Preparing to Lead
Welcome to Preparing to Lead, a series of three modules designed to help you answer some of the most important questions you have about leading a discipleship group and about your own personal readiness to commit to the process of bringing others to maturity in Christ.
At the very beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, as He was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He called out to Peter and Andrew: “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Mt. 4:19). Matthew reports that “they immediately left their nets, and followed Him” (vs. 20). This brief, but poignant, exchange provides an important insight into Jesus’ plan to reach the entire world with the gospel of grace. It would be accomplished through people – people investing in people. Though the process would be slow at first, He reminded them that “the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest” (Mt. 9:37-38). He assured Peter and Andrew that, even though there was no shortage of people waiting to hear about the free gift of eternal life, the bountiful harvest would not be reaped unless more workers were deployed. Therefore, Jesus provided the remedy for multiplying the laborers: believing prayer. Ask the Lord of the harvest, He counseled, to move in the hearts of His children and call them to join the others in joyful reaping. As it was in Jesus’ day, so it remains that the greatest need in our own day is for Christians to respond to Jesus’ call to become “fishers of men” and to enter into the harvest as quickly as possible – once they have assessed their readiness.
Self-Paced and Self-Directed
This course is self-paced, as well as self-directed, meaning you may complete the assigned work within the limitations of your own schedule. There are no deadlines, and the online materials may be accessed at your convenience.
- To offer the tools for self-assessment in three important areas of leadership: Calling, Character, and Commitment.
- To explore the practical costs of leading a discipleship group.
- To examine twelve characteristics and key roles of disciplemakers.
- To encourage you to make discipleship a life-long priority.
Ernest Shackleton (1874-1922), the great explorer who saved the lives of twenty-seven men who were stranded in the Antarctic for almost two years, has been called “the greatest leader that ever came on God’s earth, bar none.” In Shackleton’s Way by Margot Morrell and Stephanie Capparell, we learn that “some sixty years after the rescue, an interviewer asked Endurance First Officer Lionel Greenstreet, ‘How did you survive when so many expeditions perished?’ The old salt, then eighty-two, answered in one word: ‘Shackleton.’”
The authors, after studying the writings of the men who knew Shackleton personally, invite us to “take a close look at his story” where we will discover that “the best qualities of his leadership are eminently learnable.” They insist that “Shackleton was an average person; he taught himself how to be an exceptional one….His story is, in its essence, an inspirational tale about unleashing strengths in individuals that they never knew they had in order to achieve goals – from the small to the miraculous.”
In an age of specialization and the rise of the cult of personality, it is not surprising that many Christians feel average and, therefore, inadequate to offer leadership to those who are either chronologically or spiritually younger in the faith. Some compare themselves with those who have unusual speaking and teaching gifts, while others have such a deep sense of their own sin, guilt, and shame that they automatically disqualify themselves from ever entering into the harvest, irrespective of the cleansing grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.
One of my favorite stories is told by the former chairman of Herman Miller, Inc., Max DePree. As he and his wife were vacationing in England and Scotland with another couple, they saw a body of water and wondered if it was the English Channel or the Falmouth Estuary. Here is the rest of the story:
“We were debating this in the car when just ahead we saw two women and a child walking along the sidewalk. I said to my friend, ‘John, pull over there and I’ll ask those ladies if this is the English Channel.’ So he did, and I rolled down the window and said, ‘Excuse me, ma’am, is that the English Channel?’ She looked briefly over her shoulder and said, ‘Well, that’s part of it’” (Leadership is an Art, pp. 129-130).
Most of us only see a small part of the way God has made and equipped us. We really do feel average. But like the English Channel, there is more to a human being than can be seen, known, or comprehended. Every soul is a deep well. Even so, what we are finally able to see, as it turns out, winds up being the least part of the story as C.S. Lewis reminds us: “I read in a periodical the other day that the fundamental thing is how we think of God. By God Himself, it is not! How God thinks of us is not only more important, but infinitely more important. Indeed, how we think of Him is of no importance except insofar as it is related to how He thinks of us” (The Weight of Glory, p. 34). God is omniscient and knows us comprehensively – every part of our being – and accepts us completely in Jesus Christ, who washed us with His blood and cleansed us from all unrighteousness. So, while knowing everything about us, He still adores us and thinks we should all be in the harvest.
