Thursday, June 30, 2011

ReTool Leadership Part 6 - Release People Immediately

If the church is going to expand and multiply on an ongoing basis, there are some issues that must be faced, admitted to, repented from and transformed to become more like Jesus.  The cornerstone issue that faces the church today regarding stunting its growth is our understanding of leadership in the church.  My next few posts will give some time to this topic and I would love engaging with you in a conversation about this very important issue.

There are two related sins in the modern church today and we must repent of both of them.  

We underestimate what God can do with a new life that has received the gospel.
We overestimate what we can do to help a new believer to grow in her/his faith.

1 Cor. 3:6 “I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth.”  When it comes to the seed of truth growing in a person, this is God’s territory, not ours.  We can plant the seed, we can water the seed with prayer and encouragement and even point people in the direction of Jesus - the direction of health.  We must remember the truth is that God causes the increase.  Our methods do not cause the increase.  Our programs do not cause the increase.  Not even our excellence of programs or words will cause the increase.  People may grow and respond to any of the above attempts but those things do not cause the increase.  Only God causes the increase.

Jesus address this truth in Mark 4:26-28

"Jesus said, 'The Kingdom of God is like a farmer who scatters seed on the ground.  Night and day, while he's asleep or awake, the seed sprouts and grows, but he does  not understand how it happens.  The earth produces the crops on its own.'"  Mark 4:26-28  NLT

The lesson to learn from this is that leaders must trust the seed and Jesus' residence inside of people to germinate, grow and blossom into fruitfulness.  As the church trusts the seed and not the seed sower to produce growth, health and reproduction, we will then be willing to release people into dangerous places (among wolves) immediately, just as Jesus did.

ReLease Immediately
Once people give their life to Jesus, the question is what do they need and when should we ReLease them into ministry.  Maybe the best place to begin looking into that question is see what Jesus did.

"Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. 14 He appointed twelve--designating them apostles--that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons."   Mark 3:13-15

This meeting with Jesus and twelve apostles took place in Jesus' second year of ministry.  A year or more is not a lot of time for Him to have trained them and yet Jesus does something very powerful and very much the opposite of what most Christian leaders would do today.
Jesus called the twelve to Himself so they could be with Him.  Jesus knows that His followers need to be close to Him.  Jesus, I believe, sowed seeds of truth in their hearts during the unrecorded conversation they had on that hill top.  It is important that we teach new believers to immediately begin their new faith life by spending time with Jesus for He is everything they need.

The second thing Jesus does is send them out...immediately upon appointing them.  They were fresh in their following of Jesus.  We must either think that Jesus is a fool to send people out so rapidly or that He is a genius and really knows what He is doing.  I think we would all agree that Jesus knew what He was doing.  Jesus didn't send out these new followers of His to direct cars in the parking lot or hand out bulletins, he had then preach and cast out demons!
Jesus often sent people out before they were ready.

This is the key to rapid expansion of God’s Kingdom and good leadership, sending people out sooner rather than later.  The longer we hold people back or don’t trust them to go out, the more likely it is that they will never be active in sowing large amounts of seeds.  When we indirectly train people that they are not able to do important ministry by asking them to be passive (sit, sing, give), we can set a pattern in their lives that calls them to a sedentary faith.  Instead, we should tell new believers to be active in their faith, to be listening for Jesus' voice and direction to do amazing things and giving them freedom and responsibility in their own realm to do those things for the King from the moment they are saved.  This would set a patter of strong active faith building.

Jesus immediately sends out His disciples to preach and cast out demons.  This is not light work as we all know and yet, Jesus is trusting these common, mostly uneducated rookies with these important dangerous tasks immediately upon His calling them to be His disciples.  This is not the only example from Jesus' life where He does this.

Mark 5 is about a man who was messed up in every way possible.  He was a wreck financially, emotionally, physically, spiritually, psychologically and relationally.  Notice in Mark 5 how this man who had his life restored deeply wanted to leave that area to be with Jesus.  But Jesus turns things upside down again.  Jesus doesn’t allow the Garasene Demoniac to come with Him.  This seems like an insane decision.  In Mark 7:31-37 we find out that Jesus returned to this region and the people wanted to hear Him to asked Him to heal their sick.  All because this man sowed lots of Jesus seeds in that region.  I think Jesus is on to something here when He sends out people out sooner rather than later.

