I like an easy life. I like pre-packaged. I like off the shelf solutions. The problem is they just don’t tend to work or translate into our context. In a small church we have people who love learning, who are decidedly bookish. But we also have people who have a chip on both shoulders about education and for whom courses, books, and the normal way churches do training just doesn’t work.
I spent last week at the Union Conference as I prepared to be lead mentor for our Doncaster learning community, where we’re offering the Graduate Diploma in Theology. It’s been interesting hearing people’s surprise at a church like ours offering such a theological course (I’m deliberately keeping off my soap box about what that says about our expectations and prejudices). And we offer it knowing that it isn’t for everyone, in fact it isn’t even for the majority.
But I am very aware that if we are going to re-evanglise Doncaster we need people who have been trained to this level. And as the cavalry aren’t coming from the South or the big City/Town churches in Yorkshire to Doncaster we need to be strategic in preparing to do it ourselves. If we want to see churches established and planted that means we need training on every level because we need leaders on every level.
As a church that’s our aim. Or perhaps it would be more honest to say that’s certainly what I’m trying to find time to think through. I want everything from evangelistic, and pre-evangelistic opportunities, and people across the church trained in how to run a variety of courses and less formal approaches, to Graduate Diploma’s because we need people who are learning Christ and loving Christ. People who are cascading that love of Jesus, who are overflowing (in a good way – think champagne and fizz, not toilets and sewers) about the love, grace and welcome that they have found, and know how to share that with others and then disciple others.
We need leaders at every level, from those who teach at toddlers and disciple our young people on Sunday to those who are stepping up to practically love and serve the church as deacons and are teaching and shepherding as elders. And I want them all to be growing in their understanding of scripture, to have a sound grasp on grace, to hold fast to the deep truths of the gospel and to pass them on one-to-one, and when we gather.
The danger is that our current lack of leaders paralyses me, that I think I just can’t do it – my mind is often at its most creative when finding excuses. But unless the church grows its leaders it can’t expect to have any. I can’t afford to wait, we as a church can’t afford to wait. As pastors we need to train, to disciple, to raise up. That means alongside our GDip, we’re beginning a new leaders training course on Sunday’s once a month exploring what church leadership is, how to pray for your leaders and what leadership at every level looks like. It also means we want to look at everything above, below and in between. Not to do it all at once and burn out but to create an atmosphere where growing and loving Jesus more is the norm, where discipleship is the norm, where growth is expected. Where every part if doing its work and the gospel is seen.
Where as we grow leaders the expectation is that they play their part in growing leaders. Modelling love and service of the Father, Son and Spirit who loved and served us.