“If I could begin all over again” is a hard sentence for me to apply to myself for I still think of myself as just beginning. I feel like I am learning things today I should have known twenty years ago. So, with that caveat, if I had to start all over again, I would focus more on intentional discipleship of leaders in my church community.
I have ministered in a large church, an intentional community in the city and a missional church plant in the suburbs. In each case, there has always been the temptation to lead as a CEO, as a top-down leader. There has been the instinct to be present and control every facet of the church’s life. This has led repeatedly to excessive busyness and the feeling that I never have relational time with people. Over the years, I have been convinced this is a disaster. I have seen this as counter-Biblical (1 Cor 12, Rom6, Eph 4) and as counter productive if one desires to lead an organic missional community that multiplies itself in the neighborhoods (as opposed to a corporate organization). And so I have been learning, even these past three months, that I must ever fight this temptation and make time to spend with the development of leaders relationally, speaking into the their lives, bringing them along with me on hospital visits, in board meetings (yes we still must have a board meeting or two), letting them in on the struggles of everyday pastoral life and seeing how I personally struggle with all the various character strains that are inevitable in ministerial vocation life.
In the past, I have too often done leadership development unintentionally: spending time with new leaders as the occasion arose, bringing them along with me wherever I would go. I would seek out people who had evident skills and heart and then put them in charge of something. It was often hit or miss. When I began to see the church as the missional embodiment of Christ, (since 1993) I have sought to minister among multiple pastors, decentralizing the leadership authority in the church. I have bought into Hirsch and Frost’s APEPT (Eph 4) model of leadership before it was in print in The Shaping of Things to Come. Yet I have never fully grasped until most recently just how powerful the one on one, or one on three mentoring of leaders can change the dynamic of one’s entire church community life. It is inefficient and time intensive. Yet its effects reverberate through the church and magnify beyond the church into missional enterprise. Even these past few weeks, as I wrestle with the implications of this, I am seeking to organize my time to spend it with more young leaders. Take some time, 2 or three hours a week with one or two leaders, 3 or 4 hours a week with a group of three to five, every week for a year at a time. Then ask them to do the same. In five years, the impact for the Kingdom will be simply incredible.