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Why Do Leaders Develop Leaders (or Don't)

This probably seems like a duh question to you. You may answer it by saying, “Because Jesus said so. Because Jesus did so. Jesus discovered, developed and deployed His disciples in Luke 10, during His earthly ministry. If Jesus asked for help by developing His disciples, how much more so should sinful leaders today??”

That is an excellent response. Well done. Yet why doesn’t it happen more consistently within the local church? Why aren’t pastors and commissioned ministers and lay leaders beating down the doors of our institutions to adapt more ways to effectively and economically develop leaders to spread the Gospel? Why does the ULC even need to focus on Leadership Development (LD)? Why do we even need to gather churches to discuss the culture, systems and structures to help churches develop leaders?

These are all excellent questions. I believe the root of this struggle can be answered in two simple ways based on the two primary negative emotions due to sin - pride and fear.

Why don’t we develop leaders naturally?

1. Individualistic Pride

We think we can do ministry on our own. We don’t need help. We’re “arrived” at our area of influence by taking classes and being recognized by the wider church. We are the “theological expert” who is trained and uniquely gifted to fulfill our call for the local church. We don’t need anyone else.

Individualistic pride is a product of the Genesis 3 fall (all of sin ultimately is). When we rebelled against God’s will we doubted God’s Word. Namely in this context, God said, “It is not good that man should be alone. I will make a helper fit for him.” (Genesis 2:18) When mankind sinned, pride entered our world. We didn’t need God, and we didn’t need God’s image bearer, our helpers. We can make it on our own. We can be like God.

Sin seeps through every crevice of existence, and is intimately connected to why we don’t, by nature, develop other leaders. We don’t need them. I am enough on my own. It’s ridiculous to write, and I don’t think we often say it out loud, but many leaders don’t need to say it. They live it.

2. Fearful Insecurity

Another objection I’ve heard to LD sounds like this. “What will I do if I train others to do what I do? Could they take my job? What if they do it better than me?” Again, I don’t think many leaders express this out loud. They live it through their reluctance to develop leaders.

Humans by nature are fearful of change. We’ve developed our “way,” through our institutions, of delegating leadership development. It is no wonder that many leaders don’t talk about LD - it is not a cultural expectation. We’ve “outsourced” LD to our universities and seminaries. I am a product of this “outsourcing.” I am grateful for what I learned. It is not bad. It simply misses a significant step - an intimate connection to ongoing development within a local congregation.

Imagine if more of our leaders stayed connected to the local congregation through their formation, and could be recognized by the wider church (district or synod). Imagine if pastors stayed “under the authority” of an experienced pastor for longer after ordination. This would ensure that development was embedded in the heart of the pastor or leader. Why? Because they’ve experienced ongoing development from the immediate moment they entered the parish.

This seems simple, yet it is simply often overlooked.

Why? I think the reason is found in individualistic pride and fearful insecurity. The reason is sin.

Will enough leaders repent, receive forgiveness, and enter into the freedom under the Gospel of developing other leaders? Jesus will meet you and lead you. The only other choice is to pride and fear. Jesus came to eradicate both through the cross and empty tomb. His work is why we worship Him. His way is how we multiply His work. Join Him - humbly and fearlessly.

I love football. I was coaching a young 8th grader recently and noticed he had Philippians 4:13 on his cleat. I asked him what the verse said. He recited it proudly, “I can do all things through Him who gives me the strength.” I asked him if he knew the verse that came after it. He didn’t. Few do. “Yet it was kind of you to share in my trouble,” I said. The young man smiled and said, “That is cool, coach. I can do stuff, but I need help when the trouble comes.” Exactly.

Trouble and trial will come. Choose humility and love, rather than pride and fear, in preparation for those days…and teach others to do the same.

The Unite Leadership Collective is here for you.

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