Our goal is healthy churches and Christian ministries. This means every member must take responsibility for the whole; every...
Addressing the Current Leader Development Crisis #2Malcolm Webber
In our last Letter, we saw that over the last 20-30 years, there has been considerable focus around the world on evangelism and church planting, producing an extraordinary number of people coming to Christ and new churches being planted. Of course, this is great cause for rejoicing.
However, there has not been corresponding attention given to leader development during this time, and we now find ourselves in a crisis of leader development. Our traditional methods of leader development have not delivered either the quantity or quality of leaders that we need, and, unless this is addressed, we know from the history of revivals that in a generation or two much of today’s glorious harvest will be lost.
We need a new paradigm of leader development. We cannot keep building leaders the same way while merely trying to do it faster and on a larger scale. More of the same will not do! We need to transform the way leaders are built. We need a new paradigm.
In this Letter and the next, we will consider seven key paradigm shifts that address the current crises of leader quantity and quality.
1. A new goal.
Traditionally, our primary goal has been academic capacity. This is reflected in the central role of the academic degree in determining a leader’s ministry qualification.
In the new paradigm, we focus intentionally on building the whole person. Of course, the healthy Christian leader needs strong biblical knowledge, but, by itself, this is not sufficient. The clear goal of leader development must be the development of the whole person – spiritual life, relational capacity, marriage, character and vision, as well as ministry knowledge and competencies. Our goal is not mere information, but transformation! We must build healthy leaders.
2. A new process.
If we shift our goal from academics to building the whole person, it is immediately apparent that we need a new process. A purely academic process (desks, lectures, books and exams) will not effectively build spiritual life, character and practical ministry capacity. Many seminaries and Bible schools have recognized this and are complementing their classroom agendas (information) with a variety of intentional spiritual, relational and experiential dynamics (transformation).
In the new paradigm, we implement a holistic process that gives strong and balanced attention to four dynamics:
- Spiritual. Experiential union with Christ is the center of a truly transformational process. We must bring our emerging leaders to God!
- Relational. Emerging leaders need more than lecturers; they need daily relationships with mature leaders, role models, examples, spiritual mothers and fathers – in the context of normal daily life and ministry. In the encouragement, support, challenge, teaching, discipline and accountability of these relationships, character is built, marriages are strengthened and spiritual life is nurtured.
- Experiential. Leaders learn by doing and not only by listening to lectures. They are transformed through the fires of suffering and pressure, and are stretched by challenging assignments.
- Instructional. The teaching of the Word of God – in an engaging way, and woven into the ongoing daily realities of life, family and ministry – is central to healthy leader development.
All four of these dynamics will be strongly present in an effective leader development process.
3. A new design.
Traditionally, we have rarely given much thought to leader development design; we have simply perpetuated tradition, teaching as we were taught. Jesus, however, designed an extraordinary collage of diverse learning experiences for His emerging leaders.
In the new paradigm, we learn how to design learning experiences as Jesus did. Leader development is a complex and multifaceted experiential collage of diverse people, relationships, influences, assignments, tasks, responsibilities, duties, deadlines, opportunities, pressures, crises, blessings, sufferings, rejections, successes, mistakes, etc., that all work together to build the emerging leader. Thus, an effective leader development process is not a neat series of courses but a fiery immersion in real-life, real-time experiences, reflecting the complicated and fundamentally difficult nature of Christian leadership, bringing deep heart issues to the surface to be dealt with, and compelling the participant to look utterly to God for success.
4. Leaders building leaders.
Jesus came to the earth to do three things:
- To die on the cross for the sins of humanity.
- To proclaim the Kingdom of God and reveal the Father, through His words and works.
- To build a team of emerging leaders.
And that’s all He did! So we know that building leaders is one of the central things that healthy leaders do.
Thankfully, we do not have to die on the cross for humanity’s sins, since Jesus has accomplished that once and for all. We must, however, embrace the other two responsibilities. While we have focused on proclaiming the Kingdom and revealing the Father – that is, doing the “ministry stuff” – we have rarely, however, embraced personal and systematic responsibility for building leaders. Instead, we have sent our emerging leaders off to the “experts” in the remote academic institutions, hoping that they would do it for us. We have been too busy with leadership to build leaders!
In the new paradigm, leaders embrace personal responsibility for leader development as a core part of what it means to be a leader. This shift alone has the potential to address both issues of quality (as mature leaders impart the vision, passion, courage and strategic perspectives of leadership) and quantity (as every leader takes personal responsibility to build leaders).
Our next Letter will present the last three paradigm shifts that will address the current crises of leader quantity and quality.