Courtesy RickThomas.Net

Proactive Plan For Leadership Development In the Church

One of the most challenging situations in my counseling ministry is trying to place counselees in a “sanctification context” in their local churches where ongoing care can take place.

Counseling is a temporary solution for a long-term problem. The long-term problem is the problem sin, and the ongoing answer is progressive sanctification.

Our temptations to sin will never subside until we see Jesus, which is why we need an intentional plan for sanctification that is long-lasting, practical, and in multiple contexts with a local church.

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Fortunately, Paul lays out a conceptual plan for how pastors can equip their people so they can help the church to mature to the fullness that we find in Jesus Christ:

And he gave … the pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. — Ephesians 4:11–14

Here is a “conceptual video” of how the leadership of the church can identify and isolate potential leaders while providing contexts for them to mature in their leadership gifting.

Modeling Your Teaching

Step one is for the church leadership to model the things they want their people to pursue. Pastors are similar to parents that way. Parents want their kids to become God-centered, gospel-motivated adults.

They primarily train their children through modeling and teaching with the hope that their kids will emulate what they are observing and learning.

The goal is for the children to know exactly how to live in God’s world as adults, which comes by imitating the parental authority figures in their lives. Notice what Paul said about the modeling aspect of his teaching in Philippians, Ephesians, and 1 Corinthians:

  • What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me — practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. — Philippians 4:9
  • Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. — Ephesians 5:1
  • Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. — I Corinthians 11:1

It would be a tragic misstep to attempt teaching those under your care without modeling your instruction. One of the questions I ask pastors is, “What do you want your congregation to be?”

Whatever that is, you must model it before them. If you do not model what you are teaching, your teaching will suffer and it will be harder for your disciples (church) to mature.

Contexts For Change

The “formula” is (1) modeling, (2) teaching, and then (3) creating contexts where their people can change and grow. These settings start with the family. Families are the heartbeat of the church; if the families are not humbling pursuing God, as evidenced by practical change, the church will never mature.

Other contexts for change can be your close friends, hospitality, ministries of the church, small group, and Bible studies. I’m sure you can think of more.

An essential key to an understanding regarding these “contexts” is that you cannot view them as the means in which sanctification takes place. Having the “right” programs do not bring change, but provide the opportunities for the transformation of the people.

A context is no greater than the depth in which the people who participate in the program are equipped and envisioned to do the work of sanctification within the program.

Nearly every week I am told by a struggling counselee how their small group, for example, does not have a “sanctification bite” in it. They talk about their frustration with the superficiality of their group meetings and desire for someone to help them apply God’s Word in real and practical ways to their lives because it’s not happening in the contexts that the church provides.

Equipping Leaders Within Contexts

Though people may learn some things while in the programs and contexts provided by the church, the issue for many Christians is not a lack of knowledge but an inability in applying the information they have.

It is rare that I tell any of those within my care more about the Bible than they already know. The number one breakdown for them is that they do not know how to take the Words of God that they already know and apply them practically to their lives.

They need someone to come alongside them to speak into their lives in personal, customizable, practical, and biblical ways.

The people who work within these programs or contexts must understand that the primary purpose of the settings is not just to get together to provide a function but to use the gatherings as an opportunity to bring change into the individual lives of the people who are participating in the group.

The pastors are the ones who model and equip their people for this kind of purposeful, intentional, transformative sanctification.

Trained Leaders Equipping Others

For example, if you are a nursery worker you should see your primary responsibility as a nursery worker to seek to speak into the lives of some of the moms who bring kids to you.

Taking care of the children is the function, but the real purpose is to ask God about how you can speak into the lives of the moms who come to you.

If the children are old enough, you can begin discipling them. If you do not see a calling any higher than providing a function for the church or the ministry you are serving in, you could very likely be tempted to get frustrated with the people within your care.

Jesus repeatedly took advantage of the contexts that He was in by helping others grow in their sanctification. Regardless of the setting, He used the moment to bring personal, effective change into people’s lives.

The contexts provided an opportunity for transformation, but without His intentionality, there would have been no transformation; it would be just another religious event.


Originally published at Rick Thomas.