LeaderSource - Building Leaders from the Ground Up

Building Leaders from the Ground Up

Brother Zoe: Trailblazing in the Philippines

Zoe was once a drug addict in the Philippines. Today, he and his wife are frontline church-planters living among an indigenous people group in the mountains – a full nine-hour motorcycle ride away from their home in town. Going there means braving mudslides, conflict zones, and the threat of kidnapping.


Zoe lives and serves among the people – planting crops with them on their farms, helping with education, and building houses. But the single most important work he is doing among them, on his own initiative, is building indigenous Christian leaders.


Not long after Zoe became a believer, he accepted the call from God to serve Jesus as a missionary in Cambodia where for a decade he shared the Gospel and made disciples. Or at least that is what he thought he was doing!


When he returned to the Philippines, he discovered that a lot of church growth techniques, books and programs about discipleship had filled the churches during his absence. But as he explored those programs, he began to question the effectiveness of his leadership while on the mission field. “Maybe what I’ve been doing is not ‘making disciples’ because I have never used one of these programs,” he pondered.


Was he doing it the right way? Did he need to use these programs that didn’t seem to fit? Thirsty for an answer to these perplexing questions about building leaders, Zoe began searching for alternatives. When the pandemic hit, he spent a lot of time online and encountered Malcolm Webber’s Building Healthy Leaders video teachings facilitated by Robert Walter. He began to soak them all in.


Then he started listening to our Burst Leadership podcast, created by one of our LeaderCare specialists, Brent Hoover. From there, Zoe dove into Malcolm’s books and our email course on Transformational Theology. But he wanted more, both for himself and the teams of missionaries that he was encouraging in his organization, Just Projects International. So he reached out to our Indonesian team and set up an abbreviated Building Healthy Leaders online training with us.


In our leader development work, we often engage only briefly with leaders. Sometimes those leaders go on to apply our models with much greater depth and impact than could be expected from such a brief interaction. Such is the case with Brother Zoe. Brent says that this is indicative of who Zoe is as a Christian leader. He is “the real deal” – a man of God with a heart for shepherding people and has been very intentional in equipping himself in leader development. Taking the initiative to seek out training is evidence of this.


Zoe embraced our models from the start, recognizing them as the frameworks he had been looking for to more intentionally build leaders. Now he is using them as a blueprint for grassroots leader development in the remote villages of the Philippines, working with people in the oral culture there to build them in each of the 5Cs. Zoe and his wife have committed to doing this church-planting ministry for a number of years, devoting themselves to training and building the villagers using a mix of stories and lifestyle leader development. Our models have helped them do this, starting with a 5C goal and designing experiences around that.


One of the big issues for the village is finding clean water. When confronted with this problem, Zoe encouraged the three men he was building to trust Jesus, the “Living Water,” to help them locate water.  Not too long afterwards, one of them found a small trickle of water coming down the mountainside; after investigation they found a fresh, continuous water supply that stays clean throughout the rainy seasons. This affirmed to the men Zoe was building that Jesus, the Living Water, would meet their needs.


When Zoe started a church in the village, he was asked how it would be different from other churches. He responded, “It's going to be a no-name church. We're just going to be with each other, do life together.” And that’s just what they do – when they come together, they talk about life and the challenges people are going through. They pray and hear teaching from Scripture. The church is not rooted in programs, but connected to life.


Despite ongoing missions work in the region, “People need more,” Zoe declares. “They need more training and leadership and leader development than what we have for them.” While he could work with larger church networks (he is in a major denomination that has churches all over Southeast Asia), he prefers to build emerging leaders from the beginning in life-on-life leader development. This grassroots mindset mirrors how Jesus built leaders – holistically, with a few people, in the midst of real life.


When he shares with pastors he knows, they often ask what course he has used with the people he ministers to. He just smiles and says,


“No, bro, it’s not a course. It’s a lifestyle.” I invite them into the journey. It's life discipleship. It's not just people going to listen, sitting and going home. In the past we have idolized Western church role models, discipleship methods, and leader development. But this is what we really need.


Some of the church planters and pastors who are sent out to the villages have almost zero training. Their churches send them out into the least-served areas, ill-equipped to do the work they are called to do. Zoe is happy to offer them a powerful and simple model for building others.


In his travels to the villages and all around Southeast Asia, Zoe has become acutely aware of the needs in his region. He has also realized that the tools the established churches have to offer are not as helpful as they might seem.


Honestly, there's a lot of teaching out there. There are so many different strategies and approaches to leadership. We need to start a new culture with younger leaders who really, really want this, in new churches.


Zoe has also dived deep into leader care, which he says is absolutely vital to the leaders in his nation.


I meet struggling leaders all the time, who don’t know how to care for people significantly and relevantly. Two of the leaders I invited to the training (who couldn't come) are now top leaders in this huge denomination and they're struggling to know how to care for leaders. We don't do any leader care. All over my country, there are people who are just working like crazy and their churches have no plan to care for them.


Brent was able to share with him about the leader-care retreats that he does, and the LeaderCare model of growing in body, soul, relationships, and emotions. They are looking forward to doing a healthy-life training with leaders Zoe knows.


From minimal access to LeaderSource materials, Zoe has plunged into ministry on the frontlines, applying a ConneXions Model way of thinking, and training other people to do the same. From his heart for serving God, through his position in a major denomination, he's been growing and actively building leaders. We are so encouraged by this! This is the power of God at work in the biblical, holistic simplicity of our models; they can be applied in any context immediately by anyone, and reap a huge harvest!


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