The God-ordained means for leaders to be raised up is the local church. For it is in the local church that Christians grow spiritually through being taught doctrine, discipleship, and training in righteousness. In this article, I am going to discuss the basic steps in which lay leaders can be raised in the church from the ground up.
Local Church Discipleship Through Servant LeadershipChristians come to a church service to hear the Word of God preached and taught week after week, yet many seem to lack depth in the knowledge of the Word, in spiritual maturity and often struggle with habitual sins. The common problem is that while the call to preach is often fulfilled, there is no intentional discipleship model within many churches today. Yet, local church discipleship was the mandate Jesus gave to his disciples as seen in the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19–20). Discipling takes great humility, it involves life-on-life relationships and requires people to be vulnerable to one another (Jam. 5:16). We are to be committed and devoted to one another, to the teaching of his Word, to fellowship with one another, and to pray for each other (Acts 2:42-47). And as pastors, who are called to be servant leaders, we are to lead the way in confessing our weaknesses and sins. We live transparent lives by showing our justification is not in ourselves, but in Christ alone (2 Cor. 4:7; Heb. 13:7). We should live out our whole Christian lives before the church. But practically speaking, how can we do this regularly? We can do this in three ways: through local church membership, Sunday school and small groups.
Discipling takes great humility, it involves life-on-life relationships and requires people to be vulnerable to one another.
Membership allows the elders to know those who God has entrusted to them; those that they are committed to shepherd and oversee. Also, each member of a church is responsible and accountable to one another for they are one body (1 Cor. 12:12-26; Heb. 10:24-25). Sunday school classes are not only for kids, but for adults as well. In these classes, we could take the time to more deeply study theological topics, church history, confessions, systematic theology, other doctrinal truths and topics. Small groups are primarily members of the local church committed to meeting regularly. The purpose of these groups is to strengthen one another’s faith, grow together through studying the Bible, sharing one another’s burdens, praying for one another and making a difference in the community that God has placed them in.
Planned Mentorship Because God designed Christians to need one another and to live in community, we receive from other believers: godly encouragement (1 Thess. 5:11), love (1 Jn. 3:11), understanding (Eph. 4:2), kindness (Eph. 4:32), acceptance (Rom. 15:7), inspiration (Heb. 3:13; 10:24), admonition (Col. 3:16), help (Gal. 5:13), and Christlike mentorship. Our mentors are those based on whom we can pattern our lives.1 Ultimately, elders can discern those coming out of the woodwork or those who may hear God call them through his Spirit to be leaders in the church. As elders, we would encourage these potential lay leaders to take part in the church’s one-on-one planned mentorship program which could span over at least 3-4 months to discern this. While the structure of these mentorship meetings is left to the discretion of the mentor (preferably an elder) and the candidate, it is recommended that a portion of each of these meetings be devoted to the discussion of a text such as the pastoral epistles, a scripture text concerning an area of special ministry interest (e.g. the pastorate, missions, children’s ministry, youth ministry, women’s ministry etc.), or even a book focused on the ministry concerned such as a book on pastoral ministry or preaching to help discern whether the person is called to be an elder.
Membership allows the elders to know those who God has entrusted to them; those that they are committed to shepherd and oversee.
Share Responsibilities Once it has been determined that an individual seems to be called for ministry, we can then provide them with opportunities. We entrust them by giving them reps to teach, having them serve and labour together, and take over some of the responsibilities of the church as the apostle Paul did (2 Cor. 8:16-24; Rom. 15:14-21). This is so that they may be equipped (Eph. 4:12) and go deeper in their study and application of doctrine. They can be encouraged to join service reviews where last week’s Sunday service, sermon and general congregational feedback is discussed. They will consider the things that went wrong or right. They are welcomed to join staff meetings, prep meetings for the coming Sunday, and perhaps assist where possible and appropriate. Perhaps they could teach a Sunday school class or lead a women’s Bible study (Tit. 2:3-5), so that others may be able to witness, provide constructive feedback and eventually testify to their giftings and calling. Then they might one day be affirmed by the local church through a congregational decision (Matt. 18:18-19). And the elders, after much prayer and fasting, will determine the right timing for their affirmation (Acts 4:23).
In this way, we as pastors can foster a culture of raising up lay leaders for His bride within the local church for its building up and to the glory of Him alone.
1 Terry, J. M., Smith, E. C., & Anderson, J. (1998). Missiology: an introduction to the foundations, history, and strategies of world missions (p. 144). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.