All around the world, pastors and church leaders say the same thing. We need more leaders. We speak about these leaders as though God has sent us on a snipe hunt and is laughing at us as we search for these leaders in the bushes. The fact is you have tons of leaders in your church family right now. The key is to lead your people in a way that effectively trains leaders who also train leaders.
I have an interesting perspective on this topic. I am both a preaching elder in our church and the owner of a business. To put it bluntly, I am busy. But don’t let me fool you. I am not busier than anybody else. Almost every conversation I have around the coffee and donut table at church goes like this:
Me: How have you been?
The Entire Church (even the 9 year old playing tag): Busy.
It doesn’t matter if you're speaking to an executive on Wall Street or an executive of the home (props to the stay at home mom), everybody's busy these days. But if you perceive yourself and others as busy, how can leaders ever emerge from your church to lead others on the mission? How can any disciples of Jesus ever be made? Let me suggest some things.
1. Start with the Gospel
I know this seems very Christian of me to say, but the fact is we, and the people we lead, need to be motivated by the good news, not motivated by what we do. God has given us a new identity, changed us from enemies to his children. He did it all by his work, not our effort.
Not only has God done this in justification, but he does this in sanctification. When we are bearing fruit worthy of repentance, it is because it has been through his power and grace, not our merit and works.
I remember sitting under the preaching of Mike Gunn, Jeff Vanderstelt, and Caesar Kalinowski. I was getting “gospelled” each week. It was like God was taking their words and beating the moralism out of my heart. I was so compelled that this good news wasn’t just for yesterday, but for today and tomorrow. My wife and I naturally asked, “How can we make sure everyone around us knows about THIS good news?”
When we hear truly good news, we want to share it and live in the light of it. If good news is phony, who cares? Meaning, if the gospel was good for us once upon a time (like when we walked down the aisle or raised our hand when everyone had their heads bowed and eyes half shut) but it isn't even better for us today, then that becomes a burden to carry, not a load that we’ve given to the Savior.
Everything you do as a leader/pastor has to start with the gospel motivation of who God is, what God has done, who we are, and what we need to do. When the gospel is correctly and authentically preached, shared, and lived out in community, people will naturally (by the new Spirit) desire to live it out.
2. Have Realistic Goals for Leaders
Imagine what you want a leader to look like in your church. I’m talking about everyone. The single mom, the single dad, the mentally handicapped, the disabled, the CEO, the college students, the children, everyone.
You see most of us - when thinking of leaders - really have a narrow view. For whatever reason, we think a leader must be someone who can preach, know every dark corner of theology, take over Bible studies, and write a thesis on the Nephilim.
Additionally, many pastors think every leader should be just like them. The problem with this thinking is:
- If you could raise leaders to be like you, you’d be out of a job
- Your people don’t have time to be like you. That’s why they pay you - to equip them for the point of all ministry.
So, what is realistic for leaders in your church? The answer is simple. They need to do exactly what God has called all of us to do: make disciples of Jesus who make more disciples of Jesus.
Jesus tells us, in short order that making disciples is done by his power and authority (Matt 28; Acts 1:8). He tells us to do this with the term “Go,” which means more accurately “as you go” (Matthew 28), and tells us that we are his body, the parts of which have many different functions. Your people have been designed and formed by how God wants them to be. He has placed them in the place he desires. The power is not by their will but by God’s might and wisdom.
Think of this. If you tell your people that the goal is to make disciples and to do this where they are NOW, how much of a burden have you just released from their shoulders?
To tell the stay at home mom that she can’t live two lives only one and to live this one life for the glory of God, then she can go to the mom’s group and be a light to them. She can invite other moms over and have a play date and befriend them to show them and tell them about Jesus. She’s probably already doing some of these things, but now she is released to do it in the power of the Spirit for the glory of God to make disciples.
Think of the burden released if you don’t have programs in your church where everyone has to attend, but they live their life with the family of God to show off who God is where they are sent.
Instead of telling someone you need to show up for Vacation Bible School to teach for those 5 days from morning until night, you send them back to their neighborhoods and keep doing the things they do, but to do them with non-Christians and Christians, to fully form disciples who then go and make more disciples.
Just ask your people to take an inventory of what they are doing now and have them start thinking how they can start doing those things with the power of the Spirit with the goal of living out the great commission.
All these things can be turned into times of disciple making. (Don’t let this statement fool you, we are always making disciples. It’s just a matter if we are making disciples of us or Jesus.):
- Coaching sport teams
- Going to the gym
- Neighborhood Parties
- Dinner at your house
- Hanging out in the front yard
- Community Events
The list goes on and on.
3. Share Meals
If you want an easy start, given to me by Caesar Kalinowski, tell your people this:
We eat 21 times per week. Each person in each MC eats one meal with a not yet believer twice in a month. That’s two meals out of 84 meals. If a family has another family over that counts as 1 out of 4. Then come together and share about your conversations and start praying like crazy to know what the Spirit would have you do next with each person you've shared a meal with.
