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Leadership Distinctives

What makes a leader a leader? Even more importantly, what makes a leader worth following? There are several reasons leaders are followed such as position, power, and personality. The lowest level of leadership is being followed only due to the position you hold, but at some point leadership influence must be earned. People may follow you for a period of time, but eventually you will earn or lose the right to be followed. Leadership influence is a lot like trust because it takes a long time to earn but can be lost in a second.

In The 5 Levels of Leadership, John Maxwell describes level one where people follow you because they have to or believe they should because of the position you hold. The second level is permission where they continue to follow because of the relationship they have built with you and have decided they want to follow you. The next level is based on your ability to lead well and they follow because of what you have accomplished through your leadership. Leadership then moves to reproduction because of how the leader has poured into your life and mentored you.

These five levels move from rights (position) to relationships (permission) to results (production) to people development (reproduction) and then on to respect (the pinnacle). This is where people follow you because of who you are and what you represent. The reality is that sometimes the closer we get to some leaders the less we want to follow them because we discover they are not who we thought they were. What a joy it is when the closer you get to a leader the more you desire and want to follow them. Familiarity should breed respect not contempt in leadership.

Distinctive #1 is spirituality. There is a huge difference between leadership and spiritual leadership. Of more importance than your leadership skills, those following you need to be able to see you are walking with God. You should not have to convince people you are walking with Him because it should be apparent to all that you are. Even though leadership can be accomplished by many, spiritual leadership only occurs by those who are walking closely and intimately with the Lord. Manipulation will not be necessary when the Holy Spirit is present.

Distinctive #2 is prayer. For emphasis sake and because it is so vital to the leader’s effectiveness allow me to quote again from Spiritual Leadership by Henry and Richard Blackaby speaking on the importance of prayer in their lives. “For leaders to have this kind of relationship available to them and then choose to not communicate with the One who wants to guide them is a gross dereliction of duty.” Prayer reminds us of who is really in charge and gives us a confidence that He is able to do above and beyond all we could ever ask or think.

Distinctive #3 is a great work ethic. Leaders are not lazy and they are not afraid of hard work. They lead by example and have a servant’s heart meaning they are willing to do what others are unwilling to do. The Blackabys ask this, “If the people in my organization worked with the same intensity as I do, would they enhance the operations of this organization or would they reduce it to a crawl?” If the goal of your leadership is respect then you should not see your position as an escape from sacrifice but as platform to demonstrate what sacrifice looks like.

Jesus set the example here by washing the disciples’ feet but some leaders act more like they seek privilege and entitlement. Maybe you should not have to do a particular task but you should always be willing. Remember, the greatest way to influence others is by example. If we want those who follow us to go an extra mile Jesus said we must be willing to go two. It cannot be “do as I say” but rather “do as I do” and our actions back it up. Church leaders we need to work hard at showing our people that we know what it means to work hard.

Distinctive #4 is answering questions before they are even asked. Communicate your vision and how you will carry it our over and over again. One of the greatest lessons I learned was that what I often thought was opposition was simply just individuals who needed more information. We can easily think that because of the journey we have been on that people will automatically fast forward to where the Lord has brought us. Anticipate that there are “late-adopters” who by their nature will need their questions answered before they can move forward.

Distinctive #5 is having good spiritual mentors and counselors. Make sure you check out the wisdom of Ecclesiastes 4:9-16 with verse 10 saying, “For if either falls, his companion can lift him up; but pity the one who falls without another to lift him up.”   In Proverbs Solomon also tells us that there is wisdom in the multitude of counsel. You do not have to have all the answers as a leader, but you must have the wisdom to seek counsel and listen to other godly leaders. It is not about your agenda or their agenda but getting on God’s agenda.

These distinctives of spiritual leadership are important…but there are more. Leadership is not easy and actually it is very hard work. It can be draining and overwhelming at times so here are a couple of other suggestions. Be sure you do not take yourself too seriously and be able to laugh at yourself. Protect your personal walk with God because the attacks of the devil are real and he especially focuses on those leading the charge against the gates of hell. Lastly in the words of Paul, “I tell every one of you not to think of himself more highly than he should think.”

Influence Over Influx

The outward focus of the local church has been stated many different ways. Many have said things like, “It’s sending not seating. It’s Releasing not Keeping.” In Ripple Church, Phil Stevenson says, “By choosing influence over influx, ripple churches have sacrificed their own comfort and security in order to bring forth the next generation of Christians. They have abandoned contemporary notions of success in order to bring about Kingdom growth.”

Bigger is often seen as better in the church world. Two terrible assumptions are made there. First, that being a large church guarantees spiritual health. Second, that if you are a small church you cannot make a difference for the Kingdom. Nothing could be further from the truth. Counting numbers is an accurate metric and it is important but it is inadequate. It is not enough and you must look deeper to determine spiritual health, impact, and influence.

Stevenson describes those who focus entirely on ministry by influx. “The leaders ask, “How many people can we gather at one place at one time?” A regional ministry is built on a different philosophy – ministry by influence. Leaders of regional ministries ask, “Whom are we influencing with the gospel?” We must bless others, share the gospel, meet people’s needs, and demonstrate the love of Christ even if it does not impact our churches “bottom-line!”

