Leadership vs Discipleship

The good news is…ouch.

There is no question we need leaders in our lives and communities. Without them, we’d wander aimlessly and likely never get much of anything done.

Great leaders are important because they help us focus on the things that are important, offer us perspective and vision, and inspire us to stretch beyond our limitations through participation or straight up blood, sweat and tears to deliver on something great.

Leadership is vital within the church community also, because the responsibility these people take on has eternal consequences. Connecting people to Jesus’s mission; challenging us all to take Jesus’s message seriously; and, ultimately someone played a key role in either us making a decision to follow Jesus or to take that decision we made seriously. Leaders aren’t always the person that stands up front/visible…real leaders matter.

It’s so important we invest in developing leaders and helping people realise their leadership potential. As a Christian community it very important we train up leaders connected squarely into the mission of God.

Which is why it pains me when I reflect that in the last twenty or so years my beloved Uniting Church in Australia has spent a lot of time focused on raising and developing leaders at the cost of making and growing disciples of Jesus.

I wonder if we realised back then that we were trading our future for a handful of magic beans?

By focusing on leadership development we have prepared a bunch of people to lead…who? With the UCA shrinking nationally as a denomination we’ve got a lot of work to do to restore the importance of discipleship as everybody’s primary purpose. EVERY.BODY.

Jesus could not have been clearer when, in Matthew 28, he said to his followers (including us): “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…”. There’s no asterisk. No exclusions. No retirement age. We are all called to make disciples until our very last breath.

This is the mission of God. This is what we are called to be a part of.

Making and growing disciples of Jesus is our number one activity, ahead of all the other stuff we do that we call church. Our paramount purpose. It’s central of the opening paragraph of the Basis of Union because it’s central to the mission God beckons us to participate in.

The opportunity presented us is to help people of all ages (though I’ll tell you especially young people) recognise God already at work in their lives and to invite them to participate in it by deciding to life a life becoming more like Jesus.

Developing young people as disciples of Christ is core to what Growing Young is about. Providing them opportunities for leadership plays an important part however it’s a step in the broader process of discipleship. An in-road for young people to weld themselves onto a community of people who love Jesus and love them that allow them to express their gifts as a disciple.

Disciples love Jesus, and they love other people. They welcome everyone into their community and seek to bolster that community by working together so that nobody has need. They take seriously the commitment to welcome others into the Kingdom of God because that’s what Jesus asks us to do.

Leadership, coupled with showing empathy, taking Jesus’ message seriously, growing warm relationships with young people, prioritising ministry with young people (and their families) everywhere, and being the best neighbours to the young people in our wider communities, all reflect back on us as people who are disciples of Jesus who want to make more disciples of Jesus.

The burden – no, the responsibility – to make disciples is on us. The PULSE team would love to speak with you and your congregation about how you can be more serious about making and nurturing disciples of Jesus by Growing Young.

Remember you can keep in touch with PULSE by signing up for our monthly newsletter, or for further information contact our team via email, Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

Molk is the Senior Field Officer (North), and Young Adult ministry leader as a part of the PULSE team.

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