Literally every ministry in the history of the Church has had trouble raising up good leadership. Jesus himself founded his church on twelve highly flawed men (Eph 3:20-21). And with all of our weaknesses and shortcomings we have a commission to complete (Matt 28:18-20). So the question is how do we raise up people, specifically men, to accomplish this task? What follows is a brief description of how the church where we serve (Oak Park) has sought to do this, which can be summarizing in three words: finding, training and sending:
- Change the culture. The first step to raising men up in the church is finding them. In a culture that has commercialized church and stupefied manhood, many men have simply never been told that they were created to lead. Many come to churches as consumers and to their relationships as passive participants. Raising up men in the church means reclaiming the bible’s radically countercultural view of manhood. We first have to model, teach, preach and celebrate a picture of the God-man who sacrificially, patiently, passionately led and laid his life down for his bride. This will involve the intimidating task of gently but strongly stating and explaining the biblical view of manhood that our culture simply doesn’t want to hear and many times those in our respective churches.
- Change your expectations. Church leaders are too often guilty of having unrealistic expectations. God uses means to nurture his church, and one of the most surprising means is his use of fallen people. If you’re raising up leaders it means the men you’re looking for aren’t yet in leadership. If the story of David’s anointing teaches us anything it shows us that our external judgments of leadership are often flawed. Look for men who are teachable instead of impressive (Prov 12:1), spiritual and unpretentious rather than notable (John 1:47). Don’t ignore people’s gifting, but don’t overlook people because they’re gifting isn’t readily apparent. We’re all broken vessels that God uses.
- Make the time. The bane of any church leader’s existence is the clock. Between our multiplicity of responsibilities it feels impossible to fit in the time to raise up leadership. Here we’re tempted to make a fatal error. Training up men isn’t outside of the work of ministry; it is the work of ministry (Eph 4:12-16). Christ, while ministering at times to thousands, gave surprising priority to training twelve men. In the midst of enormous pressure, he still withdrew to explain his ministry to a few. In addition to being crushed by the clock, we’re often duped by our own pride. Let’s face it we’re given to a perfectionistic savior complex. We feel if we don’t do it, it won’t get done right. Part of raising up leaders means being willing to let inexperienced, as yet untested, men take certain leadership roles, and doing so means loosening up a bit on the reigns.
- Seize the time. The training of leaders will take on a plethora of innovative and varying forms. To change the culture you’ll need teaching time. Incorporate biblical thinking on male leadership into your preaching. Start a men’s bible study. Meet with a few men weekly for coffee. In order to understand their role they’ll need to see it in Scripture. But scheduled meetings, while essential, are not enough. This is where creativity sets in. Bring men along. Involve potential leaders in visitation, sermon prep, evangelism, and meetings. Ministry doesn’t happen in a vacuum, and ministry training shouldn’t either.
- Give them a high call. As leaders start to distinguish themselves by their spirituality and teachability, its time to start giving them real responsibility. On this point we’re often tempted to be timid, but the Bible is not so. The Bible calls real men to real challenges. Give potential leaders task that are large, that they can use their skills to rise to. Give them the grace to make mistakes, but give them goals that will stretch them and cause them to grow. Provide them with gentle, but honest feedback. Don’t sugar coat the task of ministry. We don’t want to create men who put their hand to the plow and then look back (Luke 9:62). The way is hard, but the reward is amazing.
- Pray, Pray, Pray. This should occur before and during the process, but we place it here to keep it fresh on our minds. No process or program will bring spiritual change in the hearts of the men in our ministries; only God can do that. Start and finish your task with prayer. Pray that God would bring you men, give you the wisdom to see it, and then give you the grace to raise them up. The church is his bride; let’s call on him to raise its leaders.
As this is not a definitive word on raising up men we’re curious what would you add to the discussion?
Thanks for reading!
By Jamin Eben and Nate Millican