We are not in competition with other Bible-believing churches. Recently one of our young people got saved at another Baptist church in town. I received this text from their pastor, “Hey, one of your Cornerstone kids came to Jesus at VBS today! We will get his information to you soon. Partnership beats competition any day.” Then I sent him this text, “Today the young man made a public profession of faith and declared that he wanted to follow his Lord in baptism. Wanted you to know.” His response was, “That’s terrific!”

Everyone in your area will not attend your church. We need every Bible-believing, New Testament, and gospel preaching church to get onboard with reaching our communities for Christ. J.D. Greear tells what happens when we overly focus on influx in Gaining by Losing. He says, “We gather throngs of people to bask in the Spirit’s anointing on a few megastars and call that ‘mission accomplished’…Jesus’ vision for the church was not a few mega-geniuses with thousands of foot soldiers at their behest, but millions of believers filled with the Spirit, following His lead directly.”

The key to your ministry and your church, no matter its size, is the power of God and seeking His face. Henry and Richard Blackaby have defined spiritual leadership in their book Spiritual Leadership as “moving people onto God’s agenda.” Are we willing to move from our agenda to God’s agenda? What if God’s agenda is radically different than yours? There have been several times in my ministry that I was 100% convinced I was on the path He intended me to be on for the rest of my life but my plans were not His plans.

First, refuse to trust in your wisdom and instead seek His. We make our plans asking God to bless them, and then expect Him to make it happen. The key is not for God to bless my plans but for me to discard my agenda in favor of His will. Even Jesus did not set His own agenda but sought and prayed daily for the Father’s agenda. It can be spiritual disaster to add to God’s will and assume that we must take things into our own hands. Just ask Abraham! (Genesis16)

Second, realize that just because it worked before doesn’t mean God will automatically bless it again. The easiest course of action is often the one previously taken. This is especially true when something worked before and was “successful.” God refuses to allow His work to be reduced to a formula. Instead, He requires us to seek Him and His agenda. There are no shortcuts!

Third, resist the temptation to copy what someone else is doing. We can and should learn from other ministries. When we stop learning we begin to die a slow death but we should not envy what others have just because we don’t. We cannot remove our need to seek His face daily and make sure we have His mind and will on the matter. What if what another church has was never God’s intention for us?

Fourth, remain focused on the cause and not on the symptoms. You will never be able to meet all of the needs in your community, but remember a relationship with Jesus Christ is always a higher priority than meeting people’s physical needs. Yes, we should do what we can to help. Yes, we need to demonstrate the love of Christ in practical ways but our trust must remain in the power of Christ and that alone. A program never transformed anyone but Jesus can.

Fifth, remember that revelation comes from the Lord. We sometimes talk about dreaming big dreams for God and thinking big things for God. If we are not careful the emphasis is on our dreams and goals that originate with us. Vision is sometimes seen as being produced by us while revelation is God given. Make sure your focus is on the source of your plans and agenda, which is God.

How are we influencing our communities for Christ? What are we doing to influence those we live next door to and with whom we work? J.D. Greear points out that “of the 40 miracles recorded in Acts, 39 happen outside the walls of the church…You can safely conclude from this that the main place God wants to manifest His poser is outside the church. In Ripple Church, Stevenson says, “We convince ourselves that gathering more people around us in a single church will ensure the existence of the species. It won’t”

Influence over Influx!!!


Heart Test!!!

All of us need to examine our hearts to determine if we are true disciples of Christ or not. In order to administer a test, the test first has to be developed and written. If you are going to ask a question then there needs to be a definitive answer. When you ask many church leaders to define a disciple you actually will get a multitude of answers. How does your church define a disciple? What elements are necessary to say a person is a fully devoted follower of Christ?

There are three tests every believer should test himself or herself on to determine where they are in their personal journey.

First, do you know and are you following Jesus? Have you decided to follow Him and make Him Lord of your life?

Second, are you being changed and transformed by Christ regularly? Is Christ consistently at work in you so that He might work through you?

Third, are you committed to the mission of Jesus? Are you focused on what He has called you to do?

This heart test requires all three…not just two of them. If you are having physical heart problems think about how different tests intensify and are more in-depth. First, you may be given an EKG to see if there are any irregularities in the patterns of your heart (“Follow me”). Second, you may then be asked to take a stress test that challenges your heart under a more difficult situation (“and I will make you”). Third, they then may require a heart catherization (“fishers of men”).

Do not stop at the first or second level because a true test of the heart of any disciple is that they must be living on mission for Jesus. Matthew 4:19 makes it unmistakable, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” A clear and concise definition of what it means and what it takes to follow Jesus is how we can test our hearts. Honestly, many Christians and many churches need to rediscover and recommit to the mission of God. Each level is a more in-depth test of where you are spiritually.

A huge part of this process, “and I will make you,” happens in community and with other disciples. We were not made to follow Jesus alone, but together, because two are better than one. Someone has said, “You should be willing to stand alone for Christ but you should not ever have to!” There is not just strength in numbers but those numbers being together in community strengthens us. That is what the Bible means when it speaks of iron sharpening iron. It is one hard object striking another hard object to improve effectiveness.

