STRENGTHENING INTEGRITY AND ACCOUNTABILITY IN THE LEADERSHIP OF THE LUTHERAN CHURCH OF NIGERIA

by Christian Ekong

  1. INTRODUCTION

 

In today’s world, people with accountability and integrity are hard to come by. It is quite disheartening that some church leaders no longer show integrity and accountability. Church leaders fail in their responsibilities to others in the church because most of them are not conscious of the fact that they can be tempted to misuse authority. The shepherding of the church is in the hands of the Bishops, Pastors, Teachers, Evangelists, Elders, etc. Yet, this is not an excuse to abuse the influence granted to them by exploiting people, misdirecting and misapplying the resources at their disposal. Promotion from one position to another in the church is not to make leaders forgetful of the fact that they are called to represent Christ, the Chief Shepherd and Bridegroom of the church, as stewards.

 

Some leaders are fine Christians until they are selected to positions of leadership. Once the position is gained, they start teaching the people demeaning, derogatory and sometimes making excessive demand on the people as well as showing some levels of dishonesty and non-account/mability. Also, church leaders fail in their bids to discharge their responsibilities acceptably. Beside ignorance, they can be tempted to abuse their authority. The truth is that the role of Bishops, Pastors, Evangelists and other church leaders is not to hold down the people and have them serve their needs and want but rather that they (leaders) equip and elevate those they lead to serve Jesus and change the world–the example of Jesus’ leadership who came to serve and not to be served is here emphasized.

 

When church leaders understand that the authority God has given them is not for themselves, but for all sort and conditions of people placed under them, then the virtue of integrity and accountability will be strengthened. Furthermore, church leaders are exposed to the temptation of profiting in their privileges. When church leaders decide to profit from the privilege of leadership, it gives the people the reason to question their motives. That notwithstanding, Pastors can be appreciated with Godly generosity from the members of the church and quantum of devotional exercises done to curbing or reducing the prevalent level of lack of integrity and accountability not only in the Lutheran Church of Nigeria but also in other churches as well, leaders are still involved in the exact opposite of practice of our faith in Christ Jesus – of wielding authority. Peterson (1993) puts it nicely that “faith is an act of submission to the Lordship of Christ, a willing response to his commands.”[i]

 

This presentation is therefore intended to fill an existing gap by bringing teachings for strengthening integrity and accountability in the leadership of the Lutheran Church.

 


  1. IDENTIFICATION OF CONTEXT

One of the fundamental traits of quality of church leadership is integrity and accountability. Lack of these elements brings about discouragement to members and people generally. The scripture is filled, however with passages urging integrity in believers. Consider this most famous New Testament commands for Christian living:

But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passion and desires. Since we live by the spirit let us keep with the spirit (Galatians 5:22-25)

Such is a list of commands to live a life of the highest integrity and accountability, a life that brings goodness and blessings to all people within and outside of the church, in short, the church leadership’s expectation of integrity and accountability is a command to both talk and walk in the way of Jesus. It is a life marked by love, compassion, mercy, justice, and honoring God’s call to service above everything else. It is the type spoken of in 1 Peter:

Whoever would love life and see good days must turn from evil and do good; they must seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord is upon the righteous and His ears are attentive to their prayers, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil (3:10-12)

 

This is a definition of integrity calling a church leader to walk in the path of Christ, and to steer clear of hypocrisy. Church leaders are called to the highest of ideals. We believe things like “death to self” and “the last shall be first”, but we grapple and struggle almost constantly with living lives of integrity. The antonyms of integrity include dishonesty, duplicity, corruption and hypocrisy. When evil traits are carried out by church leaders, Christ’s good name is represented and He is defiled with feeble words and or excuses. Integrity is therefore considered the quintessence and application of virtues. It is the demonstration of who the church leaders are in Christ Jesus and that his faith is real and backed up with his attitude and words. The absence of integrity is an indication that a church leader is perhaps fake, fraud at worst and ineffective and useless at best. It is essential that integrity in the leadership of the Lutheran Church of Nigeria be pursued and the transforming work of Christ to make His name real and shown. Thus, Paul explains what it means to live in complete submission to Christ: Use spiritual gifts to serve others and genuinely love others (Roman 12).

