Managing True Gospel Growth   (by Jon Shuler​​)

The challenge for every leader called by Christ Jesus to have responsibility in the body of Christ is to balance two realities. One is to allow the Holy Spirit to guide and direct the life of the community, and at the same time to ensure godly order that builds up the church. It is possible to be too controlling, thus quenching the Holy Spirit, and it is also possible to be too lacking in order, thus giving rise to excess that is not of God. To be a faithful overseer is to learn to manage that tension well. It is not easy in the modern era, at least in the developed world, because the willingness of individuals to be guided and governed by the Word of God has diminished so rapidly.

The most important way to begin to alter this situation, is to begin again to require all rising leaders to be disciple-making disciples. No other action step will ever be as fruitful as this one. If disciple-making is well learned, following the example and teaching of Christ Jesus, these new leaders will be founded in the behavior that leads to good order and obedience to the Holy Spirit. Such leaders will be willing to be led in the fulfillment of the Lord’s Final Command. They will understand that bringing all ministries into alignment with that great mission is their calling, individually and in concert with one another. To lead the leaders of a local body of Christ to be united in the work of disciple-making, is the most effective way for the growth that Christ Jesus desires to come to pass.

It must, of course, begin with the senior leadership of the congregation. If the overseeing pastoral leader does not understand the need, and dedicate himself to mastering it, it will never be seen in any fulness in that community. Other leaders, both lay and ordained, will almost never succeed in giving training that will last if the senior leader is not seen to be showing the way. The reason the apostles were so effective is principally because they had learned from their Master. They had seen disciple-making first hand, and they were able to follow his example when the Holy Spirit had fallen upon them. To tell those under our care how to function, but not to demonstrate it, is to fail in the most elementary leadership behavior. As Jesus said, when a disciple “is fully trained [he] will be like his teacher.” (Lk 6:40)

If the senior leader (and the senior staff) do not model disciple-making behaviors there will be a chasm in the life of the congregation. There may be much activity, there may be a good deal of religious behavior, but there will not be much gospel growth. Gospel growth lasts to eternity, religious behavior dies away in every generation.

When those charged with leadership responsibility see disciple-making as their primary task, everything in that community begins to change for the better. Those learning to be disciples, as Jesus teaches, will be desirous of taking their proper place in the body of Christ. Those who begin to demonstrate leadership ability will be willing to themselves be led. Those being led will be willing to be accountable to godly oversight. Gospel growth will be faithfully managed.

Next Week: After the Pandemic

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