Bill Hybels gives a great definition of biblical community, “Knowing and being known, loving and being loved, serving and being served, and celebrating and being celebrated.” Three necessary ingredients to properly test our spiritual hearts are the Word of God, the Holy Spirit, and the people of God. This is why connection (small) groups are so important to spiritual maturity. We grow as God intended when we are following Christ together in community by praying for one another, loving one another, serving one another, and even correcting one another.

There must be an environment of authenticity and transparency for this to work. In larger groups we are able to hide behind superficial relationships that never really get beyond pleasantries. We are comfortable taking about the weather, sports, fishing, our jobs, but God forbid we ask someone what sin they are struggling with the most. If we are not careful, we create pretend relationships…not authentic ones. Honesty in a safe environment is what develops trust. Here are three areas that test our heart and our authenticity.

First, you do not need to feel like you have all the answers. As a matter of fact, J.D. Greear says, “The greatest ideas for ministry are likely in the minds of congregation members…Furthermore, if the majority of what Jesus wants to do He wants to do in community, it shouldn’t surprise us that He puts His best vision into the hearts of the people who live and work there for the majority of their hours each week.” Allow creativity and listen to what the Holy Spirit is saying to others around you.

Second, make sure you have not surrounded yourself with “yes men.” Ed Stetzer said, “Surround yourself with strong voices who have permission to disagree.” That is not always easy and challenges us but we must give permission to spiritual people to speak into our lives and we must be willing to give what they say a fair hearing. Greear and Stetzer have hit the nail on the head by stressing the importance of promoting creativity and valuing everyone’s opinion on your team. A true test of spiritual maturity is that you do not have to have your way.

Third, trust the people around you by equipping them, empowering them, and releasing them. Craig Groeschel says, “You can have control or you can have growth, but you can’t have both. You have recruited great people, trust and empower them.” That may not fit your situation exactly but learn from the principle. If they are not in the right position then help them discover the right one. If they are not sure about what to do give them the training that would help them be more effective.

Leaders, we need to test our hearts on our willingness to “be changed and transformed by Jesus.” Are we listening to His leadership in making disciples who make disciples? Are we willing to realize that the people God has placed around us have as much vision and ability as we do? Do we really believe in the priesthood of the believer and are we willing to practice it? Let me close by quoting Greear again, “Shouldn’t pastors see themselves as servants of the movement rather than celebrities of the moment?

Getting Connected

The best way to be connected to any church is through a small group. They can be called small groups, Bible studies, life groups, cell groups and many other titles. We call our small groups “Connection” groups because it fits our C-3 vision statement of being Centered on God, Connected to one another, and Compassionate for our city. The language fits us because we tell our people the best way to get connected at Cornerstone is by being a part of one of our connection groups. We even call our first time visitor cards our “Connection” cards.

Our connection groups are referred to as our first responders to help minister to our people’s needs. As first responders the connection group leader is one of the most important positions in our church because they make sure that the people in their group are properly ministered to and cared for. Pastor, it’s not your responsibility to care for every member but it is your responsibility to make sure they are cared for. There are many reasons we need to get people connected to a connection group because of how it facilitates spiritual care and growth.

First, a connection group is a small group because of its size. The larger a study group grows the more difficult it becomes to really connect. You will not have enough time to really get to know one another, answer the questions that really matter, or enjoy a healthy amount of discussion plus it forces the delivery system to become a lecture model. In Real-Life Discipleship Jim Putman says, “Most of us do not choose lecture as a preferred way to learn, but unfortunately the lecture model is how most Christians receive much of their teaching.”

Second, a connection group provides shepherding and cares for its members. When the group is smaller it enables the group to help care for one another. Caring for one another is seen as a core value and is done willingly because we become family. Sheep stray and a connection group notices much sooner when someone is missing. When a connection group is committed to doing life together they are also more aware when a member is struggling physically or spiritually and it provides a system to confront sin and hold members accountable.

Third, a connection group needs to build a safe environment. Transparency needs to be modeled but it will never work if trust is not built into the culture. Two key elements of a safe environment are authenticity and mutual accountability. The larger the group the harder it is for people to share their struggles and believe that everyone believes in confidentiality. Quoting Jim Putman again, “Real relationships are an essential part of God’s plan. The world’s need for relationships is God’s opportunity to build disciples.”

Forth, a connection group is not a watered down Bible study. This accusation is made but usually unfounded. Yes, one element of a connection group is healthy dialogue. Jesus repeatedly used questions to facilitate thought and discussion. He also would answer questions by telling a story. There you have two key elements in how people learn. Make sure you use Bible stories to teach God’s truth and then dialogue how that truth applies to their lives. Jim Putman says it this way; “You are not making disciples if you are doing all the talking.”

Fifth, a connection group requires an intentional leader, a relational environment, and a reproducible process. Remember, your connection (small) group leader is one of the most important positions in your church because they help shepherd the congregation. Their intentionality requires that they know, and are passionately following, Christ. They do not need to be Bible scholars but they do need to be in love with Jesus. They must model what growing and maturing in Christ looks like to those in the group. The goal is not perfection but progress.

Sixth, a small group models and displays what it looks like to become self-feeders. Every disciple must take personal responsibility for his or her spiritual growth. When we work on our own spiritual maturity then our church will become the automatic beneficiary. We have built an unhealthy expectation that the church drives our spiritual walks when actually our spiritual walks should drive the church. Yes, the church has a responsibility to assist in our spiritual growth but disciples must be shown how to feed themselves.

