by Jim Walsh
A leader is a person who influences people to accomplish a specific purpose. A leader is a motivator who mobilizes his people to accomplish goals and objectives.
A leader is a person who influences people to accomplish a specific purpose. A leader is a motivator who mobilizes his people to accomplish goals and objectives. Identifying these kinds of people and equipping them in a strategic training process is the most important aspect of our church-planting ministry. We should begin this process almost from day one; we cannot leave this task to be done by someone else later on.
Therefore, the church planter should not rely on Bible institutes and seminaries to supply the future leaders of the church being planted, but expect new leaders to come from within the congregation being gathered.
Developing elders from within the church-planting project does not, or course, preclude getting leadership help from wherever this help can be obtained, including seminaries and Bible schools.
I am not arguing for a particular length of time for the church-planting process, but that the leadership training should begin in the very early stages of church planting to shorten the time. It might be argued that delay is necessary because the church planter does not have available men with leadership qualities. Situations vary; nevertheless, the church planter should begin with whatever building materials he has in hand rather than wait for the right men to come along.
From the pages of the Reader’s Digest comes what I believe is an excellent church-planting principle for training leaders. That principle is, "play with the cards you are dealt."
The church planter begins by evangelizing and then congregating a body of people. He continues by imparting to them the understanding of becoming a church and teaching them their responsibilities as a church, including their body of belief and the way they will govern themselves.
At the same time he should be training a selected number of men to be leaders of this new church. If this is the most important part of the total project, it should be given 50 percent of the church planter’s total time and effort. Fortunately, the church planter can do both things at the same time by using the trainees in church planting tasks by way of on-the-job training.
The church planter should take a leadership trainee with him on evangelism outings, instructing how to do it beforehand, demonstrating how it is done in real situations, and evaluating afterwards with the trainee what happened and why. I would hate to see someone raised to church leadership who does not have a proven track record of evangelism. This process not only trains the potential new leader to be an effective evangelist, it also trains him to be a trainer of future evangelists, which is even more important.
The principle of transference is hard to escape. If the church planter is not involved in evangelism, the leaders he is training, or failing to train, will not be involved in evangelism. If these leaders are not involved in evangelism, the church itself will not be bothered about working hard at evangelism and as a result that church will remain small and ineffective.
All other parts of church leadership can also be taught in this same way. Trainees can be given opportunities to help teach the fledgling church. The trainee and the church planter can study passages of Scripture together to discover the author’s original intent, the salient points, the various applications, and a homiletical proposition and outline.
The church planter should interact with each trainee at all stages of the trainee’s efforts to prepare his first sermons, including an evaluation after the delivery. Everybody has to begin somewhere and beginnings are seldom perfect. A developing church body will endure some practice sermons happily if they understand that this is a necessary process for the mission "scaffolding" to be taken down. When the church planter takes his turn in a rotation system of sermon deliveries, he both sets an example and helps to raise the overall quality of the messages.
Eventually, the trainees will have developed to a level of ability and self-confidence where they and the church planter feel that they can be presented to the congregation as elders. At the inception of the training process, all trainees should be told that the leadership training will not automatically lead to eldership.
Now, having instructed the total fellowship how to evaluate each trainee’s qualifications from a biblical standpoint, a prayerful appointment of leaders should be made. Sometimes a provisional appointment time creates less pressure on the men being selected as elders and gives the congregation another opportunity to review their qualifications and reconfirm their appointment when everybody has grown in maturity.
Up until this time, the new Christians have been congregated only as a fellowship of believers with the main purpose of growing in Christ and learning to live together in unity and mutual encouragement. With the leaders now ready to be presented to the congregation for appointment, the new believers can be asked to make a commitment to one another by becoming members of a duly constituted church. From now on, they will no longer be just a Bible study fellowship.
This is also an appropriate time to present to the congregation a model constitution, which has been explained and accepted by the leaders in advance. A constitution defines the commitment of membership that the new fellowship is being asked to make and deals with potential future problems before they develop.
The question of leadership is just as important as the definitions of the constitution for those making this membership commitment. Before the day of formal membership commitment takes place, two things should have been happening. The leadership trainees should have been given opportunity gradually to increase their teaching, decision making, etc., and the church planter should have gradually withdrawn from the front ranks of leadership within the fellowship. In this way, those making a commitment of membership are doing so in a healthy dependence on the national leaders rather than upon the missionary church planter, which at this stage would be most unhealthy.
So, in effect, the people becoming members are in one breath making a commitment to be members of a church defined by this newly presented constitution and led by these newly presented provisional leaders. The most important aspect of this whole process is the training of these leaders.
No church planter should rest easy or be content without having done all he could do to equip and train these leaders. But having equipped them by instruction and on-the-job training, he can bid them good-bye with equally as much confidence as Paul bade the Ephesian elders good-bye. He knew that savage wolves would attack the flock, but the men being left in charge were capable with God’s help of "guarding the flock" (Acts 20:25-32).
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