I’m thinking of a community my wife and I led at one time. We’d done a good job of L1, L2 and L3 leadership, and all kinds of good fruit had flourished in people’s lives. We’d demonstrated our character and growing ability, and been invited to take on another leadership role. And, that first time of visiting, we made a mess of L4…
We made the mistake of assuming that competent team members could simply step up to being competent team leaders. In fact, becoming a leader brings you, as a disciple yourself, to another D1: a competent team member starts out as an unconsciously incompetent leader, and needs to be taken round a whole new discipleship square.
On the night of his arrest, Jesus has a lot to say to his disciples. John’s Gospel gives us a window into that. And he has even more to tell them over the forty days between his resurrection and ascension. Between the end of his Gospel and the start of his sequel, The Acts of the Apostles, Luke gives us an opaque window into that. Jesus is about to move on to a new role – interceding for us at the right hand of the Father – but before he does, he has to finish the current role – disciple-maker of those who will carry his message – well.
Followers at D4 need leaders operating at L4: and this requires not only that we release them, but that we make a good job of reviewing what they have learnt from us – and of putting in place the structures for an ongoing but different relationship. These structures are of both a practical and a relational re-positioning nature. Practically, the disciples won’t see Jesus face-to-face, but will have access to him through his spirit in them. Relationally, they are no longer servants but friends – a very different dynamic. Now they are vision-bearers in their own right, in continuity with the vision Jesus called them to.
Returning to our past mistakes, what would we do different now? What have we done differently since? Principally, I think we gave those who followed us too much rope at once, and then got frustrated when they hanged themselves with it. The lesson we learnt the hard way was to prioritise occasional but regular reviews, continuing the relationship not as leader-follower but as mentor-leader: not telling them what to do, but reminding them how to do well. In practice, and for example, this means that we currently get together every two months with a group of leaders we used to get together with every two weeks when they were our followers; while being mentored ourselves by those who used to lead us.
One day it will be time to move on to something new; if you are a pioneer, such days will happen frequently. That makes it even more important that we invest in our exit strategy…
missional church leadership , making disciples , emerging missional church , Discipleship Square