“Every one of us, including church leaders, is called to be involved in Christian discipleship. Christ calls us to encourage and equip people, so that we can all worship Christ and live out a real, effectual, impacting Christian life.”
The Best Christian Leaders Are Also Disciples
Rev Stephen Brooks examines the important disciplines of discipleship and mentorship, and why the Church needs more of both
One thing we need to see less of in 2013 is the number of Christian leaders addicted to attending church, and an increase in the number of leaders who are real disciples and followers of Jesus.
Because many church leaders have not been trained to be a disciple, they can be easily tempted to chase after what is not godly, and give in to the temptation of their perceived self-importance.
When leaders are not following Jesus, the Good Shepherd, they are not being good shepherds (1 Corinthians 4:15). Instead, they take their lead from selfish desires. Consequently, they focus on getting what they want rather than what God has for them, and become self-serving, only helping others as it makes them feel better about themselves (Romans 12:3). Due to the numbers of self-serving Christian leaders, members are often spiritually malnourished and in conflict, because the shepherd is leading them astray.
Every one of us, including Church leaders, is called to be involved in Christian discipleship. Christ calls us to encourage and equip people, so that we can all worship Christ and live out a real, effectual, impacting Christian life (Matthew 28:19-20).
The most important thing Jesus asks us to do as believers and as a Church is to make disciples. Remember, Jesus’ purpose for His three years of earthly ministry was the discipleship and equipping of the 12 Disciples. He was focused on teaching them about the Kingdom of God, and encouraging the disciples to see beyond their present situation and the life to come. With His teaching, Jesus entrusted His Church to the care of the people He taught (John 17:18-20). They were to replicate themselves to others. Today, as increasing numbers of pastors lead independent churches, we are witnessing the demise of some Black-led church organisations. Too many pastors are not accountable and, as a result, make too many mistakes, or their ministry remains stagnant and an ineffective influence on the world.
The Christian faith is an imitative faith, beginning with Jesus` earliest words to the men and women who would become His disciples. “Follow Me” may be the simplest description of Christian discipleship; the simplicity is deceptive, as it assumes a complex relationship through which an individual becomes educated for the purpose of God.
Jesus was a teacher at a time when the relationship of a rabbi and disciple was understood and widely practiced. The kind of teaching that Jesus provided was very different from the classroom instruction of today’s seminaries. It was lived, experienced, tasted and touched by the disciples; no matter where they were, they were always in the classroom. Jesus intended a similar strategy for spiritual discipleship for the Church.
In the book of Acts, we have a beautiful example of the initiation of a spiritual mentor/mentee relationship: Philip, a disciple of Jesus, met a public official who was reading the Scriptures. Philip’s simple question, “Do you know what you are reading?” and the response of the Ethiopian diplomat, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” exemplifies perfectly the mentor/mentee attitude.
A good spiritual mentor creates a hospitable space of trust and intimacy, and can discern the move of God in the mentor. They also recognise potential in people; have experience, and is affirmed by others for having a life worthy of emulation. They are also familiar with contemplative prayer, listening and spiritual disciplines.
A good mentee is an individual who desires spiritual growth and maturity; can be vulnerable in sharing intimate issues of life, and responsive and respectful to the directives of the mentor. They also have a teachable attitude; are submissive, faithful and obedient and, most importantly, desire to serve God wholeheartedly.
Spiritual discipleship requires something more than traditional western forms of instruction. It requires a relationship with a teacher of life, who is able to convey what was learned from the teacher’s own faithful mentor.
Paul articulates with precision that the past provides a power for the present: “For I have received (paralambano) from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night when He was betrayed, took a loaf of bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said “This is My body that is broken for you, do this in remembrance of Me” (1 Corinthians 11:23-24). Paul insists the church in Corinth must understand the great ‘paralambano principle’, ie. “I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you.” Paralambano is a technical word for the transmission of tradition from one person to another, from the past to the future. In the receiving and passing on of the traditions of the faith, timeless grace is poured into a present moment.
One great spiritual mentor I knew was the late Bishop Norman L Wagner, who led the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World (PAW). He was known all around the world as the preachers’ preacher, but to many he was also a spiritual mentor, who had many sons and daughters. His protégés, like Bishop A Glenn Brady, Bishop Wayne Brantley, Bishop Dr Iona Locke and Bishop Melvin Brooks – to name a few – today have impacting and empowering ministries that are affecting thousands around the world.
The effective leader is one that has been discipled, is mentoring, has been mentored, is building relationships and has been accountable (2 Timothy 2:2). An effective leader aims to be like Christ.
Rev Stephen Brooks is National Development Manager for Excell 3. Visit www.excell3.com for more details