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Leaders, leaders everywhere

Leadership and Maranatha

Leadership development has been a hallmark of Maranatha for many years now. The number of men and women in our church who are involved in discipling relationships is staggering to me. As your pastoral team seeks to build on that legacy, we have looked to the Scripture to guide our approach to leadership development.

How did Paul do it?

Apart from Jesus himself, Paul was perhaps the quintessential disciple maker. Take a moment to list the names of the men and women who were on Paul’s ministry team. Go ahead, pause for a moment and take note of everyone you can think of who was directly discipled and deployed by the apostle Paul. Perhaps you thought of Titus, Silas, Timothy, Luke, Demas, and John Mark. But those names are just the tip of the iceberg. A cursory look at Paul’s letters demonstrate his personal commitment to discipleship and deployment. Discipleship – raising up leaders. Deployment – putting leaders to work.

Consider these other names: Epaphroditus (Phil 2:25), Euodia and Syntyche (Phil 4:2), Clement (Phil 4:3), Epaphras (not to be confused with Epaphroditus – Col 1:7), Tychicus (Col 4:7), Aristarchus (Col 4:10), Justus (Col 4:11), Archippus (Col 4:17), Crescens (2 Tim 4:10), Carpus (2 Tim 4:13), Priscilla and Aquila (2 Tim 4:19), Erastus (2 Tim 4:20), Trophimus (2 Tim 4:19), Eubulus (2 Tim 4:21), Pudens and Linus and Claudia (2 Tim 4:21), Artimas (Titus 3:12, Zenas (Titus 3:13), Apollos (Titus 3:13), Philemon and Apphia (Philemon 1), Phoebe (Rom 16:1), Epaenetus (Rom 16:5), Mary (Rom 16:6), Andronicus and Junia (Rom 16:7), Ampliatus (Rom 16:8), Urbanus (Rom 16:9), Stachys (Rom 16:9), Apelles (Rom 16:10), Aristobulus (Rom 16:10), Tryphaena and Tryphosa (Rom 16:11), Persis (Rom 16:12), Rufus and his mother (Rom 16:13), Asyncritus and Hermes and Patrobas and Hermas (not to be confused with Hermes – Rom 16:14), Philologus and Julia and Nereus and Olympas (Rom 16:15), Lucius (Rom 16:21), Jason (Rom 16:21), Sosipater (Rom 16:21), Tertius (Rom 16:22), Gauis (Rom 16:23), Quartas (Rom 16:23), Stephanas (1 Cor 16:15), Fortunatus (1 Cor 16:17), and Achaicus (1 Cor 16:17).

Did you get them all? If I counted correctly, there are 62 men and women who were directly serving on Paul’s ministry team. He describes them as coworkers, fellow laborers, fellow soldiers, fellow ministers, and fellow prisoners. How did a guy as busy as Paul (and imprisoned as much as Paul) invest in so many lives? Simply put, he committed himself to active discipleship.

Colossians 1:28-29 (ESV) - 28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.

This is how Paul summarizes his ministry – my mission is to make sure that everyone in the world knows the gospel and that everyone in the world is a fully-developed follower of Christ. That’s INSANE! But there is no wonder why Paul was so effective. In the following verse Paul points to the indwelling power of God that was making all this possible.

Colossians 1:29 (ESV) - 29 For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.

Biblical strategy coupled with divine power leads to miraculous results!

Discipleship and deployment is the key to ministry success

We recognize the intrinsic value of discipleship and deployment, but how does it occur? This year your leaders have been reading a book entitled The Trellis and the Vine. It has been a great resource for connecting Biblical truth to the practical outworking of discipleship within the church. The authors offer a list of eleven changes in the process of discipleship and deployment that may be necessary for churches: from running programs to building people; from running events to training people; from using people to growing people; from filling gaps to training new workers; from solving problems to helping people make progress; from clinging to ordained ministry to developing team leadership; from focusing on church polity to forging ministry partnerships; from relying on training institutions to establishing local training; from focusing on immediate pressures to aiming for long-term expansion; from engaging in management to engaging in ministry; from seeking church growth to desiring gospel growth. No book has all the answers, but this book has certainly challenged us to think differently about this subject. Below is an excerpt from the book that describes one of the ways in which discipleship and deployment come together.

Discipleship that moves from filling gaps to training new workers

“One of the immediate pressures upon ministers is to fill gaps left by leaders who leave our programs. But if we just focus on gap filling, we’ll never move out of maintenance mode: we’re just keeping existing ministries afloat instead of branching out into new ones.

We should start with the people that God has given us, not our programs. We need to consider each person as a gift from Christ to our congregation and equip them for ministry accordingly. So instead of thinking, “Who can fill this gap in our personnel?”, perhaps the question we need to consider is “What ministry could this member exercise?”

We could recount many examples from our own experience of where this has and hasn’t happened. Take Sarah, for example, an elite sportswoman converted as an adult through sports ministry. Sarah was well followed-up and established in her faith, and her church provided a strong and edifying environment. What’s more, Sarah had a passion for Christ and for evangelism, and had a large network of non-Christian friends, teammates and acquaintances with whom to share the gospel. However, instead of training and encouraging Sarah to pursue this evangelistic ministry, the church strongly urged her to become a member of the church management committee, because there was a gap and a need, and Sarah was enthusiastic and willing to help. The church was gap-filling, not building ministry around the gifts and opportunities of people.”[1]

We want to be the kind of church that is discipling and deploying people according to their skills, giftings, and passions - not just filling holes in our programs. This, of course, is just one of the many ways discipleship and deployment needs to happen within the church. The book has been a catalyst for great discussion among your leaders. As a result, we will be using this book as a resource in our Leadership Training Track. We would also encourage any of you that may be interested to read the book on your own as well. It will help you gain a better understanding of how we are seeking to be faithful as a church to make disciples of all nations. All of us are called to discipleship! It is our Christian mandate!

May the Lord empower us for IMMENSE disciple-making endeavors!

[1] Collin Marshall and Tony Payne, The Trellis and the Vine, (Matthias Media: Kingsford Australia, 2009) p. 20.

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