Thursday, July 5, 2007

Steeping Leadership Development
in Prayer and the Scriptures

Leadership development in the church is one of the most important and challenging tasks that faces its current leadership. If at any given moment, a church is not actively working in partnership with the Lord to shape people for leading the church of the present and the future, then that is the moment when that church begins to die.

As a church planter, I find myself at the beginning of an important transition time as a group of strong leaders are winding down their involvement with Cascade Hills, preparing to move on to plant another new church to reach the lost in our city.

Not all of the leaders will be leaving, but now is a great and visible time to redouble my efforts in the area of developing future leaders at Cascade Hills. I have begun tapping a few folks on the shoulder, asking them to commit to pray seriously about the possibility of becoming more directly involved with the leadership of our faith community. Along with that time of prayer, I am inviting them to sit before the Scriptures, approaching them with a fresh set of eyes.

The commitment to prayer has the purpose of building trust in these new leaders (and in me), that God indeed is still capable of leading the growth of His church as willing people submit to Him in listening prayer. A strong sense of calling is critical to any leadership venture, and listening, searching prayer is a vital part of discerning that sense of calling.The commitment to Scripture takes the form of a one-on-one or small group Bible study with each of these potential leaders. In these Bible studies, we employ a missional hermeneutic: an approach to hearing the Scriptures that acknowledges and is ever responsive to God's missional purpose in the church. The two key components of this missional hermeneutic are thus:
  • An understanding that the church is a sent people, called by God into active engagement with a fallen world and a part of God's gracious work to restore Creation. In Jesus, God decisively broke the power of sin and opened the way to new creation; through the Holy Spirit, God empowered God's people to represent His in-breaking reign by being its sign and foretaste (indicating by its own communal life the sort of community God is working to re-create in all of humanity) as well as God's agent and instrument in bringing about this reign (both actively and passively serving God's re-creative purposes through its words and actions).
  • An understanding that the purpose of leadership in the church is to partner with God in the formation of a missional people that knows and lives out this missional calling.
In this early stage of leadership formation, my hope and prayer is all of us engaged in this study can be profoundly re-shaped by this missional reading of the Scriptures. We will need to fight at every turn an individualistic, personal, private reading of the Scriptures. Rather than asking, what does this Scripture mean for my (private, personal) life, asking instead how this Scripture shapes a people ready to accomplish His re-creative purposes? Rather than asking how ought my individual behaviors reflect the teaching of these Scriptures, we must instead ask, how ought our faith community live out these Scriptures as a witness to God's re-creative purposes coming to fruition in our midst?

My ultimate hope and prayer for these beginning steps of leadership formation is twofold:
  • First, that we as leaders will begin to understand together the demands these Scriptures make on our communal discipleship, helping us to remain faithful and diligent in the activities that form the diverse people of Cascade Hills into a thoroughly missional community;
  • And second, that this approach to Scripture will itself "trickle down" to the opportunities we have to go before the Scriptures with others at Cascade Hills, helping to turn the tide of individualistic and privatized spirituality in our culture.
We've a long road ahead of us, may the Father of Lights illumine our Way.

1 comment:

Tim Lewis said...

Great thoughts here, slapping me upside the head. to be aware of when and where I am and we are. I especially see the last thought as a big challenge, with our American individualistic culture being a huge obstacle to developing discipling relationships. There's something about putting yourself into a submissive position of being discipled by someone else that rubs against what we are told by our society, that no one can tell you what to do and how to act.