The Leadership Journey Podcast: Sladjan Milenkovic (part two)

This week Sladjan Milenkovic is back to continue his story (you can listen to part one of the interview here). Sladjan is the director of HUB, a Christian centre not far from Belgrade, in Serbia. One of the main features of HUB is its Bible school, but its work includes other ministries. Some 360 students from across the Balkans have been through the Bible school, with around 60% of former students involved in active Christian ministry.

In this part of the story Sladjan talks about becoming the director of the Bible School at 26. The school’s mission is to serve the Church. In 2004 the school was able to buy a former motel: not only does this house the school but it is also used for conferences and seminars – seminars that cover subjects like worship or church planting.

HUB also runs ‘Camp Hope’, camps for families whose children with disabilities or cancer. Most of the people who attend these camps are unbelievers and the camps give them the opportunity to be loved and to hear about God.

Sladjan talks about the way cancer affected his own family, when his oldest daughter became ill with a brain tumour. It’s been a difficult journey that has taught Sladjan about vulnerability and suffering: he comments that ‘even in the midst of suffering, God can bring something good.’

He talks about leadership challenges, not least the overwhelming nature of the need, but also the challenge of being hurt by someone you have trusted. While he has had times of questioning his call, he returns to the conviction that God does not make mistakes. He also talks about resilience and staying true to his call: it’s important for him to remember who God is. In the middle of the stress and tiredness of leadership, God he trusts God for what he needs.

Listen to Sladjan’s interview here:

For your reflection:

  • How have some of the challenges of leadership helped to shape your character?
  • Would you commit to pray for Sladjan and the work of HUB?

Remember that you can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or Castbox (‘The Leadership Journey Podcast’): and perhaps you could leave a review.

The Leadership Journey Podcast: Sladjan Milenkovic

Sladjan Milenkovic

For the next two weeks the podcast goes international as I talk with Sladjan Milenkovic. Sladjan is director of HUB (Christian Trust Belgrade), in Serbia, which includes a small Bible school that I have had the opportunity to visit on a few occasions over the past few years.

The evangelical community in Serbia is small. To be Serbian is practically the same thing as to be Serbian Orthodox. In a nation of 7 million, it’s reckoned that there are may be 10000 who are part of the evangelical mainstream: for more on the situation of evangelicals in Serbia, the European Evangelical Alliance published this interview with the director of the Serbian Evangelical Alliance about four years ago. 

In this first episode, Sladjan talks about the spiritual situation of the country and goes on to tell his own remarkable story of coming to faith in Christ: at eighteen a colleague gave him a New Testament, and as he read, he realised the reality of Jesus. As he puts it, his first steps in faith were with Christ alone and the Bible. Eventually a small group came together, reading and praying together regularly – like a little pocket of revival: remarkably all this was happening at the height of NATO bombs in Serbia (not all the news makes the headlines!).

After spending a year in the army, Sladjan married and he then went to the Bible School that now leads (it had started 5 years previously and his wife had already studied there). At the end of his year of study, the founder of the school (Andy Mayo) invited him and his wife to stay and work alongside him: eventually he would take over the leadership (at twenty-six)..

For reflection:

  • Were you surprised to learn about the spiritual situation in Serbia?
  • As you listen to the story of Andy Mayo’s investment in Sladjan (his eventual successor), what stands out about his decision to invest in a young man? What do you look for in future leaders? What do you think young leaders might be looking for in you?
LJP: Sladjan Milenkovic, part one

The Leadership Journey Podcast: Ken Clarke (part 2 – repost)

This week’s episode continues the story of Ken Clarke’s leadership journey. Ken (who recently celebrated the 49th anniversary of his 21st birthday) is one of the most respected Christian leaders in Northern Ireland and further afield. Ken has served the Church in several roles, including as a local church minister and as a bishop.

Ken (Fanta) Clarke: looking relaxed after spending the afternoon on a course

Among other things, Ken shares these four important pieces of advice for leaders:

And there are these four key pieces of advice:

  • Don’t be a maverick: think team!
  • Remember that team members have different capacities;
  • Have soul friends;
  • Guard your heart (Proverbs 4:23).

Next week the podcast goes international when the guest will be Sladjan Milenkovic a young Serbian leader. He is the director of HUB (Christian Trust Belgrade) which includes a small Bible school which I have had the opportunity to visit over the past few years. He has a wonderful story to tell, and the interview also throws some light into a part of the world that is easily overlooked by many evangelicals.

THE LEADERSHIP JOURNEY PODCAST, SEASON 2, EPISODE 23: RICK HILL (2)

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This week Rick Hill continues his story, chronicling his move to church-based youth ministry, in Carnmoney Church. He talks about the part played by a couple of his bosses – Helen Warnock in his time with Scripture Union, and John Dickinson, at Carnmoney.

After five years in Carnmoney Rick was appointed to his current role. This was a move away from a focus on one local congregation to working across the wider denomination in a specific area. At the same time he has continued to contribute to the life of his local church (he is part of the eldership team in a new church plant).

He talks about some of the challenges of leading as a young person in an environment where leaders tend to be older, including learning how to begin about appropriate change.

