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I Never Trained Anyone

If you’ve missed the previous posts in our summer series, you can find them here:

Earlier this summer, I proposed that we step forward as learners. We’re in a world that none of us has been before, and to say that everything that we knew about ministry and leadership 3 years ago equips us for leading today would be naïve!

I also asked you to invite one of your leadership teams to listen to and engage the conversation. I chose to take on this project mostly by remembering back to when I didn’t know much as a leader and made lots of mistakes. I’ve hopefully elicited an occasional head nod or shake and maybe a smile…and maybe, a transferrable truth!

You see, whatever is trending in the wrong direction in your church now is likely to reach a point where it decidedly accelerates unless you begin to think, lead and act differently!

Sunday’s Coming…

Early on I learned to “produce.” Attract. Connect. But I never learned to disciple and send! Producing was a necessity, of sorts. And, for the most part, that meant “talk,” in various forms!

My leadership role was as a pastor. Yours might be different.

I think I conducted 10 funerals my first month soloing as a pastor! (More funerals than I had been at my whole life!)

Sunday seemed to come every other day.

Confirmation class in the school for kids and a Bible study or two for adults in Walther Hall.

Every week… Sunday was coming! And, if it didn’t contribute to getting ready for or wrapping up from… it just didn’t become a priority.

The tread mill was moving pretty fast and if I didn’t quicken my step I’d fall off the congregational belt!

So, I never learned to disciple and send! To be truthful, I’d never seen it modeled. Never received it myself in a way that I could replicate in the lives of others. Never heard it talked about or valued.

How did that happen?

Here’s the problem: Back in those early, uncertain days of my leadership, we still lived in a world of:

If you can speak, you can lead.

I had my heroes… orators, all of them.

I quietly had my own “metrics” that were close to my heart (just like you do!):

  • Average Annual Worship Attendance Up Over Last Year (Imagine my disappointment with a January Sunday snowstorm that could cut our attendance in half!…setting us back for the year.)
  • Adult baptisms and Confirmations: 30!
  • 50% of the membership of our large, old church in worship on every Sunday

There was a lot embedded in those metrics!

Keep in mind, it’s not like we weren’t faithful to the Word of God, or didn’t proclaim the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ, or didn’t celebrate the hope of the resurrection at every funeral and elsewhere.

There were things that counted! Or better stated: that I counted.

Overplay a strength; it becomes a weakness! ((This would be a great place to pause with your leaders for some honest reflections.))

But I never counted the people who were discipled to be sent as leaders beyond the church!

I guess because I never discipled anyone to be sent beyond the church and its programs.

((This might be another place to pause for some honest conversation amongst your leadership.))

I knew how to recruit volunteers to fill church programs, but even there, I never trained them. I never invested in them to become stronger, better leaders. We all expected them to be godly, growing, faithful to their spouse, etc. but never invested in their character!

Jesus attracted the crowds and drew smaller groups closer to Him. Occasionally, He’d even challenge the crowds in such a way as to shrink the crowds. But it’s obvious that Jesus also discipled some to be sent.

First it was just Himself.

Then the 12. (Occasionally the 3.)

Then the 72.

120! Discipled and sent. The few to reach the many!

You might still have your oratorical heroes, but while you weren’t looking the world shifted from:

If you can speak/teach/preach/talk, you can lead... to… If you can train/invest/send you can lead!

Jesus always did both. He could attract a crowd with His teaching and miracles and healing but He trained and sent a few.

Here’s the good news.

About 80% of your people can be discipled with a rather standardized “life on life” model of discipleship that is filled with:

  • Teaching
  • “Put into practice”
  • Encouragement
  • Accountability
  • Appropriate sized risks and failures
  • Repetition
  • Celebration
  • Reproduction in the lives of others

(Read Luke 8, 9 & 10 and see them all in play.)

In a couple of weeks, I’ll have more to share about a unique way that can make a difference this fall.

What do you think?

4 Responses

  1. This is a very good word that we should reflect on as leaders. How do we equip people to fulfill their calling more and then fulfilling our needs? Thank you.

    • Gail & Jock Ficken says:

      Jason. You’re a great thinker. Doing great stuff. Leaders like you give hope to others

  2. NICIMPAYE Pierre Claver says:

    Thank you for the great teaching . We need to disciple the people around us .Church programs can mislead us from fulfilling God’s mission. I love the inspiration that i am getting from PLI . I am learning to reproduce in the lives of other people . Pastor Peter Claver / PLI BURUNDI

    • Gail & Jock Ficken says:

      Scott and Gail and I are so blessed by your leadership and collaboration with PLI. Thank you!

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