In last week’s post, I provided a few specific thoughts on helping people to move from beyond the church to being involved in some way (attending counts!) and from marginally involved to somewhat involved. This week, I will touch on the levels of those who are already involved and/or may be leaders within the church. Although discipleship has many levels, the difference between the groups discussed last week and the groups discussed this week is somewhat the difference between the idea of assimilation and what most* would consider discipleship.
*I use the word most because the model that Jesus used was to bring people along at whatever level and have them learn from Him (“Follow Me”) whether they “believed” in Him or not. The early disciples did not “believe” as we think of the word and yet followed for a couple of years before Peter made The Great Confession (Matthew 16.16), and yet it was not until after the resurrection that they truly understood and believed. But for the sake of argument, the remainder of this post is about the groups already involved and serving within the church who need further discipleship.
First, let me begin by stating that most people can find some means to serve the church whether they are members or not. Of course, certain positions should be reserved for people who are well established (i.e. trusted) within the church. These positions would include those who work with money, who serve as deacons (see 1 Timothy 3.10), and those who work with children (for legal reasons in today’s world). But anyone with a smile could serve as a greeter or usher. And anyone can serve on mission within the community. But for the person who is a faithful member of a church, some level of service should be considered normal and even expected. All we have to do is consider Paul’s words related to how the Body of Christ is to function (e.g. Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12).
Some who serve regularly have an aptitude for even more. That is, they serve well, but need to be given the opportunity to lead others. Potential leaders are often easy to find, but are often not approached. For instance, someone who is active in a small group setting could be asked to help coordinate an event for the group. A key in that last sentence is “help coordinate.” Too often, church leaders are so anxious to find others who may be able (and willing) to help and too much responsibility is dumped onto the person. I am a huge advocate of delegating responsibility, not just tasks, but responsibility is often given in stages.
For instance, let us use a scenario where the person is willing to help coordinate an event where food will be served. Let us also assume that the event has an amount of money allocated. That current servant/potential leader might be given charge over organizing the food and that portion of the budget. After the event, when evaluating the event (yes, I know this rarely happens, but it should always happen), that person’s efforts can be evaluated as well, and more responsibility can be given the next time or more training can be given to help make up any areas of deficiency.
As a process like this is followed for those who serve within the church, capable leaders will be found and developed. These new leaders will have an opportunity to continue to expand their roles and responsibilities in many cases if the next group is also being challenged to continue to grow. And, again, that is the key at these two levels. While the subject of these last few posts is about identifying certain groups and increasing their involvement, the ultimate objective is to develop people spiritually. For those outside the church or marginally connected, that development often comes by finding ways to get people involved. For those already involved, their development may continue because they are getting further involved or they may get further involved because they are further developing. The issue is not which comes first, but that both are happening.
Having developed some leaders, the idea is to continue developing these individuals as leaders. Some of these leaders will continue to excel and some will not. In a previous post I mentioned the Pareto Principle (20% doing 80% of the work), but another principle is the Peter Principle which suggests that people will be continually promoted until they reach a level at which they are incompetent. Of course, this principle can apply in the church as well, but ideally, because the church is to act as a body, not a true hierarchy, this principle can be mitigated because many (everyone?) can share the work and the responsibility. This idea may be idealistic, and certainly any organization, including the church, will have a leader (even if that last level is only marginally above others).
These new leaders will then serve in many capacities. As leaders they should continue to serve in practical ways (perhaps in very similar ways they have in the past), but they should now be focusing on building and organizing systems for effective ministry as well as being involved in developing other leaders. As current leaders develop future leaders it allows for ministry to continue into the future. Added tasks AND the accompanying responsibility allows new leaders to grow which is critical because the current group of leaders will not always be in their position (perhaps by choice, but eventually death will come). Furthermore, another benefit of a more seasoned leader developing others is that to continue to help others grow, the original leader must keep growing as well. Certainly, we have examples in the Bible of one leader investing in another (or others). Moses (leading Joshua) would be one example (we do not have an example of Joshua leading another). Most importantly, we have the example of Jesus who developed the apostles who developed others (such as Mark and Timothy) and instructed those individuals to do the same (cf. 2 Timothy 2.2). That development has carried forward for over 1900 years which is why I sit here typing this post today.
So, again, getting people involved in a church is a part of discipling them. Or, as Paul wrote in Ephesians 4, the idea is a part of equipping the saints for the work of ministry. Of course, some leaders will be officially on staff (another level, of sorts), but leadership in the church is what allows the church to function effectively. And today’s leaders were once not part of the church – maybe due to once being hostile towards a faith in Jesus. Thus, a goal to get (more) people involved is worthy because we can not know what the end result may be for any person. But the goal is not how much one may get involved, but how much one will grow in the process as they do. And with that, I will share my testimony in the next couple of posts.*
*I will also post a bonus post on Monday (4/1) with a brief review of the books I read in the first quarter of the year. This will be more than an annotated bibliography, but will not be a full critical review of each book.