 

Integrity in church leadership is a Biblical call to a higher level of excellence than that of others around us–one of truth, love, honesty, and functionality; an implementation of Christ’s ways in the practice of our daily Christian responsibilities, adhering to God’s precepts (Zech. 8:6-17); place character, without excuse, ahead of ambition; and most of all, focus on glorifying Christ our Lord, not ourselves. In so doing, the leaders would be doing the right thing at the right time with no guilt or fear and nothing to hide.

 

Hence, there is the need to discuss the second variable that promotes godly leadership in church.

 

2.1 Accountability

Accountability as a check and balance system protects a church leader from harm coming both from himself and others. We do this by being open to what we are thinking and doing so that we can receive encouragement and reproof, when necessary. Accountability in church leadership is that accounting for what we are up to. It is the realization that we are liable, responsible and answerable for our actions in life to God as to other Christians in our life.

By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, a rod, hay or straw, his works will be shown for what it is, because the day will bring it into light. It will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames (1 Cor. 3:10-15)

 

This liability, responsibility and answerability on the part of church leaders focus on sharing, in confidence, our heartfelt Christian sojourn in an atmosphere of trust. Then, we can give answer for what we do and understand where we need help in areas where we are weak and struggling, where and how we are growing, what we are learning, and to be encouraged. The precepts help us to stay on track, and get proper care, and support when we fail. We can almost model guide post for one another in order to keep going. The reality of the scripture is that every person, Christian and non-Christian is accountable before the sovereign God, and will one day have to bow before Christ. Jesus said, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and from the one who has been entrusted much, even more will be asked” (Luke 12:48). The reality of accountability cannot be rejected in Church leadership.                                   

2.2 Integrity

The character of integrity exhibits the obedience and practice of the moral code of ethics, morals, values, and precepts from God’s Word. In practice, integrity will produce honor, truth, and reliability.[1] It will allow one to keep his or her word and do the best even when no one else is aware. This is essential for deeper relationships, and of course for developing other people’s confidence in you and Christianity (Psalm 15; 78:72; Prov. 2:1-11; Micah 6:8; Luke 3:13-14; 6:31; 11:42; Rom. 13:5; 14:5, 14, 22; Eph. 6:6; Phil. 4:8; Col. 3:22-23; 1 Tim. 1:5; 3:9; Titus 1:7-8; James 1:9-11; 1 Pet. 2:12; 3:16; 2 Pet. 1:5-11).

Integrity is considered the quintessence and application of Character. It is the demonstration of who we are in Christ and that our faith is real and backed up with our attitude and word.[2] The absence of integrity is an indication that we as Christians are perhaps fakes and frauds at worst, and ineffective and useless at best. It is essential that we pursue integrity and His transforming work to make His Name real and shown (Rom. 12). Jesus calls us to integrity, which means we are to be true to our word as a testimony to our faith in Him. We are not to be worldly with our words or the veracity of our virtue and character.[3] Everything we do as a child of God must be in integrity, truthfulness, and honesty, as we are representing Him who is living in us! Consistent integrity is essential for the person who claims Christ as Lord of his or her life. So, the question is, are church leaders’ people of integrity? When we say we follow Christ and His Word, do our actions show that we do? If not, we are being a Pharisee (they are not fair, you see), which is being a hypocrite. This is reprehensible before our Lord and others around us because we are misrepresenting Christ and His character! Thus, it is imperative that when we say we are followers of Christ, our character and behavior reflect Him and His call to the best of our abilities. If we are in leadership, this is even more imperative. We demonstrate integrity when we do what we say and act out what we believe; if not, we are a fraud, and woe to us for being one!

