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How Good Is “Good Enough” to Lead?

How often do you hear …

  • “She can’t lead a small group—she hasn’t been through the membership classes yet.”

  • “He isn’t qualified to lead the greeter team.”

  • “How is it possible she can lead anything at this church yet? She just met Jesus last week and doesn’t even know the basics of the faith.”

The question about how qualified someone must be to lead is one with which every church leader grapples. We debate it, argue it and defend our position. Some believe the very fundamentals of our faith depend on keeping unqualified people from influencing other believers.

This starts with deciding how much training or education an adult needs who will be leading a team or small group. But it also impacts what we require of our pastors—do they need a seminary education? Can a small group leader or church lay leader baptize a new believer? Is it OK for someone who hasn’t been ordained to serve communion? 

My belief is that anyone, at any point in their spiritual life, can help someone behind them take steps. The person who has only attended church or a Bible study a few weeks can say to a friend, “You need to come with me, this will help you!” By a simple invitation, they are helping that person take steps toward Christ. They are, at a very basic level, discipling that person—even if they don’t know it.

Consider Jesus healing the demon-possessed man in Mark 5. This guy was as unchurched and “lost” as anyone you’ve ever met. He hid in the caves, he even cuts himself, and he was a complete outcast from the entire community. Jesus, in a miraculous moment, forgives him of his sin and releases him from his bondage.

This dude is, understandably, beyond grateful. He wants to go with Jesus to the next town:

As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed. (Mark 5:18-20, NIV)

Does this strike anyone else as interesting?

  1. Jesus heals the man but refuses to disciple him.

  2. Jesus doesn’t leave anyone there to disciple him. He doesn’t put him in a Bible study or leave him a 12-step plan to spiritual maturity.

  3. Jesus instructs him to disciple others by telling them his story. Remember, about 12 minutes ago he was a raving, demon-possessed lunatic!

  4. People listened to him and were amazed.

The guy had ZERO training, ZERO discipling and ZERO grounding in Scripture. But he had encountered Jesus, and that was enough for him to begin to help others take steps toward Christ. People might actually listen to the person who still looks like them, smells like them and acts like them, but has just met Jesus, more than the guy who has been sitting in seminary classes for four years and is now totally unrelatable. 

I think the next time we convince ourselves that someone isn’t ready to help others by sharing their Jesus-story, we ought to consider Jesus’ own example. Not everyone can help everyone. But everyone who has met Jesus can help someone—that is, if the church doesn’t stand in the way.  

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Tim Stevens served as the executive pastor of Granger Community Church in Granger, IN, for twenty years before joining Vanderbloemen Search Group as the Director of the Executive Search Consultant Team where he helps churches and ministries around the world find their key staff. Tim has a passion for the local church and equipping leaders with practical advice and tools about church staffing and church leadership. He has co-authored three books with Tony Morgan, including Simply Strategic Stuff, Simply Strategic Volunteers, and Simply Strategic Growth, and authored three books of his own, including Fairness Is Overrated: And 51 Other Leadership Principles To Revolutionize Your Workplace. Connect with Tim at LeadingSmart.com.