Leadership Development

Leadership Development

No matter your context, to take this dimension of leadership development seriously.

Jordan Friesen

   If a young man were starting as a pastor in a small church and were all alone with no fellow elders, I would encourage him to do three things. First, start preaching Gospel-centered expository preaching; second, enter every member's home and get to know them; and third, start intentionally training men in the church with the Word of God. I encourage him to do those things in that order. The first of these two may seem obvious, most pastors know they must preach the Word and know the flock, but this third one that pastors might miss is of absolute necessity. It would be best if you started with preaching the Word and the Gospel. Everything else will flow down from there. Also, you need to know your membership, as you will never become their pastor until they know you care. And finally, find a strategic way to begin intentionally developing men in your church to be future leaders.

   In 2019 I entered a context at First Baptist Church, El Dorado, KS, where there was a discipleship void. The church was already changing our constitution and by-laws from a committee-ran and deacon-led model to an elder-led model. However, it became evident that as much as I wanted our church to have a biblical polity, it did not matter if we did not have qualified men to lead that biblical polity. When I first arrived, I did not see biblical qualifications among the churchmen, and if they were present, I did not know my congregation well enough at the time to them. Biblical qualifications are the foundation of leadership development. Paul makes it clear in both 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 that the leaders of God's church (elders and deacons) must be above reproach, be the husband of one wife, manage their households well, and be able to teach. These character, knowledge, and ability qualifications are not options for leaders; they are essential. But how do you cultivate these qualifications within the lives of the men of your church? It starts with being intentional in leading and training them. Several Scriptures should instruct pastors to make this one of their top priorities within their churches, the primary one being 2 Timothy 2:2,

"What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also."

At the heart of Paul's second letter to Timothy, Paul says to this young budding pastor to take what he learned from Paul and entrust it to other faithful men who one day will also be able to teach others. Most of you reading this have been blessed to receive incredible knowledge and education. Many of you have graduated from seminary, and most of you had the privilege of spending time at Immanuel being poured into by many godly men. We are now charged with the responsibility of taking what God poured into us and pouring that into others. Yes, part of that comes through preaching the Word, but it is so much more than that. Depending on your context, the specifics of how you do leadership development may vary. For me, El Dorado, my vision was to raise an army of like-minded men in the church with the same vision, values, and goals that Matt (my fellow pastor) and I had. We knew to change the church's culture for decades and centuries to come, and it had to start with men catching the same vision we had. We also knew to complete the work that we started on changing our church polity, we had to have qualified men, and we needed to know who those men were. And so, walking in Immanuel's footsteps, we developed an intentional leadership development program called Timothy Track. Timothy Track is a year-and-a-half-long men's intensive discipleship training course that covers three specific areas. The first area is pastoral ministry, preaching, and teaching, the second is systematic theology, and the third is ecclesiology. We spend 12 weeks on each subject, assigning homework and reading along the way.

   We open this up to any man in the church who desires to take it, but we were also very intentional in encouraging specific men to sign up for it. As a pastor, you should always have in your church what Colin Marshall calls "people worth watching." These are men in your church that stand out to you. They show up every time the doors are open, they're intentional in their conversations with others, and they seem to demonstrate godly character with a thirst for the Word. These were the men that we specifically invited to join us. At the same time, we wanted it open to all men so that no one got the idea that all you have to do to become a leader in the church was take this track. This approach was a challenge, given we were already in the process of changing our by-laws. Throughout the year-and-a-half period of Timothy Track, we are looking for several things in these men. We are, first and foremost, assessing character. Matt and I have spent hours with our Bibles open to 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 with certain men in our minds considering each biblical qualification. Where are their strengths? Where are their weaknesses? to a point where we can confidently say they are above reproach in every character qualification listed. Second, we assess their ability to teach. To do this, you must be willing to let men fail. We have these men teach in the second semester of Timothy Track to one another, but we invite them to teach at our Wednesday night Bible study in the third semester. This pattern is a perfect context because only about 20-30 members show up, half of whom are fellow brothers from Timothy Track. Even though you may be able to do a better job of teaching as a lead pastor, let them teach. Mark Dever was the one who said you have to be willing to let the young lion cubs tear things up a little bit, and if you do, you will have a fully grown lion that loves you forever. We need lions in our churches. The only way that will happen is if you provide a context to allow men to test their teaching abilities. Men with godly character and the ability to give instruction in sound doctrine and rebuke those who contradict it. Walk alongside these men as they prepare lessons and sermons. Have coffee with them, encourage them to send you a copy of their manuscript, and give them constructive feedback after they preach. The final thing we spend time assessing is their shepherd's heart. Godly character is paramount, and an ability to teach is necessary, but especially when considering future elders, you need to see a shepherd's heart. Do these men love the church? Are they lingering after the worship service to get to know others? Are they hospitable, having people in their homes? Do they show a love for God's people even with all of her spots, wrinkles, and blemishes?

