DMINLGP

DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

And a Child Shall Lead Them

Written by: on June 22, 2017

“There is a death far worse than physical death, and that is the death of the mind and soul…” [1]

This is a poignant summary of the fascinating yet overwhelming book, Kaffir Boy, written by Mark (Johannes) Mathabane. It is a powerfully moving book, in part, because it shows the devastating impact of bad leadership. We read of this in a slightly more objective setting through The Rise and Fall of Apartheid. [2] But in a way there is more potency in viewing the impact of evil in the life of one person; particularly a small child.

Our D. Min cohort has invested two years studying the multifaceted world of Leadership and Global Perspectives, and here at the end of our course work we encounter a perspective that may be the most challenging for leaders. Kaffir Boy tells us that Leadership which is informed by Global Perspectives draws us to model leadership that seeks the best interests of people and feeds hope. All through his life and his book we see the devastation of leadership that is self-serving; never concerned with the well being of those the allegedly led.

What is the purpose of leadership? Kaffir Boy tells us.

Kaffir Boy tells us that leadership must bring people to a place of hope. By way of a metaphor for leadership consider the power of a magnet.

Picture metal shavings randomly spread around a table. There is no order or coordination; just metal shavings scattered with some by themselves and some brushing against other shavings. If each tiny piece of metal were a person, the picture would resemble anarchy: each one on their own with no semblance of coordination or cooperation.

Insert a magnet into the setting, and the shavings are drawn both to the magnet and closer to one another. The magnet may not “organize” the metal shavings but when drawn to the magnet they may at least move together, unified, in a single direction. Revelation or vision from God serves as a magnet; drawing us forward, with others, in a positive direction.

Proverbs 29:18 is translated in the New American Standard Bible, “Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained…” English Standard Version says, “Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law.” To offer a loose paraphrase/application: When people cannot see how God is connected to their lives and is leading them, life becomes chaotic and even hopeless: the death of a soul.

Mark Mathabane’s childhood, and the ghetto of Alexandra was that random setting of metal shavings. In his life there was little, if any, coordination, cohesiveness, or predictable and orderly life. It was an environment so filled with hopelessness, chaos, confusion, fear, and unpredictability that he contemplated suicide at the young age of ten years old.

He gained a glimmer of hope through his success in school. But he gained momentum through the influence (leadership) of tennis star Stan Smith, who facilitated a way forward through tennis.

Kaffir Boy tells us that leadership shows the power of the Gospel and challenges Christians to give exclusive allegiance to Jesus.

In Christian Theology and African Traditions [3] Matthew Michael addresses the problems of a fully manifested Christianity not engaging African traditions. He points out that often Africans will ascribe to Christian faith, but still resort to tribal ways when encountering difficulty.

Mark Mathabane sites several examples in his family and life that show Michael’s thesis to be true. Mathabane writes, “Some became full Christians, and discarded tribal ways of worship. Others, however, while they did take up Christianity, continued to worship tribal religions, under the delusion that they could have it both ways.” [4] Of his mother he further writes, “As for my mother, despite openly and proudly calling herself a Christian, her tribal beliefs continued as strong as ever, latently when things seemed to be going right, and actively when things were going wrong. Hers was a Christianity of expediency.” [5]

Kaffir Boy tells us that leadership must bring truth and authentic Christian faith that sets people free.

Mathabane grew to see the dichotomy between where his father’s life had been and his life was going. “…I believed beyond a shadow of a doubt that black life would never revert to the past, that the clock would never turn back to a time centuries ago when black people had lived in peace and contentment before the coming of the white man.” [6] But he also says, “Yet somehow, in a mysterious, diabolical way, our growth as a people, our aspirations as individuals, our capacity to dream and to create, our hopes for the future as a nation united, had been ruthlessly stunted by whites who possessed our lives from birth to death.” [7]

Once again we find the need for vision that draws people toward an obtainable future. It is untenable to be trapped between what was and never again will be, and what you can imagine but have no real hope might ever become.

