Raising Up Leaders

Thursday , 18, June 2015 Leave a comment

Twice this week, I have received phone calls from strong, mature Christian friends who are experiencing the same struggle.  Both are currently attending mega-churches—one in Murfreesboro, the other in Mount Juliet.  At both, there are strong worship teams focused on genuine worship and very gifted preachers who preach the Word in the power of the Holy Spirit.  So what could possibly be a problem?

In both cases, small groups are absent, and the Pastors and leadership teams have no desire to see small groups form.  In fact, in both cases, they are adamant that small groups (i.e.  Life Groups, Class Meetings, Home Groups) do not form…

Why are my friends grieved?  Because they realize that Life Groups are the New Testament model and expectation; that God through His Spirit is able to accomplish transformation in people’s lives through this dynamic that cannot take place in Worship Services or in Sunday Schools/discipleship classes; and that because of the strong preaching and worshipping, there are many well-equipped leaders with…no place to serve, lead, and otherwise use the gifting that God has entrusted to them.  It is a frustrating catch-22 for my friends….

Because they walk in maturity, they have no desire to leave, bad-mouth their preachers, or in other ways undermine what God is doing in the church.  But, because they walk in maturity, they are grieving over all the missed opportunities… over all the bored and underutilized leaders… over all the healing that will not happen apart from Biblical small groups.

So what is up with the pastors?  Why are they being so obstinate about Life Groups?  I suspect the answer has three causes (and I am actually friends with one of these two pastors, so I have a good idea of what is going on).

1)        They have been “burned” in the past by small groups. Both Churches are Non-denominational, which tends to feed the spirit of radical individualism that is already prevalent in our culture.  So, in that environment, the likelihood that some small groups will become the breeding ground for church splits is likely.  Both these guys, no doubt, have seen small groups become unplanned church plants—at the expense of the mother-church…

2)       They have confused their Biblical mandate to “equip the saints for the work of ministry” with the American mandate to “build a great (read that “large”) church.  When church growth becomes a higher value than church health, small groups—the single most important component of church health—become a problem rather than the solution…

3)       As Non-Denominational guys, they lack a strong sense of being “undercover” (under the authority of another person or team completely outside of the local setting, as in a “Timothy” submitted to a “Paul”) so they fear empowering those who are under their covering.  In other words, they have become control freaks, for fear of losing their big churches and the status that goes with them…

As I said, I am friends with one of these two pastors, and have seen their great giftedness.  Still, I grieve for them, because they are really thinking small when they try to protect “big.”  Ultimately, I grieve for all the potential leaders in their churches—because it is miserable to be all equipped with no place to go…!

As a United Methodist pastor, I am truly undercover—and love to equip folks to lead.  I currently pastor a “staff” of about 20 pastors—our Life Group leaders—who are doing most of the frontline pastoral work of this congregation.  In fact, we consider everyone (around 80 people presently) serving as a teacher, worship team member, committee member, food team member, or Life Group pastor to be a leader—with one simple expectation—that they attend to the “Means of Grace” of daily reading of the Word and regular attendance in both the Worship Service and in a Life Group.  Our “prayer team” is everyone in the building, as is our communion team.  Why?  Because we love to see people rise as leaders, rather than die of church boredom and frustration.  Does that mean that we occasionally have folks rise up in rebellion and opposition to me and the Council, and to what God is doing here?  Yes.  But it is well worth the cost as we see God rise up new leaders—and watch those leaders…LEAD!

I encouraged my friends to stay, pray, and to share their hearts with their pastors (if they can actually set up a meeting).  I commended them for understanding the deep, deep value of Life Groups.  I hurt for them, because they so deeply love Jesus and so earnestly want to see people set free—and to see equipped saints allowed to actually do ministry.  Would you pray for them and all the others who are stuck in their place, and would you please praise God for what He is doing here…?!!

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