By the leading and power of the Holy Spirit, you can lead others to maturity in Christ. Jesus, knowing everything about you, thinks you can disciple others. His opinion is “infinitely more important” than how you assess your own strengths and abilities. He would not have commanded all Christians to make disciples if obedience were not possible by His grace and power. Shackleton was an average person. He became an exceptional one. You may not be ready at this moment to disciple others, but you can step onto the right path and begin to prepare yourself now for the time when God will pour out His Spirit on you and use you in the lives of those who long to know Christ. Imagine what the impact of your life could be for generations to come if only you could see yourself as Christ sees you – a forgiven sinner whom He loves with an everlasting love, endowed with gifts and talents, humbly trusting in Him to give you everything you need to accomplish His purposes for His covenant people.
Preparing to Lead will help you assess your readiness to lead others into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ and prepare them to embrace the sentiments of John Newton’s heart: “What Thou Wilt, when Thou wilt, how Thou wilt. I had rather speak these three sentences from my heart in my mother tongue than be master of all the languages in Europe.”
Study Part III: Preparing to Lead, available from the Classic Discipleship page (scroll down to “Content Downloads”). Included in this section is content that addresses the following:
- Assessing My Calling
- Assessing My Character
- Assessing My Commitment
- The Practical Costs of Leading a Discipleship Group
- Key Tasks of Disciplemakers
- Sample Discipleship Group Leader’s Covenant
- Family Concerns
- Twelve Characteristics of Strong Life-Shapers
- A Constellation Model of Mentoring Relationships
Find a quiet and secluded place where you can assess your calling, character, and commitment in the presence of God. Open your heart to Him and listen for His voice as you pray, meditate, and seek His counsel in His Word.
In the section entitled The Practical Costs of Leading a Discipleship Group, there are four areas that should be considered before taking on the responsibility of a discipleship group: time, personal sacrifices, additional training, and adequate support.
The Key Tasks of DiscipleMakers includes nineteen words that summarize the investment that mentors make for the sake of younger believers. Most of these action words are readily seen in the lives of faithful fathers and mothers as they raise their children.
The Sample Discipleship Group Leader’s Covenant is provided as an illustration of what a leader’s covenant seeks to confirm for the good of the community. You may either use this one or create one that better reflects the biblical responsibilities of a discipler.
Family Concerns looks to secure the total support of one’s spouse and children before participating in a leadership role. Oneness in marriage is vital to engaging in the discipling process.
A Constellation Model of Mentoring Relationships, from Connecting: The Mentoring Relationships You Need to Succeed in Life by Paul D. Stanley and J. Robert Clinton, demonstrates the importance of “a circle of accountability” for Christian leaders. They maintain that “a growing leader needs a relational network that embraces mentors, peers, and emerging leaders in order to ensure development and a healthy perspective on his or her life and ministry.” In their study of leaders, they concluded that, “with few exceptions, those who experienced anointed ministry and finished well had a significant network of meaningful relationships that inspired, challenged, listened, pursued, developed, and held one another accountable. Those that failed to reach full maturity and finish well did not have it, or cut all or part of it off at some point” (pp. 158-159).
The Constellation of Mentoring Relationships “shows how you can organize the range of relationships that you need over your lifetime” (p. 161-162).
Read Called to the Ministry by the late theologian, Edmund P. Clowney. This little book asks the question, “What does the Bible say about Christ’s calling?” As an expert guide, Clowney takes his readers through the Old and New Testaments to answer what every Christian needs to know about God’s call.
Read The Call by Os Guinness. Click here for our introduction to Dr. Guinness and his classic work.
Your next course is Becoming a Small Group Architect. At your convenience, begin the imaginative journey of learning how to design a safe environment where the members of your group will experience life transformation in Christ and become prepared for kingdom service.