“Worst of all, I found among members of some churches a readiness to accept their lot as God’s will, a willingness to disparage their own blackness and heritage as inferior to the white man’s Christianity, a readiness to give up fighting to make things just in this world, in the hope that God’s justice would prevail in the hereafter…” [8]

Resignation: is this part of the death to a mind and soul?

Kaffir Boy shows us the powerful leadership of a changed life.

In the end, Mark Mathabane has become a leader through his writing. In a video interview he said, “I went to the White House in 1993 – after [President] Clinton read Kaffir Boy. He was so deeply moved by it he wanted to thank me for writing it because he said that it was one of the things that influenced his decision to award the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Nelson Mandela and de Klerk for their work in ending Apartheid and avoiding civil war.” [9]

1. Mark Mathabane, Kaffir Boy: The True Story of a Black Youth’s Coming of Age in Apartheid South Africa (New York, NY: Free Press, 1896), 181.
2. David Welsh, The Rise and Fall of Apartheid (Johannesburg & Cape Town, South Africa: Jonathan Ball Publishers, 2009).
3. Matthew Michael, Christian Theology and African Traditions (Eugene, OR: Resource Publications, 2013).
4. Mathabane, 59.
5. Ibid., 77.
6. Ibid., 207.
7. Ibid., 234-235.
8. Ibid., 217.
9. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gh6grpxYOqQ.  Accessed June 19, 2017

About the Author

mm

Marc Andresen

I have a B. A. in Music from San Diego State University and received an M. Div. from Fuller Theological Seminary in 1977. July 1 2015 I retired after 38 years in pastoral ministry. The passion and calling that developed in the last 20 years is leadership training in cross-cultural contexts, as my wife and I have had many opportunities to teach in Eastern Europe and Africa. I have been married for 38 years and have two adult children, one daughter-in-law and a beautiful granddaughter. My hobbies are photography and British sports cars.

9 responses to “And a Child Shall Lead Them”

  1. mm Phil Goldsberry says:

    Marc:
    Again you offered great insight into a pandemic that has riddled our world for centuries…..it just manifests at different places and different people.

    With your dissertation and present ministry involvement, how has the affects of apartheid/racism manifest its ugly face? How are you combatting it personally?

    Seems like you embraced the spirit of the book as one that offered hope. How can we as “practitioners” help our world with this nasty and cruel disease?

    Phil

    • mm Marc Andresen says:

      Phil,

      I am not aware of being directly connected currently with the affects of apartheid. I only realize that even when I was in Capetown in 1970, doing risky things with my African-American friend Phil, I was still totally unaware of the extent of the evil and suffering of Apartheid. I am stunned to think that while I was in the country Johannes was experiencing the things about which he wrote.

      Frankly, I think our current national administration’s attempts with foreign policy and travel policies are fraught with racism. I accept that this is just an opinion. However an elder from our church is an immigration lawyer and he has told me a number of stories of clients who are victims of racial profiling. He told me that the administration’s statements that only criminals are being sent back to Mexico is a flat-out lie.

      When we were in Mississippi in 2006 helping a church recover from Hurricane Katrina, there were white people in town that basically wouldn’t speak to us because they knew we were there to partner in ministry with a black church. I hope our presence modeled Christ-empowered reconciliation.

      We have been financial supporters for years of the ministry of John Perkins. He and his wife Vera Mae are THE model of racial reconciliation.

      It doesn’t feel like I’m doing enough visa vie combating racism. Corvallis is a disturbingly white town. Thankfully the presence of international students breaks up that boring color uniformity. I am glad to have been able to take a student from Congo with me to church a couple of weeks ago.

      As to hope: I think that even by offering Bible study skills to leaders in Africa I/we are keeping them connected deeply into God’s Word. It is my assumption and prayer that this not only gives skills training, but keeps those leaders connected to the Lord, which will breathe His hope into their souls. No matter where we go, with whomever we go, we constantly call attention and loyalty back to the Lord and His Word.

