A LOOK AT LAWRENCE TONG OF OPERATION MOBILIZATION
By Mary T. Lederleitner
This case study is an excerpt from the journal article titled “Navigating Leadership Challenges in a Polycentric World” written by Mary T. Lederleitner, PhD. The article helps people understand this leadership paradigm and learn how to become a more effective polycentric mission leader. It was written for the academic journal Transformation with SAGE Publishing and the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies. It can be located by clicking the link below:
Lawrence Tong’s Story
Lawrence Tong is the Executive Director of the global work of Operation Mobilization (OM). When he stepped into the role, he was the first Executive Director who was not raised in a western context. OM had a rich history but it was at a turning point. Would it be able to retain the vibrancy linked with its founding or, as many older mission movements can attest, would it wain and lose that momentum? It was a daunting task. The world had changed significantly and it was clear that OM would need to change as well.
Lawrence wanted OM to reflect God’s vibrancy and vision for the next leg of its journey. He decided to take time and deeply listen to leaders around the world, instinctively recognizing that polycentric realities needed to be considered and included in the process. Through circle after circle of dialogue and discovery with field ministry leaders, area leaders, ministry partners, funding partners, etc., the movement landed on a new mission statement that has deeply galvanized and inspired those who work in different missional centers of power in over one hundred nations. The vision that emerged was to see vibrant communities of Jesus followers among the least reached.
Through this effort, and by bringing together very different leaders in a way that enables them to make their best contribution in the work, OM is able to face new challenges in ways that pull the best from its heritage while also fostering innovation, creative strategies, and new ways of working that are fruitful in this era. I currently serve on the OM Global Board. What intrigues me as a board member, and where I see this playing out in light of the theme of this journal article, is the vision means they do not have to have their name on things. Churches are regularly being planted but in short order, no one will ever link it with OM. The church plant becomes part of a local missional center of power in that region or part of the world. So many groups are about ‘planting their flag’ so to speak and expanding their brand. With Lawrence I cannot count the number of times he has said in global board meetings, “It’s not about expanding our name. We are about helping the church to reach the least reached.” It is beautiful.
- What aspects of how Lawrence Tong leads would you find easy or difficult to imitate?
- What obstacles do you think are keeping you from being a more effective polycentric leader?
- What resources do you have to draw upon that might help you to grow and become a more fruitful polycentric leader?
Mary T. Lederleitner has a PhD in Educational Studies from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and a MA in Intercultural Studies from Wheaton College. She has also taught as an Adjunct Professor and led various initiatives at both of these academic institutions, but for more than two decades her primary work has been with leaders from many ministries in global mission through her roles with the Wycliffe Global Alliance. She has published two books with InterVarsity Press titled Cross-Cultural Partnerships: Navigating the Complexities of Global Mission and Women in God’s Mission: Accepting the Invitation to Serve and Lead.
This case study is published with permission from OCMS.