Kony 2012: Leadership Lessons

After reading this post and  my last blog on The Hunger Games, you may be tempted to think I’m always going to present you with a bait and switch, using a news headline to grab your attention and then not addressing it.  But please read on! My motive is simply to learn practical, biblical lessons from the things going on around us. After all, that’s what true wisdom is, the application of biblical truth in real-life situations, and it’s one of my chief goals as a leader, to train others to know God through His Word and apply that knowledge to those situations.

First of all, I know some of you are more familiar with my title than others.  Kony 2012 is an advocacy campaign by a nonprofit called Invisible Children targeted at raising awareness and leading to the arrest of a man named Joseph Kony. Kony, as he is now known by untold millions of people around the world, has maintained power over a militia group in parts of Africa for years, primarily building his forces through kidnapping and manipulating children, turning them into his soldiers. If you want to check out the videos (first one went viral in a HUGE way, the second one dropped about a week ago), you can see them here:

Now, what are the leadership lessons I’m referring to? Well my thought process started while watching the reaction to the first video on social media sites. The initial wave of reactions was extremely positive, people desiring to jump on board with the campaign, give money, and do whatever they could do to see Kony brought to justice. Then, there was an almost equally strong counter-reaction. People attacked not only the original video, not only Invisible Children as an organization, but even others who supported their work. Before you know it, I’m watching some professed believers calling others “idiots” for giving money to a “fraudulent” organization while people on the other side are accusing the nay-sayers of not caring about justice.

Wow, what exactly do you do with that? Well let’s walk through a short, concise grid that we can use and train others to use when applying wisdom to situations such as this one.

Do your homework.
When I say homework, I mean research. If you take just a few minutes to search, you can find countless blogs and articles that support the mission of Invisible Children or poke holes in their credibility. You need to read BOTH, and sift through the details! Don’t take one random blogger calling them a fraud or a separate one calling them saviors (personally, I don’t see them as either) and run with it. Did you know that you can find financial information on hundreds of nonprofits in just a few minutes at sites like charitynavigator.com? You see, there’s a biblical stewardship issue in play here. We know according to the parable of the talents in Luke 19 (and others), that our resources are to be used for the growth of the kingdom, so we have to be careful how we use them. So educate yourself, listen to the opinions from both sides, take your time before making a decision (don’t make a snap judgment), and pray.

No sticks or stones.
I addressed this with The Hunger Games, and I’d like to again. James 3 is a great chapter that talks about the power of the tongue to destroy. I have to say that I so desperately desire brothers and sisters in Christ to stop destroying each other with their tongues! Just to be frank, you should think carefully before calling someone else an “idiot” or “stupid” for making a decision that is not a biblical black or white issue but one that you happen to disagree on. Just saying.

Address the heart issue.
So let’s say you’re not sure you can support Kony 2012; is there still something you can do with the message?

Sure there is! Take the messages of mercy and justice that are illustrated so powerfully here and communicate them to others you lead. Child soldiers are real, human trafficking is real, poverty, hunger, and disease are all very real. Mercy and justice are very close to the heart of God as evidenced by the many references to them in both the New and Old Testaments.

When we see stories like this one from Invisible Children, it should tear at our hearts. How can we as God’s people not be moved when we see the struggle in others and knowing that their only hope for TRUE salvation rests in the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

God forbid that we become so concerned with winning an argument that we neglect God’s heart of compassion. So look around, I promise that it’s a world full of brokenness, and you don’t have to go to Africa to find someone in need. Hearing Gary Haugen (of International Justice Mission)speak about suffering around the world is what prompted me to write a study (Dirty Jobs) directed at teaching students about mercy and justice several years ago. In other words, God used IJM’s message and advocacy to stimulate my heart to action even though it wasn’t directly through their ministry, and He can do the same in your sphere of influence!

Don’t just know the Word, own it!
Ok, here’s my soapbox. In the church today, we have more access to books, media, messages, and second-hand material than ever before. Is possible that this is precisely the reason we’re so biblically illiterate? I speak from personal experience when I say that I’ve been in some great Bible teaching churches but have never actually been taught to study the Bible through the church. The difference being ownership over what we “know.”

Let me give you example. My wife and I lead young adults at our home church. Just last week as we discussed the creation of mankind and the roles God established for men and women in Genesis 2, one of the young men in his 20’s asked a great question. Let me walk you through the discussion quickly:

Question: “Is it possible that the world is trying to re-train us to believe differently than the Word tells us to?”

Me: “What do you think?” (to the group)

Response from a young woman: “Well, the Bible says the world is in the control of the evil one.” (Eph 2:1-2, Eph 6:11-12)

Response from a second young man: “Aren’t we supposed to be in the world, but not of it?” (John 17:14-16, Romans 12:2)

Me: “What does the Bible tell us about being a friend of the world?”

Response from a second young woman: “Doesn’t that make us an enemy of God?” (James 4:4)

You see, this group had some knowledge of the Word, but they didn’t OWN it well enough to  connect the dots. They weren’t able to construct a biblical grid through which to filter their question leading to the application of biblical wisdom. We got there, but we had to work through the process in order to do so.

This is one of the most important areas in which we can lead, establishing people in God’s Word, so that they discover truth for themselves! And here’s a simple, transferrable way to be able to do exactly that!

Wrapping it up.

Ok, let’s breathe deeply and come full circle. Sometimes leading well means looking for opportunities, call them “teachable moments,” and then capitalizing on them. All the talk of Kony 2012 has produced one of those moments in my opinion. So let’s take full advantage and equip those we influence to walk in godly wisdom, knowing the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God!


Ritchie Johnson
Director, Transform Student Ministries



Kony 2012 Image taken from here



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