This is the 3rd and final post series in the “Ministry Passions.” The first was Missions, second was Family Ministry, and finally this one on Leadership Development. These aren’t in any real particular order, so don’t read too much into it. I believe each are incredibly important and necessary, the order is totally arbitrary.
I love the idea of developing leaders, not because it’s the most glamorous thing but because it’s a multiplication thing. It’s much more work, more frustrating at times (for both people!), and tends to take a long time to see results. But the impact is tremendous. I was discipled by a guy named Scott Davis while I was in college and seminary. He poured his life into a lot of us who felt called to the ministry. I don’t want to know how many gray hairs I gave him through my immaturity and stupidity, but I’m eternally thankful for the intense reading and workload he gave us to do to prepare us for leadership. The multiplication factor comes in because his legacy is seen on a few continents and in most states in this country. Why? Because God used him to develop leaders, guys and girls who would go on from Louisville to other places to plug in, serve, invest, and disciple other guys and girls. His legacy is far greater than the College and Young Adult classroom on Bardstown Road in Louisville, it’s felt across the mission field, pulpits, student ministries, and workplace missionaries. Thank you Scott, for all you did and continue to do to raise up young men and women.
Here’s why I love leadership development and why I think it’s a great use of my time in the ministry.
1) A legacy much longer than my tenure or life will be. Ministry placements are always temporary, whether by relocation, calling, or death. Once I either move on or die, another guy will step in and take my place. He’ll do things different, he’ll talk different, he’ll have a different vision and emphasis. So what am I leaving behind? Policies and procedures? A groundwork? Probably, but even those are likely to go through a change. The best thing I can leave behind is a legacy in those who were under my shepherding during my time in any place. The legacy is more than that time with them, it goes through to where God places them throughout their lives. If I have the chance to pass on a legacy of leadership to a handful of students, when God calls them somewhere else they’ll go and they’ll be ready to plug in, serve, and lead well. That will far outlive my 80 or so years on this planet. And I’m OK with that. Guys who have invested in me have done so knowing that their legacy in my life will go far beyond the years I spent with them. I’m thankful for that.
2) Impact in the Kingdom. Jesus spent three years with the Disciples and then sent them out into the world. The principle behind that is that many times a leader’s job is to be an equipper. Paul and Timothy had a limited time in their relationship before Paul was martyred and Timothy stepped in to be a mature leader. Equipping others and then sending them out is one of the hardest things to do in a church, but the sorrow is joyful because you know you’re sending competent and qualified people out to other areas. I know many of my students will move away from Murray and go to other places, whether for college or after graduation and entry to the “real world.” My job is to equip them, prepare them well, and pour into their lives so that when they do go, they’re able to be of value to the Kingdom. And I’m OK with that. I’m OK with not having a huge church because we’re so busy sending people out, I’m OK with constantly having to identify leadership-caliber people (or people who desire it but aren’t ready yet) and pouring into their life, I’m OK with having to say goodbye to people I’ve come to love because I know they’re following the Master’s plan. I spoke recently with a pastor who had retired under some discouragement. My words to him were insufficient, but I focused on his lasting legacy that’s seen quite literally across the world.
3) Multiplication, not addition. We operate on addition so much, and there’s nothing wrong with addition and seeing the Kingdom grow. But it’s only part of God’s math. God’s math includes multiplication. Here’s how it works: Let’s say when my time at Westside comes and goes I’ve gotten to pour my life and really develop 10 people for leadership. That doesn’t sound like a lot but, what if those 10 pour their lives into 10 more each? And those 100 into 10 more each? And those 1000 into ten more each? Do you see where this is going? Instead of addition, you’re seeing hundreds raised to leadership and influence. What if a couple of those not specifically targeted for leadership development end up in positions of influence? Anyway, the point is that it can explode. I figure I’ll pastor in my life for about 50 years. During that time I’ll assume I’ll have between 15-20 people serving with me in various “associate” roles. One life can influence dozens of churches, dozens of pastors, which translates into hundreds discipled. In case you can’t tell, I get really excited about this. There’s a reason why my dissertation is on intergenerational discipleship for leadership development. I think the implications for the Kingdom are huge.
4) Both parties have much to learn. I’m young and stupid. I’ll let you take a few minutes to agree and point out my stupidity. OK, feel better? I have a ton to learn from older pastors, and I love having men in my life in the ministry I can go to with questions, seek wisdom, and ask for guidance. And I love having the opportunity to talk to them about how God’s shaped and wired me, how God’s worked in my life, and what desires for ministry He’s given me. Many of those conversations have been mutually edifying, where we’re able to discuss our shared calling and learn from one another. I love reverse mentoring, where the protege passes something on to the mentor. We never expire our need to learn and change and adapt. Leadership development is a continual and ongoing process that shapes and refines both the leader and protege as they seek the counsel of God.
5) It builds healthy leaders and in turn, healthy churches. Developing a lasting legacy in other people for leadership is going to have implications both where they currently are and where God will one day take them. I want to, with our student ministry, take the guys and girls who are called to ministry or to some form of spiritual leadership and invest in them and pour into them so that when they graduate they are able to step in and serve and lead. Many of them will go into other churches where they can help change culture to create an environment of health. If I can send out lots of healthy leaders who will then go into churches and bring about healthy change and produce healthy churches, then praise God for using me. This is where I love the impact of 9Marks, which is a group that has a huge passion for developing and mentoring leaders through the pastoral ministry of Mark Dever and Capitol Hill Baptist, because of their desire to see healthy churches.