There is a lack of leaders in evangelical churches in general. I was at a conference last week which had a healthy focus on training the next generation of leaders. And absolutely that is part of a pastor’s role, it is essential we are doing that. But I wonder if the real problem goes deeper than that.
The real problem is the deficit of discipleship in our churches, full stop, not just from the pastor. Too few people are seriously investing in and sowing into the spiritual lives and growth of others in church. We see it in all sorts of ways. It’s seen in the parents who outsource their child’s spiritual growth to the youth pastor or Sunday School teacher and then react angrily when their child walks away from the faith. It’s seen in the fringe believer who attends once or twice a month who really sees church as their for them and their spiritual convenience. It’s seen in our bridling at any challenge about our sin or actions or motives. It’s seen in our fear of how others will react if we open up about our struggles, simply because we aren’t use to seeing that done well.
This deficit of discipleship is stunting the growth of believers, leaving children hungry for spiritual truth famished, and new believers at the mercy of whatever they can find online.
I look back on what led me to where I am in terms of faith and ministry and see the hand not of one mentor but of many disciple making disciples. There was my Sunday School teacher, my youth group leader who first got me to teach the Bible, there were my parents, and an elderly godly saint who I never heard teach the Bible but who simply seemed to breathe it in every breath and took time out to care for and pray for me. There was the staff worker at university and other students, there have been people since. But here’s the irony, how many of them were my pastor at the time? Very few, it was ordinary members of the church who loved Jesus and gave up their spare time around their work and family to invest in others in church. Who cared deeply for others spiritual wellbeing and growth. And so many of them didn’t just disciple me, but played their part in a web of interconnected whole church discipleship.
We don’t just need pastors who disciple. We need churches of disciples who make disciples. The deficit of discipleship in our churches is at the root of our leadership problems, as well as so many others. Until we solve that issue. Until we help people catch the vision of every member discipleship we won’t solve the leadership problem, we won’t see new believers grow to maturity in the faith, we won’t stem the tide of children turning away from the faith.
Discipleship is not the magic bullet, it is however the strategy the head of the church, Christ, employed in building his church from the foundations up. We must follow as the body where our head leads. So how do we start? I’ll blog some more thoughts on this later in the week.