Discipleship and Raising Up Leaders

By Dr. Frank Lewis

Every pastor needs a group of trusted men around him. When the group is composed of men the pastor has personally discipled, that group has the potential to become a band of brothers.

I think of these men as a group like David’s mighty men (2 Sam. 23:8 ff). They face giants, stand up against opposition, serve as a buffer in times of conflict, provide a safe place for the leader to share his hear, and demonstrate a sense of loyalty that is lacking in more casual relationships. When the pastor has discipled such a group of men, they usually can be trusted to lead, using their gifts to come alongside the pastor to help the church advance in her mission.

I remember getting to a point in leadership where I felt alone. The staff I had assembled around me were doing a great job, but I knew there was something missing. I had lunch with one of my chief encouragers and asked for some counsel. He said, “You need some mighty men around you, pastor. I’ll help, but I can’t do it for you.”

There are as many resources out there as there are publishers, probably more. Some men I respected were using the materials provided by Christian Leadership Concepts. In 2021, the name changed to Christ Led Communities to better reflect their mission, but the discipleship and leadership development resources are second to none. (You can learn more about them at clchq.org.)

The “All In” curriculum of CLC covers every issue that confronts men today. (Marriage, personal purity, leadership, apologetics, money management, how to teach the Bible, sharing faith in a post-Christian culture, standing with a brother in need and more.) The secret of a CLC group’s success is the two-year commitment men make to meet weekly.

In two years, men are going to go through a lot of changes. In one of the groups I led, young husbands became fathers, jobs ended unexpectedly, men with older children helped them navigate difficult challenges, some marriages went through hard times and more. The men became incredibly bonded to one another, and a level of trust grew between them and their pastor that won’t happen in a monthly deacons meeting or a casual lunch meeting once every blue moon.

When the first two-year experience ended, the men in my CLC group were chairing every major committee or leadership team in our church. One became the deacon chair. I can’t begin to tell you the difference that made in the life of our church – and in my leadership. I knew that each of these men had demonstrated an above-average walk with Christ during our time together. I knew these men had quiet times, memorized Scripture, looked for ways to share their faith, knew how to lead their families and shared an understanding of the gospel that was consistent with their pastor.

In my first church, I used “Masterlife,” a Lifeway resource, to disciple leaders. “Masterlife” is a great tool but it will not dig deep enough to address the issues most men are struggling with today, unless you supplement it with additional resources. CLC’s “All In” curriculum does this for you.

Here are some things I learned along the way:

  1. Discipling leaders takes time. No short-cuts or easy fixes exist for this kind of work. Jesus spent three years with 12 men. Paul had a small circle of people around him and mentions them over a long period of time in his epistles.
  2. The best way for you to grow as a leader is to invest yourself in the lives of other men who want to grow as leaders. Iron sharpens iron. As you sharpen these men, they are going to sharpen you too.
  3. Do not attempt to lead more than one discipleship group at a time. You won’t be able to give it your best if you do.
  4. Some leaders you disciple will leave your church one day. That’s OK. When they do, regardless of the reason (job changes that move them out the area or disagreements with you that move them down the street), your investment in them will continue to produce fruit.

You will experience exponential spiritual growth in ways you cannot imagine as you prepare to teach and participate in the lives of those you are discipling. Your prayer life will grow, your ability to coach and lead will grow, your ministry will grow.

Published May 4, 2022

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Dr. Frank Lewis

Frank R. Lewis recently stepped down as senior pastor of Nashville’s First Baptist Church, where he served for 24 years. Prior to that, he was the preaching and worship consultant for the BSSB (Lifeway). Frank planted Green Valley Baptist Church in Henderson, Nevada, as a Home Mission Board (NAMB) appointed church planter, right after finishing his M.Div. He earned a D.Min. from GGBTS (Gateway Seminary) and currently is pursuing post-doctoral studies in church revitalization and pastoral counseling at New Orleans Seminary. Frank enjoys writing, preaching and encouraging pastors.