In his letter to the Ephesians, the Apostle Paul has a lot to say. He speaks about the preeminence of Christ, the gospel of grace and unity in the church. He speaks to how Christians should interact in a number of different relationships and about fending off the fiery darts of Satan. But maybe one of the most overlooked subjects that Paul writes about in the book of Ephesians is his instruction in developing leaders.
In Ephesians 4:11-16, Paul writes, “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”
In this short text, I believe God, through Paul, gives us at least four instructions for developing leaders.
1. Build a diverse team.
Paul makes it clear that God means for a plurality of diversely gifted leaders to lead the church. In verse 11, we see what many consider to be five different leadership categories. And no matter how gifted any one planter is, he will never be thoroughly gifted in all five categories. Admitting this is critical. Once a planter admits that he can’t be all things and do all things, he is opening up his church to the possibility of tremendous growth and the maturity that comes with developing leaders.
2. Reproduce leaders by equipping others.
This truth could be communicated in a number of different ways. But in its simplest form, Paul is telling us “every member is a minister.” God never meant for the elders or staff pastors to be the ones doing the majority of “ministry” that the church performs. Instead, according to verse 12, their job is to equip each member with the training, opportunities and resources to use the gifts that God has given them for His glory and the joy of the church. When a plurality of diversely gifted leaders are equipping every member to use their own natural and spiritual gifts as God designed and desires, the number of potential leaders doesn’t grow by addition, but exponentially. Because this is true, the planter is most productive not when he’s getting everything done himself, but when he’s equipping others to do the work with him.
3. Grow potential leaders by speaking the truth in love.
Verse 15 may be one of the most quoted texts pulled out of its natural context. But when it is read as God meant to communicate it to us, it has to be understood as a leadership principle. According to Paul, the only way that the church grows in depth of maturity into the image of Christ and avoids the confusion of being unmoored to the gospel is by speaking the truth in love. Potential leaders don’t become the kind of leaders God wants and the church needs if current leaders are not willing to be used in their sanctification by being clear about where they stand and yet pointing them to where they need to go. With honesty, clarity and kindness, we are called to develop leaders by telling them the truth.
4. Value gifts that don’t look like yours.
Every part of the body matters. Every person in the church is necessary. This is something that Paul not only makes clear here in Ephesians 4:16, but all throughout his letters. While it is the natural tendency of every leader to focus on developing leaders that are a lot like themselves, valuing gifts that don’t look like his own will keep him focused on developing a plurality of diverse leaders.
Developing leaders is important. It has been said that everything rises and falls on leadership. So praise be to God that Jesus is the ultimate leader of His church, and if we keep our eyes on Him, listen to the Spirit and take our cues from Scripture, His church will prosper.
Published August 9, 2016