How Leadership Impacts Discipleship?
How does leadership impact and inform discipleship? And how does discipleship impact leadership?
There are a lot of pastors and church leaders in our society. I’ve corresponded with plenty in my life. We want to see people grow in discipleship (and I know many of them certainly want that), then we must recognize that good leadership is an essential component to discipleship.
We can have excellent discipleship processes outlined in our churches. However, without good leaders they will not be executed properly. We need strong leadership in our local churches to guide people through those discipleship processes.
How does leadership impact discipleship? Discipleship does not happen by itself, it happens when leaders are intentional in guiding others through the discipleship processes.
Discipleship is the Key
In his book, Lead Like a Shepherd, pastor Larry Osborne said, “Leadership without discipleship is a waste of time. Discipleship without leadership is a pipe dream.“
Osborne stresses the importance of having good leadership, but not just for the sake of good leadership or for having a profitable organization. Having an efficient org may seem great, and certainly has some value, but it has minimal impact on the future of the church long-term. Osborne contends that such leadership is a waste of time.
The key is having leadership that is laser focused on discipleship; training disciples to be leaders, and training leaders to disciple. Discipleship does not happen by itself. It is important to remember that it’s impossible to create disciples without having good leaders, and without disciples, there will be no future leadership.
Why Leadership Without Discipleship is a Waste of Time
“And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.'” (Mt. 28:18-20 ESV)
Our number one goal as Christians ought to be good disciples of Jesus, and our number goal as a church, corporately, should be to make disciples. The churches that grow, in a healthy manner, are those churches that have people growing in discipleship. In the end, a church that does not have disciple-makers, are churches that do not grow numerically, spiritually, or in influence.
A church can have leaders who understand leadership techniques, management, and have all of the wisdom in how to lead a team. Yet, if they are not intentionally utilizing that wisdom for the purpose of making disciples, the church will fail to meet its ultimate goals.
Why Discipleship without Leadership is a Pipe Dream
Leadership is the building block that aids people to become disciples.
A church that does not have leadership, but only has discipleship, will not be effective in making more disciples. If the church is focused on people growing to become stronger disciples with a lack of leadership, the discipleship process will happen very slowly or not at all. It takes leadership to move through the discipleship process. If these leaders don’t exist, a lot fewer people will be discipled (if disciples are even made in the first place).
There are many churches that do not have good leaders, and people say that they have not grown in discipleship. When these people move to churches with strong leaders, they have proven to grow deeper in their discipleship walk with the help of this new, strong leadership.
What Leadership & Discipleship Look Like Together
A healthy church is where the church leaders are really focused on giving their people everything they need to become great disciples. As well as encouraging and challenging individuals to become leaders themselves, sooner rather than later. This is due to the fact that those people can learn how to be leaders while being discipled simultaneously.
In addition to this, there are components in discipleship that some may consider “worldly”, but they’re actually great Biblical wisdom. These are tools such as organizational leadership and mental health care, which help disciples to become better leaders. These tools don’t need to be directly “spiritual” to help disciples become better leaders. We can help the disciples in time-management, budgeting skills or learning organizational leadership. This is actually beneficial, spiritually speaking, because with stronger leaders, come stronger disciples. Ultimately, good discipleship looks like a church giving a new leader everything that they need to become successful.
Churches frequently fail on the things that feel more business-like because they feel that these are not important, but they are absolutely important. Your theology and Bible teaching are expounded upon when a church has good administration and techniques from organizational management. Teaching people theology is just as important as teaching disciples how to manage finances, it is of equal importance.
Give your congregation everything they need whether it seems directly related to discipleship or not.
“How can one grow in both leadership and discipleship”? This is the important question to ask now. Here are some reading suggestions, along with summaries and blog posts, to help one grow in both leadership and discipleship.
“The Shepherd Leader” by Tim Witmer
Summary: “Leaders in the church are called to be shepherds, not a board of directors. This requires involvement in a personal shepherding ministry among the people. The Shepherd Leader unpacks the four primary ministries of shepherds — knowing, feeding, leading, and protecting — on macro (churchwide) and micro (personal) levels, providing seven elements to be incorporated into an effective shepherding plan”.
Ideas of the book:
- Christ Himself is the Good Shepherd.
- Biblical foundations of eldership.
- Accountability of leaders.
- Shepherding the ministry of Christ.
- Knowing your sheep.
“Multiply” by Francis Chan
Summary: “Jesus gave his followers a command: “Follow me.” And a promise: “And I will equip you to find others to follow me.” We were made to make disciples. Designed for use in discipleship relationships and other focused settings, Multiply will equip you to carry out Jesus’s ministry. Each of the twenty-four sessions in the book corresponds with an online video at www.multiplymovement.com, where New York Times bestselling author David Platt joins Francis in guiding you through each part of Multiply. One plus one plus one. Every copy of Multiply is designed to do what Jesus did: make disciples who make disciples who make disciples…. Until the world knows the truth of Jesus Christ”.
Ideas of the book:
- Be a Maker of disciples.
- Live life as the Church.
- An explanation of Bible study.
- The importance of the Old Testament.
- The importance of the New Testament.
Pastors and disciples alike, these books will be helpful for your ministry. We can use these resources to further the church by learning how to be both a disciple and a maker of disciples, while also being a good leader. Keep in mind that we can always be learning new ways to become a better leader and that by reading these books, you are off to a good start.
 Larry Osborne, Lead Like a Shepherd: The Secret to Leading Well (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2018), 3.
Kenneth E. Ortiz (M.Div.) is a professor and recruiter at Bethlehem College and a pastor at Cities Church in St. Paul, MN. He has 15+ years of vocational ministry experience. He’s also a podcaster, author, and Ph.D. student. Kenneth lives in Bloomington, MN with his wife Malaina, they have one daughter.