Seventh, a small group shows its members how to sustain their passion by taking care of their hearts. They learn that the journey will not always be easy and that it takes effort and determination. Zeal and passion comes from an intimate personal walk with Christ. If our heart is full then our walk with Christ will be natural (actually supernatural.) If our heart is empty our walk with Christ will be forced and our passion will diminish. If a disciple is walking with Christ it is apparent and if they are not they need to be shown how.

Connection groups provide the biblical vehicle that promotes spiritual growth! II Timothy 2:2 makes it clear that discipleship happens in relationships. It is not a mistake that these plural terms are used: many witnesses, reliable men, and others. A connection group provides support, encouragement, and the necessary accountability. Act 2:42-47 and Acts 4:32-35 make it clear that we are to spend time together, care for one another, meet one another’s needs, practice grace toward one another, and be in unity on their purpose.

Don’t Settle For Less

Your church exists to help people find and follow Jesus. Our Lord made it very clear when He said, “Go and make disciples.” The core mission of every church is to help people follow Jesus, walk with Him, and continue on their spiritual journeys. According to Eugene Peterson, “Discipleship is long obedience in the same direction.” Is biblical disciple making really the core that drives your church and everything you do? Will you settle for anything less?

Church culture has developed a pathway to service from conversion to volunteering to service. If you are not careful this can become more of a drainpipe then a leadership pipeline. Everyone should have a place of service but God has so much more for us than being an occasional greeter, usher, or taking our turn in the nursery. Maybe this is part of our willingness to settle for less than God intended? We need a pathway where disciples are trained, equipped, and released to serve.

Disciples make disciples, who become leaders, and then live on mission for Christ. That is a leadership pipeline. Matthew 4:19 defines a disciple as someone who knows and follows Jesus, is being changed by Jesus, and is committed to the mission of Jesus. This describes the goal of what we are called to do, accomplish, and become. Goals without practices and habits are only a pipedream. You dream about the goal but your habits remain the same. We settle for less!

We must develop faith habits that produce actions today that will make our goals a reality tomorrow. Are you willing to do the right things today that will ensure kingdom impact tomorrow? One example would be our goal to see a church planting movement like the early church witnessed. If we want to see a movement we must plant more churches. If we want to plant more churches then we must develop more leaders. And in order to develop more leaders we must make more disciples.

A leadership problem is actually a discipleship problem. Our goal to be obedient to Christ demands that we develop a discipleship pathway and a leadership pipeline in our church. Do you have a clearly articulated discipleship pathway so that the people in your church know what their next steps toward Christ should be? Can your members clearly articulate that pathway? If it cannot be clearly articulated then it is not reproducible. You may have disciples but they will not know how to make disciples.

First, numbers are accurate but they are not adequate. If you had 100 teenagers show up for an event that would be great and should be celebrated but does that really define success? Have we settled for less than God intended if we only measure the number? A better metric would be that they are being discipled and they are making disciples themselves. It is not wrong to track attendance but that alone is not enough to according to Matthew 4:19. We cannot settle for less than seeing diciples who are committed to the mission of Jesus.

Second, discipleship is more than attending a class and getting a certificate. Biblical wisdom is not just how much you know and the knowledge you have gained. It is being able to put God’s principles into action in our lives. Is our discipleship pathway more about information transfer then it is life transformation? You do not graduate from discipleship in this life because as Daniel Im puts it, “It is more about a direction then it is a destination.” We do not arrive but continue to become more and more like Christ.

Third, you must learn to read the Bible honestly. We cannot ignore verses that speak of hardships, difficulties, persecution, trials, and tribulation. We must learn to trust God even when we lose things we want to keep and we keep things we want to lose. God allows suffering in our lives sometimes to cut away what will ultimately harm us. It also enables Him to install and insert into our lives what we really need. We should never settle for anything less than God’s purposes for our lives.

Fourth, we must be held accountable. Our discipleship pathway must have an obedience mechanism that holds those we are discipling accountable. We settle for less than God intended when accountability is the missing ingredient in our discipleship. It has been well said, “The faith that does not finish was faulty from the first.” Discipleship demands that we speak the truth in love. The Bible is clear that those who are more spiritually mature must speak into their disciples’ lives.

Fifth, discipleship materials are the least of your problems. Curriculum is important and must be biblically sound but the bigger issue is following through with actually discipling someone. Jim Putman’s necessary elements of a discipleship pathway are worth repeating. Intentional leadership plus a relational environment, plus a reproducible process is necessary. Jesus’ main focus was developing His disciples for the task of making disciples. Do not settle for making disciples but make disciple-makers.

Sixth, lead by example because the speed of the leader determines the speed of the team. We say we need more leaders but how much of your time is spent developing leaders? Do you disciple others weekly? Do you also weekly have a group you pour into because you see leadership potential in them? If not, you need to build these two necessary systems into your schedule. It must be a part of your ministry rhythm to be discipling and to be developing leaders.

Seventh, see the potential in every believer. When Jesus looked at His followers He did not see what everyone else saw. He saw world changers who would lead a movement. God has so much more for us than just volunteering to serve in our church. He sees an obedient disciple who is being transformed by Him and is committed to living on mission for Him. We must refuse to settle for less than God intended for our lives and for our churches!