The Bible calls us to a higher level of excellence than that of others around us-one of truth, love, honesty, and functionality. This is integrity in action; it is the implementation of His Ways in the practice of our daily Christian lives. We are adhering to His rules, morals, and principles (Zech. 8:16-17). This means we, as people of the faith, will place character, without excuse, ahead of our ambition. Most of all, we will have the focus to glorify God and not ourselves. In so doing, we will be doing the right thing all the time with no guilt or fear and nothing to hide. So, we do what we say we will do from the practice of God’s Truth and Character that He has for us. We must be willing to do this regardless of our comfort, convenience, challenge, or controversy-without excuses. (In addition, to do what is contrary to His Word and say we must do it because we said we would for integrity’s sake is also evil). His ways give us meaning, and leading a righteous life gives us satisfaction.

We become a Christian by the work of the Spirit. But, our maturity in Christ and how we practice our faith is determined by the choices we make from the conviction and confidence of our beliefs. We choose to take the faith He gives and make it more real and effective. We choose to make the right choices or not, so we have no excuse when our life is messed up by neglect or poor choices. [4] Yes, we have forgiveness and grace, but we are still left with a life that could have been so much more. So, we have to make the determination and be willing to align our lives to His Word and precepts so our behaviors represent who we are in Christ. After that, we need to be more conscious of the decisions we make, both large and small, without the compromise of solid ethics.

2.2.1 Honesty

Honesty is holding onto Biblical principles and being consistent with them. This will translate in all of our dealings equaling the hallmark of integrity on how we really are and how we are really perceived. How we are is how others will perceive Christ, if we are dishonest then, “why should I bother with Christianity,” the unbeliever will say. Truthfulness will see truthfulness, which will allow us to see Jesus as worthy of our trust. His truth points us to the Father (Matthew 11:27). His truth will give us wisdom (Luke 21:15). His truth will make all things work together for our good (Romans 8:28). Then we will be drawn to truth and truth will spill over from us onto others around us. So let us trust in Him. Follow Him and worship Him.  Honesty is an essential for us to realize Jesus Christ in our lives and for us to bow down and worship Him.[5]

2.2.2 Godly Church Leaders are Responsible to Lead.

The New Testament does not teach a distinction between “clergy” and “laity,” in that every believer is a priest with full access to God (1 Pet. 2:9). But it does teach a distinction between leaders and followers in the local church. The New Testament uses different names or titles to refer to church leaders. They are called elders (Acts 20:17), which refers to maturity in the faith. At other times, they are called overseers (1 Tim. 3:1, 2), which refers to their function of superintending the church. (In Titus 1:5, 7 and Acts 20:17, 28 the two terms are used of the same office.) They are called pastors (Eph. 4:11), which means shepherds. Peter uses all three of these terms (1 Pet. 5:1, 2) when he exhorts the elders to “shepherd [pastor] the flock of God among you, exercising oversight.” He goes on (verse 4) to refer to Christ as “the Chief Shepherd” (or, Pastor).

But the point is leaders should lead. Leadership is primarily influence, and the way that church leaders influence others is by their godly example and by their teaching of God’s word (Heb. 13:7). Elders in the local church must lead by example, therefore, most of the qualifications for that office in 1Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9 are godly character or qualities. The one exception is that they should be “able to teach” (1 Tim. 3:2), or to “exhort in sound doctrine and refute those who contradict” (Titus 1:9).

Leadership requires having a clear biblical picture of what the local church ought to be and what it ought to be doing, and continually communicating that to the church. It also requires dealing with problems that arise in the church. President John F. Kennedy observed (source unknown), “No easy problem ever comes to the President of the United States. If they are easy to solve, somebody else has solved them.” [6]

Often, out of an attempt to please everyone, church leaders dodge difficult problems. They don’t want to confront an influential church member who is in sin. They don’t want to teach on doctrines that are not popular, even if they are biblical. They don’t confront someone who is teaching error, for fear of stirring up conflict. They don’t want to get involved in resolving relational conflicts in the church or in church families. But to dodge such difficult matters is to fail to lead the church. Church leaders must actively seek after God and His truth, and help others to do the same. [7]

  1. SELF DESCRIPTION

Few leaders finish a lifetime of ministry well. The hazards encountered by Christian leaders in Africa are many. Along the way, many become discouraged by hardships. A large number cease to grow spiritually and stagnate in their ministry. Others tragically fall into sin, bringing the Gospel into disrepute. [8] It is the rare leader who runs faithfully to the end, developed by God toward maximum potential in life and ministry. Only a handful earns the right to echo Paul’s words, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Tim. 4:7).

