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Chapter 20: Reproducing Leaders: CHRISTIAN LEADERSHIP

Posted by on Aug. 12, 2009 at 4:19 PM
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The things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.

2 Timothy 2:2


With these words Paul presses home a leader's responsibility to train others to lead.  If he is to carry out his trust fully, the leader will devote time to training others to succeed and perhaps even supersede him. Barnabas' spiritual stature is seen in his entire freedom from jealousy when his protégé Paul surpassed his own leadership skills and became the dominant member of the team.  It follows that a leader must provide subordinates with opportunity to exercise and develop their powers.


John R. Mott believed that leaders must multiply themselves by developing younger leaders, giving them full play and adequate outlet for their abilities.  Younger people should feel the weight of heavy burdens, opportunity for initiative, and power of final decision.  The younger leader should receive generous credit for achievements.  Foremost they must be trusted.  Blunders are the inevitable price of training leaders.


At a recent missionary conference, an Asian leader spoke frankly about the role of Western missionaries.  "The missionary of today in the Orient should be less a performer, and more a trainer." This may not be true in every missionary setting, but it does highlight one of the great needs in current mission strategy.


Training new leaders is a delicate task.  The wise trainer will not advertise the end he has in view.  Bishop Stephen Neill spoke of the danger of this task:


If we set out to produce a race of leaders, what we shall succeed in doing is probably to produce a race of restless, ambitious and discontented intellectuals. To tell a man he is called to be a leader is the best way of ensuring his spiritual ruin, since in the Christian world ambition is more deadly than any other sin, and if yielded to, makes a man unprofitable in the ministry.  The most important thing today is the spiritual, rather than the intellectual, quality of those indigenous Christians who are called to bear responsibility in the younger churches.


Lesslie Newbigin goes so far as to question whether the church ought to encourage the concept of leadership, so difficult it is to use without being misled by its non-Christian counterpart.  The church needs saints and servants, not "leaders," and if we forget the priority of service, the entire idea of leadership training becomes dangerous.  Leadership training must still follow the pattern our Lord used with His twelve.



Perhaps the most strategic and fruitful work of modern missionaries is to help leaders of tomorrow develop their spiritual potential.  This task requires careful thought, wise planning, endless patience, and genuine Christian love.  It cannot be haphazard or ill-conceived.  Our Lord devoted the greater part of His three years of ministry to molding the characters and spirits of His disciples.


Paul showed the same concern for training young Timothy and Titus.  Paul's method for preparing Timothy for the church in Ephesus is deeply instructive.


Timothy was about twenty years old when Paul became his friend.  Timothy tended toward melancholia, and he was too tolerant of and partial to people of rank. He could be irritable with opponents.  He was apt to rely on old spiritual experiences rather than kindle the flame of daily devotion.


But Paul had high hopes for him.  Paul set about to correct Timothy's timid nature, to replace softness with steel.  Paul led Timothy unto experiences and hardships that toughened his character.  Paul did not hesitate to assign him tasks beyond his present powers.  How else can a young person develop competence and confidence if not by stretching to do the impossible?



Traveling with Paul brought Timothy into contact with men of stature whose characters kindled in him a wholesome ambition.  From his mentor he learned to meet triumphantly the crises that Paul considered routine.  Paul shared with Timothy the work of preaching.  Paul gave him the responsibility of establishing a group of Christians at Thessalonica.  Paul's exacting standards, high expectations, and heavy demands brought out the best in Timothy, saving him from a life of mediocrity.


Paul Rees describes the experience of Douglas Hyde, one-time Communist but later a convert to Christ, as recorded in Hyde's book, Dedication and Leadership Techniques:


 Easily one of the most fascinating stories in the book - a story connected with his Communist years - involves a young man who came to Douglas Hyde and announced that he wanted to be made into a leader.  "I thought," said Hyde, "I had never seen anyone look less like a leader in my life.  He was short, grotesquely fat, with a great, flabby, wide uninteresting face...He had a cast in one eye, and spoke with a most distressing stutter."


What happened?  Well, instead of turning him away as a hopeless prospect, Hyde gave him a chance - a chance to study, to learn, to test his dedication, to smooth out his stutter.  In the end he became a leader in one of the most Communist-infiltrated labour unions in Britain.



The observant leader may discover latent talent in some quite unpromising people.

Frank Buchman, founder of Moral Rearmament, displayed many leadership gifts.  He claimed that if he failed to train others to do his work better than he did it, he had failed.  For many years, he worked to make himself dispensable, a rare agenda for a founder.


No work is more rewarding to a missionary than developing leaders, for the development of the new churches the missionary founds will greatly depend on the spiritual caliber of the national Christians.  Once the pioneer stage in any field has passed, the training of leadership should take high priority.  One of a missionary's main goals should be the development of faith in promising young people who can, in time, lead the church.

Lest our training programs become too rigid and we discourage the exceptional person from service, we must always allow room for the unusual person, the one for whom there is no mold.  God has His "irregulars," and many of them have made outstanding contributions to world evangelization.  Who could have poured C. T. Studd into a mold?  Such men and women cannot be measured by ordinary standards or made to conform to any fixed pattern.

One such missionary was Douglas Thornton, who made an indelible mark among Muslims in the Near East.  He possessed rare gifts, and even as a young man did not hesitate to express opinions that seemed radical and impractical to his superiors.  His biographer records:

It is hardly surprising to learn that he felt constrained to write to his society a memorandum setting forth his views on the past, present and future of the work in Egypt.  It is not a precedent that young missionaries after three and a half months in the field should be invited to follow, and on this occasion, too, heads were shaken. But Thornton was an exceptional man, and time has proved that his views and even his effusions were worthy of being studied.  It was never safe to neglect them.  Most juniors had best reserve their observations for a more mature season.  But when the exceptional man arrives, two things have to be observed - the man has to learn to make his observations in the right way, so as to carry his seniors with him; the seniors have to learn how to learn from one who is possibly able, in spite of his want of local knowledge, to benefit them enormously by his fresh and spontaneous ideas.  Each is a difficult lesson.


Leadership training cannot be done on a mass scale.  It requires patient, careful instruction and prayerful, personal guidance over a considerable time.  "Disciples are not manufactured wholesale.  They are produced one by one, because someone has taken the pains to discipline, to instruct and enlighten, to nurture and train one that is younger."

When a person is really marked out for leadership, God will see that that person receives the necessary disciplines for effective service.

When God wants to drill a man

And thrill a man

And skill a man,

When God wants to mold a man

To play the noblest part;

When He yearns with all His heart

To create so great and bold a man

That all the world shall be amazed,

Watch His methods, watch His ways!

How He ruthlessly perfects

Whom He royally elects!

How He hammers him and hurts him,

And with mighty blows converts him

Into trial shapes of clay which

Only God understands;

While his tortured heart is crying

And he lifts beseeching hands!

How He bends but never breaks

When his good He undertakes;

How He uses whom He chooses

And with every purpose fuses him;

By every act induces him

To try His spendour out-

God knows what He's about!

                                    Author unknown

-Spiritual Leadership: Principles of Excellence for Every Believer

by on Aug. 12, 2009 at 4:19 PM
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