In part II of this article, I want to focus on the idea of developing culture-bearers.
- It is possible to have in your church apparently godly people who came with an agenda to either control or destroy the church. Their godliness is pretense.
- It is possible to have in your church apparently godly people who don’t wholeheartedly embrace the vision and values of your church. They are not loyal.
- It is possible to have in your church apparently godly people whose opinions are so strongly expressed that you find yourself anxious if you make a decision without consulting them first.
How do you avoid these three scenarios and build front-line leaders who are true culture-bearers for the church.
1) A good new member class, among many other things, will take an extended look at the vision and values of the church. The leader should explore not only the biblical basis for the values, but give practical examples of what the values look like, and what they don’t look like, in the everyday life of the church. If you are smart you won’t allow anyone to join who cannot wholeheartedly endorse, along with your doctrinal distinctive, the core vision and values of the church.
2) Before you allow someone to lead, you will see if they will both serve and follow spiritual leadership set over them. Most people with an agenda are impatient to lead and will not serve in obscurity. Jesus’ counsel was to let a man prove faithful in little things before giving great responsibility, see if they are faithful with secular tasks before entrusting them with the souls of men, and see if they will be faithful with things belonging to someone else before you give them their own.
3) You will raise the bar for leadership as the church matures. What you had to accept in a group leader or Sunday school teacher in the first six months won’t be adequate at the eighteen-month mark. You do this
a. Through regular training and reinforcement – monthly meetings, annual retreats, etc.
b. Personal coaching when you see people ready to make the next step
c. Encouraging your leaders to read recommended books
d. Deepening their theological insight through systematic teaching over time
e. Asking people to step down if they don’t continue to live out the life of a leader
Let me focus for a minute on the front-line leader. The key position for propagating the culture of the church is the leader on the growing edge of your church, the place where people receive pastoral care in the course of dealing with life. For church plants this is usually some sort of home group. This leader is the key to a healthy church. Usually, when your members are faced with some moral or ethical choice; a choice to risk following God’s Word or follow the counsel of the world; you are not around. Their group leader probably is close by. This group leader’s counsel becomes the church’s counsel to that member in that situation. Therefore, you need to build leaders who will counsel congruent with Scripture and the core vision and values of your church. In outline form we can describe this leader:
The Fellowship Leader – They:
- Model - They model the life of the ideal member in
- Character – obedient walk with God
- Culture – core vision and values - They pass on church culture to the next generation
- Lead - They lead the multiplying edge of the church
- Give direction toward common goals
- Give pastoral care to the individuals in the group – especially when they face hardship or difficult decisions
- Train – They invest their life in the lives of people to help them
- Commit their lives to Christ
- Develop the habits of a disciple
- Embrace the vision and values of the church
- Discover a place of service and leadership in the group or in the church
- Multiply – They intentionally develop new group leaders and other leadership roles to allow new groups to be launched.
What it means for you as a church planter
- The plant advances at the pace of group leader development, so deploying new group leaders is crucial. – high priority in your strategic plan
- Deploying new group leaders requires three levels of development (which must be ascertained in apparently mature transfer members before you let them lead)
- Insure they are genuinely converted and committed to a life obedient to the Word – absolutely
- They are taught and committed to practicing the habits of a growing disciple
- They conform to and advocate for the vision and values of the church
How do you do this? Over time you must give careful attention to personally investing in the development of your front-line leaders so that they
1) know you love them and they come to love you to
2) ever more habitually live out the life of a disciple
3) ever more habitually live out the vision and values of the church
You do this until you have a core of mature leaders who can be entrusted with the job of guiding the emergence and deployment of new leaders.