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  • Writer's pictureW. Austin Gardner

Jesus’ Pattern for Developing Leaders

Insight concerning the process that Jesus used in his leadership development plan is outlined in Mark 3:14.

1. He Appointed. Christ chose those who would be his key leaders—it was no accident. The first reason given for becoming a leader was, “Someone spotted my potential.” A major emphasis for leaders is identifying potential and emerging leaders whom God is preparing. Those who train leaders must learn to recognize God-ordained qualities of character, gifts, and talents. They must also pray for willing potential leaders to emerge and for sensitivity to God’s direction in understanding with whom to work. Churches and Christian ministries need to be proactive in their search for potential leaders, affirming their gifts and abilities and giving them further preparation in informal training as well as formal settings for biblical and theological training. The insightful leader should recognize that the most strategic individuals to focus energy and time on will be current leaders who need equipping and training for current responsibilities, as well as teachable future leaders who need long-term development.

2. That They Should Be with Him. In Jesus’ three years with his disciples, he provided them an immersion experience in leadership development. Everything he did, in word or deeds, had a teaching or training aspect to it. God desires to transform those who will lead the church into the image of Christ—to be like Christ and to lead as Christ would lead. This life-on-life context reveals powerful dynamics for life transformation and learning leadership. The second reason leaders gave about why they assumed a leadership role was, “Someone invested in me.” The greatest opportunity to influence the beliefs and values of another person is in the context of a close personal relationship. The greater the time together, the greater the potential impact.

Paul recognized the need for behavioral models in the development of disciples and leaders. In several epistles he encourages his readers to imitate him or live according to the pattern he gave. Zuck provides deeper insight in stating, “Paul’s idea of imitation builds on his personal associations with his convert. The exhortations in the five epistles are addressed only to those churches he founded. Because they had witnessed his life, he could challenge them to remember him and follow him.”

3. That He Might Send Them Out. This is the eventual goal of leadership—to send out, to delegate, to scatter for the purpose of accomplishing the work of ministry. Jesus first sent out the Twelve (Luke 9:1–2) and later the seventy (Luke 10:1) to gain experiential lessons that could be learned no other way.

By this delegation the leader puts a stamp of approval on the emerging leader and shows confidence in the preparation. Logan and George see the primary purpose of delegation as developing people. They assert, “Proper delegation, one of the most powerful tools we have for discipleship, gets the job done and helps people grow in the process.”

On-the-job training experiences of many people in business and other fields seem to actually undermine their ability to function effectively on the job. We sometimes see young people in their first ministry role have such a negative experience that they become discouraged and leave vocational Christian service. We have discovered that one essential component of a successful internship experience is the opportunity for the intern to take on increasingly challenging projects and responsibilities, with an enhanced probability of success and a safety net in the form of a knowledgeable site supervisor or trainer.

Through actual attempts to lead, the emerging leader experiences risk taking, failure, success, and the weight of responsibility. The person is stretched and learns valuable personal lessons concerning the self, others, and the practice of being in charge.

As Sanders states, “The departure of a strong and dominating leader makes room for others to emerge and develop. Often when the weight of responsibility falls suddenly upon his shoulders, a subordinate develops abilities and qualities he and others had not suspected he had. Joshua would never have developed into an outstanding leader had he remained one of Moses’ lieutenants.”

In such experiences, young Christian leaders may be forced to draw on resources and capabilities never utilized and trust God in ways unknown before. The Bible is clear that trials and difficulties can produce the proven character and maturity essential for leadership in the church (James 1:2–4; Rom. 5:3–5).

When business leaders are asked where they gained their abilities to lead, the most common reply relates to their work experiences and the influence of their bosses. Far less evident is their reliance on formal education. The newest paradigm in young employee and executive training for business has moved toward “action learning” whereby work assignments are tackled by a team of emerging leaders.

Such an approach is based more on the real-life challenges facing an organization. This has become the dominant approach over the last decade, as opposed to the more traditional classroom-based model or an in-service training seminar.

Michael J. Anthony and James Estep Jr., Management Essentials for Christian Ministries (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2005), 306–309.

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