by Jessica Scott #NoPlaceLeftOKC Church Planting Resident
Church-planting movements are taking place among unreached people groups (UPGs) increasingly in accordance with God’s promise to redeem people from all nations. Not only are these groups being reached in the remote areas of the globe, but there is also tremendous work happening in North America. As these UPG churches form, there are many issues to be addressed to produce a healthy, biblical, culturally-relevant expression of the body of Christ. Of high importance is the matter of leadership. The biblical example of leadership within the church of any context reveals the necessity of the Holy Spirit, the requirement of men of character, and the value of practical training.
The Church can do nothing apart from the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. He provides wise guidance in every matter faced. In the same way the Spirit set apart Saul and Barnabas for the work to which He called them (Acts 13:2-4), the Holy Spirit chooses specific people to lead bodies of believers. In the power of the Spirit, Paul went on to proclaim the Gospel vastly, plant many churches, and then returned to appoint leaders (Acts 14:23). The Holy Spirit was obviously the central figure in all of Paul’s ministry – demonstrated through miraculous signs and influential declarations – so, his role in selecting leaders was Spirit-led as well.
Therefore, the Holy Spirit must call out individuals into this most noble task of spiritual leadership. One cannot lead God’s people well apart from the filling of the Holy Spirit, and one cannot lead with conviction without being driven by the Spirit. The church-planter’s task is to pray for God to bring out the faithful, available, teachable (FAT) people within newly formed churches who will take on this responsibility as God’s instrument. The Holy Spirit will bring these people out, just as He did with Saul and Barnabas. Confidently pursue the Spirit’s guidance and continue to train the Church in obedience to Christ.
As for the type of person a leader should be, Paul elaborates in His epistles on requirements to be upheld. The primary concern is the man’s character; he must live a life of integrity, wisdom, and righteousness, and be able to motivate others along the same path (1 Timothy 3:1-13; Titus 1:5-9). Though there is never the expectation of perfection, leaders are held to a higher standard because they determine the direction of the rest of the body. In general, a leader should conduct himself like Christ among others to indicate the fruit of the Spirit thriving within him.
The best people to identify men of honorable character are those who know them best. There is no direct command that the leader of a church should emerge from within the church, but there is merit when a church acknowledges potential leaders existing in their group. Church-planters must pay attention to the giftings and character of each disciple as they aid them in becoming a healthy church. If a leader is identified, the church-planter can then go on to provide practical training.
As is true with any disciple, unless leaders are given practical training, they will not know how to realistically serve in their roles. Paul modeled this hands-on mentorship throughout his journeys and even later through his letters to the churches. The letters to the Corinthians reveal that Paul led by keeping the correct center in the church: the authority of Scripture and the transformation of the Gospel. Leaders must maintain and promote the same focus.
If Scripture and the Gospel are the key components to raising up healthy churches, leaders must be enabled to rightly understand and teach God’s Word in a way that evokes obedience. There are many ways to exegete Scripture, but one easily adopted method is the Sword Method. In this mode of study, the following questions are asked: 1) What does this teach about God? 2) What does this teach about people? 3) Is there a sin to avoid? 4) Is there a promise to believe? 5) Is there an example to follow? 6) Is there a command to obey?
After examining the findings, a specific commitment to obedience should be made that will be implemented immediately. As upcoming leaders learn to study the Bible using these questions, they are equipped with a simple tool which they can use to assist their church to discover the meaning of God’s Word.
The most difficult aspect of appointing leadership is the loss of control. There will come a point when the church-planter must release the trained leader to fully own this position. Missteps are bound to happen, but church-planters must trust that the one whom God has chosen to lead His people will be led by His Spirit to fulfill His purpose. The Lord purposefully decided to work through broken humans, knowing the trail of failures that would be formed; He does not need any person to withhold control over another to ensure the job is done right.
As UPGs are reached, both around the world and in the United States, the Bride of Christ is becoming a spectacular mosaic for the glory of God. Leaders are entrusted with the responsibility to guide the Church in godliness and obedience to the Great Commission. Identify these leaders among the harvest, invest in them until they are well-equipped for their role, and then launch them into the joyful service for which they have been set apart by God.