All throughout Scripture runs a common theme: The leaders of tomorrow are nobodies today.
Abraham was an old man who couldn’t have kids. Joseph was a pesky younger brother, turned slave prisoner.
David started out as a shepherd kid whose own dad didn’t think was worth presenting to Samuel as a potential new king.
Amos was a fig picker. Peter was a fisherman. Even Jesus started out in the obscure household of a carpenter, hiding out in Egypt.
Some are born into more privilege or with more natural talent than others, but no one is born an all-star.
Many of us know well the feeling of being young, passionate and energized with a drive to minister and serve the church with our gifts, yet discouraged from lack of opportunity. Some even feel cast aside or not taken seriously because they have not yet proven themselves and seemingly have nothing to offer. They look at the celebrity culture the church has fostered and feel there is no place for them. Unless they are already “somebody,” it is simply not set up to equip them for leadership beyond giving them space to observe.
Many in our churches have legitimate gifts to offer and lead with, but if these gifts are not recognized, encouraged and developed, we will end up losing many of our best leaders before they ever have a chance to lead.
Ephesians 4:11-16 tells us that Jesus gave spiritual leadership gifts “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ… we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”
The truth is that nobody is a really a “nobody.” Every believer was created in the image of God, rescued and purchased by His blood, redeemed and adopted into His family and given gifts to serve His church so that it can work properly.
Every member of the body is equally important (1 Corinthians 12), yet as leaders, we often focus our attention on people who can further our own agendas, platforms and influence, while ignoring those who need the wisdom we have to offer in order to realize their potential.
The undeveloped and underdeveloped people in our churches have inherent value because God gave it to them, and we have a mandate to equip them to serve and lead well, whether or not we perceive they have anything to offer us.
This kind of discipleship goes beyond the platform; deeper than just preaching or leading worship to a mass audience. It involves life-on-life development of leaders in their love for Jesus, while giving them opportunities to lead. It means equipping them adequately so that when they do, they have been set up to succeed.
Depending on how our churches are set up, we may need to get creative about how we do this. And we must be wise. Sunday primetime may not the best place to let an untested preacher or worship leader loose on our congregations. But what is the appropriate place where we can foster their gifts, evaluate them, develop them and help them improve?
Are there smaller gatherings such as a community groups, Bible studies, Sunday school classes, members meetings, or special services? What are the regular rhythms of our churches where we can begin to intentionally implement the equipping and developing of servant-hearted leaders?
The Church does not need another “somebody,” all-star, or celebrity who has already arrived. What the Church really needs is humble, teachable, godly, Spirit-filled, passionate servants who are willing to do the work it takes to grow—people the Church can pour into, who will then pour into others.
Discipleship is hard work. It’s inconvenient. And often, it involves giving up platform opportunities. But it’s what we have been called to do by the great Disciple-Maker who called out a bunch of nobodies and poured into them so that He could use them to change the world for his glorious name’s sake.
The leaders of tomorrow are in our churches today and Jesus cares about them. We should, too.
Stephen Miller serves as pastor of worship arts at The Journey in St Louis. His book, Worship Leaders, We Are Not Rock Stars, and newest worship album, 'All Hail the King,' released August 1. He writes regularly at www.stephen-miller.com, and you find him on Twitter @StephenMiller and on Facebook.
Publication date: October 24, 2013