by Ronnie J. Harrison
As pastors and church leaders, I think we would all agree that giving birth to leaders is an important ingredient in virtually every ministry endeavor. We can all quote John Maxwell’s “everything rises and falls with leadership” line. Yet almost every ministry is in need of more leaders – people who truly understand what it means and what it costs to lead.
I won’t split hairs with you on whether leaders are born or grown–it’s a little of both, I suspect–but what I do know is that our churches, as a whole, are at a loss for leadership. As a pastor of a multi-campus ministry, and a speaker that spends several nights a month in churches across the country, I know that vision and desire are usually not the problem – lack of leadership is. Most pastors I know would love to give birth to ministry that enriched the lives of people and mobilized them to reach their cities. Instead they are desperate to make sure the church gets cleaned for the weekend service. In churches with limited staff and resources, where the life of the ministry is dependent on volunteers, finding team leaders is a struggle. Even in the larger ministries I visit, where staffing has become the model, most are full of “doers,” not leaders. Even if they manage to lead a small group of people within the ministry, they are not giving birth to leadership on a regular basis.
It is quite clear that to give birth to new vision we must be able to mobilize new leadership.
It is a quality leader who provides the gravity that pulls people toward the mission. Without that pull it is difficult to move a vision forward and even the most well-planned programs sputter. Instead of being “dreamers,” most pastors are relegated to being managers of important programs in that leadership vacuum. When our energies are largely spent “managing” what is, it becomes increasingly more difficult to realize the growth that we know God wants to send our way. Many churches are blessed to see a harvest of souls, but like the disciples that were commanded to “fish on the other side,” our nets are inadequate to hold the harvest that God delivers. We live in a cycle of tending broken rather than casting vision.
We can clearly see through the ministry of Christ that raising up leadership is important to the Kingdom enterprise. Jesus Himself spent every moment of His earthly ministry giving birth to those who would lead His Kingdom into the future, and even He didn’t bat 1,000. He too chose men who would fail to be faithful to the post that He had given them. Some would abandon their work all together, while others faltered under the pressure of Kingdom work.
So what does it take to give birth to leadership that enables us to dream God’s dream for our ministries? What do we have to do to find and mobilize the leadership necessary to accomplish the task that God has given us in the city in which we serve? What manner of training will ensure their success?
I wish the answer were simple and could be accomplished overnight. The fact is that leadership is a popular topic. There are more books, conferences and material on the subject than ever before, and yet nearly every ministry struggles to produce the leadership needed to support the vision. If leadership is the very foundation of all that we do and of all that we envision for the future, then it’s something that we have to figure out.
Failure is not in the area of capability or desire. We want to do it, and we have all of the needed information and training at our disposal. The failure has been our inability to create an environment in which giving birth to leaders is an overall part of the CULTURE of our ministries. We have been focused on the “followers,” yet all the while it was leaders that were needed. We have forgotten that “the function of leadership is not to produce more followers, but rather it is to produce more leaders” (Ralph Nadar). This must become an innate part of WHO WE ARE if we are going to be successful. If we aren’t focused and intentional about this task, it will never happen at the rate necessary to keep up with the vision. In Louisville, we break this process down into three areas: DISCOVER, DEVELOP, and DEPLOY. The moment we became intentional in these areas at every level of our ministry, leaders began to show up.
As you would imagine, the discovery step is the beginning of the process. The questions that we had to answer were WHO is responsible for discovering possible leaders, and WHERE were the most natural places and environments for discovery to take place. The answers to those questions were what made discovery a part of our culture. The reality is that every leader currently serving in our ministry is responsible for DISCOVERY. When we were able to get complete buy-in from our leadership, and provide the needed accountability, we were immediately able to put our hands on candidates for further training. The answer for the WHERE question was quite simple. We want discovery to be made at all times and in all the places where people are serving or are currently involved in programs that we provide. In every environment we create, whether it be small groups, membership class, or ministry teams, we must be discovering future leaders.
The development stage must also be intentional. Where are leaders currently being trained in your ministry? What does that process look like? Who is involved in it? How many layers of development do you feel is necessary? In this stage, mentoring becomes a crucial part of the process. I feel that leaders are formed best and most when we have a “walk-with-me” mentality. Apart from your leadership classes and the curriculum that is being taught, no leader should ever do ministry alone.
As leadership gifts are discovered and developed, deployment can take place and vision can expand. The reward is not that we have more people to lead more ministry, but that we have more leaders to involve in the process of producing leaders. Deployment involves commissioning these new leadership gifts in the process of producing leaders first. Then we place these reproductive leaders into the areas of expanding vision that creates spiritual enrichment for the body, and added support for serving our city and beyond. This results in growth in every area, both spiritually and numerically.
If discipleship is at the core of our calling as the body of Christ, we must begin to incorporate it into our culture and DNA. It can’t be a secondary part of our programming. It must truly be engraved on our hearts. If we are to fill the void of leadership and lay the foundation for vision to expand, we must take earnestly to the task of discovering, developing, and deploying leaders.
In his more than 20 years of full-‐time ministry, Ronnie Harrison has served the Lord alongside some of the giants of the faith. His spiritual heritage, experience and faith in God has birthed a vision to reach the greater Kentuckiana region with the true gospel of Jesus Christ.
In a step of faith, Ronnie moved to Louisville, Kentucky and planted The Kingdom Center Church in the fall of 2009. Knowing less than a half dozen people in a city of 1.3 million, Ronnie and his wife Stephanie birthed this church in the living room of their small condo. Now, The Kingdom Center serves 650+ members in weekend services with a second growing campus an hour east in Lexington. The Kingdom Center challenges people to live more than a “church life” but a kingdom life – a life lived to His highest purpose. To learn more, visit: TheKingdomCenterChurch.com