So the Lord said to Moses, “Take Joshua, son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit, and lay your hand on him. Have him stand before Eleazar the priest and the entire assembly and commission him in their presence. Give him some of your authority so the whole Israelite community will obey him.”
With church or ministry leadership comes a huge responsibility for completing the ministry work that the Lord has called us to. More often than not, we assume that as a leader we need to be intimately involved in every aspect of our ministry if we are to lead it effectively. But the reality is we can’t. We cannot lead every meeting, oversee every detail or make every decision. As leaders, we need to enlist the support and abilities of others if we are to meet the goals God has given to us. That means that we need to identify other people who are potential leaders and develop them so that they can lead, act, and manage according to our objectives and authority. Just as Moses laid his hands on Joshua, you too will need to identify other leaders who are “in the spirit,” and commission them to act on your behalf, and with your authority.
The first thing we must do is to determine what a leader is according to the Bible. I believe there are 4 factors that describe a leader from a Biblical perspective:
- A leader knows their identity is in Christ (1 Peter 2:9)
- A leader acknowledges that they are to help others employ their spiritual gifts (1 Peter 4:10)
- A leader understands that their job is to be salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16)
- A leader is committed to spreading the gospel (Acts 1:8) and making disciples of Christ (Matthew 28:19)
Knowing how to develop other leaders is extremely important for the growth and success of any ministry. If there is only one leader then that leader will be the “lid” on the ministry according to John Maxwell in his book, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. In other words, the ministry will not grow beyond the leader’s own abilities. Enlisting the help of other leaders enables a ministry to multiply and to go places where one leader alone cannot go by themselves. It also unleashes the power of the Holy Spirit as it works through more people!
The first step in developing leaders is to identify those who have potential. Often in our culture, churches rely on secular criteria, such as education, experience and personal references. But the Bible says there are only 3 criteria we should use:
- People of character (1 Timothy 3:2-3)
- People of faith (1 Timothy 3:9)
- People full of the Holy Spirit (Acts 6:3)
Failure to use these criteria often results in bad leaders. And removing bad leaders is one of the most difficult things to do in ministry. The only way to avoid that is to choose wisely and use God’s criteria for a leader and not the world’s criteria. If a potential leader exhibits the Biblical criteria, then we can use education, experience and references to select the best candidate. I would add that it is also good to select people with a passion for the ministry, people who are trainable, and people who have the appropriate spiritual gifts to ensure the best fit for the position.
Once a potential leader has been selected the development process begins. It starts with discipleship and making sure their faith is mature and that they have the knowledge to lead. Next they should be given a responsibility to see how they handle it. The leader should also clearly communicate their expectations to them and hold them accountable to complete the tasks they are assigned as agreed to. Start with small tasks and then gradually increase the level of complexity. After they have proven their capability and knowledge and as their leader you are comfortable with their leadership, release them into ministry by assigning them a responsibility. This is what Jesus did with the disciples when he sent them out in Matthew 10.
Raising up other leaders is one of the most gratifying accomplishments of any leader. But be sure to do it according to Biblical criteria, take your time in selecting the leader, and pray for God’s wisdom to make sure you have the right leader!
By Barry D. Voss