Leading in Community – Part 2
I wrote last week about the Leader as a Spiritual Guide and didn't wrap up our Leading in Community two-part discussion. So, let's hop into that now. I promised you the "secret sauce" of how I do this, and here it is!
Honestly, if you knew the people I am privileged to walk with, you would probably fall into envy and covetousness! I know as Spirit-led people, you wouldn't do that, but the people I have around me are fantastic.
So, how did I get to the place I am at, leading in community with a number of mature and maturing leaders? The answer: long-term investment in a few people. God didn't just throw a whole bunch of ready-to-run leaders at me. He sent me a few seasoned people. But even those folks needed to be led into the rabbinical method I employ and have had to learn to lead collaboratively.
For some members of the leadership community, the long-term mentoring, discipling, and developing has spanned almost two decades. For others, I led them to the Lord as teenagers, and now they are young adults with families. A few folks have been with me for five or six years. Wondering how I engaged these folks? Here's how I did it:
Upon identifying the leadership potential in them, through both an objective assessment through observation and the subjective assessment of the Holy Spirit (discernment of spirits – 1 Corinthians 12:10b), I invited them into involvement in the church community:
While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." Immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their Father, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their Father and followed him.
Then, seeing their response to my first invitation, I invited them into some form of developmental environment. In this construct, my personal, relational investment took on a more formal and focused aspect. Such proximity was essential to facilitate their spiritual growth and skills development (see last week's blog for more on this). In addition, practicing spiritual disciplines together provided a platform for modeling, instructing, and discussing the integration of faith and life:
Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, "Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples."
From there, those who continued to respond received more investment in mentoring and coaching as individuals and as couples. Ministry assignments also provided opportunities to dialog and debrief, engaging in shared ministry:
Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, "Why could we not cast it out?"
I would invest in relational times with people, just living life together with Jesus through all of this. Meals together, birthday parties, workdays at each other's homes (a lot of that in suburban/rural New Hampshire!), and just hanging out created lots of space for "on-the-way" conversations:
"Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.
"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations," - this can be translated in going from here, as you go from here.
From there, I began to see who in my "84" (ref. Luke 9:1; 10:1) were my "12" and who were my "3." Again, these numbers were not specific or magical in any way but representative of different levels of maturity and missional giftedness. Such a framework of classification regarding maturity and ministry effectiveness is essential in understanding who you should invest the majority of your time and energy in. It is what Jesus did, not because He liked one better than the other but, through prayer, He discerned what the Father was doing in and through someone:
In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God. And when day came, he called his disciples and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles: Simon, whom he named Peter, and Andrew his brother, and James and John, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon who was called the Zealot, and Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.
And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light.
From here, the continued involvement in ministry together and sharing life together became a formative experience for them as individuals and couples and for us as a leadership community. They all began to care for one another, spiritually feed and nurture one another, and even bring correction to each other as needed. This is what it looks like:
And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds 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. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
The shared journey together in community with me laid the foundation of relationship which allowed their individual and communal development to occur. Living in mature right-relatedness (righteousness) has allowed them to “maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” The humility, gentleness, patience, forbearance, and love made it possible, as they shared a common understanding of the Jesus way by the Holy Spirit:
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.
The diversity of Christ’s expression through the leadership community occurred because they were unified in the Spirit and have continued to live righteously together. They accepted the rabbinic “yoke,” or understanding of the Jesus way which I have taught and lived out before them – and they ran with it. The unifying effect of a common way of life is the foundational platform for them to live and lead together. But, again, it is the long-term, consistent investment in them that has borne fruit. And it continues to as I continue to invest in them, even as we now lead in community.
So, why did they stay? Why do they continue to pursue the Kingdom? Good question. I think ultimately you would have to ask them. Indeed, many have not, but that is because they caught the vision for the multiplication of the Kingdom mission. A number are church planters or have gone on to serve as pastors in different churches. Obviously, those who I have walked with have felt the calling of God to continue participating with me in the Kingdom effort. Certainly, there is some level of personal need that has been met by God through our association. Indeed, I think they would all indicate that they feel that they have become more in Christ through our relationship, that a window of opportunity to grow and make a significant contribution to God’s Kingdom work was opened to them. That is what mentoring is all about – sharing God-given resources with others for their own development.
However, one incident is indicative of the power of our mutual relationship. There was a time about 15 years ago when I had a significant opportunity opened to me for ministry. To take advantage of the opportunity, it would have required that I leave the 12 leaders I was working with in my church at the time and move across the country. Knowing this, when gathering for a leadership community meeting, they asked me, “So, when are we moving?” I said, not we, but it would just be Cathy and me if I took it. They didn’t know it, but I had already said “no” to the offer. One of them said, half-jokingly quoting from John 6:68, “To whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” Then everyone laughed. It stunned me. Never before had I truly realized how powerfully Jesus could impact others through me. It was both humbling and gratifying. In truth, these very same people from this meeting, and about 20 more whom they would lead to Christ, would form the core of a new church plant and then be used by God in the revitalization of another church through a merger. This is the church I have the privilege to serve today as the lead pastor.
So, dear leader, long-term investment in others utilizing Jesus’ rabbinical life-on-life model is key to developing a lasting, replicating, healthy, and mature leadership core. Who are you investing in? Think: young, and think in decades, not months or years. And what are you giving away? Is it the life of Jesus? That is the goal! Remember, you can only give away what you already have. Are you making opportunities for growth, development, and real leadership accessible to others? Do you have a plan? Do you have a path? Embrace the Jesus way of mentoring and relational engagement – and watch what emerges over the years.