Discipling and Training

This week I am completing the manuscript for my next book. It's heads down at Living Leadership HQ in order to deliver it to the publisher by the end of the week.

Today I am writing an appendix on what elements I would include in a leadership training course. There are two main elements I like to see in any such training:

  • spiritual formation/discipling
  • training in specific competencies

I think it is critical to separate the two. It is a dangerous mistake to assume that someone is growing as a Christian or growing as a leader simply because they have been trained to carry out a particular task or exercise a particular skill. Ideally leadership development should have an ongoing discipling component as well as more concise competency training. Of course, in an environment that values efficiency, is under resourced and where available time is always squeezed it is much easier to do the latter than the former. The mistake arises if we assume we have done the former because we have done the latter. We haven't.

  • Leadership Discipling / Spiritual Formation 

When we disciple a leader we are trying to help a Christian (who happens to also be a leader) grow in Christ. The aim is for Christ to be formed in their hearts through faith, so that they live as a wholehearted disciple. There are no quick fixes - this is long term, life on life work. It doesn't fall easily into the category of "training", but it is the foundation that subsequently gives value to all training. My usual advice if you are tempted to train people without strong conviction that they are growing as disciples is: don't. You will produce skill that isn't founded on godly character. Discipleship is about gospel transformation, not simply giving someone information.

Some elements to think about when discipling leaders include: how to help them live the whole of their life and exercise their leadership based on a daily appreciation of justification and grace; how being adopted as Sons of God shapes character, goals, relationships; how prayer and worship life are central to their joy in God; how growing in Christ-likeness will mean outdoing others in humility, repentance, forgiveness and kindness; what exhibiting the Galatians 5 fruit of the Holy Spirit in our lives actually means in practice.

It stands to reason that we cannot disciple others well unless we are committed to living in these things ourselves. However, we can still deliver the skills training without living in these things ourselves, which may explain why we might be tempted to replace discipling leaders with merely offering skills training.

The whole point of training a person in a competency is not that they learn a skill. It is so that they use that skill to serve others in love and to serve the cause of the gospel. The goal of all such competencies is that they in turn disciple other people. We train people to a skill in order that they know how to help others delight in God and enjoy justification, grace, adoption and sonship. No wonder, then, that the normal leader training mechanism in the New Testament is being apprenticed to a leader as they do the work of the gospel, rather than attending a training course or college.