James Carville, heading into the 1992 presidential election, created a three point plan for Clinton staffers to remember. Undoubtedly, the most commonly remembered point was number two: “It’s the economy, stupid.” When staffers wanted to know how Clinton was different from Bush type politics, this was one key idea to hammer home: his economic policy.
The longer I pastor, the more I see how one thing, above all else, plays into not only a successful pastorate, but something even more important: creating disciples.
In short: it’s about the relationship, stupid.
(Photo credit: George Fox Evangelical Seminary)
Go check out Amazon’s top books on discipleship and there are any number of books on methods, models, and means to create new disciples or leaders for a church. What we expect (and really want) is a clean, easy way to get people from a point of immaturity to a point of maturity along an easy to plot line. We expect everyone to progress from point A to point B to point C in a similar time frame and manner.
Rarely does it work that way.
One day, they are at point A ready to be shaped, the next they are at point Q and then it’s back to point D. Growth is rarely clean and tidy. It’s often messy and downright painful sometimes.
When discipling other people, we need to remember that above all else relationships are key. It’s far too easy to love the task of doing something, and not the people for whom the task is done.
Here are three key areas where relationships trump everything:
- Relationship to God. This is true of both the leader and the learner. To lead, one must remain strongly connected to God or she can’t lead authentically. Similarly, what we must expect from those that desire to lead is to stay connected to God. For them to be sufficiently shaped by the Good News, they must remain connected to the one who is Good News himself.
- The Leader/Learner relationship. This is the one area that is probably the most easily betrayed, and what I referenced above. We begin to think of leadership as a series of tasks to be accomplished rather than a set of relationships to be enjoyed and nurtured. We must never make discipleship a task, it is always a relational thing.
- Relationship in the larger community. The person being discipled in intentional relationship should also be growing and staying healthy in relationship to the larger community. Discipleship is never done solely in private. Yes, Jesus had time to teach his disciples privately, but it was always for the sake of (and always followed by) the opportunity to practice that in a larger setting. Intentional discipleship relationships must allow the community to grow and build in the way they relate to each other.
I’ve talked with countless people who desire positions of leadership or recognition in some church role. There is this (mis)belief that leadership is often glamorous, fun, and powerful. That’s often not leadership, it’s a dictatorship. True leadership is defined by healthy relationships with those around you, working through service and submission to reveal to them a God that is calling and shaping them for his purposes.
What did you think? Please chime in below. Tell me how you’ve seen or experienced both good and bad leadership. How has it changed you?
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I am a Business and Life Coach in both non-profit and for profit settings. I coach leaders, executives, and pastors in areas of vision, clarity, and values. In relationship coaching I focus on healthy and sustainable relationships, and in leadership development roles I catalyze change for individuals and groups to thrive. I also consult churches and organizations on how to train new leaders and create a healthy culture.
In addition to that, I am an Anabaptist pastor in the Denver metro area. I specialize on topics that include: missional theology, discipleship, culture and the church in today’s society.
I am married to my wonderful wife Elise and we have three kids. I grew up and now work in the United States Mennonite Brethren Church (USMB) and love the people and history of the Mennonite Brethren faith.
I am a graduate of Tabor College with a dual degree in Youth Ministry and Christian Leadership, a graduate of Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary with a Masters of Divinity, and a Doctoral Student and Bethel Seminary.
I also teach college classes in areas of Bible, Communication, and Business.