How To Train Leaders For Christian Service

By Leroy Elms

And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will be qualified to teach others (2 Tim. 2:2).

As you continue to minister in a man s life in helping him become a leader of a disciple-making team, you will need to concentrate on some specific training objectives. They are not that much different from what you have been doing all along. They require no radical change of direction, for some of them are an extension of what you have done previously. They will not lead you down an altogether new path in a new direction with a new emphasis. They are the natural outgrowth and the next logical step in the training process.

Again, you should study these nine objectives and determine which ones your man needs. (And different men with whom you are working will need different ones.) Add to them or delete some; adapt as you feel is necessary. But remember that in one form or another these qualities should characterize a leader of a disciple-making team.

Developing Depth in His Life

The first objective is simply the continuation of something you began the day your man was converted to Christ. You continue to work on his spiritual depth, strength of character, and a fuller and richer knowledge of God. The key is understanding and knowing God. “Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord who exercises loving kindness, justice, and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things” (Jer. 9:23-24).

The apostle Paul also had this as the heart cry of his own life:

[For my determined purpose is] that I may know Him-that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding [the wonders of His Person] more strongly and more clearly. And that I may in that same way come to know the power outflowing from His resurrection [which it exerts over believers]; and that I
may so share His sufferings as to be continually transformed [in spirit into His likeness even] to His death (Phil. 3:10, Amplified).

If the man is to be used of God as a leader of a team of workers (“harvest workers”), his life must be lived in the secret place of intimate communion with Jesus Christ. His source of  guidance, wisdom, strength to endure, and spiritual power to achieve comes from God alone. Let there be no mistake about this. He may attend management seminars by the scores; he may go to every leadership institute available; he may read dozens of books by various experts in the fields of organization, executive behavior, and use of time. But unless he continues to seek the Lord, his whole life and ministry will turn to ashes.

King Uzziah is a frightening and enlightening illustration of this. And he continued to seek God in the days of Zechariah, who had understanding through the vision of God; and as long as he sought the Lord, God prospered him ‘ (2 Chron. 26:5). He started well. He did well in the wars against Israel’s enemies (2 Chron. 26:6-8), He became well known and it went to his head. “But when he became strong, his heart was so proud that he acted corruptly, and he was unfaithful to the Lord his God” (2 Chron. 26:16). To be a leader, a man must have developed in his daily walk with God.

Discovering His Vocation and Gifts

The second area where you must concentrate is helping your potential leader discover and develop his gifts and settle in his own mind his personal calling from God. His calling will determine which road he takes in his service for Christ. Most of the men you train will remain laymen and serve the Lord in that capacity.

This is a high and noble calling from God. Contrary to the popular notion that to serve God effectively you must be a fulltime Christian worker, when the roll call of the mighty men of God down through the ages is called, the ones who stand up to be counted are almost all laymen (see Heb. 11). The prophet Samuel is listed among them, but the rest of God’s heroes of the faith are men who served Him in the rough and tumble of everyday life.

His vocation. The unscriptural idea that a person must be a pastor, missionary, or “full-time Christian worker if he is truly sold out to Christ has done untold damage to the cause of Jesus. Many men who would have been powerful and influential witnesses for Christ as laymen have been squeezed into the unnatural mold (for them) of the clerical robe and are frustrated and hindered for the rest of their lives.

Some of your men will feel the call of God on their lives to enter the full-time ministry. They will need counsel as to whether they should go to a theological school and if so which one. Should the man go to seminary or to a Bible institute or college? Determine these things prayerfully with him.

When a man leaves your side to enter his studies, don’t abandon him. Pray for him. Visit him. Spend a generous amount of your time keeping him up to date on the progress of the disciple-making team and the results of the ministry in which he had participated.

The pattern generally is this: Most will continue as laymen; some will enter full-time service. Note how Paul said it. “It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up (Eph. 4:11-12). Let me reemphasize: those who are called to serve the Lord as laymen have every bit as high and noble calling as their brothers in the clergy. They are not second-class citizens.

His gifts. Your help and prayers are also needed to enable the potential leader to discover and develop his spiritual gift or gifts. Study and pray over the lists of gifts given in the Bible (see Rom. 12:6-8; 1 Cor. 12:4-11, 28-31; Eph. 4:11-12), and together try to help him to discover what his may be. He may have the gift of evangelism, the gift of teaching, the gift of administration, or one or more of the others. A  simple guide that has been helpful to many is to ask these questions: when he carries out the ministry of a particular gift, (1) does he enjoy it? (2) are others helped? and (3) is
the blessing of God evident? If the answer to all three questions is a resounding yes, it is probable that the, man has this particular spiritual gift.

