I’ve seen it many times: a beloved pastor retires from a church that had been thriving for decades. A search committee is formed, pastoral candidates interviewed, and the hunt is on for a gifted new leader. But much to everybody’s surprise, the church begins to slowly fall apart. Why? Because the church was centered around one amazing guy. There was a leadership vacuum that only became apparent when the lead pastor stepped away. Chances are, a new guy will step in and do a great job, the church will begin to grow again, and in a few years, all will be well – or at least seem so.
But what if there is another way?
We must make pursuing and developing healthy leaders a top priority. Here are five reasons why.
1. For our personal health for the long haul
This includes mental, emotional, spiritual and physical health, along with the health of our marriages and our families. We talk a lot about starting strong in ministry, but I pray that we grow to be more concerned about finishing strong, by God’s grace. Lord willing, we will be vibrant, passionate pastors of our flocks 10, 20 or even 30 years from now. To get there, we need to share the load of ministry with other individuals gifted by God to help lead our churches.
There is a great example of this principle in the story of Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro. When Jethro saw that Moses was singlehandedly governing the entire people of Israel, he advised:
What you are doing is not good. You and the people with you will certainly wear yourselves out, for the thing is too heavy for you. You are not able to do it alone. Now obey my voice; I will give you advice, and God be with you! You shall represent the people before God and bring their cases to God, and you shall warn them about the statutes and the laws, and make them know the way in which they must walk and what they must do. Moreover, look for able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe, and place such men over the people as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. And let them judge the people at all times. Every great matter they shall bring to you, but any small matter they shall decide themselves. So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you. If you do this, God will direct you, you will be able to endure, and all this people also will go to their place in peace (Ex. 18:18-23).
For the sake of Moses’ longevity in ministry, he needed godly leaders to help with the heavy lifting. So do we.
2. To kill pride and self-dependence
In James we read that, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” The Lord loves humility in His leaders and He hates pride. One of the greatest ways we can cultivate humility in our hearts, and kill pride, is through raising up, equipping and sending out leaders to use their gifts for God’s glory.
There is a prevalent attitude among pastors that says, “Check me out, I’m doing something right. I’ve become an expert.” This becomes more apparent when we begin to see the Lord do an amazing work in our churches. Keep in mind that God has just been incredibly kind. He’s using broken vessels like us. He can draw straight lines with crooked sticks. The last thing we need to think is that it’s about us and our gifting – it’s not. It’s about the Lord. Developing leaders can help take the focus off ourselves, root out pride and foster humility.
3. Because it’s biblical
I pray that we have a passion in our hearts to be ruthlessly biblical pastors. That we wouldn’t just jump to pragmatism and what works but would always seek to be theologically rooted in the biblical text. May our hearts be, “God, whatever you want, I want to do. Show me how to lead a church. Show me how to shepherd people.” To be biblical is to be a developer of leaders. Look at Ephesians 4:12, where we’re called to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for the building up of the body of Christ. If we’re going to be a biblical church, then we must be a church that raises up and deploys leaders intentionally. If we don’t, we may create the appearance of a healthy church but, in reality, we’ve neglected to build a strong foundation. Where will the church be when we’re gone?
4. To see others thrive in their God-given gifts and passions
There is no greater joy in ministry than to see folks come alive – perhaps for the first time or the first time in a long time – to use the gifts God has given them in ministry. Developing leaders means we help people utilize their gifts. One of the best ways to help cranky people take their eyes off the past and walk into change is by getting them off the bleachers and in the game. We’ve got to figure out how to mobilize them. If they’re busy doing ministry, then they’re too busy using their gifts to sit back and throw stones.
5. To see the mission of Jesus advance for God’s glory
We can’t do the work of ministry alone. We weren’t made to. We’re called to equip other believers and leaders to do ministry together. I hope and pray that one of your growing passions is to raise up others who will go out and plant, replant or revitalize other multiplying churches – that your ministry would go beyond the walls of your own church. The only way that’s going to happen is through a ruthless commitment to leadership development: deploying and sending leaders out on mission.
This post originally appeared on Marks’ blog, Preach Lead Love.
Published January 28, 2022