I was probably not ready to be sent out to witness to Mormons as I was a few weeks after being saved, but no one told me I wasn’t ready.  I was able to share the Jesus of the Bible with several people that day, I was physically threatened, had hands raised to strike me and even had the leader of the Ward (The Bishop) come out to confront me.  Jesus brought me through that and used the experience to show me that He will never leave me nor forsake me.  It has reminded me to be bold and courageous for the Lord Jesus.

The leaders of your churches in the new future are not yet saved.  In fact some are probably doing some pretty sinful things this weekend - but God will transform them and use them powerfully.  Just look at some of the people Jesus sent out immediately upon beginning a relationship with Him;

Mark 5 Demoniac (dysfunctional)
John 4 Samaritan Woman (immoral)
John 9 Man born blind (handicapped)
Acts 8 The Ethiopian Eunich (dignitary)
1 Thess. 1 These people made an impact in a wide region within the first year of faith in Christ (common people)

Getting people on mission early is vital.  Shepherds want to protect the sheep - that is good and healthful - but we must ask ourselves, how long do we hold on to people before we release do important stuff?  We have people sitting in our pews for 5, 10, 20 even 40 years and they have never baptized anyone, they have never taught a Sunday School class, shared their faith or facilitated a home group discussion.  It seems to me that the church is the only institution where we have trouble promoting or releasing people.  Some of these people should be theologians by now - if they are not, after decades of sitting under our teaching, we must ask what is wrong with our teaching or our methods?

I would love to hear your thoughts!


  1. While I may disagree somewhat with you on the timeline of Jesus' choice of the disciples, there is a drastic difference between these disciples called prior to Pentecost and those called after Pentecost (i.e. the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.) The indwelling presence on the Holy Spirit and the full-filled New Testament economy means that new believers have substantial resources available to them immediately after coming to Christ. But unlike our education model of sitting in classes of lecturing, Jesus operated on a Rabbinic model. That model of discipleship involved "the disciple watched while Jesus did"; then "the disciple did while Jesus supervised"; finally they were released unsupervised. But they did not sit in lecture based classes learning principles. They entered the situations of ministry immediately along with Jesus. Bill Hull in his wonderful book "The Complete Book of Discipleship" also notes that a change in the discipleship model takes place after the Resurrection and Pentecost; a Church-based, team model is formed; (Body Ministry); see 1 Cor. 12 ... I highly recommend Bill Hull's book as the finest resource available on the broad subject of discipleship. The crux of the matter is you are right. New Born Christians should enter into ministry immediately. It should be expected and those who do not should be the one's considered out of place. But how do we change gears to this focus? Is it possible for the established church to change, or must a new "wine-skin" be developed?

  2. Hi Pete and thanks for your comments. I took your timeline disagreement seriously and did more research which proved that my memory was faulty and you were correct. I did edit the post to reflect a more accurate picture of the timeline. Thanks so much! I also agree with what you said about the Holy Spirit. Every believer now has the Authority (Matt. 28:16-20), Power (Acts 1:8), Mind (1 Cor. 2:16) and Words (Eph. 6:18-20 cf Luke 21:12-15) of Christ because of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit which, as you said, makes us even more potent for ministry :-) I also agree with the team ministry approach outlined in the N.T. and I do like Bull Hull's book.

    Responding to your last couple of sentences in short (could be a really long answer :-), I think we need to focus on the Wine not the wine-skin. This is vital. The Wine (Jesus) will cause for a change of wine-skins eventually but the focus must be on Him. I think that a long approach (which Jesus could shorten) and with a strong love for the sheep is vital (we all know change is difficult). If I were in that situation, I think I would begin by talking, then teaching and discussing that church is a family, not a school. Together, I would want to discover how to make that type of transformation. That could take, oh say, at least 5 years? At some point, as this transformation begins, I would model and discuss with a few a more missional way of ministry that will become contagious.

    Ok, getting too long - If this scenario is yours, I pray that you will hear from the Lord as to how to move forward, lead with love and gentleness and purpose and discover some really cool things that will impact your whole region and other churches for the Glory of Jesus.

    Be blessed Pete and thanks again for your input.

  3. Jesus spent 3 years plus among the Jews those who really heard the call came out and left the building. Embraced the new wine with its new skin of which Paul is chief example