Multiplying Leaders

There is a podcast that has created quite a stir in Christian leadership circles, The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill.  Some have said that this podcast is like a car wreck on Route 75 that causes a traffic jam because everyone is compelled to get a good look at the damage.  This is probably true; however, I think there are some lessons we can all glean as we serve in our role in developing healthy leadership structures. 

If you haven’t heard of the podcast, I’m not going to rehash the episodes in this post.  Suffice it to say, the culture of this church was toxic.  There were unhealthy relational rhythms and expectations that caused significant dysfunction. This is heart-breaking, but unfortunately, it is not uncommon in Christendom.

I was reading a PDF of a book that is not in print (when it becomes available, I’ll share the information).  The author speaks of what cultures are best suited to multiply leaders and which cultures suppress the multiplication of leaders.  Those environments that are led by a plurality of leaders who are humbly submitted to one another are more prone to create environments that multiply and champion the spiritual formation of leaders.  Those environments that are led by the solo-heroic leader are prone to create environments that are averse to multiplication.  According to the author, these environments are marked by three characteristics:

  • A desire for control
  • A reliance on one’s own giftedness, experience, and intuition
  • A tendency toward narcissism

These environments operate in fear, manipulation, and intimidation.  Developing or emerging leaders believe that senior leadership is not emotionally committed to their process of reaching their full potential.  Instead, senior leadership is seen as having a value of sustaining numerical growth, financial stability, and strengthening their brand.  This is necessary for the solo-heroic leader to appear competent and successful.

Fortunately, I believe that we are blessed to have leaders in our district family who want to see disciples and leaders developed in order to equip the body to be the gospel presence in their context.  So, what are some tangible ways in which we can prioritize the multiplication of leaders and avoid toxic environments?  Here are some suggestions:

  1. Senior leaders need to be intentional on investing time, energy, and resource into developing leaders and disciples.  Prioritizing development in people may sacrifice energy and resource focused on other programs.  But we won’t see multiplication happen in the church until senior leadership make it a priority in their own lives.
  2. Make leadership development a part of every staff level job description.  When doing performance reviews, ask the same question of every staff member, “Who are you intentionally developing?”
  3. Select a leader who is passionate about developing leaders and who has a track record of their own investment in the lives of emerging leaders.  That leader then recruits a team who will explore values, vision, and desired outcomes of a leadership development culture in your church.
  4. Release that team to implement those elements in their own lives and document their progress. 
  5. Pray that the Lord of the Harvest would send workers. 

Brian Scott