Leadership is one of the most over-used and overwrought topics in Christian ministry today. Yet for all the books, blogs, and conferences, there are two staggering realities we must come to grips with: First, while most churches believe they have leadership development programs, in actuality they have programs that recruit and train volunteers.
A volunteer is someone who executes someone else’s vision. A leader is someone with a vision of his or her own.
In truth, there are often only a few leaders in the average church, and everyone else is simply executing their vision. It’s the “genius with a thousand helpers” paradigm Jim Collins uses to describe organizations that are good, but never become great. This is the leadership movement widely espoused in the church today.
Let’s be very clear: A volunteer pipeline is not the same thing as a pipeline that multiplies leaders. These are two different things. You need both. Currently, most churches have only one.
I come across thousands of church leaders each year — and while I’d certainly not put everyone in these two broad categories, when it comes to the topic of church leadership, many fall into one of two camps:
- People who want to multiply Christian leaders but don’t really know how to get them.
- People who believe their vision is big enough for everyone and don’t want more leaders. They really just want volunteers.
Helping the first lot is easy enough. Being a disciple means being a learner of all the things Jesus was — and Jesus could multiply leaders. Scripture outlines truly practical and replicable models for church leadership you can learn to put into practice in your context to begin identifying, training, and releasing kingdom leaders to do God’s work in the world. I’ve done it, and I’ve seen other people do it all over the world. It can be done and done with incredible results.
But then there’s that second group — those who, in their more honest moments, would seek not Kingdom leaders but clock punchers to execute the vision of one…I have to wonder if that’s actually where most Christian leaders land.