Let me give some background before jumping into this. As a young leader, called out of the secular world to the church, I had very few if any real mentors and very little idea of what I was getting into. Evidently the Lord fashioned my life to do this though it seemed contrary to anything I would aspire to, or anything most in the church would think I was qualified for.
I had no formal ministerial training, either theological or practical. In fact, I loved my new vocation of teaching Jr. High. But without going into the full story of how I got there, after teaching only one year in a public school, I was asked to pastor a very small church near my country home. The only thing I had to go on to do this was a dream from two years earlier. Ann and I plus a few friends were lit up like candles with the Holy Spirit and doing lot’s of ministry outside the walls of the church. We often prayed for the sick, shared our faith, and reached out to our neighbors as the Holy Spirit seemed to give us one divine appointment after another. We were faithful church attenders and rabid worshippers. That was our credentials for being led to serve the body of Christ and specifically pastor a church full time.
I reached out to find other leaders who I thought might help me since I knew very little about how the church functioned. But most reactions I got were tepid to say the least, having no seminary training to validate my call in the eyes of other leaders. I don’t fault them in this, it was just the way things were in the early 80’s here in Oregon. So, I did what I knew to do. I dug into the bible like a manual for the Christian life and pastoring and prayed asking God to show me how to pastor people. Very little of what I read seemed to reflect what was going on in the church. The message of the kingdom of heaven was not something on most leaders’ radar, much less an Acts 2 style church. And when I visited people in the church, they seemed on guard, like I had an agenda instead of really wanting to get to know them. Thankfully I found the Vineyard movement and attended many conferences in their hay day to learn all I could about kingdom ministry and leadership. But there were still very few other leaders I could connect with on this level except friends I had met who were exploring the same direction.
I am opening this topic on new breed leaders with the above narrative, because I am finding that many young leaders are in the same boat today, as far as mentors to help them navigate their calling. Yes, there are networks and a few very good movements to connect with, but not many fathers who have the time or are willing to take the time to spend with a young leader. The apostle Paul didn’t say, “you have many teachers, but not many apostles. No, he said, not many fathers”. There are so many teachers, Ted talks, media resources etc, it’s mind boggling. But there are not many fathers in ministry who understand or even want to take the time to understand this new generation of leaders. The new breed of leaders is a new breed generationally, but also in culture and thought. The way information is disseminated and processed is very different today that when I was in my 30’s and 40’s. I don’t need to qualify that statement for anyone who owns a cell phone or laptop computer.
Some of those in their early 40’s already feel a gap in how to communicate with those in the twenties. Things have changed very fast in the last 20 to 30 years. Not only that, we who were born again in the Jesus movement and make up the biggest percentage of leaders in the church are now moving into the last season of our lives. That means those in the 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s need to step into their calling in powerful positions. We cannot afford to think we can wait till people are in their 50’s to finally step into their life calling. Only in the organized church is such thinking even a consideration. You see young entrepreneurs, educators, scientists and
every arena of life you can think of with young champions who are leading us into the future in their area of life calling. Yet many in powerful position in secular life seem unwilling to raise up new leaders or let go of the reigns of their positions.
I think, in a different way, the church faces a similar dilemma in that few have planned for succession and or don’t see who to pull into their place. This indicates both a lack of planning and mentoring of new leaders. One young friend recently said it felt awkward to be called a part of “an emerging” group of leaders. He did so rightly because he started very young and has a lot of experience under his belt and is fully engaged in his calling. The same could be said of my daughter who grew up serving with me and had many years of experience when she stepped into the role of primary leader of our local church.
Except for a few young itinerants, I don’t see a lot of younger leaders in significant roles in the church. I am speaking primarily of circles I run in, which is mostly non -denominational churches. Most denominations have a process of replacement, but I don’t know of many mentoring programs for raising up young leaders and helping them find their proper role or to prepare to plant churches. Very soon, there could be a huge deficit of leaders ready to step in for the many older leaders who will be stepping down by choice or because of circumstances of age and health.
So that is the background for why I am stirred about helping a new breed of leaders. With the massive shifts in secular culture, the church cannot afford to keep doing things the same way. We cannot just keep having leadership conferences led and attended predominantly by an aging group no matter how good the content or speakers.
There are schools that are training and raising up new leaders, but not a clear pathway for what these new breed leaders should do once graduated. My main point is concerning how this should take place.
1. RELATIONSHIP: The local church is a family and a garden where people grow up, find the identity, get equipped and empowered, and then step into their calling. Ideally, people are sent not “went” as they go for God. Not everyone leaves their local family to pursue their calling. Many are called to pursue their calling in the world and perhaps the community they grew up in. Others are called to nations or to serve in the local church, perhaps even plant a church somewhere.
2. HANDS ON EXPERIENCE: The pathway to growth in family requires relationship. It’s not enough to have good schools and programs for spiritual growth without vital relationships with older and younger serving together, even leading together. The biggest preparation I received in becoming a teacher on how to actually teach students was when I served and taught with two teachers in my field in what was called “student teaching”. Those experiences were like on the job training with lot’s of mentoring and feed back that catapulted me forward with confidence to then go teach on my own.
3. TIME: We need fathers and mothers who are willing to spend time with younger leaders doing and teaching together with real responsibilities that prepare and give confidence to step fully into a calling. Other issues about character, family, and kingdom cultures are also important and can be a part of helping prepare people to lead on their own.
4. DEMONSTRATION/TEACHING: Jesus training model was simple yet profound in result. Look at the expansion of the church since it birth under the leadership of the 12 apostles. Jesus demonstrated and taught his disciples in kingdom values and practices. He then had them come with him and watch how he did it while mentoring them in it. He had them do It with him. Then he sent them out two by two to do what he did and report back to him. Then he sent them on their own as He returned to the Father.
You can see from the training model of Jesus how relational it was. I am not suggesting in today’s culture we can mirror that exactly eating, living together for three years, and basically doing everything together. Jesus was after all celibate and on a three year mission. There are missions and schools that are a crucible of life and fire like this, but not as much from the local church, which biblically is God’s primary agency for spiritual life, growth, and kingdom expansion.
So what is a new breed leader? It is a leader in their late 20’s to early 40’s that is wholly surrendered to follow the call of God on their life. These leaders want relationship and to operate from the safety of family instead of going it alone. They are eager to serve in significant roles according to their calling and looking for fathers and mothers to partner with them in their future.
So where to go from here? I have been encouraging my peers to both mentor and raise up leaders who can step into their shoes. But that is up to others, not me. Here is what I can do as one person. I am offering the following:
1. I will make myself available to 10 young leaders over the next year who want to draw from my life and ministry experience. I am not traveling overseas these days, though I may. So, taking people with me where I minister is a possibility, but not like 10 or 20 years ago when I did this on a regular basis even taking teams.
2. Those who want to commit to a year of mentoring and fellowship will have the opportunity to connect with and get to know each other as well. If feasible, I would like to have twice yearly face to face with everyone, perhaps with a conference attached where all could participate.
3. We can have Skype or Zoom meetings, and face to face meetings depending on the make up of the group and where people live. But we will take on every possible scenario and challenge a leader would face in the church and out of it. I believe the same kingdom values apply to calling no matter whether it is in the church or world.
4. I will be asking other leaders my age and younger to connect with new breed leaders as well. Perhaps this can start a growing shift in how leaders step into their God given roles.
God bless all you new breed leaders and all the fathers and mothers in the Church. Denny