A common mistake is to try to guide him in the direction of some service that will make you look good and call attention to your ministry. What you must do is think of the man, his gifts, his
abilities, his calling from God, and his ministry and effectiveness for Christ.

Building up His Strengths

You should spend the majority of your time building up his strengths, not correcting weaknesses, though weaknesses will need to be. corrected. The best way to do that is to get the help of another trainer.

Two of the greatest aids in my own ministry to men have been cross evaluation and cross training. I value having a colaborer in the discipling ministry come alongside from time to time and spend some hours with the men I am training. I have a couple of weaknesses that are fairly common to many of us. I either look at a man through rose-colored glasses or through a microscope.

If I see the trainee through rose-colored glasses, I can see only his strong points. I need the help of another trainer of men to see things I can’t. He can help me because he is not subjectively involved with the person I am training. Interestingly enough, my wife has been of great help to me in this area. Women can often see things we men can’t, and I have learned to respect Virginia s observations. These helps from objective people will help me build up his strengths.

If my problem is that of looking at a man through a microscope, I need the help of another to get my perspective clear and help me see the man’s good points and promising potential. The microscope has a way of magnifying flaws, and the evaluation of another can help clear the picture. We must remember that an expert builder carries on a positive ministry. To major on correcting errors is to get nowhere. We need to trust the grace of God to help us do this. Paul certainly did, and he wrote, “By the grace God has given me, I Laid a foundation as an expert builder, and others are building on it. But each line should be careful how he builds (1 Cor. 3:10).

Training Him in Leadership

Your potential leader must be trained to lead. He has served with you in the ministry and in so doing should now have a clear grasp of the vision of multiplication and should be proficient in his ministry skills. He has demonstrated a capacity and ability to commit the concepts of discipleship to faithful men who are able to repeat the process (see 2 Tim. 2;2). He should have further training in at least four areas.

Attitudes. The all-important and critical issue at this point is his attitude. He needs to be on guard against the swelling of his head, for that can be deadly. It is easy for him, even at this stage, to be filled with pride and so be tricked by the devil.

He also has to watch his attitude toward others. A new leader has the tendency to want to throw his weight around, to make sure others know who’s in charge, to shout and demand, and in general do those things that are so obnoxious in the sight of God (and men). The reason for this type of behavior is a natural insecurity in the job and an attempt to cover that insecurity by bluster and a flurry of activity. And, of course, there is the desire to get on with the task at hand.

Consultations. The leader must learn to consult with his team, to bring the members into the planning stages of the ministry and decision making. They will feel much more involved and look on their work as their ministry, which of course it is. But if the leader simply announces to the men what they are going to do without permitting them to be in on the thinking and discussions that led to that decision, he is being unwise. He may enlist their efforts, but he will lose their hearts. To bring team members into the discussion of plans and decisions will be a great advantage to the leader because of the involvement of many more good minds. They are then likely to arrive at much better plans as they contribute in concert together.

In the 1960s my wife and I were leading the Navigator ministry in the Midwest. We were living in Omaha and had developed a team of spiritually qualified workers. We would occasionally visit other states where discipleship ministries were under way. We had great fellowship on those trips and God used them in all our lives to teach us many lessons.

But then a problem developed. The car wore out and I began to look around for another one. I told the team I was looking for an automobile and asked them to pray for the right choice. Some of the members then suggested that we buy a nine-passenger station wagon. It would enable us to haul more people on the trips and our traveling Bible school would be enlarged.

I was against the idea. Station wagons rattled. You could not lock things securely out of sight because there was no trunk. They were heavier and burned more gas. They cost more, But we discussed it together. I saw their hearts were in it and began to see the wisdom of what they were saying. I finally told them I was wrong and they were right, and we would start looking for a station wagon.

We found one on which the team agreed, and the only thing left to do was raise the money. That didn’t take long because their hearts were in it. It had been their idea, so it was their station wagon as much as it was mine. And we soon had money.

