When we started Netzer twelve years ago, it was based on the observation that many pastors are overworked, exhausted, isolated and often felt void of the power necessary to exact the kind of leadership and change they would like to wield in order to lead their congregation to the next dimension of health and impact for the Kingdom.  The full weight of leadership and congregational health and missional fulfillment had fallen on their shoulders.  The weight was heavy, fear was paralyzing, and dynamic team leadership was not present.   

It is hard to overstate the importance of proactive leadership on the part of pastors and ministry leaders.  This is especially true in the context of leader development in the local church in that the heart of proactive leadership is leader development.  Leadership is how the Lord chooses to work all through the narrative of the Scriptures, choosing men and women to lead His people toward the identity, vision and mission He forms for them as a people. Time and time again, as goes the leader, so go the people. 

Oftentimes, churches do not have healthy leaders
because churches do not develop healthy leaders.

Leader development is one of the core activities that local church pastors should be about, something to which we all pretty much agree we should be giving ourselves.  In particular, local church pastors need to be developing the elders (or the spiritual equivalent of elders) in their local congregation. Pretty much all of us have a theological construct that calls for a focus on developing leaders: 

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. (Matthew 28.19,20) 

You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.  (2 Timothy 2.2) 

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ…  (Ephesians 4.11,12) 

However, many local church pastors and ministry leaders miss the importance of proactive development of healthy leaders in their congregation or ministry setting.  There are four observations I submit for your consideration as to why proactive leader development is not an activity many pastoral leaders engage: 

  1. They themselves have never been formed, and a leader cannot impart what he/she does not possess. 

  2. They are too busy satiating the consumeristic demands of people in the congregation who may or may not be members, when they should be developing the elders, deacons and worship leaders who make up the leadership of their core team(s).

  3. The church culture in which they serve does not value leader development.  Many pastors got into the pastoral game in order to serve the Lord and feed His sheep, not to be culture-creators and shapers.  Culture change is really hard. 

  4. They mis-perceive leader development as a paradigm or program providing good “leadership” answers to growing leaders rather than life-on-life impartation and engagement discovering together the key questions.   

In the next four months, I’ll do a dive into each of these four observations, one observation per month.  In the meantime, here is some closing food for thought from Parker Palmer: 

“Mentors and apprentices are partners in an ancient human dance, and one of teaching's great rewards is the daily chance it gives us to get back on the dance floor. It is the dance of the spiraling generations, in which the old empower the young with their experience and the young empower the old with new life, reweaving the fabric of the human community as they touch and turn. 

When I give something I do not possess, I give a false and dangerous gift, a gift that looks like love but is, in reality, loveless—a gift given more from my need to prove myself than from the other’s need to be cared for. That kind of giving is not only loveless but faithless, based on the arrogant and mistaken notion that God has no way of channeling love to the other except through me. Yes, we are created in and for community, to be there, in love, for one another. But community cuts both ways: when we reach the limits of our own capacity to love, community means trusting that someone else will be available to the person in need.”

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