After a half century of involvement with my local church, I have concluded that there are two types of leaders: those who talk about the mission of making disciples, and those who actually do it.
Do the Work
If you find a leader who actually does the work of making disciples, you have found a great leader. Paul made disciples who made disciples. He spent time investing in Timothy, and Timothy spent time investing in dependable men. Both Paul and Timothy spent their lives making disciples because they were following how Jesus lived His life.
Jesus did the hard work of disciple making. As God of the universe, He could have chosen to make disciples any way He wanted, but He chose to lead a handful of men to become His fully trained disciples. Jesus put the energy and effort into helping lead a group of ordinary men to become world-changers. He taught them, spent time with them, coached them, corrected them, and positioned them in ministry experiences. Jesus did not simply teach a course in one hour a week in a church building. He got His hands dirty working the soil of people’s lives who would one day take over His mission and movement.
Do the Mission
Have you ever been taught how to swim or taught someone else how to swim? If so, you understand what it means to do the mission. When you teach someone to swim, you don’t sit in a room and talk about swimming. You actually go outside and get in the water. You go alongside the person learning how to swim and you model what you want them to do, explain it countless times, support them so they don’t drown, and cheer them on until they can do it without you being there. Hopefully you do such a good job there comes a day when that person can teach someone else how to swim.
Teaching someone to swim is hard work. It takes instruction, demonstration, application, and correction. It takes having a relationship with a student. It can be totally frustrating, but it can also be incredibly rewarding. It takes time, energy, and effort. In the end, there is an unbelievable joy that comes with seeing someone learn to swim.
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Disciple making is, in many ways, like teaching someone to swim. A person starts out with no clue of what to do, but hopefully ends up swimming like a fish. The most gratifying moment for a disciple maker is when your disciple makes another disciple.
The Church desperately needs leaders who actually do the mission of making disciples. Going to conferences and seminars is good. Reading books on disciple making is great. Listening to messages and podcasts on disciple making is beneficial, but nothing replaces the work of making disciples.
Hopefully you have a small group of men or women in your life you meet with every week, relate to regularly, invest your life in intentionally, do ministry with, and teach strategically. If that does not describe your leadership, that is something you can change.
By Ken Adams