A growing interest in discipleship has sparked in recent years. National conferences, books, and resources have shone the spotlight on the glaring need of the American church for discipleship. While a few churches are growing via conversion growth, most ministries are in decline. Add to that the fact that cultural winds are turning against the church.
Christians today are often seen as people who stand in the way of progressivism and societal change. Those who hold to biblical views on sexuality, family, humanity’s being created in the image of God, the unity of the church, the exclusivity of salvation through Christ, the sinfulness
of all people, the need for repentance and faith in Christ alone, and other core doctrinal positions are viewed as backward and on the wrong side of history.
How will churches navigate these divisive days? How will they produce true disciples who are equipped not only to survive but also thrive as they infiltrate our culture with the gospel? And how will the church continue to be nimble, flexible, and malleable to raise up leaders and multiply in the current environment? The secret is really no secret. We must raise up more disciple-making leaders.
Breaking down the definition of a disciple-making leader
A disciple-making leader leads out of the overflow of their walk with Christ and intentionally invests in others to produce genuine disciples and ministry leaders who will multiply the movement.
This definition has three important parts.
1. Personal Walk with Christ.
The disciple-making leader leads out of the overflow of their personal walk with Jesus Christ. Most important to the disciple-making leader is, first and foremost, the authenticity of their devotion to Christ.
Now you may think this is true of any Christian leader, but that would be false. Many people find themselves in positions of leadership simply because they have mastered skills for the job, not because they have a genuine devotion to Jesus. If the student pastor is energetic, if the worship pastor is talented, if the children’s pastor is creative, if the executive pastor is a good manager, or if the lead pastor is a dynamic communicator, then they can rise to positions of leadership. A healthy devotion to Jesus is assumed. Unfortunately, the demands of the job often suffocate what intimacy they once had with Christ. So a genuine walk with God is where leadership begins.
2. Intentional Investment in Others.
The disciple-making leader intentionally invests their life in others. Their goal is to reproduce themselves in the lives of others. They constantly recruit, select, train, invest in, and appoint new leaders. They fill their leadership teams with people who think like them, act like them, and do ministry like them.
Instead of being the only genius with a thousand helpers, they want to raise up a thousand leaders to expand the ministry far beyond their ability. This investment takes place in two areas—both spiritually and professionally. The disciple-making leader begins with spiritual investment.
They spend time helping those under their care to understand how to know and follow Jesus in a deep and personal way. The disciple-making leader trains them to walk with God, to reach their world, and to invest in a few. But the investment doesn’t stop there. The disciple-making leader also invests in others professionally, taking what they have learned and instilling it in those under them so they master the same skills. Why do they do this? This leads to the last part of our definition.
3. Leadership Multiplication.
The end goal of the disciple-making leader is multiplication. The goal is to raise up more disciple-making leaders like themselves so the ministry will multiply into an unstoppable movement.
Think about the early church. Only 120 believers were in the upper room waiting for the Spirit’s coming, but those few multiplied greatly and quickly spread over the known world. Without multiplication there is no movement. But when leaders multiply themselves into other leaders who do the same, the kingdom of God benefits.
One hundred years from now, probably no one will remember the disciple-making leader’s name, but their impact and investment will still bear fruit. That explains more fully the definition of a disciple-making leader.
The superstar and the disciple-making leader
Do you see now the difference between the superstar and the disciple-making leader? The superstar is focused on “me,” but the disciple-making leader is focused on raising up others. Talent and ambition fuel the superstar; on the other hand, a personal walk with Christ and God’s calling on their life fuels the disciple-making leader.
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