Jesus did not tell us to “go make leaders” but he did tell us to “go make disciples” (Matthew 28:19-20). If your church does not have a strong spiritual formation plan it will have a weak leadership development plan. Not every disciple will be a leader but every leader must be a growing disciple reproducing the life of Christ in others.
Leaders who are not growing disciples are simply task managers at best and at worst could be stumbling blocks for those they lead and poor examples for the church.
If you have a leader who has great influence but little spiritual depth this is a recipe for disaster. This is why churches have elders, pastors, board members and leaders who don’t study God’s word, pray, tithe or share their faith. Leaders who are not spiritually grounded will burn out, lash out and eventually fall out of the church and take out many others with them.
Here are three practical suggestions for ensuring that you are making disciples as well as leaders.
1) Have a reproducible discipleship process that helps you identify leaders out of the harvest.
As a brand new follower of Jesus I had a co-worker who invested in me every day at lunch time. For two years he answered my many questions, inspired me to study my bible, to read Christian biographies and gave me a love of God’s mission. When I became a church planting pastor I discovered that very few people had had that type of experience and I desired to make sure our church was going to provide it to everyone who desired it.
After being completely frustrated in trying to make para-church discipleship tools work in the local church, I decided to develop tools that were church friendly and helped assimilate new believers into the life of the church. Asking the question, “What does a fully devoted follower of Jesus look like?” I developed a one year curriculum with these six goals or outcomes in mind.
- Growing in intimacy with Jesus through the practice of spiritual disciplines.
- Sharing Christ naturally with family, friends and co-workers.
- Serving in the church and throughout the community.
- Mentoring others spiritually through discipleship.
- Putting God first in our finances and growing in generosity.
- Understanding the centrality of the gospel on my life.
I felt if we could teach people how to be Jesus first in their day, week, finances and relationship this would help them live out and within the mission of Jesus.
2) Be a “disciple” first and a pastor second.
Every Monday/Wednesday mornings I had standing discipleship breakfasts. I met with men who were new in their faith or who were never discipled, we spent time studying the bible, memorizing scripture and wrestling through the implications of the gospel in their lives.
Too many pastors are waiting for ready-made leaders to walk in the doors instead of identifying, discovering and making leaders out of the harvest through a holistic discipleship process. The future of every church whether large or small I believe is in the harvest … future members, finances and leaders they will all be found as we enter into the redemptive work of Jesus.
The more successful you are at developing disciples the more successful you will be at developing leaders.
3) Get your best people (staff, lay leaders, mature followers) investing their lives in others through discipleship.
One of the covenant statements we had with our staff and our elders is that they would invest in at least one person every year by taking them through our discipleship material with the goal of seeing those they invested in repeating the process with someone else.
How do you keep your leaders fresh in their prayer/devotional life? Have them teach a new believer every year on how to meet with God on a daily basis. How to keep your leaders growing in generosity? Have them teach a new believer about tithing and generosity. How do you keep a leader from slipping into bad relational habits? Have them teach a new believer how to maintain and practice biblical relational principles.
Every church needs a leadership engine. Your discipleship process is the fuel to make the engine hum. Solving the discipleship issues in your church will be the key to solving your leadership issues.
- Are you as a pastor investing your life into a new believer or undiscipled Christian?
- Does your church have a reproducible discipleship or spiritual mentoring process?
- How many of your leaders have been discipled and are discipling others?
- Do you have a definition of what a disciple of Jesus is and does?
- Do you have a pathway for those who want to be discipled can be?