Developing Leaders

I’m a guy who likes quick results. I don’t like to wait for the long-term results, and I don’t like to rely on other people to accomplish a task. Often times our churches are the same way… some of our churches operate like the New York Yankees. They prefer to “buy” talent on the free agent market rather than grow their major league roster from their minor league system like the St. Louis Cardinals. Many times in church we rely on those who present themselves to us as pre-formed and developed leaders to carry out the tasks at hand, and when the well of “pre-developed” leaders runs dry we freak out and wonder how things are going to get done!

But, healthy churches are developing and raising up leaders from within just like the Cardinals and their long-term MLB strategy. When we take that approach, we know the person, their commitment to our DNA, and their commitment to our vision and values. We are truly able to know their track record. When we hire from outside, we hope it works out and they buy in and do well.  If we believe “everything you need to reach your city is already in your church,” you focus on a homegrown strategy.

Today, we’re going to talk about developing leaders and why we should do it.

Definition wise, I want to talk about development for a second. I think a lot of times people use the terms development and discipleship interchangeably and they’re really not.

Discipleship and development are kind of close cousins, and they really can’t accomplish much without the other. So let’s define discipleship for a minute. Discipleship is spiritual formation. It’s walking beside someone in partnership in order to accomplish the task of being as much like Jesus as we can be. Discipleship is something that every born again believer should be doing. It’s a spiritual disciple and definitely in the Christian Basics 101 textbook. You should be pouring into someone spiritually. Point blank… the end.

Development is a little bit different. Development is taking someone from point A to point B in order to achieve their best potential. So… leadership development would be walking beside and training someone to be the best leader that they can be. Development is focusing on someone’s leadership skills, giftings, and capacity.

I’m thinking about discipleship and development working together and there are some caveats. If you just disciple someone, and pour into them spiritually… maybe you teach them hermeneutics, eschatology, have them read their Bible from cover to cover, and you have them read Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology cover to cover, then you’re going to have this person who is a deep well of spiritual information.

A deep well can really satisfy and sustain a whole city when you think about it. The problem with the well is that it takes someone to get the water out. The problem with the well is usually only one person can get that bucket in there and get that water out. You’re going have a person who is extremely well versed in the Gospel but possibly unable to take the reigns of leadership in order to quench the spiritual thirst of many.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, if you take development alone and you teach someone to hone their skills, sing the right songs, speak eloquently, put together the most moving services, and create the best atmospheres but they don’t know anything about theology or doctrine. Then you’ve got a dying star, you’ve got someone who is going be great on the outside for a short time, but eventually they’re going to fizzle out because they don’t have anything inside them. So discipleship and development have to work together.

So… why should we disciple and develop leaders? Let’s think together!


  • Jesus set the Example

I love watching videos of kids trying to mimic a parent or sibling. There is just something super adorable about a little boy in a pull-up pushing a plastic lawnmower behind his Dad as he mows the grass that gets me every single time!

The first reason that we should disciple and develop leaders is that Jesus did it… we are like that little boy following and mimicking the actions of his Dad. If you look at Matthew 4, Jesus has just been baptized by John the Baptist, He’s just been in the desert and tempted by the Devil. He’s about to begin His ministry here on Earth, but before He heals anybody, before He preaches a sermon, and before He teaches on the steps of a synagogue Jesus walks by the sea and He sees two brothers fishing. He says,

You follow me. I’ll teach you to be fishers of men.

Immediately they drop everything and start following Him. He sees two other brothers working with their dad, fixing the nets, and says,

You follow me. I’ll make you fishers of men.

Immediately they drop everything. They leave their father and follow Jesus.

Before He did anything else in ministry, He chose men that He was going to develop. He knew His time was short. He knew He didn’t have long, He knew He wasn’t going to have an endless amount of time on Earth, so He chose men to develop first. That’s what He did first in ministry. We should do it too.

In the Middle Ages, specialized artisans raised up future generations through an intentional apprenticeship process. Young apprentices served as understudies alongside a mentor who patiently provided careful instruction and guidance.

We can look to Jesus as the preeminent mentor, he turned a ragged group of social and spiritual misfits into world-changers. In fact, we are the legacy of this mentoring relationship. How did this happen? It took time with the master. He invested diligently in the lives of folks who just couldn’t quite seem to get their acts together. In fact, they bumbled the message and often missed the point as they followed him. But they watched and observed Jesus the master teacher, and He provided an atmosphere of trust, mentorship, and risk-taking. When they were sent on their first mission assignment, they were in way over their heads. But they had seen what Jesus did, and they had clear instructions. They gathered themselves together and the world hasn’t been the same since. Christianity is what it is today because Jesus developed leaders.

