Certainly we know and understand the idea that multiplying ministry (or better yet ministry leaders or disciples) is the approach that Jesus used with the 12 to start the church. Along with that what we as the Church would like to emulate… but how is that really going??
So for now I want to wrap up this series of posts on leadership in the local church and more specifically how it is doing related to positional and functional leadership. I suggested at the end of my last post that maybe we are challenged in how we are resourcing and multiplying leadership in our churches. Let’s look together at a couple areas in the church that might give us a better idea of what is going on. Let me say as we explore these… one of the areas that overall seems to challenge an organization is the challenge of leading a mostly volunteer troop. (a better way to look at this may be an “organism” a read worth checking into would be Greg Ogden’s book Unfinished Business: Returning the Ministry to the People of God ).
As a man who entered ministry through a different path than the typical seminary trained preaching pastor of a church I have wondered about the value that the institutional church has placed on the area of ministry that I have represented (which is that of intentional relational discipleship). Let me add a disclaimer to that right away that I don’t want this to come off as sour grapes over not being paid on a similar scale to that of preaching pastors… but more of a general value that the church has held that may not be helping this volunteer organization (organism). Along with that my experience is mostly related to a small number of denominations that I am most familiar with so could very well be too limited. But here I go anyway. And as we go on this let me at least repeat something that I have heard a number of times through my years related to church & ministry, and that is this, that you can tell what a church values by where their money goes.
As I look over what I have seen (and still see for the most part) in this volunteer organization is this expectation that someone hired as the preaching pastor for a church will have all the leadership skills neededd… or that their preaching will be so effective from the pulpit that the area of relational discipleship will be stoked and grown. That seems to be a lot of pressure put on a position that was never meant to be able to do that. Now even in saying that I realize that in many bigger (mega) churches this may work out differently as that person who was hired may have more of a CEO role, but still the majority of churches in America are small to maybe medium sized churches. However, if we would look at the seminaries that train these pastors do we see a wing of them yet that are training men and women on a path to oversee the relational discipleship aspect of our churches? Instead we see many different paths with no real together thought on how this aspect of being the church and carrying out the mission of the church is projected forward.
Now I have obviously only touched on this and there are many parts to this that either contribute or distract from this happening… but I am going to leave that here for now and move onto an area where we have a potential multiplying aspect that could really advance these volunteer troops… but unfortunately this too has too often not made the traction of multiplication have real impact on that mission.
In area that came in a number of years ago that felt like a very hopeful movement for the church was the small group movement. There are many reasons for that, but I would like to just take a brief look at the multiplication aspect. Now I may be stomping on some toes here (which by the way would be my own as well). My wife and I have faith stories very much attached to the small group movement and we have seen much good. But along with that I have seen the programmatic challenge and the more institutionalization of small groups not really meet the organic nature of discipleship (multiplication) really take root.
Now I want it said that I very much believe that small group related ministry has brought us much closer, and really feels yet like the right avenue of proximity of God’s people with each other and others to deliver. But we have still tried to attach more structural than organic movement of God working in and through people’s lives to it. And believe me I have tried many of those approaches… such as: dividing groups on a regular time basis, birthing new groups, even splitting groups (and there are more). But within this movement it felt like the apprenticeship approach was the right model of discipleship to do multiplication… but it seems to be struggling for the most part with really being implemented well. Why is that? What is your experience… and ultimately how are we as churches and denominations really resourcing this and giving value to this. We have churches that have perpetuated their small groups… but if the measure is to be how is discipleship happening (leadership development) how are we doing?
I truly believe this still offers us a great way to model what Jesus had done with the 12 (remember Coleman’s book Master Plan of Evangelism or Putman & Harrington along with Coleman and the book DiscipleShift), but until the value is raised closer to what is led by senior leaders/Pastors on Sunday morning can we really expect it to take root?