Posted by: calloftheandes | March 4, 2011

Interview: Former, Present HCJB Global Staff Team Up to Develop, Train Leaders

Américo Saavedra (across stage) and David Johnson (speaking) co-led a leadership workshop in Quito.

What does leading others mean? It means equipping others according to a three-day seminar at HCJB Global’s Latin America Region in Quito, Ecuador, earlier this month. David Johnson and Américo Saavedra (see editor’s note at end) led 30 people in Ser Líder: Capacitar a Otros para Ser Productivos (Being a Leader Means Equipping Others). Afterwards, Ralph Kurtenbach talked about leadership and specifically, this seminar.

Q: I have in my hand three modules that we’ve used this week. I understand that this is part of a master’s degree program that Development Associates International (DAI) uses to equip pastors throughout what some call the “global south” or the “majority world.”

Johnson: It actually started out as a non-formal program. Dr. James Engel [Wheaton College and then Eastern University] was the key person who really initiated this whole program after going to the Global Conference on World Evangelism in South Korea in 1995. A group of African pastors [at the conference] wanted to become part of the global Great Commission movement. They said it was time that Africa quit being a receiving area and actually started sending out people.

The pastors felt like one of the biggest needs that they had was leadership. Most leaders were focused in on their own churches, never mind their cities, their home countries or the world. And so they began to work together to write a curriculum to train pastors who hadn’t had an opportunity to go to university and to get much training in the practical areas of leadership.

Out of that was born the curriculum that originally was non-formal. Then the requests started coming in as DAI began to expand, and they needed something that would be recognized and given a little bit more credibility within the secular market and government, etc.

So a dual training program began about 12 years ago, and it has evolved to the point where there are close to 600 students in the master’s degree program that is done in agreement with universities throughout the world. But on the non-formal side—like what we did at HCJB this week—DAI will train somewhere between 20,000 and 30,000 leaders in the next year.

Q. As the program has moved from informal to formal training, can leadership be taught? How much of it is caught? Where do you stand on that classic question about leadership training?

Johnson: Yes, it’s both. We both agree there are some people who are really naturally born leaders. The reality is, if you took a poll, I would say 90 percent of the people who are in leadership positions today are not there because they caught it but because they’ve been taught it. They’re not there because they want to be but because they have to be. So one of the crying needs out there is from people who find themselves in leadership positions but don’t feel adequate. They simply want to be obedient and do what is being asked of them. The reality is there’s a whole lot of leadership that you can learn. Probably the bigger challenge in leadership beyond skills … is character. You know w hen you look at the biblical criteria for leadership it seems to focus more on character than ability.

Q: Is there a desperate need for character among leaders? Is it a moderate need? And how does this program specifically confront that need?

Saavedra: We try to build a [character] dimension into our training program. That’s why we have stories in the [training] book. That story goes through the whole course. And now and then the characters [of the story] will come on the scene. We deal with integrity; we deal with discipline; we deal with some other aspects of character development. There’s no way anybody coming to our training [will] ignore that aspect of the training. We’re dealing with that every time we train.

Johnson: What a lot of studies have shown is that the key to character development is not training; the key to character development is mentoring. Within DAI, and I know within Apoyo, mentoring is a big topic. We cannot mentor everyone we train; it’s just impossible. But what we can do is to train about mentoring. We can help people understand the importance of being mentored and the importance of mentoring, and help them understand the process which we do in a lot of our assignments—especially at the master’s level where people are required to find mentors and to begin to mentor and to teach them what that is.

Q. Who wants to tell me about the interactive method which is probably another of the distinctives of the program?

Saavedra: Yeah, it’s really not new. A lot of people are doing it. I’ve been in workshops in Latin America where I have been encouraged to be interactive, to reflect after doing —what we call praxis. So it’s not new in Latin America. However, in many places, because we work in the rural areas, people are not exposed to this kind of methodology—interactive, participative and all of that. However, in the cities we do see all of that happening. We had a great time last night [in Quito] with 27 pastors, and they had so much fun doing that…. Interaction is part of what we do in our training most of the time.

Q: So the DAI program has a real flexibility as you take it to different scenarios?

Johnson: Here’s what is fascinating to people. We use the same materials at the master’s level that we use out in the rural areas. We might have to tone it down, and I think it’s important to understand, it’s not because people that live in the country are less intelligent. They’re as intelligent, that’s no question. It’s that, for example, if I put up a graph, they’ve not grown up in an environment where that type of thing communicates anything. Anything that’s used out in the rural environment tends to be more like what Christ used, which is more of a story from nature or about the animals or something like that. So you have to learn the language that they communicate in, which is not easy for us who are city folk to understand all of that. But it gives me a greater appreciation, quite honestly, for Scripture and why God seems to use those illustrations both in the Old and New Testaments. It’s not because God is less intelligent. It is because He understands who we are. He created us, so He talks the language that we need to hear.

Q: I’ve tried to come up with some revealing questions to help draw out your passion on what is your area of expertise. Is there anything you feel needs to be added to our talk today?

Saavedra: Again, on last night’s experience with those pastors, the Latin American church is going through a transitional period not only in terms of discovering new methodologies, discovering the Internet and the resources available there, but we are beginning to see—especially with the group of pastors last night—that we are also resources that could be very helpful to each other. We found out how many [collective] years of experience [there are among those 27 pastors]—400! That was revealing to some of them, who said, “What!” And after a hundred and some years that the [evangelical] church has been in Ecuador, now they’re beginning to say, “Oh yes, we do have resources that we could use to build up the church.” That was exciting for us to hear.

Editor’s Note: Johnson served 14 years with HCJB Global, first as chief operating officer and then as president for seven years. He now works at DAI as a senior consultant for Latin America. Américo Saavedra has been an HCJB Global missionary for 35 years, working primarily in discipleship and training national pastors. He initiated and continues to minister with Apoyo, an HCJB Global ministry.



  1. […] of Reach Beyond (then known as HCJB Global). We had done several projects with HCJB, and after then-president David Johnson stepped aside, the board advised me that I was one of the finalists for […]

  2. […] DAI began shaping its leadership program in the 1990s after the global Conference on World Evangelism in South Korea in which African church leaders implored other Christians to help them develop as leaders. For several years including 2015, DAI has counted on the participation of David Johnson, a former president of Reach Beyond. […]

  3. […] up with former HCJB Global President David Johnson, Saavedra co-taught several modules of Ser Líder: Capacitar a Otros para Ser Productivos (Being a Leader: […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: