, we can’t do this alone. We’ve got to connect. We’ve got to collaborate. We’ve got to have strategic partners all over the world.’ Form a perspective of Literacy and Evangelism, you step back and go ‘wow, where do we need to connect.' It’s pushing us into appropriate partnerships and different directions.

Russ: It’s interesting – In Jim Collins' Good to Great, he talks about the key drivers of leadership. One of those being leadership that will hold the good of the organization above the ego trip, above personal goals – he defines it as level 5 leadership. To a degree, that’s a little of what I’m hearing you describe at Urbana where these mission agencies were setting aside the mindset of ‘we can do it ourselves’. They were really being able to say ‘what’s the task to which we are called? How can we be strategic in this? What are we as Wycliffe good at? What are you as Pioneers good at? Etc.

Sid: And Literacy and Evangelism, what are our strengths?

Russ: And that’s another piece of Jim Collins work – finding what he calls the “Hedgehog concept”

Sid: Right. We have a core ministry that was foundational to the inception of the ministry that was purely literacy where we create curriculum up to almost 200 languages around the world. About 15 years ago, we got into English as a Second Language. I’m still debating whether or not ESL is a distraction for us. There are lots of defenses of why we have ESL as part of our portfolio, and I’ve asked everybody on staff to read Good to Great. At our fall regional directors meeting, we’ll be taking that discussion of strategic focus to a different level for the ministry.

to be continued tomorrow....

Soli Deo Gloria