I recently read the most recent book by one of my favourite Christian authors, Francis Chan, called “Letters to the Church.”  It is an excellent reflection on the state of the Western Church and how we should be questioning the way ministry is done.  I cannot recommend it too highly.

I just about ran out of red ink underlining so many parts of the book but there was one quote that particularly stood out to me, “We can develop leaders only when we structure things in a way that requires others to lead.”

The point that Chan makes is that “ministry” in the Western Church has traditionally followed a model that asks the leader to do the work rather than lead and equip others in doing the work.  I think this has also been the case in Western Society more broadly as we have looked to leaders (particularly political ones) to have the answers and fix the problems.  Mike Breen has helpfully observed that we still have the remnants of the old “feudal model” where leaders are expected to have the answers, provide all the momentum and direct the solution to any issues.

The benefit to this kind of leadership is that it is efficient because decisions are made quickly and we can all “get on with it.”  Proponents of this model will say, “We don’t want to get stuck in a committee.  Let’s just get on with it.”  And if the leader and ministry team are good at what they do, this model will be effective.

However, there are 3 significant down-sides to this model:

  1. Good ideas get missed.  If there is really only one voice leading the team, the good ideas that come from a plurality of diverse voices won’t be heard.
  2. There’s no room for new people.  New people have trouble fitting into the team because those who are already there will have everything covered.  A new person just complicates things!
  3. Multiplication can’t happen because new leaders can’t emerge.  If leaders do their role in a way which doesn’t require any other voices, new upcoming leaders won’t be discovered.  Indeed, they will be stifled.  Without new leaders emerging, multiplication can’t happen.

So, if we believe that multiplication and discipleship are God-ordained for His people, then we need to heed Chan’s words, “We can develop leaders only when we structure things in a way that requires others to lead.”

Indeed, one doesn’t have to look very far in the Bible to see that it was this kind of leadership that Jesus exercised.  It is obvious that Jesus, being God (!), could have done everything on His own without anyone’s help.  The One who calmed a storm, raised Lazarus from the dead and feed over 5,000 people, doesn’t need any help!  But, He chose to lead in a way that made room for others to come through.  That is no more clearly seen that when He sent out the 72 in mission (Luke 10).  He had trained them, encouraged them, briefed them, empowered them and then released them.  When they returned, he de-briefed them.  But they certainly weren’t perfect – he made room for their failures and he didn’t exclude them.  That’s the model of leadership for us.

So, how can we evaluate our own leadership and look to lead in a way that makes room for others?  Here are some thoughts?

  1. If you haven’t seen new people join your team for a while, it may be that you are not making room for people. 
  2. Can you identify the names of 2 people right now in your team who you are investing in and empowering, who could be leaders in the future?
  3. Do you see yourself as indispensable?  You’re not meant to be.
  4. What was the last good idea one of your team felt empowered to raise and execute?  If you can’t think of one, it may be that there isn’t room for others.

Someone recently told me a story of when they took on a role of leadership.  God clearly gave them a word that has stuck with them throughout their ministry.  God said to them, “I want to use you but don’t ever think I need you.”  While that make sound like a negative thing, it has had the opposite effect on their ministry – they have felt released and empowered to invest into others and release them into new opportunities.

Lord, we believe you want us to be a multiplying people who lead the way Jesus led.  Help me to be that kind of leader in the Church, in my home and in my workplace.  In Jesus Name and for His glory.  Amen.