If you’re trying to raise up church planters, pastors, missionaries, or almost any other type of Christian leader, 80% of what you need them to be able to do can be developed in the context of starting and multiplying missional communities. Certain additional skills, such as preaching, would need to be learned elsewhere, but consider all that can be learned in the context of a missional community: shepherding, teaching, evangelism, equipping, hearing from God, sending out, serving. Missional communities are the perfect environment for developing most of these essential leadership skills.
What are the core things a leader needs to be able to do? In most cases, they simply need to be able to do the things any growing disciple can do: engaging with God, serving, evangelizing, and making disciples. At the core of what’s needed are people who are able to engage culture, help others become followers of Jesus, get them established in their faith, and participate in a community of Jesus followers. This group can then pray for each other, serve together, worship God, and engage in meaningful interaction with scripture that leads to transformation.
When you have a system that is multiplying disciples, groups, leaders or churches, it’s common to see a slowing of momentum at the 3rd or 4th generation. One solution that is often helpful is to intentionally move a stronger leader out from the center of the system to the edges so you can see stronger multiplication coming from that point.
In an electricity distribution network, you establish a central node to distribute energy. When the line gets weak, you can establish a new node to extend energy from there. In the same way, putting a stronger leader out on the fringes creates a new center of energy that can extend further.
As we pray for the development of leaders, our motivation should reflect that of Jesus: the harvest fields themselves. We need to allow our heart to break for the harvest.
35 Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” – Matthew 9:35-38
Whenever I have overseen people, I have tried to manage them in such a way that not only benefits the organization but also develops the person. When I was a senior pastor, I would think of a new challenge every year for each person I oversaw.
I’d think, “What do they need to develop to their maximum potential?” and then I’d deliberately pick something that would help them grow and stretch in a particular area.
One year I couldn’t think of a new challenge for a young man I was overseeing. I prayed and listened to the Spirit, but I just couldn’t come up with anything that would stretch him in his current position.
… is knowing what you’re trying to accomplish. If you want to develop leaders—and know that you’re being successful in that endeavor—you need to get more concrete and specific about what you’re aiming for. What does a leader look like? How do you know if you have one? A good map isn’t helpful unless you know your destination.
Take time to reflect on these three questions:
• What are you trying to produce?
• What’s the process for figuring that out?
• How do you make sure it’s linked in with your values?