The role of the church leaders, particularly the pastor, is vital in the growth and success of the church. There are pastors who have strong pulpit ability but very poor in administration, or vice versa. Some have an exceptional relational ability but inadequate in leadership performance, or the other way around. What is required of church leaders in the 21st century church? George and Logan, both experts in church leadership and management, suggest this quality of a pastor:
The ideal role for a church-growth pastor is now being described as an “equipper,” rather than an “enabler.” This implies pastoral initiative in setting goals, obtaining goal ownership from the people, and mobilizing the laity for effective ministry aimed at accomplishing the goals.1
There has been a high standard set up for leadership requirements to meet the demands of the modern churches today. For budding leaders, do not despair because this chapter also addresses the issues on developing leadership. One thing for sure, promising leaders can be trained and developed to achieve their maximum potential. But first, let’s discuss about the shortage of leaders.
The need for leaders
The Kingdom of God needs labourers. The church needs ministers. Luke 10:2 tells us that the harvest is plentiful but there are only few available labourers. I think it is every pastor’s delight to hear offers from members that they want to serve in the church whatever is appropriate and available for them.
In the current church that I am involved in, I am one of the rostered preachers for almost five years now. Early this year, I talked to the senior pastor and volunteered to be part of the pastoral team. After a 10-year hiatus in serving as a pastor in other churches, I felt that the Lord is now giving me a nudge to be in the frontline once again.
After six months of deliberation, the senior pastor came to a decision to decline my offer. Who would not be shocked and hurt? We have known each other for more than 20 years now, and I am still not good enough for him. From then on, Luke 10:2 is stuck in my thoughts like a band aid. The words of Conner support my conviction: “The church needs more ministers, not just more members. Don't be an onlooker. Get involved in ministry.”2 And so, he emphasizes:
The harvest is huge. The need is great. What we need are more willing workers to get involved in the work of the ministry. Jesus told us to pray for more laborers--more people who will take up the challenge of working for the expansion of the kingdom (Matthew 9:36-38).3
Church leaders are the pillars of the church. Next to Jesus, the Great Shepherd, these leaders are simply called the undershepherds. They are Jesus’ representatives and workers who look after the sheep. Ministries in the church will never run out, it is the supply of ministers that runs out. Conner is right to believe that seminary degree is not a requirement to serve in the church, but availability is the key.4 Furthermore, he stresses that the 21st century churches require a higher standard of leadership than in any other generations.5
Are church leaders made or born? If they are made, what are the ways to develop potential leaders?
How to find and develop potential leaders
Early church leaders like the Apostles and the gospel writers were made and developed. Jesus called them to resign from their personal careers, to abandon their personal ambitions behind, and leave their families to become His full time leaders. In the span of three years, these potential disciples were developed to become pillars of the early church. To wit: Peter, Andrew, James and John Zebedee were fishermen; Paul was a tent-maker; Matthew was a tax collector; Luke was a medical doctor; and the rest of the apostles were ordinary people.
The common thread that Jesus saw in them was their willingness to forsake everything. Without qualm, they followed the Him. When they heard Jesus’ invitation “Come, follow me” they responded to the call without hesitation. Mark 1:18 says immediately they left their nets and followed Him. In plain and simple language, the disciples of Jesus were risk takers. Cordeiro believes that this is the key of the Early Church’s success, “they [disciples] risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”6 He further explains:
If you're afraid of messes, if you're afraid of failing, if you're afraid of risking, then you'll never get anywhere. We risk our lives each time we fly in an airplane. We take a risk when we invest in a stock. We take a risk when we get married. … I think it's high time we take a risk for God! He's so much more worthy (and secure) than any earthly investment.7
Look for a potential leader who has a gift
The best way to spot a potential leader is by observing their gifts; that is, finding where their heart is when they do something. When I was a few months old in the Lord, my late pastor asked me to handle a small Bible Study group of young professionals. Needless to say, I was nervous but excited to do it, being my first time. I put my best effort forward, tried not to disappoint him who took a risk in asking me to handle it. I knew he was observing me behind my back while I ventured into the new-found ministry. I would never forget his comment when he butted in at the middle of my adventure, “You are a good teacher!” From then on, I became a regular Sunday School teacher for the Young Professional, seminar speaker and coordinator for the Life in the Spirit Seminar, and later became the Christian Education Director of our church.
Thirty years later, teaching and preaching are still my first love. Last May 2011, I launched the Preaching Insight website to help ministers around the world how to handle the Word of God more effectively. The web contains sermon outlines, sermon tips, sermon devotionals, discipleship lessons, sermon nuggets, ministry life articles, lessons on how to preach, among others.
What Cordeiro says is so true, “You can develop your gifts only by using them. Sure, using them may involve risk--the risk of making a mistake, the risk of faltering or stammering if you speak, even the risk of failure. Don't associate risk with the fear of failure, associate it with pleasing God.”8
Look for a potential leader who has faith and heart
In grooming leaders, look for someone who has faith and heart to do the task. Cordeiro’s keen eyes for potential leaders pay off: “See the faith and the heart behind their attempt. While the execution of their dreams may require further development, the potential inside each of them is a precious commodity to God. Sure, they will need some recalibrating and adjustments--but when you begin to see people through the eyes of Jesus, watch what happens!”9
I was raised in a Charismatic church back in April 1980. Two weeks after, I started a home fellowship without any proper training at all. I tell you, it was like “hit and miss”. In June 1980, I went to Foursquare Bible College to get the proper nourishment and training to serve the Lord more effectively and appropriately. In my church, I did not get the correct dosage of discipleship from my pastor. I discovered everything from my own experience. I have no resentment in going to the Bible College; I treasured every moment that I was there. But it only provided me head knowledge, not the actual life experience. Church leaders of the previous century had no time for personal discipleship. They were busy learning too and mentoring themselves.
The 21st century has a lot to offer. The emphasis nowadays is to train future leaders by the present leaders. Ministry life experience is irreplaceable! I, myself, love imparting knowledge and experience. (And this is one of the goals of Preaching Insight website.)
1 Carl F. George and Robert E. Logan. Leading and Managing Your Church, (Grand Rapids, MI: Revell. 1987), p. 7.