Retirement provides more time to look in the mirror. The glance back is occasional when traveling the fast and congested highways of contemporary life. We certainly can't go back there. But, we can see some things with greater clarity when velocity isn't pushing us forward at warp speed. For me, the glance back has involved discovery of ministry elements that were blurred by the rapid pace of things in thirty-five years of ministry. This was especially true in those last five years. Life, culture, and even church changed more in those last five years than in the previous thirty. The learning curve was ramped up like never before.
If there was a roster of leadership do-overs the mentoring thing would be at the top of the list. Somewhere back there I decided that managing leaders would be a personal passion. When filling staff positions I diligently searched for people called and prepared for that particular ministry slot. Among the goals of church mission I sought to enable resources so that they could accomplish the objectives of their ministry and give them room to grow in their skills, use their personal strengths, and activate their spiritual gifts. One goal was to keep them in place. Healthy churches are usually those with stable staff leadership. Only in the rear view mirror did I discover the one short-coming of this approach. Our church was supposed to be a leadership pipeline. No, I was supposed to be a leadership pipeline. The mentoring thing is distinctly personal. It was my responsibility to be that pipeline myself. Here's how it plays out---
1. Making disciples is our commission.
It's the Great Commission Jesus gave the disciples and his church.
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of
the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all
that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of
Matthew 28:19-20, ESV
We've mucked it up with all of our objectives and mission statements. But, the
mission of his church is clear: making disciples is central.
2. Making disciples involves awareness of spiritual gifts.
It's clear in Paul's letter to the Corinthians that God has endowed every believer
for service in his church. One of those gifts is leadership. Disciple making
involves helping believers to know their gifts, leadership included. Read
1 Corinthians 12:7 and Romans 12:8.
3. Multiplying disciples is our challenge.
The Book of Acts notes a shift in the ministry of the church. Acts 5:14 indicates
the adding of even more believers to the church. Acts 6:1 evidences a sudden
multiplication of disciples. What caused such a move. Acts 5:29 is in my
opinion the catalyst for this multiplication. The disciples said to the Roman
forces trying to silence them, "We must obey God rather than men". Our
challenge today is to multiple disciples. Some of them, by God's endowment
and appointment will become spiritual leaders.
4. Multiplying disciples involves leadership multiplication.
The Apostle Paul explained the multiplication of leaders to his younger
colleague Timothy. He wrote, "And what you have heard from me in the
presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach
others also (2 Timothy 2:2, ESV). You and I have the personal responsibility to
train others who will train others. It is the definition of faithful or reliable men.
5. The modern church has abandoned the call to multiplication.
Many of us, like me, have become leadership managers. In this role we recruit
great leaders, prepare them for their role in our church, resource them for
fulfilling their assigned role, and do everything we can to keep them on our
staff. There are stats that prove the healthy dimensions of staff longevity and
tenure. But, I'm always challenged by what my pastor, Will Browning teaches:
we are not measured by our seating capacity but our sending capacity.
Deploying leaders to mission is our calling. We must multiply them first.
Paul explained it this way to the Ephesians and Colossians:
Tychicus the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord will tell you
everything. I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how
we are, and that he may encourage your hearts.
Ephesians 6:21-22, ESV , Colossians 4:8, ESV
In the same way he wrote to the Thessalonians:
And we sent Timothy, our brother and God's coworker in the gospel of Christ, to
establish and exhort you in your faith that no one be moved by these afflictions.
1 Thessalonians 3:2-3, ESV
It's learning from a glance in the rear view mirror. Not managing. Multiplying.