One of the most exciting things in my life at the moment is the preparation going towards the launch of the School of Missional Disciple-Making, based in Southampton, this September.
Starting with a very simple premise from Ephesians 4 - that the goal of all Christian leadership ministry is to equip and facilitate disciples of Jesus who make more disciples - the planning team started with a blank sheet of paper and a single question: what does the leadership programme look like that serves that end? What does it look like to be a leader - and train other leaders - to both make disciples themselves and to nurture and train others to do the same? What would it look like for every leader in every church to have disciple-making (including, yes! active engagement with non Christians) at the heart of their DNA?
This raises an uncomfortable question for some of us on the planning team. Even some of those of us with a missions background have spent so long making Christian organisation work over the last few years, and so intense have the demands been to do everything that is needed by the flock, that we have fallen into the trap of stepping out of mission-focussed leadership and instead shifted into organisational leadership. Therefore in training and Discipling new leaders to keep being mission-focussed, there may be some component of identifying why we fell into the trap and doing our best to help them not do the same.
Why might pastors fall into this kind of trap. All kinds of reasons. Here are a few:
1. The church wants/demands it. In the case of a church appointing a young pastor, it may even be the job description. It is very hard for a new young minister to challenge the prevailing church culture that appointed them
2. Churches almost invariably staff retrospectively rather than prospectively. Ie they wait until their staff are doing far more than anyone should actually be doing to lead the church as it already functions, before they will think about increasing the staff team. So most churches are understaffed or, at least, not staffed for a mission-focus on growth
3. Churches have a picture of what a "minister" should look like and do, and it isn't leading and releasing all the believers as witnesses for gospel growth. It is delivering sermons and doing pastoral visits and a few people doing all the spiritual business for everyone else to consume. Again, church culture constrains biblical vision more readily than vision constrains culture
We could go on. My plea to all leaders who don't currently have capacity to encourage new leaders who think with mission-focus is to do everything in your power to create that capacity. Do whatever it takes. It is wonderful when leaders have a vison for multiplying more leaders, but it isn't the whole story. If the vision is simply to replicate exactly what we already have for serving groups of Christians only and not to produce a different kind of leader who is mission-focused then we will only produce new leaders for the situation as it currently exists. We won't release people with a passion for changing the nation and winning the nations.
Let's build leaders who make disciples who make disciples.