Why You MUST Develop More Leaders

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Bridge Structure

photo credit: telmo32

If you want your church to grow, and if you want the Kingdom to grow, you’re going to need to develop many more leaders. In the early church, an interesting turn of events happens when the apostles shift from simply preaching to releasing leaders.

The Bible says in the early chapters of Acts that God was “adding” to the church daily. Shortly into the life of the Jerusalem church, there arose a conflict between Hellenistic Jews and Hebraic Jews over the care of orphans and widows. The apostles asked for leaders from the church to be pointed out and then they released seven men to oversee a new area of ministry. Suddenly, the terminology changes from God “adding” to the church to the church “multiplying.”

Out of Acts, chapter 6, we can take away at least seven lessons for churches that want to grow by empowering and releasing more leaders.

1. A growing church is a Biblical idea.

It says, “In those days the number of disciples were increasing.” If a church is not growing, it is often because something is unhealthy. Healthy things grow. Unless the community is already saturated and everyone reachable has been reached, a church must diagnose what is breaking down in the leadership development process. We’ve said that if there is one person who doesn’t know Christ, we’re going to keep growing. A growing church is biblical.

2. Church growth causes problems.

Acts 6 says that there were “rumblings of discontent.” That’s true in any church. Sometimes people come to me and say, “Pastor Rick, we’ve really got a problem in this church.” I want to say, “Which one? I’m aware of about a couple hundred. Which one are you talking about?” They say, “You may not recognize this but there’s this need.” Of course we recognize it. We live with it day and night. But leadership development takes time, so there are always holes to be filled in any growing ministry.

3. Problems are always unmet needs.

It says “The Greek speaking Jews claimed their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution of food.” We would like to think that everyone in our church’s membership is together in the priority of seeing more people come to Jesus, but even Christians get distracted when there are unmet needs in their lives – real or imagined. When you experience a leadership problem in your church, it almost always flows out of someone’s unmet need.

4. Pastors cannot do it all.

Their response to this need was, “It wouldn’t be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables.” It’s a legitimate need but it’s not one that God called us to meet. Spiritual leaders cannot remain spiritual leaders long if they aren’t spending adequate time at the feet of Jesus seeking wisdom, direction, and vision.

5. Spirit-filled believers assist the pastoral staff.

They said, “choose seven men, full of the Holy Spirit and we’ll turn the responsibility over to them.” It’s interesting that if you read these names in Acts 6 – Stephen, Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolaus – you find that they are all Greek names. And these men cared deeply about the needs of the Greek believers in the early church.

6. The pastors are to focus on praying and teaching.

He said, “We will give our attention to prayer and teaching of the word.” I once had to make a covenant with Saddleback Church. If the people would take on the work of the ministry, I would make sure they were well fed. That’s been my goal since that time. The ministry of Saddleback outgrew me a long time ago. Obviously I can’t do all the ministry. I can’t even do a fraction of the ministry. But I can make sure that you’re well fed.

7. The result of lay ministry was more growth.

It says, “This proposal pleased the whole group so the word of God increased rapidly (multiplied).” There was mobilization. In many churches, all you’re expected to do is attend and give. But those are really two minor issues related to what God really wants to do in your life. We have allowed our spectator-oriented culture to influence the church.

But God teaches us to mobilize every person for ministry – pastors and staff are to equip all believers for the work of the ministry. We have to mobilize every member for ministry. This is leadership development. And this is essential to fulfilling the Great Commission.


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Rick Warren About Rick Warren

Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., one of America's largest and most influential churches. Rick is author of the New York Times bestseller The Purpose Driven Life. His book, The Purpose Driven Church, was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th century. He is also founder of Pastors.com, a global Internet community for pastors.

  • Shane

    It seems my comments keep being deleted. I suppose if you disagree with
    the content of your postings then you are considered unloving and
    divisive. Is that it? I guess if I just gush all over the articles
    then I can push the agenda of site. What a shame.

  • Shane

    Who is responsible for church growth? The church’s purpose is not to grow numerically but to grow spiritually. Was Jeremias ministry flawed? How about Ezekials? If we judge Jesus’ ministry on numeric growth he failed miserably. Our job as shepherds is not to cater to every “felt need” the sheep have. It is to preach and teach the word. Numeric growth praise God, decrees in numbers praise God. Either way numeric growth is NOT an indicator of a healthy church.

  • Bukky Akingbelure

    This is a great insight. May the Lord enrich you the more greatly sir.

  • Julie

    At the risk of starting a debate it concerns me that there is no statement here regarding the role of women in leadership. Women are in leadership and some women like some men do a wonderful job.

    • http://brandonacox.com Brandon A. Cox

      Julie, we totally agree. This is more of a general article that should really apply to both men and women.

  • Jim Miller

    This is a really thoughtful message. Thanks.

  • Gerald

    I like what you say here. However, I have encountered a problem over and over again. The problem is the Pastor. Some seem to believe if they give control of anything outside of themselves they will loose something. These pastors try to direct all things according to their preferences, without regard for the giftedness of those in their congregation. I have served as an Associate Pastor, Biblical Counselor, and Pulpit Supply Pastor.