Developing Spiritual Muscles

Quite often church “experts” seem to imply that particular methods will produce certain “guaranteed” results. They offer proven and tested methods that will produce growth in your church just like it did in their church. First of all, we should be ready to listen and learn from others when we can. Teachability trumps gifting every time.   If you have to choose, make sure you take the less gifted over the expert who knows everything because they will accomplish more in the long run.

We sometimes focus so hard on the machinery (the blueprint or the game plan) that we forget we need to have the muscles (the strength and power) to accomplish our task.   Systems, flow charts, and organizational structures are important. They provide a track to run on and clear next steps for those desiring to move forward. We can become almost enamored with the charts, nut and bolts, and the details so that we forget about the need for His power and presence.

As a church there are some things we must focus on so we do not lose sight of where we are headed and how we can get there. For example, Christians know that they need to have a daily quiet time with the Lord. Then they must develop a system that determines the how, where, when, and what that will look like. Answering those questions will help make their goal of a consistent daily quiet time a reality in their lives. Yes, if you fail to plan you are planning to fail!

I heard Rick Warren speak on the following “Renewals.”

First, focus on Spiritual Renewal. This is how you are staying centered on God and as a church leaning into His presence. We develop habits (prayer and Bible study) that cause us to love God more. This renewal teaches us who He is and who we are. As a church what structure have you developed to help your people to stay centered on who God is? The muscle behind this process is the Holy Spirit. Being Spirit-filled is indispensable (absolutely necessary) to spiritual renewal.

Second, focus on Relational Renewal! This is how you stay connected to one another and learn how to love people more. As spiritual maturity begins to occur we need to connect people to God, one another, and then to a purpose. It moves a person from being self-centered to being God-centered and others-centered. Spiritual gifts enable us to serve God well. Leaders equip us for service and then when members have willing hearts they begin to exercise their gifts.

The problem is when we are more focused on serving ourselves than we are on serving others. It is easy to focus on how wonderful our gift is and want people to notice our giftedness. The key to the proper equipping and exercise of our gifts is to remember that they are given to serve others. If you want people to notice your gift then realize that what you are really saying is, “Look at me!”

Third, focus on Missional Renewal! This ensures that we remain compassionate for our cities, communities, and neighborhoods. We not only want to love people more but we also have a burden and desire to love “more” people. Once we connect members to their purpose (everyone needs a role and responsibility) we focus on equipping them for ministry. It simply involves showing the need, how they can meet the need, and giving them the opportunity to meet that need.

The machinery of processes and structures is important but the muscle (the heavy lifting) occurs by being spirit-filled. In the book of Acts we would have to be blind not to see that this is required of all leaders. The Lord has never delegated His authority to anyone who is not filled with the Spirit. When the church in Jerusalem was faced with what to do with Gentile believers, stated, “For it was the Holy Spirit’s decision—and ours— to put no greater burden on you than these necessary things.”

We must remain sensitive to His direction and leadership. Acts 10:38 says that Jesus was “Anointed…with the Holy Spirit and with power.” In Acts 4:8 it says that Peter “was filled with the Holy Spirit and said to them.” Once again, notice the order! First he was filled with the Spirit and then he spoke. There is wisdom in us following that process. You could add to this list the 120 in Acts 2, deacons in Acts 6, Stephen in Acts 7, Barnabas in Acts 11, and Paul in Acts 13.

Being spirit-filled is required. Where do you start?

First, begin with God’s word! This is our foundation and the Holy Spirit will never lead us to disobey His word. Many people are looking for a vision when they need to be looking for a verse in His word. When we place ourselves under the authority of God’s word it does the heavy lifting for us because it decides for us what we will do and what we will not do as we live by its principles.

Second, trust the Holy Spirit’s guidance! His fullness gives us joy, vitality, and energy in our service to Him. He does the heavy lifting and it is our task to remain yielded to Him. If we refuse to remain surrendered to His leadership then we will be left to our own plans and policies. Then we will have to run the machinery in our own power. Before long we will begin to go through the religious motions without His help or assistance. The result will be an unspiritual body.

Third, listen to God’s people! We need one another and there is wisdom in the multitude of counsel. Godly and spiritual people in our lives serve as our filters in making sure we are in agreement with God’s word and the leadership of the Holy Spirit. The machinery is necessary and important but we need the muscles that can only be found through the power of His word and the Holy Spirit!

40 Day Prayer Challenge

God has changed lives in 40 days before and He can do it again! We see that Jesus went into the wilderness and was tempted by Satan for 40 days. We also know that there were 40 days between Jesus’ resurrection and His ascension in Acts 1. In the Old Testament we see Moses on Mt. Sinai for 40 days and nights when he received the 10 Commandments. There is nothing magical or mystical about the number but it is significant in what can happen during a time of spiritual renewal and emphasis.

When a church seeks a time of renewal and revival the goal is to hear from the Lord and find God’s will and His agenda for our ministry. There is a unique connection for a body of believers when they agree to seek the Lord together and hear from Him together. When we press into His presence we are showing the Lord that we are taking our responsibility of listening to Him seriously. Mark Batterson says, “Our job is to hear His voice. His job is to establish our steps. And if we do our job, God will do His!”

