Early in ministry, I didn’t know how to lead. Perhaps, you’re in the same boat as I was several years ago.
In your attempt to live as a disciple maker of Christ, you may have felt inadequate or unprepared as you entered into ministry. Perhaps, even at times, you may have felt ineffective or unworthy as a disciple.
However though, as I was in seminary serving at a small local church, there was a pastor who came alongside of me and began to disciple me into a leader.
For the first time in my life I began to see, “Oh, I’m not just supposed to lead myself—God wants me to learn how to lead others.”
Many church leaders somehow are able to grasp good theology though somehow leads to bad methodology. An effective disciple-maker knows how to take discipleship from theory to practice, form the classroom to the living room.
Jesus spoke of the parable in Matthew 13:1-30,
When it comes to disciple making, it is just like the parable that was mentioned. Many will hear the message of it and don’t quite understand what it means by that.
Today’s 21st century evangelical world, making disciples meant evangelizing the world. However, the Great Commission imperative statement is, “make disciples” rather than, “make converts.” Not only this is a problem, but many don’t get to the later part where it speaks of, “teach them everything I have commanded unto you” (Matt. 28:18-20).
I would even say if you don’t make disciples, you are bluntly living in sin.
Every person called to salvation is called to discipleship. What I mean by this, discipleship is a lifestyle one embraces, rather than a program one launches.
In order to do this, you not only have a vision that’ll make it happen, but need a system to sustain the process.
I don’t know about you, but rather than, “make disciples” as the Great commissions puts it, churches seem to be just, “looking for disciples.” I need to fill this position, I need to find to person to fill the children’s ministry, let me go find a disciple, I need to find someone to lead this small group, I need someone to fill this outreach position, let me go find a disciple who is equipped in every way to make this happen! Church leaders feel the weight of pressure upon their shoulder for the need in ministry.
Announcement may go like this, ‘We are in desperate need of leaders in the children’s area. If you don’t serve, the whole ministry will fall apart!” Based on more a reactive and guilt trip tactics. The few who feel so convicted begin to say, “Well, the Spirit of God is telling me to do it. I need to obey Jesus.”
Church then find these brand-spanking-new leaders and thrown them into the deep end of the pool. Baptism by fire! No wonder many who serve in such leadership capacity say, “Well, I’m never doing that again!” and burn themselves out and move to the next task. Those who are church leaders today sadly are those who survived the leadership dumping crisis.
The current leadership development plan is, “Oh, you have a passion and desire to lead? There you go! Here’s the curriculum and this is the room and hour you will teach. Therefore, GO and figure it out on your own and I won’t be with you in the midst at all!” and commission the people in the unknown wilderness and call it, “oversight.”
Too many church leadership want leadership development to be fast and easy but it’s really not. However, we can create a pipeline of a process that leadership can walk through that is reproducible and replicable.
Even our secular academic program does an excellent job with this.
An experienced leader wouldn’t allow a new intern straight out of college to throw that person into the new teaching position on the first day of class. An apprentice needs high direction and high quantity of investment as the person has low experience and low competency in this area.
Jesus with his disciples spend majority of this time as a servant leader observing and watching (debriefing) as he intentionally trained them (Luke 5:27-28).
In this phase, we for instance see Jesus giving responsibility to the other disciples such as feeding of the 5000 on the mountain and allowed the disciples to partake in the ministry (Matt. 14:13-21).
Jesus shown grace and vision in this stage of development stage. This is often where reality sets in for the apprentice, as the leaders gives the students an opportunity to help lead in a certain area.
For example, if someone is being developed to lead in a small group area, the person may lead one of the Q&A time. This will be followed with the motto of, “inspect what you expect” of debrief afterwards.
Too often, this is the area many churches fail in transitioning stage. In Jesus life ministry, he sends the twelve on the task of heal the sick, raised the dead, cleanse lepers, and cast out demons (Matt. 10:5-15).
This apprenticeship relationship transitions from supporting or helping the leader. This development stage is the system of training the new generation of practitioners with the on-the-job training. The more experienced leader now begins releasing responsibilities to the new, developing leader.
The final stage is where the disciples do the work and become the leaders. Jesus delegates responsibility and authority, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” (Matt. 28:18).
The process of leadership development is almost complete as the new leader grows in high confident and high competency ins his/her role.
Many church leaders get excited about the idea of making disciples and zealously preach for a while, but whenever they run into a problem the story changes. As soon as it gets too difficult and the price is too high, they drop the idea all together.
Part of the reason is because one has never gotten involved in it. Like mentioned, church leaders get excited (or even pastors) about the idea of discipleship as it’s good, but never participated in any specific way with specific people.
Jesus didn’t take these men and immediately throw them into leadership. Jesus instead walked with them, prayed with them, and disciple them. In order to make disciples as Jesus did takes hard work, it requires grip, nurturing time, requires emotional intelligence, capacity, and fortitude.
If you want a healthy church, you need to begin to develop leaders. In order to not burn out in ministry, I began to focus all my efforts on discipling leaders so they could lead the teams and I wasn’t doing all the leading.
The bad news is all Christians are woefully fallen that we are unable to follow Jesus on our own strength. Now, the good news is Jesus is greater than the world that is in us and has called us by His glorious grace in the midst of our fallen limited state.