Dr. J. Robert Clinton, professor of leadership at Fuller Theological Seminary, has spent the past 15 years conducting extensive research on the lifelong development of Christian leaders. In an exhaustive search of the Bible, he identified approximately 1000 leaders. Most were mentioned only by name. These included everything from Old Testament patriarchs, priests and military leaders to New Testament apostles, prophets, evangelists, teachers and pastors. Sufficient information was available on only 49 prominent leaders to analyze how they finished. The results are shocking. Only 30% of leaders in the Bible finished well. The factor that has contributed to responsible ministry is found in imbibing the principles of lifelong perspective and learning attitude, spiritual renewal and discipline and mentoring.

3.1   Lifelong Perspective and Learning Attitude

Effective leaders realize that God’s development agenda spans their entire lifetime. They continue to grow, right to the very end of their lives. Such new learning leads to expanded vision. The author of Hebrews writes, “Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.” (13:7-8).

The basic processes by which God develops inner character and deep spirituality are similar for all leaders. Character is developed as men and women are tested in areas of integrity, accountability, obedience to the Word, and sensitivity to guidance from God.[9] Difficult experiences, crises, and conflict are God’s productive training ground. Successful passing of these God-initiated tests often result in an increase of God’s blessing upon the leader and an expansion of leadership influence. Failure leads to remedial learning and a slowing down of the development process.

3.2 Spiritual Renewal and Discipline

Jesus modeled the importance of pulling away from ministry activity in order to seek fresh intimacy and direction from the Father. In order to finish well, leaders need repeated times of inner renewal. The alternative is a drift toward complacency and a plateauing of growth. This is especially true for leaders in the middle phase of their ministry, from the mid-thirties to the mid-forties. Leaders who finish well have learned the value of the spiritual disciplines. The basic disciplines involving the devotional life and the study of the Bible can deeply shape character and increase the probability of a good finish.

After he had been in ministry for about 21 years, Paul wrote, “I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize” (1 Cor. 9:27). Some 15 years later, when he was probably between 65 and 70, Paul shared time-tested advice with Pastor Timothy, “Train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come” (1Tim. 4:8). Lifelong spiritual training made it possible for Paul to finish strongly.                                                  

3.3 Mentoring

The issue of mentoring is critically important in Africa. A top Zimbabwean church planter reflects, “When God called me to ministry, the first thing I needed was to surround myself with godly men. I gave them permission to counsel and rebuke me. These are my mentors. As busy as I am, I try to get time with these men to pray with them and share my problems and successes. They are the secret to my effectiveness. Wherever there is a successful man, there are good mentors behind him.”

Clinton’s research has revealed that most leaders who have finished well have had ten to fifteen significant people who came alongside to help them at various stages in life. Dr. Richard Clinton advises, “Simply put, if you are serious about finishing well, you need to find mentors who can hold you accountable in every area of your life and ministry and who will help you avoid the pitfalls that will arise as you move through life. An effective mentor will ensure that you continue to grow and develop.”[10] This is what we need to consider very importantly as emerging leaders at various levels in the Lutheran Church of Nigeria.

We are engaging in this presentation to contribute towards the improvement of accountability and integrity in the leadership of the Lutheran Church of Nigeria through teaching contentment. The use of knowledge derived from this presentation to teach integrity, accountability, honesty and good leadership to church leaders and members will affect the our immediate society. This presentation is relevant to everyday experience of human life in a fallen world and it works towards providing a correct biblical and theological perspective concerning the issues of dishonesty and non-accountability of church leaders not only in Lutheran Church of Nigeria but also in other churches as well.[11]

This paper is also important to the Nigerian society because it will douse the heightened tension created by the high level of dishonesty, non-accountability and lack of integrity of the leaders in our churches. It is also significant as accountability, honesty and high degree of integrity of the church leaders are demanded as example to leaders in government and other social, economic and political organizations in Nigeria. This is brought by a theologically balanced view of honesty, integrity and accountability of the leaders on the followership and membership of Christians in Nigeria.