Are you seeking a break through in your personal walk or as a church? The reality is that God’s plans are discovered, discerned, and defined in God’s presence. Perhaps you should consider a 40-day prayer challenge where the entire body focuses on the same Bible passages, repentance, and asking God for the same things. There are many resources available that include books, booklets, or you could even put your own together. Mark Batterson also says, “They gathered in a room and prayed for 10 days. Those 10 days have been paying dividends for 2,000 years.”

A prayer challenge reminds us of the importance of repentance and helps us to focus on the following process.

First, it begins by praying for personal repentance.   I John 1:9 makes this clear, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousenss.”

Second, we pray for our church to be burdened about holiness. Jesus makes it very clear in Revelation 2 and 3 that the path to being His church is for us to listen to Him and repent.

On day three pray for other churches in your community. Ask God to give other churches around you a burden for the lost and to raise up spiritual leaders in their midst to call them back to God’s word and His gospel.

Then on day four pray for Bible-believing churches in your state. One author has said, “Spirit-empowered churches across a state can change the state and influence the nation.” Ask God to burden all of His people across the state to be hungry and thirsty for righteousness.

The fifth day can focus your prayers on churches across your nation or country. We are called to make disciples in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. A national revival could touch the world.

Day six could focus on praying for missionaries and churches around the world. Ask God to raise up national spiritual leaders who will call their churches to repentance and obedience to the Great Commission.

The seventh day we could pray fervently for the persecuted church around the world.

Charles Finney said, “Nothing tends more to cement the hearts of Christians than praying together. Never do they love one another so well as when they witness the outpouring of each other’s hearts in prayer.” We must pray for revival that is grounded in His people turning back to Him. E.M. Bounds said, “God shapes the world by prayer. The more praying there is in the world the better the world will be, the mightier the forces against evil.” We are called to be a people of prayer who know that time spent in prayer is never wasted!

Next you should consider praying specifically for your church and its leadership.

First, pray for pastors. Paul asks for the prayers of fellow Christians in Ephesians 6:19, “Pray also for me, that the message may be given to me when I open my mouth to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel.” The best thing you can do for your pastor is to surround him and his family with your prayers.

Second, pray for your church staff. Pray that each staff member will protect their walk with Christ and continually abide in Him.

Third, pray for your elders, deacons, and other church leaders. Pray that these leaders will be filled with the Spirit and they will lead unified. Romans 15:5-6 says it well, “Now may the God of endurance and encouragement grant you agreement with one another, according to Christ Jesus, so that you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ with a united mind and voice.”

Fourth, pray for ministry leaders. Ask God to help them realize how much they are appreciated and loved. Their role is important!

Fifth, pray for ministry teams. God can use these teams, when they are spirit-empowered, to shake their churches and communities for the cause of Christ. Ask God to raise up leaders and provide workers for the harvest.

Then, pray for the lost! Here is a simple daily prayer challenge that all of us should pray. “Lord, I don’t ask for much today. I just ask that you give me your heart for lost people.” You will discover that prayer is more about changing our hearts then it is changing others.

We should pray for one another every day! A.W. Tozer said, “To desire revival…and at the same time to neglect (personal) prayer and devotion is to wish one way and walk together.”


Much has been written and said about leadership development. How do you move people up toward more and more leadership capacity? Several churches use a leadership ladder to show a clear path of how any church member can get involved and as they grow accept more responsibility. First, there has to be a way to connect them to ministries. These have been referred to as a “First Serve” where they can kick the tires of a particular ministry and decide whether or not it is a fit for them and their gifts.

Whatever you decide to call it, you must have a ministry placement system in place. When people come into a church they need to find a role, a place of service, where they can contribute. Here are a couple of values to have in place that will help you in this process. First, no one should lead who does not first serve. This is handled by exposing them to different ministries, allowing them to participate as a member of a particular team, becoming an apprentice to a team leader, and then eventually developing into a team leader themselves.

The second value is to not give anyone a position or title until they have been given a particular project and completed it. In Ephesians 4:1 we are told to “walk worthy of the calling you have received.” The word worthy there refers to balancing the scales. An example of this value would be getting paid because you earned the salary you made. We live in a society where far too many people want a paycheck but do not want a job. Be very careful of elevating people in leadership too quickly who appear more interested in a title than they do a job.

The different levels could be first serve, team member, team leader, coach, director, and then staff. For example, if you follow the Pareto Principle, 20% of the people do 80% of the work, you need to think of whom the 20% are to oversee your ministry. If you have 200 members then you would need at least 40 team leaders, 10 coaches who pour into the leaders, 2 directors who help and equip the coaches, and then staff to oversee the directors. This would fit the model that Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, gave to him.

Here is another important value. If you want more out of your team then you will have to put more into them. How are you equipping them and resourcing them? Who is making sure that the leaders are being mentored, nurtured, and developed? If we are not careful, they are left to take of themselves spiritually and practically. The coaches help to check in on them and find out what they need to help them be successful. This could be calling a small group leader, Sunday School teacher, and asking a couple of questions. How did it go? Is there anything I can help you with or get for you? And then ask them how you can pray for them.

