At our international leadership conference last week the word of the Lord was clear: train, empower, and make a place at the table for a new generation of leaders.
For the past forty years I have been involved in training leaders. Forty years ago I was a young missionary with the Mennonite Church leading a mission post with my new wife on John’s Island, South Carolina. We were not only leading the mission, but we were also training a team of other young missionaries who were serving with us on the island. A year later we returned to Pennsylvania and I became involved in the leadership team of “Lost but Found,” a street ministry in Lancaster County, again training young leaders in street evangelism and discipleship.
Eight years later in 1980, my wife, LaVerne, and I led a small team of young leaders to start a new church in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania; DOVE Christian Fellowship, which grew to more than two thousand believers during the next ten years. After serving as a senior pastor for 15 years, we decentralized this one church into eight local churches and today DOVE Christian Fellowship International is a family of more than two hundred churches spanning six continents of the globe. I have been privileged to serve as the international director of DOVE International for the past 15 years and by the grace of God traveled more than 100,000 miles each year training leaders in the nations of the world. I also have had the privilege, during the past year, of leading a leadership team of young leaders, mostly in their twenties, for “The Gathering.” The Gathering is an interdenominational young adult ministry in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, that meets every Tuesday evening.
In every leadership transition I have experienced over forty years, young leaders needed to be trained. They needed to be properly prepared for the difficulties and landmines they may experience in Christian leadership. During the past twenty years I have written more than 30 books, many of them focusing on various forms of leadership, leadership training, biblical principles in decision making, and building healthy leadership teams. Every generation of leaders has their own uniqueness, and our present generation of young potential leaders is no different. They need biblical leadership training that fits their generation, especially in the areas of team building, conflict management and resolution, intergenerational ministry, and leading effectively in this generation. And through proper training, they can find that even intense conflict difficulty, when approached from a biblical perspective, can be a wonderful growing experience.
Many times church leadership team members try to lead together according to the traditions they have learned from the past, rather than leading from the perspective of the Word of God. Alexander Strauch, in his book Biblical Eldership says; “The pastor and congregation must thoroughly study the doctrine of eldership in an attitude of prayerful humility, honestly facing man’s tendency to cling to tradition more than to God’s truth.” After serving in various areas of Christian leadership for more than forty years, I have come to the conclusion that much of the difficulty that leaders find themselves facing could be avoided by a good dose of healthy prevention based on the Word of God. During the next few months I will discuss some of the critical problems that are often experienced by church leadership teams on my blog, and we will also look at some preventative ideas and leadership principles taken from a broad spectrum of leadership resources. And we will also look at some of the basic biblical leadership principles that Christian leaders need to embrace as we face our future.
I will focus on eight different leadership truths that need to be taught to new and future young leaders in the church so they are prepared for what is ahead. Many leaders come into leadership or eldership in local churches with little training or awareness of how to work as team and how to lead in a healthy way. Thus great conflict arises that could have been avoided if there had been a proper awareness and training in these leadership principles. A wise senior pastor once told me that he has learned that the most important thing a senior pastor must do is teach the leadership team he serves with how to make decisions. As the old adage goes; an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
In order for the church of Jesus Christ to flourish in the next generation, my generation of leaders needs to find the most important leadership principles and skills that the next generation needs to be most effective in Christian leadership. Then we need to build relationships with a younger generation of present and future leaders and impart these leadership principles to them in a way that they can receive these truths. The scriptures tell us clearly that “…before the great and dreadful day of the Lord comes, he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children and the children to the fathers.” (Malachi 4:5-6) The bible promises a connection between the generations in the last days. Yet this is often a missing link in the church today.
The eight leadership principles that we will look at on this blog within the next few months are; knowing your calling as a leader, servant leadership, mentoring, teambuilding, receiving divine guidance, developing a vision, communication skills, and the tests of leadership. Each of these areas of focus will help a future church leader be appropriately prepared for the task ahead. The time to train and empower a new generation of leaders is now!