The Test of any Movement is its ability to
regenerate and reproduce its own leadership.
If you Fail to Reproduce yourself today,
you will fail to exist tomorrow.
These words are relevant to all of us, whether we apply them to our business, our church, our mission organization, or, as in the case of the Israelites, to their nation. We read the following in Psalm 78:5-7. “He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which he commanded our forefathers to teach their children, so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children. Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands.” Despite these instructions given to Israel, however, we discover their failure in Judges 2:10. “After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew neither the LORD nor what he had done for Israel.” In one generation all that the Lord had done for His people, from Abraham to Joshua, was forgotten. The failure to reproduce leadership resulted in the failure of the Ideal, the Nation existing under God for His Glory.
Howard Hendricks, in his message on the above topic, lists various comments that are foundational in regenerating and reproducing leadership. Before considering these, however, we must remember what our Lord did just prior to selecting His own leadership team. It is chronicled for us in Luke 6:12-13. “One of those days Jesus went out to a mountain side to pray, and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles.” If our Lord spent all night praying about His team, how much effort and time will be required to select and prepare our own leadership team? No effort of our own will succeed. It is His work through us, in response to our total dependence on Him, expressed in prayer, that God uses to continue and establish the ministries to which we are called. Unless prayer is the foundation of all we do, then all our efforts will be in vain.
Howard’s comments may be broadly considered under three main categories; each representing one of the three means the Lord has given His church for its growth. These include the word of God, individual personal interaction with others, and the body of Christ, that is, the Church.
- We need to do an agonizing reappraisal of our own ministry. Hardening of the viewpoint is more serious than hardening of the arteries! Our first job is not to act, it is to evaluate. Do we have a passion for making disciples? Have we denied ourselves, taken up our cross and followed Him? We reproduce in kind. Others become what we are. Can we truthfully say with the Apostle Paul “Follow me, as I follow Christ?”
- We need to establish clear objectives for ourselves and those we are discipling. The Lord always operated on the principle of priority, not pressure. If you operate on the basis of pressure, you will always do the urgent, but not the important. The objective that was chosen for our Kansas Navigator team years ago is as follows. “To know Christ in my own life in ever increasing depth and to make disciples and develop laborers at all times under any conditions in every place I go.” Opportunities to serve on various boards and committees with multiple organizations were presented over the years. I would consider them all with the questions, “Will this help me know Christ better?”, “Will it help make disciples?” Very often the answer to these questions was No. This objective helped me respond to the important rather than the urgent.
- Develop an incurable confidence in God’s ability to change people. A person’s confidence in themselves comes before they experience change. Our Lord’s words to Simon were used to provide hope in what he, by God’s Grace, was to become. “Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas.” John 1:42. The Lord saw him for what he would become. We need to do the same with those to whom we relate.
The following comments address the second method of God’s work in the lives of people which is individual personal interaction.
- Seek to make disciples independent of you and dependent on the Lord. Do less and delegate more. People are developed by responsibility.
- Allow enough developmental rope for disciples to grow. Don’t thwart individual initiative. They must have a spirit of freedom. Do not give too many restrictions.
- Intensify interpersonal relationships. How do we reach a world? We reach individuals. Bigness and size leads us to administer, not minister.
Several of Howard’s comments refer specifically to the role of the church, that is, the body of Christ in developing leadership. These are as follows.
- Recruit individually, but train as a team. Our Lord’s disciples were recruited as individuals primarily, although John and Andrew came as a twosome. His training of them was as a team. I have been a part of a Navigator team for the last forty six years. In the interaction with others the Lord has sharpened my focus, restored perspective, and provided prayer support and encouragement.
- Expose your disciples to a number of Spirit gifted individuals. No one is God’s gift to every person. Take others with you to a variety of conferences and seminars where they are able to meet and mingle with others. Pray for and seek out speakers, as well as written material, DVD’s etc that the Lord will use to speak into their lives.
- Help them to discover and develop their spiritual gifts. It is here that the body of Christ is invaluable in providing opportunities to exercise and develop their gift. Encourage them to serve, or to speak in a variety of settings.
The above comments, to which I have provided some expansion, are not exhaustive, but rather illustrative of foundational principles in regenerating leadership. We are all called to pass on what we know and do to the next generation. Not only our church or mission organization is in perpetual danger, but Christianity itself is always one generation from extinction. Do we sense the urgency to equip and train the next generation? Or are we content to live out our days like Hezekiah, saying “There will be peace and security in my lifetime.” Isaiah 39:8. It is my prayer that the Lord will fill our hearts with compassion and love for the lost in the generations to come and direct our steps as we produce leadership for the future.
In Christ, Richard Spann