Everyone needs to know that they are being thought of, cared for, and held accountable. Even in the area of pastoral care, the pastor must remember that it is not his responsibility to care for every member himself. However, it is the pastor’s responsibility to make sure everyone is cared for. The best way for this to be accomplished is with a team concept. This is why small groups are so important to make sure that everyone is being cared for. The small group leader is the “first responder” to those in his group and the coach is the “first responder” to the needs of the small group leader.

This can also be seen in church planting where an individual has the gift of evangelism. They are excellent at drawing people to themselves and begin building critical mass as people are drawn to them and want to be a part of their vision. But this passion can energize the new group only so long until people begin to wonder what the game plan is supposed to be. The evangelist, if not careful, will have a great pep rally but be without a game plan of how to move forward as a team in the future. The evangelism gift is needed and necessary but other team members are required also.

The second level is the one who has entrepreneurial abilities. They can come along side of the evangelist with a plan and systems that will better enable them to sustain the relational capital they have gained. The entrepreneur has a plan and knows what to do when someone says “yes” to the gospel. They also have a plan for the next steps of spiritual growth in every stage of the disciple’s journey. They are vision casters who also know how to carry the vision forward if everyone shows up who has been invited to be a part.

The next level is the equipper who has an eye on training more leaders and has a plan for leadership development. They have an eye out for the overachievers who are always looking for the next step and asking for more. The equippers focus on releasing leaders – not keeping them, investing in leaders – not saving them, and sending out leaders – not holding onto them. The equipper is looking for those motivated not only to be learning but who also have a desire to teach and train others. Always be looking for those who are receptive and hungry for more. They just cannot be satisfied with the status quo.

Level four is the one who empowers others. They see themselves as facilitators of those who have a passion and purpose that is driving them. Their heart is to see others accomplish more than they ever did or could. They focus on movement and helping others to multiply. Their heart is to give away everything they have and know while not desiring any recognition or credit. They love mentoring, coaching, and discipling equippers. Their role won’t make them famous but that is not their motivation anyway. They can visualize a two to three year process that gives them the tools needed while building their character simultaneously!

Leadership ladders are designed to multiply disciples, leaders, and churches!


We stand at a time in the history of Christianity and the church where we must return to the basics. Have we lost our passion to pursue people who are far from God? Are we so focused on our programs, plans, and people that we have taken our eyes off of the harvest? We will leave it to others to decide whether the methods of evangelism have changed or not but the truth is that evangelism should never be an “option” for any church or Christian. It is a command, our mandate, and will we obey or not?

My friend Hal Seed in his training gives a 90-day prayer challenge. He asked his church and challenges every person to pray, “Lord, I don’t ask for much today. I just ask that you give me your heart for lost people.” That is a prayer that God wants to answer. It is not a prayer to better our circumstances or make our lives easier but instead to align our priorities with His. The main priority of prayer is to be in His presence in order to change us. He wants to mold us into who His image.

Dr John David Smith in his report to our BMA churches, check out if you want to watch it yourself, reminds us that we are to make disciples and to make disciple-makers. We need to reevaluate what we measure and how we see success. What would you consider success at your church 2-3 years from now? Most people’s answers would revolve around being larger and having more people. That is not wrong in and of itself but there are other Biblical metrics to be considered.

First, are you making disciples? When is the last time someone was born again because of your people sharing their faith with them? When was the last time someone was baptized at your church? How many are even attempting to share their faith? The bigger problem is if that does not even burden us, break our hearts, nor drive us to cry out to God in repentance. Jesus wept over Jerusalem and Paul said he did not cease to labor in tears for people to know Christ. We seem to have become far to comfortable with only fellowshipping with those who already know Him.

Second, what are you willing to do to reach people for Christ? Are you willing to do whatever it takes, short of sin, to build relationships with people far from God in order to share Christ with them? One pastor when asked what had been his greatest sacrifice as a pastor responded, “I think it’s clearly the discipline to treat people better than they deserve to be treated.” Is that not the essence of the gospel? Is that not the very heart of Jesus and the very definition of what true love is?

Third, are you willing to love people who are far from God until they “get it?” That is exactly what Jesus is asking us to do (check out John 13:34-35). This lifts evangelism to a whole new level. It is more than the golden rule, turning the other cheek, or blessing those who curse you. It demands that our commitment must be to love the lost even when they do not deserve it because neither do we. Who do you know that would benefit from that kind of love? Who has God placed in your life that pushes your buttons and makes your blood pressure go up?

In Dr Smith’s report he asks if we measure activity without measuring action? The difference can be between being busy and making a kingdom impact. With activity you are expending energy but there is not a clear purpose or goal in mind. The vision should be to help people find and follow Jesus. Many churches have a lot of frenetic activity going on and they are busy with church stuff but, once again, are disciples being made? We have the resources, programs, facilities, and missions statements but very few are coming to know Christ. Here are a few other metrics we should consider:

We need to measure multiplication not just addition! We know how many people we have added, and we should, but have we multiplied in the area of disciples, leaders, and more churches. We are told that 85% of all churches have plateaued or they are in decline. The 15% who are growing are experiencing this growth through transfer growth. These are people who know Jesus already but decide to attend a different church. Only 1% of the growth churches are seeing is by conversion growth. Making disciples implies you make them from scratch, just like homemade cookies.