The simplicity of this, and the conversations that come from this will show your people what you mean by making disciples and doing it in the everyday.
The point is, when you release your people back to the areas that God has already place them in, then not only do you have job security as a pastor, but people see the importance of the work God has given them. Some may see what they're doing and adjust because of this simple calling, they might move to be more effective. So discuss what's happening with your leaders as they pursue discipleship wherever God places them.
Think of the power of this. You have stay at home moms, single moms, dads, working parents, college kids, CEOs, garbage men, teachers, politicians, web designers, and accountants all living out the power given to them by the Spirit to make disciples where God has sent them. Doesn't this sound like a fully functioning body that will show off the entirety of Jesus, instead of one small facet?
This is what it means to fill the earth with his glory. Every part of the earth is seeing Jesus because we empower our people, instead of treating them as though they have to be full time pastors to fulfill the job of making disciples.
Start simple. We are told that he who is entrusted with little can be trusted with much. Give them these simple ideas to live out and watch as God calls them to more and more.
Just as you wouldn’t feed an infant steak, neither should we tell our people that to make disciples they must move to Africa in order to make disciples. Let God show them what they should do.
4. Show them how to lead
You can talk about training leaders all day, but if you don't show people how to lead, they’ll never fully grasp it. I believe that you as the pastor cannot do this alone. Know that the people who are not pastors - yet who are already living this out - are your best allies.
Think of this. 99% of your church receives zero income from the church but are still called to make disciples. If this is true, you should be leading them from that perspective, but you also need folks who can lead by example. In other words, instead of saying 99% are not paid to make disciples, we should be saying that 100% of God’s people are paid to make disciples. It’s just a matter of where God directs that money from. (Thank you Jeff Vanderstelt for that gold nugget.)
When you have a missional community meeting and you start going through a study, don’t draw up some study from Leviticus that you created and spend the whole time preaching at the group. Who else is going to have time for that? What about those who hate speaking to groups? Lead your people in a way where they can say to themselves, “I can do that.”
Look for material that is easily transferrable to everyone. If every time you have some sort of a study in your missional community you are the one writing up the questions and leading the study, how will anyone have time to do the same? Set them an example of what they can do.
Some easily transferrable studies can be found with both Porterbrook and BILD (First Principles). I use them with my missional community and this is exactly why our communities have multiplied. People realized they could lead just like I do. There was nothing overtly difficult or time consuming. We just kept speaking and living in a way that demanded that we learn with our heads, be motivated by the new heart given by the Spirit, and walk it out with our feet empowered by the Spirit.
You can do this with the meeting portion of your missional community as well as in the everyday life of making disciples. If you are always trying to make disciples on Tuesdays between 10-2pm, you’ll alienate most of your church. You’ll get the old “Well, you have time to make disciples because you’re the pastor.”
Know your church and work to “do the mission” in the same time frames that they are able. And don’t do it alone…ever. Always be taking people with you or showing it to them as family. This way your people are not only hearing it from your lips, but experiencing it with their feet.
Your people will learn how to make disciples by the way you make disciples. If you only do it with deep studies in a formal setting, then they’ll think they have to copy you. If you show them you can only make disciples by having BBQ’s every Friday, then they’ll think that the road to gospel living is paved by Weber grills. But, if you can show them that it happens in everyday life, in every facet of life, with all kinds of people, you’ll show them the ways of Jesus.
Jesus wants everyone to make disciples, but we have set up our people for failure because we only want leaders who look like full time paid pastors or professional party throwers. (Both of those are awesome by the way.)
I highly recommend taking a look at Creating a Discipleship Environment. This video can really flesh this out for you and for your people.
So, in the end, how do we find and develop leaders?
- Motivate people with the gospel. Making disciples doesn’t gain your favor or acceptance from God, but is the natural fruit born of a child of God.
- Tell them that God has placed them where they are now, doing what they are doing now, to make disciples by his power
- Show them what you mean by living your life in the way the other 99% of your people can succeed in making disciples.
- Do all this by starting simply with small steps. And wait on God to reveal the next steps for everyone in your community.
Seth McBee is the adopted son of God, husband of one wife, and father of three. He’s a graduate of Seattle Pacific University with a finance degree. By trade Seth is an Investment Portfolio Manager, serving as president of McBee Advisors, Inc as well as a missional community leader, preaching elder with Soma Communities in Renton, Washington, and executive team member of the GCM Collective. In his down time, he likes to do CrossFit, cook BBQ, and host pancake ebelskiver breakfasts at his home. Twitter @sdmcbee
For more information on taking the gospel to the streets, check out Jonathan Dodson's Unbelievable Gospel.