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7 Questions with Esteban Lievano
helps you in your leadership.
7 Questions with Esteban Lievano
Name: Rev. Esteban Lievano
Current title: Outreach and Worship Minister
Current organisation: Southside Uniting Church
I was born in South America and migrated to Australia as a child. I was called to Ministry after marriage, hoping to serve God and my community in Spanish-speaking ministry, but was called to serve in the Uniting Church instead. I have had the opportunity to serve as Minister in many multicultural contexts, worshipping God alongside many diverse cultures and language groups. Today, I walk the line of Missional and Ecclesiastical ministry, serving my congregation at Southside UC but looking outwards towards the local community for how we can bring the light of Christ in our region.
1. What have you found most challenging as a church leader?
As a CALD leader, there is often the struggle to be heard on matters of culture and language, as a missional leader; I try to engage the wider community but find increasingly lack of warmth towards religious people, within my own Latino community; our struggles and battles are often overshadowed by greater needs in the local community and this leaves us feeling disempowered and voiceless.
2. How did you become a church leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?
I was training for Missionary work overseas when I received the call from my mother's church to pastor a Spanish-speaking community project in Brisbane's North side. I was challenged by this, as I was preparing to work among indigenous groups in the areas of leadership development and second language acquisition in Mexico - working in a Spanish-speaking congregation would give me some good insights. Little did I know that God's plan was to show me that the mission I was training for was a local mission - to sow seeds of hope among CALD worshipping communities and to preach the Gospel of Christ's love for the other to the wider church. I soon found myself at seminary where I was challenged that to do this work, I would need to be in a space where I would have the capacity to bring about change. Hence, I became an ordinand in the Uniting Church and began learning about this denomination and the ways in which I could exercise my gifts for the Kingdom of God. In my formation, I had the privilege of serving in many multicultural contexts, honing skills that would allow me to give voice to CALD groups and represent my Latino community.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
For me the order of the day is God, family then church. I begin with a devotion to start my day, then I get the kids ready for school. After the school run, I go into the church office where I confer with colleagues, respond to emails and make pastoral arrangements. I try to leave the office in time to go to the gym before doing the school pick up - after which I go to my home office until the work for the day is concluded. Many of the pastoral conversations include prayer and theological reflection so I often feel that I am at work with the Holy Spirit at my side. Due to the nature of our congregation, many meetings take place after hours - this allows members who work during the day to take active participation in the life of the church. Thankfully, most people are zoom literate now-a-days so I often have these meetings in my home office. Fridays are a day where I take time to prepare sermon and catch up on paperwork from home, I will also often catch up with other ministers on that day nearby. These are times of refreshing our calling and recognising that God is at work in the ministries around us, both within and outside of our denomination. I take Mondays off as a recovery day where I shut off my phone and ask the congregation to engage my Southside colleagues. This doesn't always happen but generally the congregation is respectful of this time away from the ministry.
4. What's one book apart from the Bible that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
I consider the Epistle to the Romans to be one of the most missional texts around. This letter reads with the heart of Paul and I am both nourished and challenged by reading through it. Each year, I try to spend a month preaching on Romans - this is a great opportunity to dedicate time to how this book speaks to the mission and ministry of the congregation where I serve, but I also dedicate time to reading Romans independently, sometimes in light of a conference or project I am a part of - or because we are going through a particularly difficult period.
5. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
Recently I was challenged by the capacity among Australians to discern meaning through collective reading. As a student of cultures, I enjoy seeing what values shape a culture and how that can be used to grow or impact the church. The Australian Christian churches are still largely European in the practice, but the Australian cultural climate is changing - things that were once norms are now being relegated to being passe and irrelevant systems. In this, I have found that my preaching has been affected - where I once would have espoused a solid systematic approach, I now want to take the congregation on a journey through the text and help them discern the voice of God collectively. In this way, they have internalised the message in the text in a more profound way and are able to make that accessible missionally for others.
6. How do you develop a healthy leadership pipeline in a church?
I like to work collaboratively with my colleagues and office bearers of the church. We try to expand theological reflection to the councils of the church, so we are not making decisions solely on operational grounds. We are also trying to look at our lay leadership and finding how we can release them for mission - whether through mentoring, training or simple encouraging. This is particularly true of our pastoral care teams - once a month we touch base to look at concerns congregation wide. Initially, these meetings were weekly, but today pastoral caregivers are confident and able to demonstrate care as individuals, calling on the Ministry Team only in times of distress and emergency.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a church leader so far?
In doing a pre-marriage counseling session, I advised a couple of 'Heaping coals on their heads' (Prov. 25:22) in expressing love even when angry with their partner. From this, a preaching series on Love arose, many in the congregation were blessed to learn about God's unwavering, unquestioning and undeserved Love for us. Not long after this, I did the wedding for that couple - in the speeches the husband shared how he and his partner were often at odds - arguing at the drop of a hat. But that 'Rev' had told them to express love, even when angry. Their arguments turned from screaming matches to rambunctious expressions of their love for one another and it was during one of these 'arguments' that the husband proposed.