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Are We Chewing Up and Spitting Out Leaders?

While doing research for my first magazine article—which I never got published—I was interviewing a pastor on the East Coast. I asked him about his biggest challenges in a growing church. He quickly told me that he did not have enough leaders.

Through the years, I’ve never found a pastor who told me that they had enough. In fact, I’ve got book after book on my shelf that talks about the need for leaders, how to develop leaders and how to empower leaders.

Whether or not we need leaders is not the question. In fact, Jesus spent three years focusing on the development of a small group of leaders who would guide the development of the young church.

The real question for us is this: Are we developing leaders to fulfill roles, or are we developing persons who lead out of personhood?

I’m writing this post from Stillwater, Minn., one of the first cities in this part of the country. In one of the oldest buildings in this town, where now there are little shops and boutiques, workers once built cars from the ground up.

Henry Ford, known for his innovative assembly line, changed all of this. Instead of craftsmen who create cars, we have assembly-line workers who assemble automotive replicas, one part at a time. From a business perspective, this was genius because various roles were created along the assembly line that do not depend on the expertise of one individual. The roles were created so that almost anyone could do them.

Roles first, people second. Result = efficient production.

Has this Henry Ford mentality shaped the way we do leadership in the church?

While serving on a church staff, a family moved into our part of town who had been effective leaders in a church in England. I saw them walk into our church one Sunday. I later met with the husband to share the vision of the church. While I listened to his experience, I thought of all kinds of roles he could fill. But he kindly told me that he and his family were burned out from leading in the church and that they needed a place of worship that did not need them to lead. I was disappointed that they decided to worship elsewhere.

I saw my job as filling roles first, then caring for people.

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M. Scott Boren is a Teaching Pastor at Woodland Hills Church in Saint Paul, MN and consultant who partners with The Missional Network (www.themissionalnetwork.com). He has written and co-written eight books, including Introducing the Missional Church, Missional Small Groups and MissioRelate. He share life with his bride, Shawna, and their four children, all under the age of eight. He can be reached at his website: www.mscottboren.com.