Buying the station wagon really helped the ministry. We devised a way in which we packed our clothes in paper sacks, put them under the seats, hauled ten people comfortably, and really put the thing to work. We drove over 60,000 miles the first year. Those men and women look back on those days as highly productive in their spiritual growth. Through that and other incidents, I learned the value of bringing the team in on planning and decision making.

Practice. One of the best means of training a person in leadership is to let him put into practice, under limited supervision, that which he has been taught in previous training situations. This will help him gain confidence, It will also help him see for himself areas of strength and weakness. Then you can work out with him a simple plan that will build up his strengths and correct his weaknesses.

He will also be able to see himself in the role of a leader and how he relates to his peers and those whom he is leading. If he is given the opportunity to put it all to work, he will soon learn valuable lessons that he could learn no other  way. He will learn how…
* to manage himself.
* to manage his time.
* to manage the ministry.
* to evaluate his men.
* to manage his finances.
* to use his home in the ministry with proper respect and regard for his family.
* to relate productively with others in the Christian ministry.

Suggestions. To help him most effectively, here are some basic things you can do to develop a climate where he will thrive and grow as a leader. These come from my own experience, most of which I had to learn the hard way.

1. Let him know you believe in him, love him, and thank God for him.

2. Let him know that he is free to discuss with you whatever is on his mind.

3. Let him know that you are always available to him.

4. Let him know that he is important to the ministry.

5. Tell him about your own successes and failures.

6. Set a high standard of performance for him. Otherwise your approval will mean nothing to him.

7. Keep yourself informed about his ministry. It is devastating when men say of their leader, ” He doesn’t know what is going on around here.”

8. Keep some pressure on. Make sure he is involved in something that extends him a little beyond what he knows he can do. It is urgent that you really know your man. Too much too soon, and he can become frustrated and discouraged; too little too late, and he will be unchallenged and “rest on his oars.

9. If he needs help, counsel him. Let him know you are there to help; it is not “sink or swim.

10. If he lacks confidence, set up a situation and ask him, “What would you do?” He will learn he can make decisions and he will soon be able to assume more responsibility.

11. Review his progress. Be generous and sincere in your praise; be loving and gentle in your correction.

Much of leadership training is a matter of involvement with those with whom you are working. Training is taxing work, but it is necessary.

Taking Steps That Stretch His Faith

Help the potential leader take steps that stretch his faith. Give him projects that cause him to depend on the Lord. I remember the first time I was responsible for the book table at a weekend conference. It appeared to me to be an awesome responsibility. I prayed; I sought counsel from others who had done it; I tried to accumulate a list of books that were old standbys; I studied catalogs of current books authored by men who had ministered to us in the past. The upshot of it was that God undertook and the book table ministry that weekend turned out well. But it really stretched my faith.

Jesus did that with His men. On the Sea of Galilee, when a great storm arose and waves beat into the little ship so that it filled with water, the faith of the apostles failed and they cried out, “Master, Master, we re going to drown!” (Luke 8:24). After Jesus had calmed them and the storm, He asked them why they were afraid and, “Where is your faith?” (Luke 8:25). The classroom was a boat; the curriculum was a storm; the lesson was on faith. Through it all they were helped and strengthened.

One of the best ways to stretch a man beyond his present ability and capacity is to put him to work. Jesus did that. “Calling the Twelve to him, he sent them out two by two and gave them authority over evil spirits” (Mark 6:7).

The men had been following Jesus and learning. It was not time to increase their capacity for further training and their ability for service. When you are involved with your men, you will observe that from time to time they seem to hit a learning plateau. That is the time to thrust them into something that really stretches them.

A long training experience of a week-long Bible conference can give you the feeling of being spiritually stuffed, but an opportunity to give your testimony or become involved in someone’s life will soon bring back your hunger for the things of God. You can sharpen the spiritual appetites of your men by keeping them busy in the ministry of sharing their lives.

Refining His Ministry Skills

“The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught” (Mark 6:3). Wouldn’t it have been exciting to have been at that debriefing session, heard the reports of those men, and listened to what Jesus told them?

Your men need the same opportunities for sharing and evaluating. They need to talk over with you the principles involved in starting and maintaining a discipleship ministry. They need to discuss the planning process and how to organize a team of men for the ministry. They need to go over the principles of leadership and learn how to evaluate the progress of the ministry and the effectiveness of the team.