  2. Pablo Morales says:

    Marc, Did you took all of the pictures in your blog? It is very nice photography! Thank you for bringing up the leadership lessons from the book. As you said, leadership is about bringing hope and seeking the well being of others in contrast to being self-serving. I like how you put it, that the book “shows the devastating impact of bad leadership.” Serving in pastoral ministry I often have to bring that to mind, because in many occasions pastors can feel unappreciated or taken for granted. This attitude can push a leader to become self-serving. What helps me not cross the line is to keep an eternal perspective; knowing like Peter said, that the moment of truth will be when the Shepherd of shepherds appear. That’s the day I live for.

    I’ve enjoyed so much walking this journey with you. I can’t wait to see you again in South Africa and get to meet your wife.

    Pablo

    • mm Marc Andresen says:

      Pablo,

      Thank you – Yes – those pictures are all mind from Uganda. I love hanging around those kids.

      Yes, it is so easy for pastors to “use” the church to feed their own egos. I was constantly aware of that temptation. The Lord’s condemnation of shepherds in Ezekiel should, literally, put the fear of the Lord in us.

      And, yes, this has been a significant and meaningful journey. I do hope to continue mutual encouragement after next April. Since your wife isn’t going to S. A. I guess we’ll just have to go to Texas, or you’ll have to vacation in Oregon.

  3. Wow I had no idea about the President Clinton story. To me, it reinforces the power of stories. If true, Kaffir Boy helped get Mandela and deKlerk a pretty significant award. This is great. Thanks for you blog and always engaging so deeply with our reading Marc. Looking forward to SA with you!

    • mm Marc Andresen says:

      Aaron,

      Yes – power of story. I kept trying to make myself read just parts of the story, pick out nuggets, race to the end, and then write. I failed and read it cover to cover. I told my wife she needs to read Kaffir Boy before we head to S. A.

      A great way to end our course work.

  4. Claire Appiah says:

    Marc,
    Did you come across any information that Mathabane eventually came to an understanding of salvation through Christ? He indicated, “I do somehow believe there is something more powerful than man out there in the universe—I call it The Force.” (p.218) He denies any certainty that God was responsible for his success. You quoted him as saying, “Worst of all, I found among members of some churches a readiness to accept their lot as God’s will, a willingness to disparage their own blackness and heritage as inferior to the white man’s Christianity, a readiness to give up fighting to make things just in the world, in the hope that God’s justice would prevail in the hereafter . . . “ (p.217) Do you think this line of reasoning coupled with an inability to conceive of a good God that allowed the intense suffering of his people and did not bring justice in this life, is keeping him from embracing Christianity?

    As the asynchronous chat period begins to wind down, it’s beginning to hit me that this is the last time the cohort will be sharing and edifying one another. You have really enriched my life with your God-inspired, God-anointed words of wisdom and inspiration. I’m keeping my eyes on you; I will be reading everything you publish. I’m anxious to hear your take on the new South Africa.

    • mm Marc Andresen says:

      Claire,

      I have been bothered by this. I have seen nothing that indicates relationship with Jesus. I am hoping that the book just ended before that happened. But also, the few things I have seen of him on line also have no clear indication. I did see one picture in a blog that looks like he’s reading a Bible, but who knows.

      His early comments about Christians and the Church were tainted by his early life experiences. it is my hope that as his world expanded, particularly in the U. S. that his view changed.

      From what we’ve read I’ve seen nothing of him theologically processing the problem of Good God and the presence of evil. Your suggestion that all of this has kept him from the Lord is plausible, but I think we lack sufficient data.

      Claire – everything you say about enriching I say right back to you. When I publish, it will be because you made me believe this was even possible. You are a dear friend. I also will be fascinated to hear your response to South Africa.

    • Claire Appiah says:

      Marc,
      I’m ecstatic! I can’t wait to see what God will bring forth through you, His humble and obedient servant.

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