  1. A Strong Theological Focus

Theological issues for this presentation to be identified and discussed include:

Church Leadership effectiveness; this refers to the dynamism and skills of the leadership styles and the ability of the leader to implement and achieve objectives of leadership. It connotes the proper execution of the norms of leadership without confrontation and opposition from any quarters of the subordinates and the goal achieved.

Leadership in church specifically involves series of vital roles such as teaching, counseling, discipline, policy implementation and coordination, and retirement of staff for the growth of the organization.[12] People follow a man who is disciplined, some follow a man who can teach and express fluently, another follow a man who has the ability to coordinate, organize and even recruit. Followership is a concept, because it has dimensions of application in the ministry of God.

Leadership accountability is a condition in which people are required or expected to act consistently with their commitment and be responsible to their actions or decision, including a response to circumstances.[13] Leadership accountability connotes that a leader owns all of his actions. All too often, people account for their unfulfilled promises by giving a circumstance based explanation for why the result wasn’t produced. Sometimes, presenting a good story about why a result was not produced is often just as acceptable as actually producing the result. When leaders are able to lay out the actions they took and the actions they did not take that leads to an outcome.

Integrity is the foundation of leadership. You can only lead people if they trust you. If you lose people’s trust, you have lost it all. That is why the right to lead is earned, and it is earned by being trustworthy. The Ten Commandments teaches against covetousness. Covetousness leads to several other sin. I think the most damaging sin a church leader can commit is to betray the trust of his people. Integrity is important in church leadership because of its benefits to leaders: it protects church leaders (Ps. 25:21); it gives leaders confidence (Prov. 10: 9); to leaders, integrity enhances better decisions (Prov.11:3); it reflects well on the Lord (1 Chronicles 29:17); it sets leaders apart from others and creates trust in others. Integrity is taking in beatings.

Members of the church or any organization can only perceive their leaders’ performance effectiveness if the leadership is honest to the people they are leading and possessing integrity. Hence, the church leader who is not accountable to followers may have the disposition to dishonesty that would ridicule the integrity of the leader.

Every leadership has intentions; the intention may be positive or negative, good or bad, beneficial to either the leaders, the organization itself or to the members of the organization.[14] Hence, a successful Christ ministry must be founded on a strong set of core values that are embraced by all of its members. In a group of people with many backgrounds, interests, motivations and intentions, how can one be sure that they will all be committed to the same set of values? It is the responsibility of the leaders to establish those values within the Church by stating them, restating them, and openly living them in words and deeds. This will lead to the growth of the church and increase its followership/membership strength.

It is recommended that in order to achieve accountability and integrity in church, committees need to be set and responsibilities delegated to others to be part of the church leadership. Church leaders should develop a training program such as seminars and workshops to educate on the need for accountability. This will achieve accountability in every facet of church leadership and administration.

Leadership in churches goes along with high level of responsibility and in order to achieve its primary objective, which is the growth of the gospel proclamation, accountability is required. Members’ followership and cooperation seems to be in the increase when the church leaders exhibit characters as well as personality that bring good interpersonal interactions between them. This good interpersonal interactions and relationships tend to promote leaders’ integrity before their followers, coupled with making their followers in church respect the leadership.

There will be thorough literature review and studies of the aforementioned variables.

  1. Conclusion

This presentation will help endow us with theological knowledge on effective spiritual leadership with such components as accountability and integrity for Church growth and development.[15] This would be applied towards strengthening integrity and accountability in leadership of the Lutheran church of Nigeria. Above all, this presentation calls on our Congregations, Districts, Zonal Superintendencies, Schools, Boards, and Committees to identify the level of integrity and accountability in the leadership of the Church; find out different elements of dishonesty and non-accountability found in some leaders of our Church; find out the possible factors which bring about dishonesty and non-accountability among leaders of Lutheran Church of Nigeria at their units; find out leadership of our Church and determine the strategies that can help strengthen the integrity and accountability.

