Churches Train Leaders
David and John are discouraged as they visit Brother Eyo. “I’m sorry to say that the church at Gane is not growing as fast as it was in the beginning,” said David. “We have three more young people, but no other families have joined us this month. The new believers need more of our time, and we cannot find much time to win new people as we did before.”
“I think the answer to your problems can be said in one word, leadership,” said Brother Eyo. “We have talked about how to organize the church and develop a self-governing church. No church can depend on one or two leaders only. Now is the time you must train believers for the responsibilities of leadership within the church. As you teach them to help people in the church, they will also learn how to reach people outside the church. This will help to keep the church growing.”
If you are now working with a growing church or plan to in the future, this lesson will help you understand methods of developing leaders who can take responsibilities in the church. You will study principles from Scripture that will be a guide for the selection and training of leaders in the local church.
Reasons for Leaders
After a church is established, the church planter may move on to plant new churches in other areas. For the church to continue to grow and expand its ministries, the leadership must be in the hands of local people within the church body. Examples of this principle are clear in Scripture.
During the years of Jesus’ earthly ministry, He preached to thousands of people and healed many hundreds, but He chose and trained only a few disciples (the Twelve) to lead the new church and to train others to become leaders. Jesus cared greatly for the crowds of people. He wept with compassion for them (Luke 19:41). While He wanted to win them, He would reach the multitudes best with a few correctly trained disciples. Those same disciples, together with those they brought to the Lord, did reach the multitudes. Their influence was felt “all over the world” (Acts 17:6).
When Jesus gave His final instructions to His disciples, He did not tell them to find great crowds to whom they should preach. He told them to make disciples. This was the key that would enable them to take the gospel to the whole world (Matthew 28:19–20).
The apostle Paul understood this principle well. In 2 Timothy 2:2, he wrote, “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.” The early church leaders dedicated themselves to the task of training faithful men to continue the process by teaching others also. By training faithful workers the church planter can multiply the results of the work more effectively.
That leaders must come from within the church body is evident for both natural and spiritual reasons. People in the church usually respond better to a person who is familiar with their way of life. People who live in a small village, for example, may find it hard to accept a person from a large, cosmopolitan city as their leader.
Spiritually, a church has a great problem if it must always depend on leadership from an outside source. This does not mean that workers within a local church may not leave their area, but that one of the important ministries of the church is to produce local leaders. The development of leaders within the church is a result of responsible self-government. The church is assuming responsibility for its stability and the obligation to take the gospel to the surrounding community. Usually, this will naturally result in spiritual and numerical growth.
It is a blessing to all the church when a pastor has the vision, as Paul did in training Timothy and Titus, to develop leaders within the church. Such pastors know how to inspire others and delegate responsibility without fear of losing their authority. These pastors know that members put to work will produce a united, happy, healthy church. A pastor who tries to do everything and keep everything under his control will have to struggle to prevent discontent. He will also stifle the growth of the church. He needs to allow other qualified believers to take responsibility so that they, too, can build up the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:12).
Qualifications for Leaders
In Lesson 3 we studied church government and the need for certain leaders and committees in the church. These are needed for the stability and effective service of the church. Certain leaders will be chosen for the official board of the church. These will assist the pastor in the work of the church. They do not rule the church or the pastor; their function is to serve the church with the pastor.
First Timothy 3:1 reads, “If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task.” The qualifications for an overseer and deacon are in 1 Timothy 3:2–10 and Titus 1:5–9).
1. He must be above reproach; that is, no one can find a reason to accuse him of improper behavior.
2. He must be the husband of one wife. This was an important statement in a society where men frequently lived with more than one woman. Paul made it clear that the Christian marriage standard was this: Each man was to have one wife, and he was to be faithful to her.
3. He is to be temperate. He is not to be extreme in any activity. He practices self-control and moderation in each area of life.
4. He is to be self-controlled. He is not quick-tempered, does not give in to excessive appetites, nor is in bondage to himself.
5. He is to be respectable. He has an orderly life. His acquaintances respect him.
6. He is to be hospitable; that is, he will share his home and time with others.
7. He can teach. He must be able to tell others the good news and to exhort them concerning Christian living.
8. He is not to be given too much wine.
9. He is to be gentle and not quarrelsome.
10. He is not to be a lover of money.
11. He manages his own house and family well. He keeps his children under control with dignity.
12. He is not to be a new convert.
13. He has a good reputation with that outside of the church.
14. He must not be quick-tempered or violent.
15. He must love what is good.
16. He must encourage others with sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.
The requirements for leadership in the New Testament church stress qualities, not deeds. This is true not only in the verses we have just read but also in other incidents where spiritual leadership is being chosen. When Paul needed a traveling companion, he chose Timothy who was a man of whom “the brothers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well” (Acts 16:2). The Men selected for the task of serving tables in Jerusalem were men “known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom” (Acts 6:3). When Paul wrote his instructions to Timothy and Titus about leaders in the local churches, he emphasized qualities, not tasks.
