If you have spent time reading leadership books of any stripes in the last 15 years, you will know that words like “culture”, “360 degree feedback”, “team”, “vision”, “clear objectives and goals” and “mentoring” are hot concepts leaders have been challenged to use to grow their organizations. While my own leadership capacity has improved reading about these concepts from Christian and non Christian leaders like Andy Stanley, Jim Collins, Bill Hybels, J. Oswald Sanders, John Maxell, and Robert Clinton to name a few, I have also recently been challenged by a gifted pastor about a lost leadership value in the church: discipleship.
His case is that many Christian leaders are neglecting the meaning, intent, and purpose of discipleship in their churches. The word disciple comes from a Greek word meaning “pupil”, or “learner”. Jesus clearly equipped and expected his disciples to make learners who make learners (Matthew 28: 18 – 20). Do Christians see themselves as disciples and are they actively discipling others? If so, what does it look like? If not, why?
In a conversation with another Anglican leader this week, I asked him how many Bishops and senior Rectors in the Anglican Church he thought are actively making disciples amidst all their other responsibilities. In other words, are the leaders of our movement modeling, talking about, and equipping Anglicans to be disciples and to disciple others? He didn’t know. I don’t either, other than knowing I am not sure I understand the concept well much less practice it.
So what does discipleship look like and how can we start to practice it more and more in the church, starting with us leaders?
As I was preparing the message a few weeks ago, I came across two of my favorite C.S. Lewis quotes.
“If you had gone to Buddha and asked him, ‘Are you the son of Bramah?’ he would have replied, ‘My son, you are still in the vale of delusion.’ If you had gone to Socrates and said, ‘Are you Zeus?’ he would have laughed. If you had gone to Mohammed and asked, ‘Are you Allah?’ he would first have rent his clothes and then cut of your head… The idea of a great moral teacher saying what Christ said is out of the question…. the only person who can say that sort of thing is either God or a complete lunatic … I am trying to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Christ: ‘I can accept Jesus as a great moral teacher but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic, on level with the man who says he is a poached egg, or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You can shut Jesus up as a fool, you can spit on Him and kill Him as a demon, or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord. But let us not come up with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that option open to us. He did not intend to.” –Mere Christianity
The second is this:
“The things Jesus says are very different from what any other teacher has said. Others say, “This is the truth about the universe, this is the way you ought to go.’ But Jesus says, “I am the Truth, the Way, the Life.’ He says, ‘No man can reach absolute reality except through Me….’ He says, ‘If you are ashamed of me, if when you hear my call, you turn the other way, I also will look the other way when I come again as God without disguise. If anything keeps you from God and from me, whatever it is, throw it away…Come to Me everyone who is carrying a heavy load and I will set that right. Your sins, all of them, are wiped out, I can do that . . . do not be afraid, I have overcome the whole Universe.’”
– God in the Dock.
Simple. Clear. Thought provoking.
I have been thinking a lot about coaching lately.
I spent 15 years doing ministry the way I thought I knew best. I initiated relationships, created ministries, and prayed hard. I took spiritual gift tests and could categorize my strengthfinder values, natural talents, and spiritual gifts. I read the leading books on leadership, missions, and evangelism. I attended conferences and accumulated more notebooks on the five ways to a better ministry than I knew what to do with.
The problem was I still got tripped up on the same issues time and time again. I still micro managed gifted, capable people. I got so wrapped up on the details that my soul and my staff were easily discouraged. I failed to equip people with what they needed to succeed. I was quick to give up, change direction, and overreact. Despite some ministry success I wasn’t growing and certainly wasn’t maturing as a leader.
Meanwhile I thought coaching was for people who spent more time talking about ministry than ever doing it. Coaching was for those who could teach, not do. Coaching wasn’t for me.
All that changed three summers ago. Along with ten other pastors, I spend the week getting coached. It has begun to change my life. Spending time with a gifted coach who could help me understand my strengths and weaknesses, could prepare me off the field for on the field game situation, and had more game experience has yielded immeasurable benefits.
Do you have a coach? A parenting coach? A marketplace coach? A leadership coach? A Christian coach? Are you in a position to “coach” others?
Here is a fabulous resource to begin understanding the value of coaching in life: “Inside Out Coaching” by Joe Ehrmann. Do yourself a favor and check it out. It could change your life.
About the ResBlog
Members of staff and Vestry will be posting on the ResBlog to help us think through who we are in light of the gospel so that we might “spur one another on to love and good deeds.”