Raising Next-Gen Leaders
Brothers and Sisters,
Did you see the recent announcement about Fellowship Atlantic’s hiring a new Regional Director? Praise the Lord with us, and pass the word along to others.
Our February Clusters are scheduled for Feb 14 in Halifax and 15 in Sackville. Here are discussion questions on chapter 5 of “Stronger Together.”
I contacted Brad Somers (PaxNorth Church in Halifax) a short time ago and asked if he would address this topic. I am so grateful he has…
Raising Next-Gen Leaders: What Has and Has Not Changed?
At our monthly meetings of regional Fellowship Churches, we have been reading and discussing the book Stronger Together by Dave Harvey. From last month's reading in chapter 4, “The Dynamics of Renewal,” Harvey leaves us with a concerning challenge: "If we are going to disciple the next generation of planters [and church leaders], we must be intentional about discipling the next generations of Christians before they're called to be a part of a plan" (p. 104).
As our median age of the pastors and leaders grows, do we have plans or pathways for next-gen Christian leaders in our churches or region? We need to — and it's not that overcomplicated — but it might look different than the methods we grew up under.
What Hasn't Changed
First, raising Christian leaders is still the Holy Spirit's work.
God uses us for the gospel work of turning the soil, sowing the seeds, and watering what has begun to grow in the hearts of young Christians. However, it is the Holy Spirit's mysterious work of springing to life the dead and giving each life spiritual gifts for service. The greatest gift is a holy love that has sprung from the realization that God has redeemed "even me!"
Second, raising Christian leaders is still the local church's mandate.
Just this past week, our church members worked through a frank discussion and voted for one of our young leaders to take on the role of an elder/pastor. In those moments, as the work of elders was described, as we shared the ten-month eldership assessment process and the results of the twice-a-month mentoring meetings, I realized an important truth. The truth is, it isn't first a process that raises a disciple/leader/elder/pastor. It takes a church.
What Has Changed
First, in a culture that celebrates self-importance, developing graces has become foreign.
It is true that as we see young disciples grow, we should encourage them to discover and exercise their spiritual gift(s) as they serve others. I often tell new believers the spiritual gift(s) they have is the great advantage of our church. We push back the dark, brokenness of this world's kingdom by living out the spiritual gifts of Christ's kingdom. We do this saturated with the counter-cultural love of God. The problem within our culture, which often has bled over to our church culture, is to make God's gifts about our importance. Doing this always results in a twisted emphasis on developing our gifting over the graces needed to shape character. God's gifts given to us are not a means of platforming our greatness but His glory.
Second, in a culture that celebrates self-narrative, being developed in an accountable community is transforming.
The self-narratives that our culture encourages — ones where we get to declare ourselves to be what we feel ourselves are — are often parroted in our leadership development processes. Go through the process, complete the task, take the class, read the books, follow the followed, and stand up front. “Congratulations, you're a leader!” In this self-narrative leadership development, we set our sheep to be infested with wolves. Leaders are shaped best in authentic, exposed, and love-filled churches. In this messy gospel-saturated environment, the working out and pressing in of the truth of who we are in Christ becomes a reality. It takes a church to raise a leader.
What Can We Do to Raise the Next Generation of Leaders?
First, develop a clear philosophy of discipleship within your church.
Answer the questions: What does it mean at my church for a person to become a fully devoted follower of Jesus who is making other fully devoted followers of Jesus? How does my Church disciple us to be the best reflection of Christ we can be to the community we have been called to reach?
Second do a gospel audit of your leadership culture.
Answer the questions: Does our leadership know and live the gospel? Is our leadership culture saturated with the gospel realities of confession, repentance, forgiveness, making much of others, gentleness in confronting, honest accountability and holy courage when it would be easier to be passive? How do the realities of the Gospel energize and correct the decisions of our leadership team? Do we celebrate/platform the gifts over the development of graces of the Spirit in our leaders?
Two Thoughts to Consider
First, God has placed people right in front of you to develop.
Answer the questions: If every believer is supposed to participate in the great commission, who has God placed in my life to be in an intentional discipleship or evangelistic relationship? Who has God placed on the radar of our leadership team to enter into deliberate leadership development with?
Second, no one ever drifted into being a mature leader.
Answer the questions: What simple tools (meeting to talk/pray, accountability questions, reading a short book, entering into a leadership cohort with others, or getting into a leadership pathway) that those I am discipling might benefit significantly from? Are there potential young leaders who might benefit in their discipleship by being invited into observing and then debriefing our leadership team or members meetings? How can I help my current leadership walk in healthy, gospel-saturated relationships with others under their care? Do my leaders know how to coach potential leaders to grow as they move from…
I do, to…
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You do with someone else?
We see more and more post-COVID statistics of pastors and Christian leaders stepping away from what they previously identified ministry calling. Many of them have moved away from Christian leadership and the Church entirely.
The assignment is still the same, "Go, and as you are going, make disciples." The leadership environment may have changed. But, Pastor and Christian leader, God's Spirit has gifted you for this task and time. His Holy Spirit and the application of the gospel into your leadership team are your great advantages for raising up leaders from the next generation who will push back the darkness of their present world. We need you, and we need them!
Thanks for reading,