Pastor John Braland
Copy write 2014
Jesus gave his disciples a Great Commission. This commission is to make disciples. This is what he said: “19Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).
The question is; how do we make disciples? Does it mean that you need to lead someone to Christ? Yes. Does it mean that you need to help them grow in their faith? Yes. What does this look like? This is where it gets cloudy. In a perfect world, once someone comes to Christ they start growing and never stop. But how? Is this even possible? How does a person move from exploring Christ to living a Christ centered life? Who is responsible for them? Does anyone need to be? It is possible to help people grow deeper in their faith so they can make more disciples and it happens by intention.
Studies show that there are certain activities called “spiritual disciplines” that can help a person grow in their faith. Spiritual disciplines such as: prayer, bible study, worship, small groups, and serving are all considered key to spiritual growth. But how do we help growing Christians develop into spiritual leaders? How do we turn biblical truth into life transformation? How does a church turn members into ministers?
In the past I have been guilty of teaching people the truth of God’s word then delegating them a task. What I didn’t realize was that I was essentially setting people up for failure because I failed to do two key coaching steps. Unfortunately I know that I am not the only pastor who has done this. Turns out, Jesus never did ministry like this, and neither should I. I believe there is a clear method that Jesus modeled in his ministry that we should replicate so we can fuel God’s church and complete his mission. We call it the “leadership engine.”
I didn’t discover this leadership engine right away. As I look back on my years in ministry I have used it to help others develop their leadership horsepower but didn’t recognize the pattern. This leadership engine has four parts: Educating, equipping, encouraging, and empowering. And when these four parts work in synch, the leadership engine roars generating more effective leaders who make more disciples. And the leaders who rise up are challenged to make more disciples.
Part 1: Educating
Learner asks: What do I need to do? Why do I need to do it?
When Jesus walked this earth, lawyers, scribes, Pharisees, the sick, the lame, the blind, and even his disciples called him Teacher or Rabbi. Matthew 13 records Jesus disciple asking him to “explain to us the parable of the weeds.” Matthew 15:15 records Peter asking Jesus to explain the parable to him. Jesus took a large amount of time teaching his close disciples and the multitudes the truth of God’s word. He explained God’s word in detail and made sure they understood. Leaders are responsible to educate people with the truth of God’s Word.
Part 2: Equipping
Learner asks: How do I do it?
Jesus disciples had the privilege of following him wherever he went. When he taught the masses, they observed. When he healed the sick, they were by his side. What Jesus was doing was equipping his disciples to do ministry by letting them be with him and observe what he was doing. This is where his words collided with his works generating a powerful reality in the disciple’s lives. Matthew 10:5-8 records Jesus sending his disciples out in pairs. They were able to go out because they felt equipped to do what he had called them to do. The verbs Jesus used were “go,” “preach,” “heal the sick,” “raise the dead,” “cleanse the lepers,” and “drive out demons.” Jesus gave his disciples the authority to do ministry and they felt confident to do it because they were equipped. Leaders are responsible to equip others to do ministry not just observe ministry. There is a huge difference. This is the point when the leader must move from educating to coaching.
Part 3: Encouraging
Learner says: Let’s do ministry together. Watch me do it.
After Jesus disciples went out in pairs they came back to him and gave a report of what happened. Mark 6:30 records: “The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all that they had done and taught.” So they had gone out, and now they had come back. I’m sure so had success stories while others had poor outcomes (Mark 9:38) When they reported back to him the very fact that he listened to them must have been encouraging. This encouragement involved accountability to go out and do what they were called to do then report back the results. Leaders must encourage people to step up and do the ministry they have been equipped to do. Larry Osborne says it this way: “You can throw them in the pool, but you need to sit by the edge.” This is coaching at its best.
Part 4: Empowering
Learner asks: Where can I do ministry?
Jesus educated his disciples by teaching them spiritual truth. He equipped them to do ministry by inviting them to follow him so they could watching and learn. He encouraged them by closing the feedback loop and then he empowered them to go out and do what he commissioned them to do. John 13:13-15 says: “13You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.”
Jesus gave his followers the Great Commission empowering them to make disciples in his name. Matthew 28:19-20 says: “19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
This is the point when the leader essentially commissions the learner to go out and make more disciples and continue the process on their own. At this point the leader has delegated the task and the completely handed over the authority to make it happen.
Prayer: The lube that keeps the leadership engine running.
Prayer is really the lube that keeps the engine running. Apart from God it is possible to get educated without becoming more spiritual. The Pharisees are an excellent example of this. And Paul confronted people who were attempting to make disciples without the truth of Christ (education). Without prayer, the whole leadership engine seizes. Jesus taught his disciples how to pray and it’s recorded in Matthew 6:9-13. We call it the Lord’s Prayer. Prayer was such an important aspect of the disciple-making process that Peter even prioritized it for leaders in the early church (Acts 6:4).
Applying the Leadership Engine in Ministry
At Freshwater, we teach God’s truth in the messages, small groups, and in every other ministry setting where God’s Word is studied. The key is to teach truth in a manner that is understandable and useful so people can apply it. Weekend services are designed to cast a broad net. Our weekend services attract both Christians and non-Christians. Our goal is to open the Word of God so everyone can take the next step in their faith no matter where they fall on the spiritual continuum.
Leaders equip learners by utilizing their leadership stream. Our staff has more formalized leadership streams and volunteers follow their leaders. This is why creating, following, and tweaking your leadership stream is so vital. When truth is combined with skills training people feel prepared to take the next step.
I believe that people want to be challenged to step up. But they will only step up if they know why Jesus wants them to and that they possess the skills needed to succeed. You need to encourage people to step up. NOTE: Not everybody is willing to step up every time you ask them to. For some it’s a matter of timing and life stage. For other’s it’s a matter of personality. Not everybody is designed to be a leader in a ministry setting. In fact, studies show that less than 10% of the population is wired to be a leader. Some people find great fulfillment is following and serving while others will find even more fulfillment in leading. You need to use your discernment here.
When you empower a person to do ministry you need to delegate responsibility and authority. Many leaders just delegate responsibility and the result is someone who has the key to the door but doesn’t have the authority to lead once inside. When you delegate authority you are empowering the leader to celebrate victory, agonize over defeat, and chart their own course. In essence, they carry the burdens and the blessings for the ministry. If you still dictate every little detail, you have not really empowered the leader, you have just given them responsibility. If all you do is delegate responsibility you will become the lid and your ministry will stagnate.
The biggest challenge here is for the leader. When you empower someone it’s like sending your kid off to college where they will be on their own. At this point you become an advisor and need to let them stand on their own. If you are afraid of others passing you up, they will quit or you will force them out before empowering them to go out.
I believe that if we you use this leadership engine as an overarching process it will result in many more leaders being developed systematically. It might not be a radical shift in what you are already doing, but it clarifies the process. It’s a model that can be shown, discovered, and replicated by anyone and everyone regardless of where they currently serve or lead. Blessings to you as you continue to make disciples.
Dr. John Braland serves as the Lead Pastor at Freshwater Community Church, a multisite church with campuses in St. Bonifacius and Waconia MN. He is married to Kathi and they have three school age children. John volunteers as a police chaplain, enjoys coaching other pastors, developing leaders, riding his Harley, and repairing classic cars. His blog can be accessed at www.johnbraland.com.