As I entered discussions with a pastor friend of mine from another fellowship, as is quite the same world-wide among leaders throughout the churches regardless of “form” or theology, the issue of discipleship came up. How to best encourage spiritual growth and in particular, training and mentoring lay leaders?
This morning over breakfast he asked what sort of emphasis I would think essential and as he is asking this of many others in leadership I will be super interested in what he will learn from them!
The context is traditional church but the ramifications are much deeper.
In that financial and time costs are often prohibitive, other factors like marriage, raising children and such all often weigh on folks’ ability to attend seminary, Bible school or other typical training, distance learning via the Web has become a great option for some. Even then many simply cannot afford such depth of training or in reality don’t particularly care about a degree or even a credential. Then there is the issue of face-to-face and relational experience. How to link professors and active leaders with potential lay leaders- some of whom may sense God calling them to serve the Lord and the people at a much deeper level?
Pondering all this I mentioned 4 areas of concern I believe literally essential for such people and in fact, all the people of God. For what it’s worth (or not) here is what I emphasized:
2. PASTORAL/CHURCH RELATIONS
3. CALLING/SPIRITUAL GIFTS
By WORSHIP I mean the broader sense in which the Bible defines worship, not merely singing to God for X minutes on Sunday morning. Also if one divorces worship from loving one’s neighbor they do not worship “in spirit and in truth” as Jesus says the Father desires.
Regardless of church government or lack thereof, if we don’t know how to get along RELATIONALLY with others in our local gatherings, if we never hear real-life stories re. the built-in crosses of leading others, never learn to “play nice” with close friends and enemies in closer fellowship we will either run away from our gifts and callings like Jonah or we will seek to manipulate and control others- both of which are anathema to our personal as well as other’s spiritual growth and maturity. Conflict resolution is a massively important matter many believers have never learned or applied… and it’s one of the key reasons divorce and splits, acrimony and stress are so common. It’s also why stable, long term relationships of love and respect don’t happen.
Our spiritual GIFTS directly inform our CALL from God and our calling within local churches and beyond. Some work hard at manifesting gifts God has not given them while others try their hardest to ignore and bury the actual gift/s the Spirit has endowed them with for service. We must count the cost and be gracious but also honest with people about what those costs are!
Wrestling with God and losing is essential and people need to understand how to face up to and navigate in daily relationships regardless of actual areas of service. “By love serve one another”… with what and how?
Finally, regardless of gifts and calling, I am convinced with plenty of scripture stating as such, we are indeed ALL MISSIONaries wherever we may go (quoting Eric Liddell).
Regardless of “visible success”, numbers, whether known or unknown, largely celebrated or obscure, all followers of Jesus have reason and purpose on earth! I am audacious enough to claim (though I deeply love the Westminster Shorter Chatechism) that our first purpose [Q. 1. What is the chief end of man? A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.] is not our only nor exclusive purpose.
Certainly we must provide our and our families’ basic needs, we each only have whatever energy and ability we have at any given moment, there are bills to pay and times of rest and recreation (yes, no issues from me on all these). Yet the lack of workers in the vineyard in my own opinion, largely comes down to lack of heart, intentionality, education and/or plain rebellion against God. Read that sentence again please. I believe this to be true.
I truly respect individual choice in all these matters. There is no possibility, no fail-safe method of forcing someone to truly love God and others, no set formula (though some teach otherwise!). Personal conviction is essential- and indeed patience as people choose and even walk away, all this is a core part of godly leadership.
It is the privilege as well as call of every professing follower of Jesus Christ to learn how to take up our cross daily and actually follow Him in love. It is likewise our call to love one another, our neighbor, even our enemies!
How we express that love in actual practice is what each of these four areas are all about.
Put another way, these as I see it, are the details that I deeply wish all Christians would intentionally, consciously study and apply throughout our time together on earth.
What a different church and world it would be if we each did!
Things to consider perhaps?
As always, thanks for stopping by! -Glenn