He Chose Twelve
by F. Joe Ellis
The Importance of Leadership Development
For the past eight months, Leadership Strategies has focused on Prayer and Evangelism. Over the next few months, we will turn our attention toward Leadership Development. It is our firm conviction that these are the three most important elements to effective apostolic ministry at any level.
1. Prayer connects us to God. HE alone is our power source and the enabler for everything we do. Without HIM we can do nothing!
2. Evangelism connects people to Jesus- all people- excluding no one. Evangelism is not simply a ministry of the church, it is primary reason the church exists!
3. Leadership Development provides the necessary skills to the body of Christ that enables it to fulfill its local and global purpose. This is only possible however when every member (not just the five-fold ministry) clearly identifies their God-given gifts and aggressively uses them.
The Jesus Pattern
Leaders are not born, they are developed. None of the apostles of the first century church became leaders by accident. Jesus himself invested three and one half years of daily fervent training into them. That was the pattern and example HE gave to us. To do anything less for the people that God has trusted to our leadership is to greatly hinder the potential that resides in them, ultimately affecting the entire church.
Any serious student of the earthly ministry of Jesus cannot overlook the importance HE placed on Leadership Development. HE was not only the Master Teacher; HE was also the Master Mentor. Consider this: Before the church was ever born on the day of Pentecost, Jesus had twelve apostles and seventy elders developed, tested, and ready for service. That means that at least eighty two of the one hundred and twenty people present in the upper room were actually trained as leaders before the church came into existence. Wow! No wonder God could give them a three thousand soul harvest on the very first day. As leaders, they provided the foundation that was necessary to support the rapid growth the first church experienced. No wonder Paul wrote to Timothy and said,
“the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.” (2 Tim 2:2 KJV)
Make no mistake about it- they effectively evangelized their entire world!
Stripping off the Weights
Sin is not the only enemy that apposes the will of God. The apostle Paul warned the church of weights that would greatly limit its effectiveness. As mentioned in an earlier writing, it is my firm conviction that none is more disabling than an overbooked schedule that keeps the church from doing what is most important. The wisdom of the apostle said it this way:
“Let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily hinders our progress…” (Heb 12:1 NLT)
We must not ignore Paul’s warning. The church must carefully guard itself from the plethora of non-essential activities that, in and of themselves, may be worthy causes. In actuality however, they greatly impede the church’s forward progress by using up precious time, energy and finances.
Below are the four most common excuses I have encountered over the years for why many churches are not consistent in developing leaders:
*Excuse – No Time for It. The church has too many other important matters on the schedule.
**The Truth? The church calendar is too filled with barren religious busy-ness to have the time that is needed to train and develop leaders.
* Excuse – No Need for It. The church already has all the leaders it needs.
** The Truth? There is no true vision for the future or understanding of the need for ongoing leadership development. You do not train leaders just for today’s needs; you train leaders for the needs of the future.
* Excuse – No One is Qualified. The church is too small and has no one that is qualified to be a leader.
** The Truth? They want people to be near perfect (which is not possible) before they are willing to use them. It is the development process that helps develop people to spiritual maturity. Show me anyone who learnt to walk before their parents allowed them to try?
* Excuse – No One has Leadership Potential. We do not have any leadership caliber people right now so why waist money or time trying to develop them into something they will never be?
** The Truth? How sad! Everyone has potential beyond the obvious. They lack the spiritual discernment to recognize the true potential in people.
Let me strongly encourage every reader of this article, regardless of your level of spiritual maturity, to pause for a moment right now and make a personal commitment to invest in leadership development, both for yourself as well as for others.
We must not be ignorant of the scriptures. The most valuable commodity the church has is the precious people that are in it. That is why one of the first things Jesus did in His earthly ministry was gather a team of leaders that HE could train. HE willingly committed himself not only to their development but also to their future even though HE knew they were not perfect. Nevertheless, HE trusted them, believed in them and greatly used them in spite of their weaknesses- and such were some of us! No church will ever impact a community to its potential that ignores the importance of leadership development.
The Living Word Made Visible
When Jesus came to earth, HE was the Living Word of God made flesh. Words, however, were not HIS only means of teaching. HE also taught by the visible example that HE lived. The apostles practiced this as well. Paul did not hesitate to instruct the Corinthian church: Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ. (1 Cor. 11:1 KJV) Like Jesus, today’s leadership should provide a living, visible, example of what Christianity ought to be according to the Word of God.
Leadership Development and You
It has often been said, as well as written, over the past several years that everything rises, and falls on leadership. That statement continues to validate itself in every aspect of life. It is true in government, in business, in sports and in family life; it is also true in the church. A local church and its overall effectiveness in ministry will only rise as high as those who lead it. For that reason alone, leadership development and its importance should always be a main priority of the local church life and schedule.
Never in its two thousand year history has the church been as blessed with so many excellent resources (the bible still being the best ever written) on the subject of leadership. Because of this I will pause here to ask two very serious questions.
1. In the past year–six months–ninety days–thirty days– what has been done in a collective effort to raise the skill level of leadership in your local church?
2. What have you personally done in those same time periods to raise your individual skill level as a leader or potential leader?
A Leader’s Commitment to Excellence
The standard of holiness, by which God called his church to live by, must first be made visible by its leadership. Every leadership team of every local church should be personally, as well as collectively, committed to excellence in everything. Because discipleship always precedes and qualifies the leader, the following are only some of the obvious disciplines that leaders should visibly and consistently example in the church:
* Daily Prayer and Bible Reading – We need HIM every day.
* Church Attendance – A leader must be visible to effectively lead people.
* Commitment – It is possible to be involved and NOT be committed.
* Personal Evangelism – The very purpose of the church is the salvation of souls.
* Joy – It is our strength and the attitude of the kingdom.
* Faith – Without it, it is impossible to please God.
* Worship – God is seeking for passionate true worshipers.
* Integrity – It feeds those we are called to lead. (Ps. 78:72)
* Faithfulness – God is our example of faithfulness.
* Holiness – God is Holy. Because of this, we are commanded to be Holy.
* Giving – God loves a cheerful giver. God so loved that HE Gave!
* Sacrifice – It is the only way to truly praise and worship HIM.
To the leader who dares to stand before people and says follow me; the above are not mere high water marks. They are the minimal standard and rule for daily living. Remember, the one we say we represent said follow me- then GAVE HIS ALL!
How we are to live, act, treat one another, handle hardships and even dress, is clearly established in the word of God and should be willfully and cheerfully exampled by the leader in a visible way. God’s mandate under the old covenant is still the same as in the new: Be Ye Holy, For I Am Holy. (1st Peter 1:16) Christian Leadership is called to be a model, and an example of a Christ centered, bible based, holy lifestyle.
“And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? For ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty. Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” (2 Cor 6:16-7:1)
Christian Leadership is more than a position or title. It is more than a set of rules. Leadership is a calling to divine influence and effective change. Tremendous responsibility rests upon the shoulders of the Christian Leader because of their effect upon the eternal consequences of those who follow their example. Hell is hot, and eternity is long. The church can not afford to carelessly make mistakes with the souls of men and women. This is why excellence must be our goal in everything. There is no discipline listed in this writing that does not have its foundation in scriptural principle. Actually, there is nothing listed, that should not be practiced by all who call themselves Christians. Next month: “Leading Through Teams Because Jesus is our God.” Excellence is our Goal!
“He Chose Twelve.” By F. Joe Ellis
This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”