Paul knew that tasks would change from culture to culture. He knew that a man who could manage his family well could encourage and direct the church family. In every culture and time, people need to be prayed for, taught, and encouraged. Having the ability for these ministries was more important than saying how the tasks should be performed.
Paul did not give rigid patterns for leadership. In Ephesus and Philippi he talked about overseers (bishops) and deacons; to Titus, he mentioned overseers (or elders) but not deacons. Perhaps he did this to ensure creativity. He knew that different times and different cultures would need a variety of methods to accomplish the same spiritual purpose.
One fact was clear in the New Testament church: There was always a plurality of leadership. No individual served alone, although some had more responsibility than others. Paul points out that “the elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching” (1 Timothy 5:17).
Identify Recognized Leaders
In every village, town, or city are leaders who may be rich, poor, or in-between. But they are recognized leaders because the people respect their opinions and value their judgment. In the event of a local argument, the people expect these leaders to settle it. When a representative is needed to speak to officials the recognized leader will be asked to speak for the people.
The apostle Paul knew that recognized leaders usually make the best spiritual leaders. He knew that these leaders if truly converted and consecrated to the Lord could influence people in their whole area to become believers. That is why Paul used every opportunity to witness such leaders as the chief of Malta, the governors Felix and Festus, King Agrippa, and even the household of the Emperor of Rome (Acts 24–26, 28; Philippians 4:22).
The church planter is advised to use the same principle that Paul used. He should be bold to proclaim the gospel to all, but be sure that local leaders in each community are allowed to become believers. When there is a group of believers in one place, the church planter should be careful to find the recognized leaders among the new believers. The new believers will respect and follow their lead. Non-believers will also have more respect for the gospel because they see that these recognized leaders have become believers.
When Paul left his disciple, Titus, to work on the island of Crete, he told him to ordain “elders” in every church. These were to be mature believers with high moral qualifications (Titus 1:5–9). Paul told Titus there were to be such leaders “in every town” (v. 5). The church planter must be careful not to neglect anyone who is a potential leader just because the person may be older or younger than himself. A mature believer may be young in years and an older person may not be spiritually mature. The important fact is this: A potential leader should be respected by the community and mature in his or her spiritual life and conduct.
Preparation for Leaders
The New Testament Approach
To meet the challenge of evangelizing the lost we can learn from New Testament methods. The book of Acts shows that the methods of evangelism and training church leaders were flexible. This tells us that the New Testament church leaders were open to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. This also indicates that the emphasis in training leaders to continue the work of the church was first on spiritual preparation rather than intellectual preparation. The apostles trusted the Holy Spirit to guide the new leaders.
Jesus’ first preparation for His disciples was that they would “be with Him” (Mark 3:14), and after that, they would go out to preach and to heal the sick. Frequently Jesus spent time alone with His disciples to give them spiritual teaching (Mark 4:10; 6:31; Luke 11:1–13; and John 3:22). Spiritual preparation was so important to the disciples’ training that even after they had been with Jesus throughout His ministry, in Gethsemane, and at Calvary, He told them to wait in Jerusalem to be “‘baptized with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 1:5).
Spiritual preparation comes from studying God’s Word and learning how to intercede in prayer. With study and prayer that is not superficial, one learns to be taught and led by the Holy Spirit. This learning begins when one’s life is committed to Christ and continues throughout the Christian experience.
Preparation by Experience
Jesus helped His disciples learn the work of the ministry by doing the tasks of the ministry. His approach could be called on-the-job training. The church planter or pastor should train leaders as Jesus did. Allow workers to minister in the church. They can lead evangelism groups, visit and pray for the sick, teach Bible study classes, and lead prayer meetings. We read in Matthew 17:17–20 that the disciples failed in the healing of the epileptic son, but Jesus took them aside and gave them further teaching. Paul had taught discussions in a hall in Ephesus for two years (Acts 19:9–10), but these were not just lectures. Many workers went out from that class to minister, because in those two years “all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord” (Acts 19:10). This was no small task. Paul did not visit many places in person. There is evidence that other workers established the church in Colossae, Hierapolis, and Laodicea (Colossians 2:1; 4:13). The province was so completely evangelized that it became a center of Christianity for many years.
