In my last post on leadership development, I addressed the fact that many of us are looking toward unhealthy paradigms for equipping others. This problem should not surprise us. We reproduce what we know, and we know what has been modeled before us. And what is often set before us in North America is not the best leadership development diet.
In light of our history, I want to make a few suggestions that I think will help us move from where we are to where we should be going.
But you may be asking, “If I have experienced an unhealthy model of leadership development, then am I doomed to repeat it?”
No. We do not have to repeat the problems of the past. We have the ability to make changes. We first must recognize where we have come from, for our past affects our present. If we recognize our problems, then we are on course hopefully to align ourselves in a better direction.
Remember, change does not come easily. It will require a move from our comfort zones.
Whenever we begin to pioneer a different trail, we will make many mistakes. We will feel uncomfortable at times. We will be misunderstood. How do you think the early believers felt in Acts 8, 10, 11, 13-14, and 15, as the gospel was entering into new cultural territory and churches were being birthed? Whenever change is necessary for Kingdom advancement, the Church must make mental, emotional, and physical changes.
Here are some suggestions to move us in a better direction of leadership development:
1. Realize that God Cares More about Healthy Leaders than We Do.
Shortly after the planting of several churches on their first missionary journey, Paul and Barnabas returned to appoint elders over those churches (Acts 14:23). Before going to Jerusalem, Paul desired to share one last word with the Ephesian elders (Acts 20:17). Timothy was to return to Ephesus to help put things in order and equip the leaders who were serving the Church (2 Tim 2:2). Titus was left in Crete to also set matters right and appoint elders in every town (Titus 1:5). Time and again, Scripture points to the value of sound leaders for Christ’s Church. So, while we value leadership development, we need to recognize that God values it more–for the Church is His Bride.
We need our Father’s perspective on the matter of leadership development for our local church, not what is the popular paradigm of the hour.
2. Pray for Wisdom, and Repent Where Necessary.
We need clarity and divine guidance when it comes to knowing how to raise up missionaries, pastors, small group leaders, etc. The Spirit may reveal to us areas we need to forsake because we have made the ministry about ourselves, and have been using training approaches that allow us to control others rather than equip, empower, and release others to serve.
3. Evaluate Our Approaches
We need to ask ourselves if we are being wise stewards with the way we are training others for Kingdom advancement. If things are working well, then that is great! Keep it up! If we find that such is not the case, then we must ask “Why?” If our God-given vision is not what we are working toward, then adjustments are necessary. Remember, it took Edison 10,000 attempts to get the light-bulb to work as desired. It is healthy to make corrections and grow as a leader. Whenever we try something that does not work well, then we know what not to do next time–and we know what to tell others to avoid.
4. Look Outside of Where We’re Presently Looking
We need to learn from others. But as I wrote in the previous post, we need to be discerning. The Bible establishes our parameters, the Spirit is our guide. Read widely. Be a learner. Listen to others. Look at what is being done in churches outside of North America when it comes to raising up leaders.
5. Get People Out of Our Classrooms
We must provide knowledge in our training, but then we must get the people out into the world to apply such knowledge, and hold them accountable for such application. This is something that I have often attempted to do over the past twelve years of training missionaries and pastors in college and theological education.
I like what Roland Allen once wrote on this topic, referring to how Jesus trained His Apostles: “He trained them in the work, not outside it; in the world, not in a hothouse” (“New Testament Missionary Methods,” The Missionary Review of the World 52 (1929):21).
6. Model It.
This is a tough one, especially since we have so long been dependent on leadership development as a classroom activity. This is a tough one, especially since we believe that developing leaders requires little time. Modeling is difficult since we do not have our church members around us 24 hours a day. Here is where we have to get creative. We need to share our stories–with those whom we are training–of how we are making disciples (assuming we have stories to share). We need to allow them to come with us and watch and assist, whenever possible.
If you have not read Robert Coleman’s Master Plan of Evangelism, then you need to stop reading this blog and read that book and begin applying it to your life and ministry. Coleman’s work is about Jesus’ paradigm of reaching 12 men and releasing them to reach the world. Many people have read the book; few have applied it.
These are a few of my suggestions from one fellow struggler to another. I do not have it all worked out. I am still a learner, and often make mistakes when it comes to leadership development.
How is your leadership development diet? What kind of leadership training have you experienced over the years? How has this affected your approach to raising up leaders? Do you have some suggestions when it comes to moving our training approaches beyond lectures to actually doing the work of the ministry?