Is your church a place where the following are normal expectations:
- Leaders of all activities (especially home groups) being carefully and regularly nurtured and trained
- That the Lord will regularly raise up future full time leaders who will initially be identified, encouraged, trained and released to exercise embryonic leadership gifts in your church
- Evaluation of future possibilities for winning the lost and extending the kingdom in your area. Leaders and congregation praying for God to fulfil the needs exposed by your evaluation
- Honouring and equipping embryonic leaders, through current leaders being freed to give enough time to their development
If the answer is no to most or all of the above you should anticipate that you will face a significant stall in the coming few years. There is every possibility that you will cease to be missional. Reasons for this may include:
- Your congregation not valuing leadership or wanting to be led. This may indicate certain theological convictions about leadership, but is more likely to show that a majority of the congregation have moved into maintenance mode in which the meeting of their spiritual needs assumes a greater priority than making disciples
- You will be very likely to search externally for your next pastor (or the one after that) only to find that traditionally reliable sources have dried up
- You will discover that you have contextualised yourself in the past and refused to adapt to reach a different world. This makes your church inherently unattractive for potential next-generation leaders who are asking the question “where can I work with a congregation that wants to be equipped for building the church and winning the world?”
- Your church culture assumes that wherever leaders come from, it isn’t your church. If you ever have an embryonic leader the governing paradigm is that you send them to be trained elsewhere and buy back in fully formed. Therefore you have lost any internal base of training and development skills. Therefore the emergence and development of leaders in your church for your church (and the wider church) becomes much more unlikely precisely because it is abnormal. God may have his hand on a person for leadership, but human obstacles may well prevent them from exploring his call
- You, personally, didn’t make passing on leadership a priority
The foundational issue underlying the emerging leadership crisis in UK churches is one of mindset at a local church level:
- The average local church is not producing any leaders
- It is rare to find local churches freeing up significant amounts of leadership time for developing embryonic leaders
- Only a tiny percentage of churches devote any time to training elders, deacons, home group leaders, evangelism facilitators or Sunday School teachers
Questions any leader should be asking:
- Are you allowed to step back from being the all competent doer-of-everything, to take a strategic view and invest in key people for the future? If not, why?
- Do you train elders, deacons and home group leaders in your church? If not, why?
- What training and resources that you currently don’t have would make that a practical and achievable possibility for you?
- Who are your 20 (or 10, or 5) most likely potential leaders for 2020? What would you have to invest in them to allow their ministry to take off?
- What would this require in terms of time, energy and resources? Why are the necessary resources not devoted to this in your church? What else would you have to sacrifice to make it possible? Would your congregation allow you to make the necessary sacrifices? If not, why?
At this moment in evangelicalism in the UK, the development of missional leaders in our churches for our churches is the number one key priority for the health of the church nationally. Neglecting it is an unaffordable luxury. Devoting energy elsewhere while neglecting this is likely to prove a terrible false economy, because if our churches lack biblical leaders in 15 years time – and at current rates of progress very many will – then at that point all other ministries of the local church that depend on biblical leadership will also take a fatal blow.