Roots and Fruits: How a Church Can Grow Leaders (Part 3)
It seems like a few do most of the work. And yet, there’s energy and enthusiasm when everyone’s working together as a team. There’s an old church sign that read: “CH_ _ RCH? What’s missing? U R!” It’s true. Church isn’t a spectator sport. We all have a ministry. We all need to find our place to serve, even if its only for a year, a month or a weekend. U-R needed.
In part one of this blog, I shared how Jesus’ parable of the soils (Mark 4:1-20) reveals why a church struggles to attract and retain guests. Essentially, the hard and shallow soils represent an inability to meet intrinsic human needs for security, pleasure, connection and community. And if a plant can’t root, it’ll never grow fruit. Consequently, I suggested churches have to create stickiness or natural attraction through relational strategies so they’ll be ready for deeper discipleship and leadership development.
In part two, I introduced how many teachers and leaders plant thistles in their seeding of spiritual growth by employing incentives (rewards and punishments) that asphyxiate discipleship. We think these are innocent strategies to motivate but they backfire to create a consumer faith rooted in perfectionism. Consequently, many average Joes and Janes in the church operate rather spiritually anemic, struggling to understand God’s Will and how to use their spiritual giftings.
Which leads us to the final soil. For even if we properly and purely motivate, leadership development requires providing choice, releasing control and allowing contribution. After all, deep down, we’re all control freaks. We all want to be large and in charge. In the good soil, we discover the need to produce fruit.
GOOD GROUND: Regular attenders/mature disciples. NEED: Ownership. The average churchgoer will change churches every 3-5 years. Very few individuals root or, if they do, produce lasting fruit. Of course, some of this is due to our transient culture. We move a lot more today than 30 years ago. But it’s also due, I believe, to a church’s inability to mature and empower leaders. We have plenty of plants but few of them are producing fruit. We seemed to forget Jesus’ ultimate test for a disciple was his or her fruit. A motivated, producing leader won’t change churches unless absolutely necessary.
Most churches can effectively produce followers but fail miserably to move these individuals into leadership. Why? I think the good ground gives us the key: everyone leads differently. The good soil, Jesus said, produced different harvests (30, 60, 100X). Most churches treat every leader the same or want every leader to perform at the same pace, level or commitment. We have to think different. Every person is a leader (in some way) and every leader is UNIQUE. Every leader has different needs, desires, experiences, education, skills and feelings…and potential. One leader might be ready to go now. Another leader in 3 months or 3 years.
This is why you can’t take “no” or “not now” for an answer. WHY does the person say “no?” Sometimes they’re busy (but will they always be busy?). Sometimes they’re afraid (but can’t you help them overcome fear?). Sometimes they feel inadequate (but can’t you train for competence and confidence?) Sometimes they’re burned out (but what if you promised rest and relaxation as part of future service?). You see, every excuse can be EMPOWERED to give emerging leaders (and all people are leaders in some form or fashion) ownership.
The parable of the soils summarizes the process of attraction, retention, mentoring and empowerment. All programs, events, services and activities need to be “sticky” (relationally-rich, pleasurable and create security) for the seeker and spiritually sensitive, but they also must “empower” through environments loaded with grace, self-worth and ownership. There are no shortcuts. You can’t microwave Christian maturity or fast-track leadership skills. Incentives that bait or beat, reward or punish, only cheat the process. It took Jesus three years to empower a group of misfits, fishermen and average Joes into world-class disciples.
And He did it through feeding real needs. Jesus mentored with Grace through community, recognized individuality, allowed choice, fostered pleasure and created security.
It’s no wonder the seeds he planted eventually changed the world.
Finally, don’t forget the rule of 3s:
- A guest will decide to return within the first three minutes
- A regular guest will decide to commit to solely attend your church after three visits
- Every regular attender will decide about membership within three months
- Every member will decide to stay for the long haul and serve through thick or thin within three years.
The process of discipleship and leadership development can’t be manufactured. It’s a natural thing, just like growing a plant. As leaders and teachers, we have the responsibility to break up the hard ground, deepen the shallow, pull the weeds, fertilize and water the good soil for maximum spiritual growth.
It won’t be easy, but the harvest remains plentiful.