Outside Resources and Church Leadership Training in Africa
The Moth in the Cocoon
The story is told of a young man who found a cocoon and brought it home. Every day he watched to see if the insect was ready to come out.
One day as he examined it to his delight the cocoon was split a part of the way open and he watched as the moth struggled to emerge through the opening. As he watched the struggle it occurred to him that perhaps he could help the insect just a little and then it would be free from its prison.
So he gently cut the few silken cords and opened the cocoon the rest of the way.
But he was amazed at what happened next. Instead of a strong moth reach to fly, he saw that its wings were weak and deformed. What he did not understand was that the struggle was what made the wings strong enough to be fully formed and would enable the butterfly to take off in flight. In a short time the insect died.
What was intended in a well meaning way for good really was harmful to the moth. The struggle, though difficult was what would have made the creature strong enough to survive.
How does this relate to Church Leadership training in Africa? Often, leadership training has been done by overseas organizations who have charged little or nothing to come and do the training. I am aware of instances where organizations have actually paid pastors to attend their training sessions. In my own experience I had a seminar cancelled recently because another overseas short term ministry was coming to the same area and officered their training for free and were also giving away a lot of “goodies.”
What this kind of thing has done is to develop a climate of dependency and almost entitlement on the part of many in the African church. This has had an impact on Africa based ministries who do not have the outside support and who must depend upon the support of the churches that are requesting and receiving training from them.
Many are asking for training but say they are unable to pay the true costs. Some have expected that the training will be subsidized. In another case another seminar was postponed when the leaders found out that they would have to pay. They asked to be considered a “mission field”. What this reflects is a dependent attitude and a poverty and defeatist mentality.
What is the solution? The church may feel that it is bound in a cocoon of poverty and that the only way out is for someone to tear off the cords of the cocoon and release them. But in fact, without the struggle, the church that has emerged is weak and deformed.
The struggle for a church to become self-supporting will make it stronger. When the church struggles to pay for what it believes is important, it will be committed to that area. It will value what it has gained through self-support. That self-support will encourage them to expand their ministry in other areas. This expansion will only be achieved by struggle which will then increase commitment and the cycle will continue and the church will grow. 
Hebrews 12:11 says “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” For the African church the discipline of self-support may not seem pleasant at the time, but painful. However, the harvest of righteousness and peace that will come as a result of teaching and practicing biblical stewardship will be a great blessing and encouragement to the church and to the ones they minister to.
 This well known story—probably apocryphal—is usually about a beautiful butterfly. However I have substituted a moth because it is more scientifically correct. Moths spin cocoons. Butterflies emerge from a chrysalis.
 Bedru Hussein, Stewardship in the Self-Supporting Church, (Mwanza, Tanzania: Inland Publishers, 2006), p. 22. The basis for this post came from Hussein’s booklet.