   Eldering is complex, and these men will one day see a side of God's people they had not seen before, which means future leaders need to love God's people even before they are called upon to lead them. We spend time assessing these primary things as we continue to teach, disciple, and train. Another aspect of leadership development that we must pay attention to is modeling. In 1 Peter 5:3, Peter calls on the elders of Asia Minor to be examples to the flock. A 2-hour, once-a-week training course with homework and reading is essential, but so is modeling ministry. When I was a Gospel Community Group leader at Immanuel, I was leading a group of great diversity. There was no reason we should have gotten along, let alone have deep Gospel relationships. In my first year of leading this group, that is what it felt like. Until leadership training, we were encouraged to implement Hebrews 3:12-13 into our groups.

"Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving
heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is
called "today," that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin."

We started allowing this verse to govern our meetings, and because of it, we all grew in transparency, confessed sin, and intentionally encouraged one another. By the time I left that group, it was hard to say goodbye because of the tight bonds we had developed. One of the ways we have sought to model ministry is by meeting with a handful of guys (the people worth watching) and modeling this kind of confession of sin and exhortation. A few times a month, we gather in my office and give opportunities for these brothers to confess sin or share a spiritual struggle, and then I encourage the men to exhort the ones who shared and speak God's Word into their lives. The goal is that, hopefully, one day, these men will be able to lead and model these very things for others in our church. I have been pastoring at EDFBC for nearly three and a half years and have already seen fruit come from our intentional leadership development. For the first time in maybe our church's entire history, we had a member of the church, one who had taken Timothy Track, preach an expository sermon on a Sunday morning. In my wife's words, "that was a good day to be a member of First Baptist." He did a fantastic job. We recently elected one of our Timothy Track graduates to lead our missions committee. He has excelled in this position, making some hard decisions and forming Bible-based criteria for who we will support in future missions. We've seen men who knew nothing of Reformed Theology comes to embrace it. We have seen a culture of men stepping up to lead in their homes and other ministries in our church.

   There are still many challenges ahead of us. To date, we still have not changed our constitution and by- laws nor have we ordained any elders yet. Our current polity has still created some real challenges to this transition. However, in the long run, patience will be worth it. I'd rather have a handful of genuinely qualified elders leading the church in 10 years than have a handful of unqualified elders leading the church this year. I encourage every brother in the network, no matter your context, to take this dimension of leadership development seriously. Are you making steps even today to start training your successor? Are you raising up a cohort of men with like-minded vision, values, and goals? Are you intentionally spending time with men in your church who may not be qualified now but are worth watching in the future? When Moses was leading God's people, his father-in-law Jethro came and visited him and noticed how much work he was doing alone.

"Why do you sit alone, and all the people stand around you from
morning till evening? … You and the people with you will certainly wear yourselves out, for the thing is
too heavy for you. You are not able to do it alone (Ex. 18:14b and 18)."

Ministry is too heavy to do alone. God never intended it to be that way. And so, Jethro told Moses to raise up godly men to surround himself with and promised favorable results:

"If you do this, God will direct you, you will be able to
endure, and all these people will go to their place in peace (Ex. 18:23)."

May the Lord do this very thing in every church within our network.

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