During the conversation we talk about some of the ways generations may lead differently. Rick describes how he values consistency and commitment: leadership is who he is rather than what he does.

Among some of the leadership ideas Rick discusses are the idea that influence is greater than authority and proximity trumps distance. Both of these elements point to the importance of relationship to leadership. He also talks about the value of leading out of vulnerability.

Younger leaders face the challenge of balance as they seek to hold together a range of commitments and the challenge of knowing how to deconstruct what needs to be deconstructed (in terms of traditionalism), without neglecting to build.

In the final part of the conversation he talks about some of his ambitions as he looks ahead.

For your own reflection:

  • From what Rick shares about a more relational approach to leadership, what are some of the implications for your leadership?
  • If you are a younger leader, how do you think that older leaders could help you in your journey?

THE LEADERSHIP JOURNEY PODCAST, SEASON 2, EPISODE 21: CHARLES MCMULLEN, part 2

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This week Charles McMullan, current Moderator of the Presbyterian Church is back on the podcast. We pick up the story with his arrival as minister of Legacurry Presbyterian Church near Lisburn, where his eight years represented a season of growth in the church.

He talks about his growing openness to the person and work of the Holy Spirit and the ensuing change in his ministry and then his eventual (dramatic) call to West Church in Bangor, where he followed the ministry of David Bailie who had pioneered a new church plant and had spent some 40 years pastoring the church. Charles describes ministry in a place where there is a deep spirituality and a joy of life.

He talks about the importance of relationships in helping to maintain the momentum in West, staying fresh, without falling into a rut. A large church, like an ocean liner, can continue on course for some time after losing its power!

In talking about what he would say to his 28 year old self he talks about the twin convictions of the unconditional love of God and the sense that, even though he wants to give his best, God’s work cannot depend on him: know that you’re loved, but don’t take yourself too seriously!

In the final part of the interview Charles talks about his experience as Moderator and how it has encouraged him in his thinking about Church, and his passion to see renewal for the traditional Church.

Here are a couple of questions for reflection:

  • ‘God has always worked in me according to my personality.’ How do you respond to this statement that Charles makes about his experience of God?
  • As a church leader, how can you maintain continuity with the past while keeping the church fresh?

THE LEADERSHIP JOURNEY PODCAST, SEASON 2, EPISODE 19: BRENDAN HEALY (Part 2)

51287865_10155716496111504_9152388120216338432_nBrendan Healy from Mullingar is back this week. In the first part of our conversation Brendan talked about the beginnings of his military career, and about the remarkable story of coming to faith in Christ.

In this part of our conversation Brendan talks about ways in which leaders in various settings (like Church or military) can learn from each other. One example, drawn from the military, is the emphasis put on training for transformation: Brendan suggests that churches need to make discipleship a more serious enterprise.

We also discuss the difference between leading from position and leading from who we are: church leaders are less likely to wear their authority on their epaulettes! Brendan suggests that the great challenge for Christian leaders will be to influence people through character and authenticity.

Brendan also talks about the church of which he is a part in Mullingar, and the roles he has played in its work: along the way, there are some interesting observations in relation to religious and cultural identity!

He also talks about people who have influenced him along the way, and shares some of the main lessons he has learned.

For your reflection:

  • What are some of the spheres of leadership you think Christians would do well to learn from? Are there any cautions?
  • As a leader, do you have a plan for helping to develop other people? Does your church or organisation take training and discipleship seriously?

PS – in the background you will hear some of the staff of Irish Bible Institute (where we recorded the podcast) having a bit of a laugh!

Next week the guest on the podcast will be Charles McMullan, current Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland.

THE LEADERSHIP JOURNEY PODCAST, SEASON 2, EPISODE 18: Brendan Healy

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This week’s guest is Brendan Healy. Brendan is a retired Lt Colonel with the Irish Defence Forces. He lives in Mullingar, in the centre of Ireland, where he has played an influential role in Mullingar Christian Fellowship.

In this first part of our conversation talks about growing up in a traditional Catholic family in the West of Ireland, and his early desire to serve God as he felt his heart stirring towards Christianity. His parents were a big influence on him in terms of leadership as a way of making a contribution, and kindness.

Brendan had originally wanted to be in the police (after abandoning the idea of the priesthood), but accidentally (!) found himself joining the officer training programme for the Irish Defence Forces – he describes some of the demands of military discipline.

His sense of wanting to serve God had faded until someone he knew had had an experience of God and invited Brendan to a Christian event (the ‘craziest’ event he had ever attended). However as he explored more listened to a challenge from a priest who had been invited to speak at a mission, he came to the point of accepting Christ: his life was immediately transformed.

Remarkably, several of Brendan’s military colleagues also came to a transformational Christian experience: eventually they discovered that a group of women had been praying regularly for Irish Army officers, and this was the answer to their prayers.

He talks about the change from being a military leader to being a Christian military leader and describes some of the places where he was tasked with leading, including Lebanon and Jerusalem, as well as some of the leadership lessons he learned along the way.

He makes the point that military leadership goes beyond simply giving orders, but involves taking responsibility for the people in the leader’s charge.

(Irish Bible Institute, where we recorded the podcast, has a buzz about it on a Wednesday morning: you will hear some of the atmosphere in the background!)