(the continuing story of partnership and your deacon team)
What does a leader look like? What qualities does he possess?
Is it his magnetic personality or commanding presence?
Is it his way with words, or his visionary thinking?
The Bible makes it clear that good leaders are impossible to disguise. In our passage a few weeks ago, we were reminded of this truth from 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 which says, “We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work.” That word “respect” is the word “to know,” or “to understand.” It carries the idea that leadership is recognizable, active, and distinctive. Leaders will lead whether or not they have a title. They sense the gifting of the Holy Spirit, the call of God on their life, and the inner passion to love the people that God has put in their path, regardless of position or title.
True life example
This truth resounded a few weeks ago when an acquaintance of mine showed up at our church. I met him on the airplane on my way back from Costa Rica. Although he is an agnostic, his fascination with discipleship principles guided our 4-hour conversation from Dallas to Columbus. I haven’t heard from him since April, but out of the blue, he wrote me an email asking if he could visit one Sunday. Currently he is a student at Ohio State, and was challenged in one of his classes to re-evaluate some of the assumptions he made earlier in his life. That prompted him to reconsider religion and the assumptions he made about Christianity when he was in elementary school. Then he remembered our friendly interaction several months ago and wondered if he might explore a new experience of spirituality.
That Sunday was the beginning of our deacon nomination process and once the service was over, he was interested in hearing what a deacon was. When I explained it to him, he began to think about the interactions he had throughout the morning. Would you believe that he identified five different men who were deacons – simply through his conversations with them?
Those men stood out to him throughout the morning - but why? It was not because they wore name tags or dressed “to impress,” but because these men took initiative to extend care, to bridge the gap of relationship, to ask insightful questions, and to point him to Jesus! That’s what leaders do. According to Paul’s instruction in 1 Thessalonians, good leaders build deep relationships with God’s people - in Paul’s words – “they are among you.” But good leaders also “admonish” the people. That means that because of their abiding relationship with God and a sincere love for His people, they are actively encouraging people in the things of Christ. We also find that they “labor among the people.” They take initiative. They look for opportunities to serve the Lord Jesus. Their life is marked by dedication, involvement, and consistency.
When my friend heard that description – even though he has not set foot inside a church since he was 12 - he was able to make the connection and identify the specific men who carried out that mission that morning. I think that is truly remarkable!
We recognize the work of God in your life
Many of you have been actively serving at Maranatha for several years. We see your spiritual gifts. We thank God for your unique contribution. And we desire to strengthen you for greater ministry in our midst.
We believe that God has “arranged the members of the church, each one of them, just the way He wanted them to be” (1 Cor 12:18). That means that God has a purpose for you in our church – and we (your pastors and deacons) have a responsibility to equip you for greater ministry.
So how are we trying to accomplish that goal? There are three ways we are striving to develop new leaders at Maranatha.
First, the addition of new deacons
Our current deacon team has 10 members, and we’d like to expand that group to 12. Each man has become especially dear to me through our monthly deacon meetings, regular leadership conversations, and united partnership in ministry. Maranatha has some of the best men I have ever known! We are truly blessed as a body.
Your deacons pray for you, care for you, take an interest in your day-to-day struggles, counsel you, disciple you, answer your questions, teach you, and build relationship with you through our small group ministry. But your deacons also manage huge responsibility behind the scenes. They oversee property, support various ministries, manage your giving, lock the doors, attend meetings, teach Sunday school, visit the hospital, help with Maranatha movers, support numerous committees, and serve in many other miscellaneous ministries throughout our church.
With all the responsibilities they manage, we would like to expand our team to 12. That will open the door for two other men to serve as deacon on our deacon team – thus utilizing more of you who demonstrate special fitness for leadership.
Second, the creation of a new position called deacon-elect
As we look to the future, we believe we have the responsibility of raising up younger men who will be able to lead in our place. These men are fully qualified to serve as deacon but given their “walk-of-life,” we want to be sensitive to alleviate some of the responsibility that rests on our deacon team.
We would like to take a subset of the men you nominated – men you believe are fully qualified to serve as deacon – and invite 3 to 4 of them to be part of our deacon team for one year. In accordance with our constitution, these deacon-elect men will be non-voting members of the deacon board but will have the opportunity to be “hands-on” with every aspect of the deacon ministry. Through this year of training we hope to expose them to the inner-workings of leadership at Maranatha, give them opportunities to oversee certain ministries, be discipled by other leaders in our church, and strategically equip them to be the leaders of the future.
Third, the formation of a leadership training track
There are many other men who serve in various ways throughout our body. We’d like to come alongside them as well, understand their passions, identify their gifts, and deploy them into leadership at our church.
As a means of accomplishing that objective we’re developing a strategy that would consist of several elements. Pastor Andrew would like to meet with these men once a month to walk through the book Trellis and the Vine chapter by chapter. This book on leadership and discipleship clearly articulates our vision for ministry at Maranatha. Additionally, Pastor David would like to engage these men and their wives in our new small group leaders training program, as well as encourage them in other areas of leadership ministry. Finally, we would also like to pair these men up with other leaders in our church who can disciple them in their walk with God.
We believe that this partnership strategy is one more step towards leadership development at Maranatha, and that we will be able to position ourselves for increased ministry for years to come.