  • Kyle Johnson

    “But God teaches us to mobilize every person for ministry – pastors and staff are to equip all believers for the work of the ministry. We have to mobilize every member for ministry. This is leadership development. And this is essential to fulfilling the Great Commission.”

    BOOM! This is great wisdom that will help me always stay focused on EXACTLY what my job is… this is the way I am to serve my church as a small groups pastor. Empower, equip, and encourage new leaders to take that step of faith to take on responsibility. Thanks, Rick!

  • http://www.ricardoequips.com/ Ricardo Butler

    Pastors can’t do it all because God gives apostles, prophets, teachers, and evangelists too “TILL [Gk: 'Till or until is a time word meaning--indicating the point reached, as far as, i.e. up to a certain point'] WE ALL COME IN THE UNITY OF THE FAITH …” The pastor will always keep working hard until he accepts and embraces help from all the other expressions of God’s Spirit through gifts in his or her congregation.

    • Shane

      Injecting business philosophy into the church will produce a top down “grid” ecclesiology predicated on numeric growth consequently inhibiting spiritual growth. Contrast that with a biblical ecclesiology which is organic resembling a vine and a trellis. These two principles are not compatible.

  • Louis Austad

    Here. Here..

  • Knoojut

    For the most part I agree to this. But emphasizing on leadership so much always makes me a bit cautious. I think leadership development is both a necessity for churches and one of the biggest temptations for church leaders. It is so hard for a leader to keep asking: what is the purpose of my leadership? A growing church or influence/power? By emphasizing on leadership one might get the idea that learning to lead is the most important in church. And it’s not. Serving is. So I would rather call it ministry development. Leadership is just a part of that. But hey, maybe it’s just semantics… :D

    • http://www.ricardoequips.com/ Ricardo Butler

      Leadership is the prime reason for which we were created. “As Jesus IS, so are WE” says the Apostle John. And Jesus told Pilate, “Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To THIS end [to be King] WAS I BORN [as Jesus is, so are we, since WE ARE ONE with and IN CHRIST], and for this cause came I into the world.” The HIGH calling that Paul was talking about was the REIGN with Him, to be kings under the KING (Rev. 1:6), priests under the High Priest (Rev. 5:10), judges under the Judge (Rev. 20:4, 1 Cor. 6:2-4), lords under the Lord (Rev. 17:14), and saviours under the Saviour (Obadiah 1:21). This servanthood is what Jesus defined as leadership and reigning in Christ. This was the original mandate of Adam and he failed to “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion.” This is over creation itself, not over people. A real king serves His Kingdom through relational leadership as Jesus did. Most have a fear over this so they stay away from it even though it is your God-given right to have authority over creation and demons, but not over each other. Jesus gives leadership to some over the body of Christ globally and locally to train them for leadership and ministry that they may positively influence the culture and their communities through serving, helping, ministering, giving, and blessing the nations as we are the Seed of Christ as promised to Abraham. When leadership doesn’t help, unite, bless, serve, oversee, provide correction, wisdom based education then it is not reigning the way Christ did while He walked the earth. Jesus taught with authority. True leadership does everything with the authority and power of Christ to do so, not to dominate, but to serve and bless.

      • Knoojut

        In Romans 12 leadership is being named as just one of gift among others. In no way is the gift of leadership more important than prophecy or ministry. And the very nature of biblical leadership is pointed out by Jesus Himself, washing the feet of the disciples.

        • Shane

          Washing the feet of the disciples was indeed a humble act of servanthood by our Lord however, the larger message was one of sanctification and cleansing from sin. Serving the brethren by teaching sound doctrine, rebuking, instructing, training in righteousness is the thrust of every good servants ministry. We are all on equal footing before God with Christ as our priestly King. The last will be first and the first will be last. Math 23: 8 “But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. 9 And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. 10 Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah. 11 The greatest among you will be your servant. 12 For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

          • http://www.fivefoldfatherhood.com/ Ricardo Butler

            Again the same thing, I’m not disagreeing but we are made low in this life to be glorified with Him in the next. That’s the reason we were created.

        • http://www.fivefoldfatherhood.com/ Ricardo Butler

          Not disagreeing but all the instructions Jesus gave us on earth was for this life and in preparation for living the higher calling in Christ Jesus in the next life to reign with Him as Kings, Priest, Judges, Lords, and Saviours. He who is a faithful feet washing servant will become these–kingdom leaders ruling ten cities etc in the next life. We were created to rule with Him if we pass the test of servanthood, humility, not compromising our holiness, being faithful stewards etc.

  • http://thejoshcollins.com/ Josh Collins

    Yes this —> ” If a church is not growing, it is often because something is unhealthy. Healthy things grow.”

    It’s also important to note that growth happens the conditions are right. Consider why things like trees, flowers, plants and even specific types of fruits and vegetables don’t grow in certain places but do others.

    So much wisdom here. Thanks Rick!

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