Jesus succession plan: Jesus begins the training of his disciples with a kind of DTS. Basic application of truth to their lives and outreaches where they preach and see the Holy Spirit really moving in power. Then one day he transitions them from being followers to coming on staff and they are now friends. All is going well until there is a turn of events and Jesus starts talking of his death and resurrection. What has been an incredible journey up until then, seems to end with the cross, despair and confusion. But we all know that it´s just the start, and Jesus rises from the dead and as they meet together, he commissions them into their next phase.
Up until now we are used to seeing anointing and appointing of leaders from Moses, to Joshua, through to David and the kings. There was a passing on of authority and responsibility but Jesus breaks with tradition and doesn’t have a new leader inauguration ceremony where he declares, ‘OK everyone I have been leading you these last years and now the new leader is Da, Da Da!!’ Instead – shock, horror, he commissions them ALL AS A TEAM into leadership. What was he thinking! Maybe he was thinking of his own plural team of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. They seemed to work in perfect harmony each taking on their roles with the same values, so why couldn’t it work on earth too!
He gave three basic encouragements as they formed their new leadership circle of 11 men that was soon to expand:
1. A helper– ‘I am sending you a comforter, the Holy Spirit, who will be with you instead of me. He will guide you into all truth and empower you for everything you need. Give him your undivided attention. Be led by him and filled with him every moment.’
2. The task– ‘Go into all the world and make disciples of all nations.’ And we know from church history that they started on that great commission. Historians tell us that Andrew & Philip made it to Turkey, James to Spain, Jude to Armenia, Thomas to India, with all of them spreading out over the then known world.
3. Foundational value– ‘While you are doing all this, love God and love one another. This love you have for one another will show that you are my disciples.’
Have you imagined what the disciples did in that upper room as they were waiting for the Holy Spirit to come, as Jesus had told them. I am sure they were asking, ‘How do we lead this thing? This movement? This family? This group of people who aren’t known for their submissiveness?’ I can imagine them having a sensorial worship time and making some bracelets spelling WWJD that reminded them to ask the question – what would Jesus do?! Perhaps not but they embraced this new leadership style. They knew that they weren’t to lead like the Pharisees, lording it over, but they were to serve, to love, to use their God given gifts. But exactly how would that work?
Do what you are good at:When Pentecost came Peter had no hesitation in jumping up on the stage and preaching his heart out; when there were new outbreaks of the Holy Spirit, Peter took John along to help relate and yet embrace the prophetic big picture of what God was doing; when major questions needed to be discussed, James had the gift of perspective in seeing the sides of an argument and could facilitate meetings, when a visionary radical needed mentoring, Barnabas took him under his wing. And so, we see this team develop as they led through their diversity of gifts. The leadership of the early church was a circle of leaders without hierarchy but with an understanding of the importance of team, gifting and working together in humility and unity.
Plural leadership: Whether it was the first eldership in Jerusalem, Paul’s teams on missionary journeys or the leadership that Paul and Barnabas put in place as they planted churches, they were all elderships, teams, circles or what I prefer to call shared leadership teams. In Ephesians 4, Paul encourages these circles to form and function around their gifts of the 5-fold ministries. We have to ask ourselves, how many churches and ministries function in this way? Why is it that we always want the buck to stop at one leader? Why do we find this shared leadership so difficult to put into practice?
Authority & Accountability: I find it interesting that since we have formed these leadership circles in YWAM, many have assumed that without THE leader, there is no authority and no accountability and so we can do what we like and no one is going to do anything about it. What a strange way to think! If anything, there is now more authority and more accountability. Instead of one leader at the top, there is a whole team to pray and oversee all that is happening. There are more leaders to mentor, serve and help to resolve issues.
Remember Paul & Barnabas, when they had been working with the Gentiles and seeing churches established, they came to the elders circle in Jerusalem to check out their doctrine. After their first missionary journey, they went back to encourage the young leadership teams they had formed and to check up and make sure they were following their values and teaching.
With a team, it´s not just what one person thinks but it’s the combined wisdom and corporate authority of the group. The whole group’s role is to guard the values and keep us on track with the word of the Lord. Although ministry leaders will have an individual on the circle for accountability, they can also meet with the whole team for encouragement, insight and development as agenda time allows. So, the whole team prays for, relates and seeks a positive accountability and development of all ministry. When conflicts take place, people are hurt, leadership gifts are missing or values are not being upheld, then the leadership team identifies the best person to speak into the situation and take on the assignment to see transformation take place.
Convening:In Acts 15 a serious issue arose in the church and the apostles and elders gathered together with James functioning as the convener. The convener is the one who facilitates and helps bring the whole group to a consensus decision. Peter, Paul and other verbal apostolic pioneers were present but James who had the people skills necessary was the facilitator, chairperson or team builder of the meeting.
Perhaps it’s important to note that the convener role we often talk about is really a mixture of three roles and so can be fulfilled by two or even three people:
1. Representative or point person for communication and people gatherer for the area.
2. Team leader or team builder of the team, helping to shape the team and keep people on the same page.
3. Chairperson, or team facilitator who gets people through the agenda and helps to draw out discernment and bring people to decision.
Sometimes these gifts are all in the one person, sometimes not. In the bible, there are many examples of effective partnerships where leaders are able to complement one another with different gifts. For example: Moses & Joshua, Deborah & Barak, Josiah & Jehoida (young and old), Nehemiah & Ezra, Peter & John, Paul & Barnabas, etc… I have seen some great partnerships in base, national and area leadership teams in YWAM too. Often, it’s that partnership mix of apostolic and operational, or prophetic and pastoral or any mix, that don’t necessarily go together in the same person. This is where a small core team with the variety of gifts is helpful in convening together.
Search your own hearts. It´s going to take maturity and humility to work as team. As circles of leaders we need to be generational thinkers and make room for young and old. There is a need to make room for different gifts, so let’s be inclusive, taking time to hear the Lord together. There is no place for the person who wants to function with unilateral decision making or is not flexible enough to listen to others opinions and work through constructive conflict. I guess there never has been.
The challenge is this – know who you are and your gifts, understand others and their gifts, build trust in each other, prefer one another, listen to the Lord together, move in unity and step up to all the tasks that are required. Each member of the team is to be fully engaged.
It’s no easy task but an exciting one. May your leadership circles be anointed and blessed!
Until next month