Take all the time necessary to make sure you listen to your man when he comes to you and that he feels he has had your ear. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and don’t be startled by some of the questions he might ask you. If he asks a question that might sound a bit elementary, don’t respond with the attitude, “You should know that. I taught you that six months ago!” Learning is a tedious process and sometimes lessons are missed or need to be gone over from another approach. Your job is to help the potential leader learn to do his ministry.

Learning Discernment

To learn to be a discerning person is critical for a young leader. When he begins his ministry on his own, there will be a multitude of demands on his time. Solomon said, “The naive believes
everything, but the prudent man considers his steps” (Prov. 14:15). The leader will have to learn to sort out the productive from the fruitless, the best from the good, the truly important from that which merely has an urgent sound. The thing that will actually multiply the number of disciples is often disguises in a cloak of seeming irrelevance. The trained eye can see through the mask. And by the way of contrast, someone will come along with a program that sounds terrific, but underneath it’s a waste of time.

He will need discernment to sort out all this and know when to say yes and when to say no. By means of prayer, godly counsel, the Word of God, and a clear vision of the job to be done, the Holy Spirit will lead him step by step down the path of productive service. To early the “well done of Jesus will take discernment to avoid the tyranny of the urgent in favor of a solid ministry. Moses, the man of God, prayed:

As for the days of our life, they contain seventy years, or if due strength, eighty years , yet their pride is but labor and sorrow; for soon it is gone and we fly away. . . . So teach us to number our days, that we may present to Thee a heart of wisdom. . . . And let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us; and do confirm for us the work of our hands; yes, confirm the work of our hands (Ps. 90:

Learning Communication Skills

The leader needs to learn to communicate truth simply and clearly. It is a common failing among men starting out in a speaking ministry to complicate things or to try to get across too much in too short time. The objective is to see truth assimilated into the life, not to fill his head full of facts.

The Scriptures tell us that Jesus spoke with power. “They were amazed at his teaching, because his message had authority” (Luke 4:32). Some seem to believe that to speak with power means to speak loudly and forcibly, to pound the podium, or to stamp your feet. The reason we know the word of Jesus was with power was that when He spoke things happened. That’s power-to see change for the better, to see new directions set, to see lives cleaned up, families reunited, old habits broken, to see commitments made that last, to see men and women gain a hunger for fellowship with Jesus Christ, and to see people beginning to dig into the Word of God and spend time on their knees in prayer.

Two Gospel statements give us insight into the reason for the power of the preaching of Jesus. “All spoke will of him and were amazed at the a gracious words that came from his lips” (Luke 4:22). He spoke with a graciousness that won the hearts of His hearers. He spoke the truth openly and at times it was sharp and cutting. But there was a graciousness about His speech that was a wonder to behold.

The second statement was recorded by Mark. “The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law (Mark 1:22). He spoke with authority. When a young leader speaks with the truth of the Word of God as his authority and speaks under the influence of the Holy Spirit, his message will have power.

Having a Good Doctrinal Foundation

If a man is to lead workers in a disciple-making ministry, he must have a good doctrinal foundation. Many good men get sidetracked by fuzzy or false doctrine. Some talk about the practical matters of Scripture on one hand and then the doctrinal issues on the other. This is not a good distinction. My experience in working with men has taught me that laying a good, solid, deep, doctrinal foundation in a man s life is one of the most practical as well as important things I can do. The devil is a subtle enemy, constantly on the alert to lead men astray. As you discuss the great truths of Scripture with the men you are training, you can discern what kind of grasp they have on those things and then go to work on what is lacking in them.

Here s a simple plan for a doctrinal study. Ask the person with whom you are working to type out on a card every passage he can find that related to the doctrine he is studying. Then ask him to lay these cards out on a table and meditate on them to see how certain passages relate to each other and what emphasis they bring to bear on the subject. After a week or so of meditation and relating these passages to one another, have him choose eight or ten of the. ones that seem to be key and memorize them. This gives him his own personal study on the subject directly from the Scriptures and because he has memorized the key passages, he will have a good grasp of them for the rest of his life.

The apostle Paul spoke of the urgency of maturity and knowledge of the Scriptures. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming” (Eph. 4:14).

* * *

With these nine qualities built into his life, your potential leader of a disciple-making team should be ready to launch forth on his own. But your work is not finished. Your prayers and counsel are still needed, but you have trained him in the major areas of life for an effective ministry. You have done what you could to fulfill the responsibility of an expert builder.