 

 

 BIBLOGRAPHY

Atado, J. C. (2011). The Leader We Want. Kano: Modern Printers Ltd.

Becker, T. (2008). “Integrity in organizations: Beyond Honesty and            Conscientiousness.” Academy of Management Review, 23: 154-161.

Barrett, David B. George T. Kurian, & Todd M. Johnson, World Christian Trend       (Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library, 2001).

Cooper, R. (2005). “Relationality.” Organization Studies, 26(11), 1689-1710.

Cooper, M. (2005). “The Transformational Leadership of the Apostle Paul: A           Contextual and Biblical Leadership   for Contemporary Ministry.” Christian            Education Journal 2, (1), 48-61.

Cordeiro, W. (2001). Doing Church as a Team (Rev. and expanded ed.). Ventura, Calif.: Regal Books

Gelder, C. Van( 2009). The Mission Church & Leadership Formation. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

Gospel in Kaduna State. An unpublished Thesis of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.

Okoronta, G. O. (2015). The impact of leadership styles in the Pentecostal Churches on the growth of the Gospel in Kaduna State. An unpublished Thesis of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.

Potter, D. O. (2009). The Traits/Characteristics, Attitudes, and Effective Work Environments of Servant Leaders: A Delphi Study (Doctoral Dissertation). Available from ProQuest Dissertations and Theses. (Accession Order No.    305160274).

Rubin, R. S. E. C. Dierdorff, & E. M. Brown, (2010). Do Ethical Leaders Get Ahead? Exploring Ethical Leadership and Promotability. Business Ethics Quarterly, 20(2/ 215-236.

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] J. C. Atado, (2011). The Leader We Want. Kano: Modern Printers Ltd.

[2] R. Cooper, (2005). “Relationality.” Organization Studies, 26(11), 1689-1710.

[3] W. Cordeiro, (2001). Doing Church as a Team (Rev. and expanded ed.). Ventura, Calif.: Regal Books.

[4] G. O. Okoronta, (2015). The impact of leadership styles in the Pentecostal Churches on the growth of the Gospel in Kaduna State. An unpublished Thesis of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.

[5] T. Becker, (2008). “Integrity in organizations: Beyond honesty and conscientiousness.” Academy of Management Review, 23: 154-161.

[6] M. Cooper, (2005). “The Transformational Leadership of the Apostle Paul: A Contextual and Biblical Leadership   for Contemporary Ministry.” Christian Education Journal 2, (1), 48-61.

[7] W. Cordeiro, (2001). Doing church as a Team (Rev. and expanded ed). Ventura, Calif.: Regal Books.

[8] Ibid.

[9] T. Becker, Integrity in Organizations: “Beyond Honesty and Conscientiousness”, Academy of Management Review, 23, 154-161.

[10] C. Van Gelder, (2009). The Mission Church & Leadership Formation. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[11] David B. Barrett, George T. Kurian, & Todd M. Johnson, World Christian Trend (Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library, 2001).

[12]G. O. Okoronta, (2015). The Impact of Leadership Styles in the Pentecostal Churches on the Growth of the Gospel in Kaduna State. An unpublished Thesis of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.

[13] D. O. Potter, (2009). The Traits/Characteristics, Attitudes, and Effective Work Environments of Servant Leaders: A Delphi Study (Doctoral Dissertation). Available from ProQuest Dissertations and Theses. (Accession Order No. 305160274).

[14] D. O. Potter, (2009). The Traits/Characteristics, Attitudes, and Effective Work Environments of Servant Leaders: A Delphi Study (Doctoral Dissertation). Available from ProQuest Dissertations and Theses. (Accession Order No. 305160274).

[15] R. S. Rubin, E. C. Dierdorff, & E. M. Brown, (2010). Do Ethical Leaders Get Ahead? Exploring Ethical Leadership and Promotability. Business Ethics Quarterly, 20(2/ 215-236.

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