Have you ever been thrown into a challenge, only to find out that the whole situation is actually more scary than you imagined? At the beginning of high school, my coach informed me that I was the team’s new catcher. I had never caught a game in my life. Furthermore, we had several kids on our team with whom God bestowed AK-47’s for arms. I can still feel my fingers throbbing from the fastballs that obliterated the leather in my brand-new catcher’s mitt. But my team needed me, and I became a catcher.
Here’s the thing : My team couldn’t go out and hire a 14- year-old to be the catcher. In little league baseball, they had to develop one.
In our churches, we have to approach the people already on our team — and then develop them.
Acts 6:3 says, “Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty.” The church leaders looked for people around them who already were serving, and then equipped and deployed them for ministry. The early church developed from within.
Ephesians 4:12 gives us the instruction to equip saints for the work of ministry. 1 Timothy 2:2 points to four generations of discipleship. Paul develops Timothy, Timothy develops leaders, and those leaders go out and develop other believers as well.
In our churches, we see men and women leading in business, the classroom, home, and community. But somehow we have concluded that church ministry is so unique and specialized, that only seminary and years of prior church experience can prepare our leaders. Years of experience do not develop a leader; years of evaluated experience develops leaders. As church leaders, it is our God-given task to pray for, identify, recruit, develop, deploy, evaluate, and then send out leaders and workers into the harvest.
What if we shift our focus to see each ministry as an opportunity to develop church planters and church planting team members? What if we develop a kids ministry that helped children grow in their relationship with Jesus and gain the skills necessary to disciple others and lead in the local church? What would it look like to come alongside high school students and help them see their role in the Kingdom? Instead of creating endless programs and Bible studies for adults, could we instead form development and equipping opportunities to raise up leaders?
Doctors, stay-at-home-moms, teachers, students, business owners, and salespersons can all lead in the local church. They can experience a calling from God, prepare for ministry, and be deployed for service in church planting and revitalization. Some will be planters and lead pastors. Others may serve in a supporting role. Let’s not get tunnel vision and miss the incredible opportunity to see the Lord raise up leaders across our congregations.
Leadership development won’t happen by accident. We can’t simply hope it will happen. My dad would often tell me, “Son, get out there in the yard. That grass isn’t going cut itself.” We have to get out there; these leaders aren’t likely to develop themselves. We need a plan and a path for helping people take their place in kingdom work.
Our church’s partnership with Send Network and their Multiplication Pipeline has catapulted us forward in our capacity to develop leaders. We aren’t left to rub sticks together to make a fire. The Multiplication Pipeline hands us kindling, a lighter, and wood. Developing teaching curriculum, a deployment strategy, and a progression model for growing leaders would take years. Instead, today we have a group of guys growing as leaders, utilizing a fully formed platform for development.
I’d love to tell you that I had a long and illustrious career in the MLB. I didn’t. However, in the church world, I had believers come alongside me and develop me. I had opportunities to fail, learn, and improve. I was given opportunities in the local church that seemed a little over my head but allowed me to use my gifts and talents while relying on the Spirit of God.
Let’s give ministry away, develop leaders, and see what the Lord may do.
Published January 16, 2018