Bishop King took this picture of me in Antioch on a hill that houses a cave called St. Peter’s Church. It was in this cave that the early followers of “The Way” would secretly meet with Peter, Paul and Barnabas to worship God. It was in this place that the followers of Jesus were first called Christians.
Right below me is this field with sheep that appears unchanged by the centuries. In front of me, sprawled out as far as I can see, is the massive modern city of Antioch. Right behind me is a road lined with tour busses filled with American Christians who have come to take pictures of this historic cave.
Staring at this huge city before me I noticed the Muslim mosques that dotted the landscape, but I didn’t see any sign of Christianity. I couldn’t help but wonder if we did a better job reaching the world when we had to hide in caves to worship. When did we lose our way? When did we lose our courage? When did we lose our focus? As I stood staring out at the modern city of Antioch, I wrote in my journal, “As Christians we have become tourists, celebrating monuments of what was rather than ambassadors shaping what will be. We are facing the wrong direction and focusing on the wrong thing.”
Several years ago at The Chapel some very subtle signs began to surface that things might not be as great as they appeared. Oh, all the measurable screamed success, but when we really begin to dig down deep we spotted a fatal flaw on the horizon. We did not have the leaders to maintain effective ministry on the scale we were growing. The ministry was outgrowing the leadership infrastructure.
We had three choices:
- We could deny the problem and just keep going and growing. We would continue to grow numerically but it would be “fruitless success” because people would not be becoming more like Jesus.
- We could scale back to a size our current leaders could handle. Just do the best you can with what you have. We had all the sheep we could handle. Right? Why worry about the others? Because when you stop worrying about the others and only focus on “yours” you eventually lose them all.
- We could pay a short term price for a long term gain. Take a short term hit in growth, but focus on developing the necessary level of leadership to support sustained growth over the long haul. This would not eliminate our immediate problem, but it would ensure that we were not dealing with the same problem again next year.
We picked C and devoted a full year to developing leaders. Putting all our eggs in that basket cost us in some other areas, but the ministries that those leaders started the next year were incredible. One young mom started a ministry to strippers. Now we have prayer boxes in the dressing room of a strip club and strippers who come to church! One man started a ministry called “I do for I am” which meets the tangible needs of people in our church family who express a need.
Let’s be honest. There are more than a few subtle signs suggesting things aren’t going as well for our denomination as they once were. There is a real temptation to focus on the glory days of the past, point fingers, or cast blame and pick sides. There are a lot of problems, but with problems come opportunities. The right leaders in the right places can make the most of these opportunities. One of the problems in our denomination is that we don’t have enough leaders to do the things God is calling us to do, so that means we have an opportunity to raise up some leaders. I’d like to invite you to join us in doing this through a program called L2.52!
This summer at The Chapel we are compiling a cohort of young adults from all across the conference to go on a formative journey together. If you have a Children’s Minister, Youth Pastor, Summer Intern, or anyone between the ages of 18-27 who displays leadership potential this experience is for them. We’ll kick things with a Launch retreat that will be held at Epworth By The Sea on June 1 & 2. Following that retreat participants will return to their local ministry setting to serve, but will be provided with weekly coaching and care from The Chapel’s leadership. On July 31 & Aug. 1 the group will reassemble for a Landing Retreat where they will process their summer experience and receive help in discerning if and how they may want to continue to move toward full time vocational ministry.
You can do something that will make a huge difference in your ministry setting and our denomination! Help develop a leader by getting one or two people from your congregation to participate in L2.52. For complete information on this experience and to find out about the application process go to www.thechapelbrunswick.com.
Don’t be a tourist sitting on the sidelines celebrating what was. Take a step to shape the future by focusing on developing the next generation of leaders because the next great idea will not come from you or me, it will come from them.
Looking for more leadership materials for your church? Click on the Resources tab at www.thechapelbrunswick.com and click on Program Resources, or email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Jay Hanson, Lead Pastor, and Anne Bosarge, Director of Discipleship, serve at The Chapel in Brunswick. They love sharing about the ways God is moving in their church. Contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com for more information.