We need to measure out-going not just in-gathering! We track who is coming and we focus most of our efforts on being attractional. Remember, addition is good and being attractional is not bad but are we tracking how many are being sent out. Not only how many disciples are we making, how many disciple-makers are we making, and how many leaders are we developing but also how many churches have we helped to start? Discipleship is pouring into others in order to equip them that we may one day release them to multiply. Our sending capacity is far more catalytic than our seating capacity!

We need to measure our functions not just our forms. Forms have to do with all the things we keep track of in church life. Form describes how we look at buildings, programs, salaries, worship styles, and programs. These things are important but they are not the most important. We have determined what is normal for our churches when we need Jesus to redefine for us what His normal is. Function describes what Jesus has called us to do, “Go and make disciples!” How are we doing at making disciples, disciple-makers, leaders, and multiplying churches?

The place to begin could be with this simple prayer challenge, “Lord, I don’t ask for much today. I just ask that you give me your heart for lost people.”


Recently I was told of a pastor who shared in his message that 81% of all evangelical churches have no discipleship in their churches of any significance. While not knowing the source of the statistic, I must admit that, unfortunately, I am not surprised. We seem to know how to talk discipleship, but when you dig deeper into many ministries you cannot find of evidence of a clear and easily reproducible process. There is a huge difference between aspirational values and actual values. If we really do value discipleship we will be discipling someone.

Have we valued “decisions” so highly that ongoing discipleship was not as highly valued as it should have been? Please hold back your disagreement with that statement for a minute please. We certainly think we agree with discipleship but is there evidence of it happening and multiplying? If we do not reproduce disciples we will never reproduce leaders. If we do not reproduce leaders we will never reproduce churches. If we do not reproduce churches we will never see a movement.

Have we turned the “faith” into what we believe instead of our actual actions and behavior? It seems that many have turned the word faith into what a person agrees with more than a trust that turns into action by the believer. Jesus made it very clear that we are to “follow” Him not just “believe” in Him.   James says that faith without works is dead. True discipleship is not just stating that we have “faith” but is demonstrated by our willingness to deny all and follow Him.

We must return to the biblical foundation of true faith that leads to action. Jesus said that if we love Him we will keep His commandments, we will do whatever He asks of us, and we will go wherever He asks us to go. Bill Hull says this about discipleship, “The church is up to its eyeballs in agreement, and that moves nothing and poses a threat to no one.” In John 6 Jesus makes this clear, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’ and don’t do the things I say?” Genuine faith leads to following!

Hull describes this problem of faith verses follow by saying, “A faith that embraces discipleship distinguishes itself from mere agreement or intellectual assent with demonstrated proof.” He describes five distinct characteristics of a disciple in the first century. First, a disciple submitted to a teacher who taught them how to follow Jesus. They also learned Jesus’ words and His way of ministry. Then a disciple imitated Jesus’ life and character. Lastly, a disciple found and taught other disciples to follow Jesus.

Today most discipleship sees very little of a disciple submitting to a teacher/mentor and even less of disciples making other disciples. We have enabled discipleship to become more about information transfer than actual life transformation. Everyone needs a Paul in their life and then they need to begin looking for a Timothy to disciple and mentor.

Discipleship is not a program nor is it an event. Biblical discipleship is a way of life that continues our entire lives. It is not only for beginners but also for all believers and is to be process that multiplies more believers, disciples, and leaders. Discipleship is not to be just one of the things a church does but the main thing it is commanded to do, “Go make disciples.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ.”

Before we protest or desire to debate, we must be willing to take a closer, honest, and unbiased look at Luke 9:23-25. Jesus makes it clear that the very essence of the Christian walk is following Him and that requires total obedience and humble submission to His commandments. What does it involve to implement that kind of discipleship? Jim Putman says there must be an intentional leader, a relational environment, and a reproducible process.

Putman describes this process beginning with those who are dead in their trespasses and sin. This individual is lost and does not know it. This is where discipleship begins by sharing the gospel with them. When they believe and are born again, discipleship continues by a disciple sharing their life, new truth, and new habits with this infant in Christ. As they grow they will then move from being an infant to becoming a child.

The infant needs everything done for them, but a child can begin to learn how to do things for themself. As a child, discipleship focuses on connecting them with God, a small group, and their purpose. They are still self-centered but as they grow they can then become a young adult. They are becoming more and more God-centered. Now you equip them for ministry, provide them ministry opportunities, and release them to do ministry. Now, as they are growing in Christ, they are focused on serving others and not on being served.

Young adults then become parents where, as mature believers, they reproduce. They become disciplemakers themselves because they have been shown the process, had discipleship modeled for them, and are released to multiply. The real litmus test of discipleship is disciples who are making disciples who are making disciples! Think of discipleship as a clear reproducible process moving those who are dead to salvation and becoming an infant in Christ.

The infant then must be shown how to grow and develop into a child. The child is taught by example to learn how to move into becoming a young adult. They are constantly maturing from being self-centered to being God-centered. Then parenthood is not far behind but mandatory in the process because without reproduction multiplication will never occur.   Our goal is to facilitate a discipleship based multiplication movement by multiplying disciples, leaders, and churches.

Biblical faith leads to godly actions not just verbal agreement!