Any businessman likes to look at the bottom line and the value of an investment. When Jesus set forth the example of mentorship and development He provided the best example of a good spiritual investment. Mentoring is a risky, costly business. It requires time, effort, and disciplined focus. As ministry leaders, we are tempted to deliver results quickly and efficiently. But remember, deep-impact ministry is found in developing people, not acquiring them. Leaders with lasting impact, the ones who truly change the world, know their greatest impact in life is reproducing other people who have caught their vision and will carry it forward like a virus. If you want to radically change the world, follow the example of Jesus and invest in your volunteers. Disciple and develop them.

  • The Church Deserves It

For those of you who are married think about the last time you were out of town or gone for an extended amount of time. You probably called your spouse right? You checked in and made sure that everything was okay. You wanted to know that they were taken care of and okay in your absence.

Now imagine that you go to the doctor and the doctor says you’ve got three months to live. I would go out on a limb and guess that many of us would make sure with everything in our power, that our spouse was taken care of after we’re gone?

For me, as a husband, I am going take care of my bride.

Ephesians 5:24-27 says,

Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such

Now, I think it’s on us as leaders in the church to care for the church… the bride of Christ. Let me let you in on a little secret: Nobody else is going to care about the leading of your people like you do. So we should be thinking about who is going to lead the people when we can’! The church deserves it! The Bride deserves it!

We have to prepare and know who is leading. Hopefully it can be somebody that we’ve trained, somebody we have confidence in, somebody that we know is going to stand on that stage and shepherd our sheep well. It’s on us. We’ve got to take care of the bride! She doesn’t just deserve good things… she deserves the BEST things.

  • We are called to Replicate

Who are you replacing yourself with? Who are you developing to take your job?

I have always told people that if I work myself out of my job then I will be satisfied. It may sound crazy… but I’m not joking. As leaders of the church we should be consistently working on raising up new leaders from within the church to someday lead the people and the ministries of the church.

We are called to replicate.

That’s a word I feel like has been a buzzword in the church culture over the past few years, and usually “replicate” is always kind of synonymous with “discipleship,” but we’re called to replicate because we’re only as good as our last day. It’s true! If I get in a car crash and die on the way home from the office, I’m really only as good as the last day I spent here. If the church misses a beat on the Sunday that I’m gone then I have come short in my ministry area.

Really, when you think about it, the only thing you can do on this Earth with lasting eternal value is invest in someone else, to give a piece of yourself to someone else. At the end of Matthew’s gospel, Jesus spoke what has come to be known as the Great Commission.

Matthew 28:19-20 says,

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

Of course everyone who has read the Gospels has read this passage, and the majority of us have heard more messages preached on this topic than almost any other topic found in Scripture. 

Typically, when we hear anyone speak on this message the emphasis is on missions… and it really should be! But, there’s quite a bit more than just that packed into Jesus’ statement. There are four main verbs in this commission or command. They are: go, make disciples, baptizing, and teaching.

So… what is a disciple?

The Oxford Dictionary defines a disciple as: a follower or student of a teacher, leader, or philosopher.

What I find even more interesting than the definition is the word’s origin though. The English word that we know comes from the Latin word “discipulus” which translates to “learner.” A disciple is a learner. We as Christians are called to make disciples of Jesus and to disciple others. That means we should be teaching and replicating what God has shown us into them! We should be replicating ourselves!

It is easy for us as believers to build a castle, surround it with a moat, and live isolated in our own “kingdom.” But… that isn’t how life was meant to be lived and ministry was meant to be done. 

We can look to scripture and see the example that Paul set forth in replicating himself in Timothy. We can see that Timothy was Paul’s son in the faith. We see historically that Timothy was considerably younger than Paul, but that didn’t stop Paul from making a substantial investment in Timothy. We can see that Timothy was the recipient of mentoring at the hands of Paul and it paid eternal dividends and carries substantial weight in the Kingdom of God.

We must become someone else’s “Paul!” 

What an honor that is! We need to be making and effort to be consistently pouring into someone for their benefit and growth… not for what they can do for us. If you are like myself you may be thinking that you have a lot of work to do on yourself before you can begin to mentor someone in their life and faith… but let me assure you that there is always someone who will be blessed by your intentional spiritual and educational investment in their lives.

If we all can grasp the concept of developing leaders by replicating ourselves then we will begin to create and develop a cycle that carries on and benefits the church as a whole for years to come. 

Finding a “Timothy” can be viewed as our spiritual “paying it forward.” We have been blessed by our “Paul,” and then in return we continue the cycle and seek out someone we can bless as we have been blessed.

Do you have a “Timothy?” Who are you pouring into? Who are you replicating and replacing yourself with?


These are just a few surface level reasons to spur on some deeper thought about our personal development of leaders. Why are you doing it?

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