Leadership is Discipleship.
We cannot afford to divorce discipleship from leadership or we end up with a culture of volunteerism.
In the hustle and bustle of trying to promote, maintain and multiply good church services and programs, we find ourselves pressed for time, energy and resources, therefore enlisting folks into our volunteer armies to fulfill our vision. Somewhere along the way we exchanged Jesus’ vision of a discipling culture for a volunteer culture. We’ve become experts in mobilizing volunteers and have lost sight of our responsibility to make disciples. We have gathered large armies and have given them lanyards instead of stripes, clipboards instead of guns and we train them in the art of smiling instead of the art of spiritual warfare. And we wonder why dysfunction is as rampant in the church as out.
We mean to deliver these volunteers into greater levels of responsibility, empowering them to do greater things and promising them this is their spiritual act of worship, but most end up on the treadmill of volunteerism, fighting to believe this is what Jesus had in mind when he said, “Come follow me and I will make you fishers of people.” Of course we use enticing language to describe the noble service provided by these elite warriors, even taking a whole night each year to throw them a special party to show them how thankful we are that they continue to serve our feudal models of church, and secretly hoping they don’t quit cause we’re running out of options.
How can we know if we’ve strayed down this path?
WHAT DO YOU COUNT? Volunteers or Disciples?
When was the last time you asked your kids to volunteer to brush their teeth or put their clothes away or make their bed or put the dishes up? We don’t call this volunteering because we consider it part of their life training. Most parents would agree their primary responsibility is to invest into their children from birth, preparing them with both sound character and competency, so that they might leave the nest and become fully functional, contributing members of our society. We want to see them flourish so we pour into them everything we have until they can lead a healthy, successful life.
Here’s a thought – What if we stopped inviting people to be volunteers and instead invited them into leader training, where we use the various responsibilities around our “household” (church) to train Christians in the character and skills of Jesus? What if the janitors were equally trained as the children workers in things like teaching the gospel, healing the sick, and casting out demons. What if we saw every Christian as a leader in training and took on the responsibility of developing infrastructures in our churches that provided the kind of support and accountability that would see them develop into empowered leaders?
Every Christian is called to imitate the life and ministry of Jesus…every Christian (every non-Christian as well). The beauty of the invitation to follow Jesus is that it is for every man, woman and child regardless of their season of life, age, color, socio-economic station and ESPECIALLY regardless of whether they have any official title or position in a church. That’s right – young, single moms and old, crotchety pew-sitters are equally invited to enter the process of learning to imitate the life and ministry of Jesus. This invitation extends to new Christians, old Christians and weird Christians alike.
I promise you’re not going to get to heaven and Jesus ask you, “How many volunteers do you have?”
Discipleship is really hard, but it’s worth it!
And it’s never too late to start.
(Props to Chad Pullins for the title!)