Healthy Leaders


Our Approach to Identifying Leaders

Joe HandleyJoe Handley


At Asian Access, we have been affirmed for our ability to identify leaders who are right for our program. We’ve had numerous requests to share what we believe we have learned. So with humility, let me offer a few thoughts on our approach.

ALL IN with God

The Asian Access approach is rooted in a core value: a commitment to developing a deep love relationship with God within the hearts of leaders. Our values statement begins with this commitment: ALL IN with God. In the words of one of our leaders:

Whether we have arrived or not, we aspire to grow in love relationship with God and walk with Him and do ministry with Him… We keep this in front of us all the time. When this desire is expressed, it attracts leaders who really aspire to love God and grow in relationship with him. This also allows God to work in and through us rather than an emphasis on us doing things for God. Finally, this affects how we empower one another – by relying more on God and less on ourselves in every step.

LIVE Community

After our relationship with God is our relationship with one another. The second of our three values is an action statement: LIVE Community. We seek to find the right leaders together, in community. Another of our leaders puts it like this:

In leadership selection, because community is both the means and end of what we do, we see leadership selection as developing relationships, just as Jesus selected twelve to be not only apostles but also have them be close to Him. We strive to open our hearts to be in community together. This affects our openness, desire for unity, and our desire to learn from one another – both within and across cultures. Because of this value, we invite potential leaders to first come and experience A2 (our leader development model) with a group of leaders already engaged in the program. In the same way, when we explore possible new countries, we do so in community. 


Empowering Leaders Cross-Culturally

Another key to the Asian Access approach is how we understand what it means to authentically empower leaders cross-culturally. Our conscious priority is to honor the authority of our Asian partners. When we begin relationship with a potential new country, Asian Access is represented by Asian leaders. When Westerners are involved, we are intentionally positioned in subordinate, supportive roles to our Asian colleagues. Here is how one of our Asian leaders has articulated his impression of our commitment to inclusiveness:

Asian Access values and accepts Asian leaders to the degree that Caucasians may feel a little uncomfortable or rejected. This is very rare. Most of the time, the Asian leaders in a cross-cultural partnership feel rejected in spite of the fact that the Westerners believe they are welcoming their Asian colleagues. Of course, Asian Access still has a ways to go to in terms of living out authentic inclusiveness. I often still feel marginalized – that what I say doesn’t count as much as a Westerner who can say it more succinctly, intelligently, and persuasively. Epistemologically speaking, Asians do not rely on cognitive explanations, but instead favor relational and experiential knowledge. This is why who we are is as important (if not more important) as what we do. After all, ultimately ministry flows out of being.


Leaders with a Heart for the Church

Being community-centered means we are not searching for one key leader. While we do look for people of influence, we’re not looking for big names or leaders whose pedigree is based on recognition in the West. Rather, we search for leaders with a kingdom mindset; leaders with a vision bigger than their immediate sphere of influence; leaders with a heart for the Church. Here is how another of my colleagues puts it:

When we help to launch a new country, we are not seeking the Promised One. Rather, we seek to empower a national working team who will lead the ministry. We seek to do things in a way that will enable the leadership of that country to “own” the ministry from the beginning. From the outset, we seek to interact with local leaders in a way that will foster and communicate local ownership.

Bridging People, Diminishing Barriers

As we go forward, we reach out to the whole Church. We spend time with leaders in every denomination, network, and movement in that country. In a restricted-access country, where the Church is operating under oppression (and sometimes legal restrictions), we connect with both registered and unregistered churches. We are firmly committed to leader development that bridges denominational, theological, cultural, ethnic, and political barriers.

Life-on-Life in Learning Communities

Finally, we seek to interact with people holistically. We spend time getting to know leaders in their homes, over family meals, worshipping and praying together, in their context. This allows them, and us, to get to know one another in ways that helps us to discern if we share the same spirit and perspective on what it means to develop learning communities of Christ-like leaders.

Ultimately, it all comes down to discerning the leading of the Spirit. Christ is the primary agent; as we lean into Him, He guides us forward. When we are all in with God, we know that He will lead us, in the proper timing, to just the right people – people who share the vision to see a vibrant community of servant leaders … leading the Church across Asia.

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Joe Handley