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The confusion between making disciples and developing leaders

| by Dann Spader

Many principles could be identified in a discussion on leadership development, but let me give just one for our present purposes: you don’t need a lot of leaders.

Leadership is my top ministry gift, and I believe I understand this gift and calling. And because of this, I often swim upstream when I make this statement, but I firmly believe you don’t need a lot of leaders. You just need the right ones! Jesus only had twelve. And they were all He needed. So many want to make the focus of ministry as leadership development. But nowhere does the Scripture say to make leaders. Our mandate is to make disciples, and there is a difference!

I’m convinced that if we keep our laser focus upon making disciples, we will have more leaders than we know what to do with. The work of ministry is disciple-making. As we keep our focus on this, and then our ministry grows, God will gift faithful men and make them able to equip others. This is the leadership calling.

Leadership is a gift and a calling. Second Timothy 2:2, which many use as only a discipling text, is really in the context of leadership living. Paul writes to Timothy and tells him to find and appoint reliable men who have proven themselves “faithful” and “able to teach others also” (NASB). Faithfulness connotes a proven mature lifestyle. Able connotes an innate ability from the Lord. Faithful and able.

So often, especially in America, we communicate that the goal of the Christian life is to become a positional leader. This is more the American culture than the biblical mandate. In fact, the opposite is true. 

Our calling is to become a servant, a relational and loving disciple-maker. Paul calls it being a “slave” of the Lord Jesus Christ. When we verbally or nonverbally communicate that our end goal is positional leadership, we then encourage people to pursue that position. If everyone wants to be a leader, or we call everyone a leader, then in reality no one is.

Photo source: istock 

Dann Spader

Dann Spader is the Founder of Sonlife Ministries and currently serves as Founder and President of Global Youth Initiative (an alliance of organizations in 95 countries committed to "equipping leaders for movements of multiplication”). He is author of the Like Jesus Resource (4 Chair Discipling, Walk Like Jesus, Live Like Jesus) and co-author of Growing a Healthy Church and The Everyday Commission, among other titles. Learn more about how you can build a culture of disciple-making in your church or ministry at LikeJesus.

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