February 20, 2013

By Phil Maynard

I think one of the most common misunderstandings about leadership in the church is that the primary job of the leader is to lead (defined as be in charge, make all the decisions, tell people what to do, think up every new ministry focus etc.)

This is not what the Bible says about leadership. One of my cornerstone verses comes from Ephesians 4 starting at verse 11. Consider that text from the Message:

Christ handed out gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, and pastor-teacher to train Christ’s followers in skilled servant work, working within Christ’s body, the church, until we’re all moving rhythmically and easily with each other, efficient and graceful in response to God’s Son, fully mature adults, fully developed within and without, fully alive like Christ

The role of the leader is to train the followers.  This goes for every position in the church from pastor to music director to office staff to Sunday School teacher.

Imagine a church where the pastor is raising up young leaders to preach and teach and lead the church.  Or, where the Director of Music is training musicians and vocalists to direct new musical groups.  Or, where the Chair of the Trustees is training someone to take that role…imagine!

This is really possible and creates an amazing pool of people resources who are empowered to live out their calling in ministry and develop the skills and confidence to be successful.  One of the best examples I am aware of is a friend of mine, Jack Stephenson, who pastors Anona United Methodist Church in Largo, Florida.  Jack currently has about 20 young men and women who are being mentored and trained by him to serve in pastoral ministry.  His congregation has consistently led the Florida Conference in helping people discern a calling to ordained ministry.

Leaders don’t start as leaders.  They start as followers – first of Jesus and second of a more mature disciple and ministry leader.  They discover their gifts and graces for ministry.  They form life around the teachings of scripture.  They partner with an accomplished leader to be mentored or apprenticed or discipled or coached so that they may develop the character and the skills to be successful.  Only after they have demonstrated the ability to lead, through participation and practice, are they given the responsibility to provide leadership.

Think of the difference this would make when it came time for the Lay Leadership Committee to make recommendations for elected leadership the following year.  Think about the level of confidence brought to leadership through this kind of process.  Think about the successes brought to all kinds of ministries by those with the gifts, graces, training, and experience to provide Kingdom leadership.

How do you empower leaders to be successful in their ministry?