Many Workers Involved
Jesus sent out twelve disciples for preaching, then He “appointed seventy-two others” (Luke 10:1). These workers went out preaching what they had learned from Jesus and they returned with joy (10:17). Jesus said, “‘The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few” (10:2). The great harvest requires many workers, and every believer should have a part in the work of the harvest. Not all are called to be preachers and teachers, but the whole body of Christ is part of the team of witnesses that has a responsibility to take the gospel. A new convert can witness to the unsaved, a seasoned convert can help the new, the pastor can teach the deacons, and the deacons can become lay workers who may start daughter churches. In the New Testament after the death of Stephen, persecution scattered the believers throughout Judea and Samaria (Acts 8:1). Only the apostles stayed in Jerusalem, but the scattered believers preached the Word wherever they went (8:4). The same principle operates today. As more lay workers are involved, the expansion of the church will be greater.
Train Leaders by Example
Show a Desire to Serve
Jesus said, “No servant is greater than his master” (John 13:16). The church planter cannot expect those he trains to develop greater dedication, vision, and spiritual maturity than he demonstrates in his life. The people will see his example more than they will hear his words. Peter advised, “Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock” (1 Peter 5:2–3).
Our great example of desiring to serve is the Lord Jesus himself. The apostle Paul sums this up very well: “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, . . . made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, . . . he humbled himself and became obedient to death” (Philippians 2:5–8). Luke 22:14–30 is an incident that describes the wrong attitude of the disciples. John 13:1–17 records the happenings of the same evening and tells how Jesus taught the disciples by His example. Read these passages of Scripture thoughtfully and prayerfully. If a church planter follows the principle of serving those he is leading, then people will follow his lead.
Be An Example in Faithfulness and Faith
Jesus taught His disciples, “‘Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much” (Luke 16:10). For a Christian who is doing the Lord’s work, especially the church planter or pastor, no job is unimportant. We demonstrate our faithfulness by our attention to the small details of our work. Do not promise to be at a meeting unless you can be there and be there on time. If you promise to do a task by a certain time, do it. If you are faithful in the little things, those you are leading will have confidence in you. They will learn by your example what it means to be faithful.
The great importance of faith is taught in Hebrews 11:6, “Without faith, it is impossible to please God.” If there is a key to success in service to God, it is faith. One person can look at an area where there are no believers and say it is impossible to start a church there. Another will see it as a great opportunity for a church. Faith in God’s power means we believe we can accomplish work that appears humanly impossible. Demonstrating faith amid problems and difficulties is the best way to help others learn to exercise faith in God’s power.
Occasionally some pastors make the mistake of wanting to keep good leaders tied to their local churches too long. The local church indeed is where the development of leaders begins and is nourished. However, the ultimate goal of training leaders in the local church is to produce not only local leaders but also leaders for every ministry of the church worldwide. Evangelists, teachers, pastors, and executives for the church organization must be developed. God has given the ministry of gifts of governing, the word of knowledge, and the word of wisdom to various believers in the church (Romans 12:8; 1 Corinthians 12:28). For new churches to be planted and expanded, pastors must recognize and encourage those whom the Lord is calling to full-time ministry.
The apostle Paul recognized the sincere faith and gift of God that was in Timothy (2 Timothy 1:5–6). It is evident that Timothy was with Paul in the ministry for a short time, perhaps only a few months (Acts 16:2–4). Then Timothy was sent to Ephesus and other churches to fulfill his work as a pastor/ teacher. Titus, Tychicus, Artemas, and others had contact with the apostles, but they were sent out to their ministries in the various churches of Asia. Paul refers to them in Colossians, Ephesians, and Philippians not as “apprentices” but as “fellow ministers.”
Short-term or extension Bible schools are useful to present-day systems that train believers in centers at or near their local churches. These schools may have courses that run from one week to several months. The classes may meet in intensive weekend seminars or at night for many weeks. This process enables those who have church or job responsibilities to have the advantage of advanced Bible training without having to leave their daily work. The schools may use materials from a resident Bible school. Some schools are taught by experienced teachers or pastors using Global University courses in a seminar method. These schools are effective middle-level systems of Bible training because they allow for many more people to receive training. This increases the ministry of the local church.
Resident Bible colleges provide an excellent place for the training of future teachers, pastors, and national church executives who are needed to provide leadership for the advancement of the church. These schools are for those who have already proved themselves as leaders and show evidence of God’s call on their lives.
The years in a Bible institute or college expose a student to a variety of ministries from qualified, experienced teachers. It is valuable for full-time study in God’s Word, further development of strong devotional life, and benefit from the experience of working and ministering with others who are called to the ministry of the gospel.
Each local church should be like a seedbed. After the plants sprout in a seedbed and begin to grow tall, there is no more space for them in the bed. The farmer carefully transplants them to the fields where they will have room to grow and produce a good crop.
A good church planter will train people in the new churches. As they grow spiritually and become good leaders, he will not try to keep them all working in the same local church. Spiritual leaders bear much more fruit out in the field than they do in the seedbed. There are still many places in the world today where “‘the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few” (Luke 10:2). A wise leader will help new leaders develop and then send them out to new places in the harvest field.