The Story of Giuseppe the Central African Pigmy

One day, a long time ago, on his way to China, Marco Polo stopped in Central Africa to rest. He had some extra time on his hands, so he decided to take the scenic route. While he was there, he met pygmies from the Gbutee tribe. What many people may not know is that Marco fell in love, got married, and stayed with the tribe for several years. His first child was a boy named Giuseppe.

Giuseppe grew up to become a strapping man of 4’ 9” and was well regarded in the tribe. He was good looking, a great hunter, and was one of the fastest men among them all. After Marco had left to continue his trip to China the people of the tribe voted Giuseppe in as Chief due to his looks, speed, and of course, his heritage. After all, he was Marco Polo’s son!

Unfortunately, Giuseppe turned out to be a terrible leader. He spoke harshly with people and thought he was smarter than the rest. He was arrogant, demanding, and dictatorial. Many of the people of the tribe regretted making him chief and soon there was discord within the tribe. Many people from the tribe began speaking harshly to one another, their relationships deteriorated, and in the end the whole tribe had taken on the personality of their leader, Giuseppe.

The moral of the story is to never hire any of Marco Polo’s kids for leadership. Ok, just kidding. I will share the moral of the story at the end of the article.

In God’s economy, as the leader goes, so go the people. In the Old Testament as the leader went, so went the nation. In the New Testament or church age, as the leaders went, so went the church. This is true of any organization but, for our purposes, let’s keep it narrowly focused on the church.

How do we do leadership at Emmanuel?

At Emmanuel, our working definition of leadership is: Creating room for others to participate while equipping and shepherding them to do so.

For us, creating room for others to participate speaks to being pro-active in looking for ways to empower people, allowing them to use their gifts in serving the Lord and His people at Emmanuel.

Equipping is taken from Ephesians 4. The Apostle Paul is speaking to the pastor’s role to equip God’s people in a twofold manner. The first being, to give them the tools they need to use their gifts to do the work of the ministry. The second form of equipping is to teach them to be doctrinally sound so they can distinguish, for themselves, what is true and sound doctrine. Ephesians 4 teaches that when God’s people are equipped and everyone is participating, the church is most effective in building itself up — both qualitatively and quantitatively.

Shepherding is taken from 1 Peter 5. Peter’s readers, and here specifically the leaders reading his letter, understood the metaphor of a shepherd. They would have seen shepherds and been familiar with what shepherds do. Shepherds would feed, guard, care for, lead, and love their flock. The Scripture calls on leaders to shepherd God’s people and shepherding includes the 5 characteristics mentioned above.

This is the standard by which we do leadership at Emmanuel. But what does the leader look like?

What does a leader at Emmanuel look like?

The character of a leader at Emmanuel is the glue that holds our leadership model together. If we are not the men and women God intended for us to be, then our leadership model falls apart. There are three vital characteristics to a leader at Emmanuel: character, relationships, and heart.

The character of a leader at Emmanuel must reflect the biblical qualifications found in 1 Timothy. The leaders here must also show evidence of the fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians. Our character determines what we think about, and what we think about determines our behaviour.

He or she must have a relationship with God that is deepening and expanding and our relationships with others must be edifying.

The leader’s heart must be undivided and grounded in Emmanuel. They are a champion of Emmanuel’s direction and a supporter of the ministry through the giving of their tithes, gifts, and offerings. They are committed to praying for Emmanuel. When I say Emmanuel, of course, I mean the people—the congregation.

What would the results be if we practiced leadership well?

  1. People who are an encouragement and fulfilled in their service to the Lord and to Emmanuel.
  2. Women and men who are growing in relationship with the Lord and with others.
  3. A church that is more effective in our mission of making followers of Jesus who love and live like him and who are guiding others to do the same. Followers who are making followers.

Moral of the story

The moral of the story, and a truism that must not be ignored, is that leadership is everything. The Gbutee tribe chose Giuseppe for all the wrong reasons. We should not be choosing leaders based on what they look like or what their name is. Neither the length of time they or their family have been in the church should be a deciding criterion. The fact that we like them and are comfortable with them should not be a determining factor. We should choose leadership carefully and keep our standards high by expecting our leaders to have character, a close and growing relationship with God and others, and to be a champion of Emmanuel and her direction. Leadership based on these qualities is essential in helping us to determine who we place in positions of leadership.