The Leadership Edge: Initiating

She left Ireland to serve Christ in Japan at 26 years old. After 15 months she sailed for Sri Lanka, ultimately ending up in India. While there, Amy became deeply burdened by what she saw.

It was 1901 and Amy had just returned from a year of ministry to the villages when she was greeted by a sweet, seven-year-old girl, Preena (or “Pearl Eyes”). She had escaped from the temple and looked to Amy for help. Displeased temple people came screaming and yelling–but slowly their anger subsided and the crowd dispersed. Amy was left with Preena. And so began the work of what would later be known as Dohnavur Fellowship.

When asked by one of her young women, “Amma, what does it mean to be a leader?” Amy Carmichael was heard to reply: “Be the first wherever there is a sacrifice to be made, a self-denial to be practiced, or an impetus to be given.”

OK, call me old-fashioned, but that smells like Christ-centered change-the-world servant leadership to me. The funny thing is, I can’t name many missions organizations or churches that would knowingly allow someone to be sent halfway around the world, to a dangerous place, to start a ministry or a movement, by themselves, today. Can you? Did I mention that Amy remained in India for 55 years, until her death at 83, without a single furlough? The work at Dohnavur continues to this day, over a century later. Check their site.

Have we lost the leadership edge?

What is the edge? INITIATION. Change leadership is all about being the first wherever there is a sacrifice to be made, a self-denial to be practiced, or an impetus to be given.

Question for change agents: Do I see any place to initiate?

By Ken

Dr. Ken Cochrum (DMin, Bethel University) is Vice President of Global Digital Strategies at Cru (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ) in Orlando, Florida. An avid cyclist and aspiring guitarist, he also holds a degree in Mechanical Engineering from The University of Texas and a Masters of Arts in Biblical Studies from Dallas Theological Seminary. He recently co-founded, a movement passionate about connecting people to Jesus using digital strategies. He previously served as vice president of Cru’s student-led movements worldwide. He and his wife Ann spent 13 years in East Asia where they raised their two children. Ken blogs regularly at

4 replies on “The Leadership Edge: Initiating”

Great post Ken. Concise and insightful. I know for me the areas I desire to initiate in are the places that cost me the most.

I’ve noticed that a huge challenge for me is being secure in initiating new things. I question what people will think of me, and worry that if it doesn’t work, then people may stop following me.

I wonder what you think about how to grow in being less threatened by those things, as well as leading others in this area when we observe it. I come across this issue quite a bit.

Hey Ken, another great post. And thanks too for your comments in your previous one – really appreciated the individual responses.

I agree w/ you Brian that this is an issue that I’m coming across more and more, with others but also with myself. In terms of being a change agent and practicing the type of leadership Amy Carmichael talks about, I too am naturally reluctant. Because I fear a bunch of stuff – like not getting people’s approval, being in the midst of conflict and controversy, having discomfort or an uncomfortable life (economic insecurity) etc. etc.

For example, recently I was researching on the net and found out that across from my campus in East Asia is a gay hang-out. I talked to a teammate the other day and she told me that around their neighborhood alone, an area that’s a few minute bike ride to our campus, are 6-7 brothels. Not to mention too, the hundreds of migrant workers that are on and off campus building sidewalks, apartments, etc. So, I’ve been thinking – ok, God, what are we supposed to do with this? What do you want us to do about these unreached people groups at our doorstep, who are also the types of people we want to send our students to reach? Following on yesterday’s discussion, how are we to bridge the gap in this situation?

So, “do I see any place to initiate?” This is one of those places. But, I am fearful. Because I’m afraid what others would think of me. Especially in East Asia, where it’s a bigger social no-no to associate with the LGBT community, the sex-trade workers, and the migrant workers. I also fear being misunderstood by other Christians, especially the local ones, who are homophobic. I fear too that this won’t fit our “campus ministry model,” and I’ll bring a lot of angst to my team and my leaders. But, this is the world just outside and on our campus – how can we ignore it? This is part of the real world.

I don’t know what the answer is. You guys have any thoughts?

Great post! I love the stories of past missionaries who got on a boat never to come home again. Such a far cry from our reality now. It’s such a crazy balance because we’ve learned so much from the past and try to improve and be more effective – ie … not sending people out alone, but …

what I think we’ve lost is what Brian B. was talking about yesterday. The American world view involves safety & security and that has seeped into our Christian Culture. Safety for our lives, our families, our ministries and it make us unable to risk.

As leaders – we have to lead in things like taking risks, stepping out in faith, and initiation of the harder things in ministry. We can’t expect those under us to lead the way in this, it’s our responsibility. We need to push for the launching of new campuses or movements around us. We need to lead in doing cross-cultural ministry. We need to lead in getting and giving feedback to grow on our teams. etc…

I love the quote “leaders are first wherever there is a sacrifice to be made…” Why is so often our tendency to just control and maintain what we already have?

Hi, I will pick-up where Alisha left off…with that quote, and a great question to follow. The tendency to control things seems to flow from so deep within us. I mean, all the way back to Satan, then his influence on our father Adam…there was an element of desire to control.

The quote you shared…being the first to sacrifice, stirs some serious questions for me. In the DICE diagram character is listed as one of the traits, and some leaders admittedly lack in that category…but I wonder if strong character deserves more of our attention than that. The old saying “It’s not (just) what you do, but it’s about who you are”…and I would think that what we do comes from who we are. Well, who we are seems to be dealing with character. Is humble, servant leadership dealing with character? If so, I am ashamed to say that I so often see circles of leaders as “good ole’ boy” clubs where one is entitled to certain perks and levels of respect. I’m sure most people would not say that directly, but it seems to be how we live leadership out in our organization. I would love to hear some thoughts on this.

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