As i’ve been writing and researching small group models over time and in differing churches, there is something I haven’t seen much of.
Comments from leaders and pastors that started out as small group leaders. Now i’m sure it’s out there, but i was considering the real value of a model if the end goal is to be that of a Christ honoring, disciple making, biblically based process and it is not bearing any fruit – mature disciples and leaders. I’m wondering if often the modern church focuses on the model and process more than they do on the people and disciple making.
Good leaders must see value in people. Ministry is not a program but people who are moving out of the overflow of their gifts. Disciples will not emerge from a program; they emerge from a relationship. Discipleship must be carried out by someone, not something. It takes time, attention, prayer.
Paul values Timothy as he refers to him as “my true son” in both 1 and 2 Timothy. He told Timothy to fan into flames the gift that he received when Paul laid his hands on him; so evidently, Paul deposited some sort of spiritual gift into Timothy personally. Paul told Timothy not to let others look down on him because he was young but to be an example to them. Paul recognized that it’s not just his preaching and writing that will carry on after him; it’s the investments he made in people.
When we look at the qualifications that Paul gives for leadership in the church in 1 Timothy 3, most of them are directly related to how a person interacts with other people. It’s not about his gifts or his leadership ability as much as it’s about faithfulness to his spouse, self-control, reputation, gentleness, the way he manages his family, is respected as a person of integrity.
True disciples, mature believers and church leaders will invest their time and gifts in other people.
In church history there were two preachers—George Whitefield and John Wesley. They were contemporaries- both lived in the 1700s, and both were amazing leaders of the church in their day.
George Whitefield was an amazing speaker, probably the best preacher of his generation. John Wesley spent more of his time training others. Even today, you can visit the chapel that he built at Bristol in which he installed a glass window above the sanctuary from which he could watch his young emerging ministers preach. After, he would meet with each of them and evaluate their progress.
While Whitefield’s legacy lives on in his writings and sermons, Wesley’s lives on in his writings, sermons, and the investments he made in others. Wesley was committed to spiritual reproduction—to multiplication—and the result was the Methodist movement, which turned into the Methodist church, which boasts of thousands and thousands of followers today. That’s the power of valuing people and investing your life into them. Spend less time trying to devise your next program for discipling people and invest a few hours talking to someone, giving them an opportunity, or taking them on an adventure.
You may not know this about me but I like the preaching of Whitefield much more than of Wesley. I’m not making a value judgement here on either of these men, they both were blessed by God to build up His church with the gifts he gave each of them. Personally and greedily I wish there had been scores of men sent out by Whitefield to build a church as large as Methodism became in America.
Recently I had a pastor friend tell me he did not think much of the great Baptist preacher Charles H. Spurgeon. I was in shock. Spurgeon is often called the “prince of peachers”. He trained and mentored hundrends of young preachers and I read from his writings almost everyday.
“What?” I stammered. My friend told me there was another preacher, a slightly older contemporary Spurgeon got many of his messages from. This man was much more concise, a better orator. He just never developed the large church and preaching school of Spurgeon. Superior, but alone. I’m not sure that holds up over time quite so well. I don’t remember that preachers name, do you?
What kind of impact do you want to have with your life? I’m not blasting programs. Paul’s program was to send Timothy some letters. Wesley had to train and establish many men in leadership and Spurgeon worked with a team to build teaching and preaching programs that benefitted many preachers.
What is God calling me to do? What is He saying to you? Be a great solo act or build a team? Out of our faithfulness come processes that benefit people. If we love people, we must do more than copy a program, we must leave a legacy of investing in others. That’s what Jesus did on His Journey and what He wants to continue through us in ours.