Who is the ideal candidate for advanced kingdom leadership training? Can we identify those more likely to pursue and persist? Can we actually eliminate some as a waste of time? Should we accept all who express a desire to some form of advanced training, or should we expect the Father will send us candidates for kingdom leadership discipling as He did Jesus?
I think these are fair, honest, and appropriate questions, and I think we learn some principles, procedures, and protocols from Scripture in terms of observing who God is and how He does stuff.
After pursuing kingdom leadership development as a major priority for more than three decades, I wish to offer some observations from success and failure, trial and error, as applications of Bible ideas to real life situations has opened a perspective needed in this historic moment of international opportunity and crisis.
- We have lost kingdom culture, and we don’t know we’ve lost it.
So, we seldom approach “leadership” with a purified kingdom mindset. We tend to syncretize humanism and positivism into our approaches. We add to that tendency the further dysfunction of running modern church-anity like a business at the expense of the commerce and character of kingdom leadership dynamics. In fact, I would observe that modern church-anity finds kingdom leadership dynamics so invasive that the entrenched bureaucracies of mega-churches battle any and all of its procedural parameters as if they come from “outsiders.”
So, to begin any journey in kingdom leadership development, we have to take several steps back or away from the present conditions, expect to be misunderstood, misquoted, and misappropriated as the ‘straw man of stupid’ while the moderns quote positive thinking gurus and leadership models designed for a world system approach to kingdom. Kingdom leaders are not event planners, glorified DisneyLand “cast members”, or social media analysts. All those nice people have a place in kingdom, but they do not define the norms of kingdom leadership.
To being the journey of kingdom leadership development, we return to Jesus (imagine that!) and His ideas on leadership development:
Jesus has a strategy to inherit the nation called “kingdom”;
Kingdom has a strategy to establish and expand kingdom culture called “leadership”‘
Leadership has a strategy to prepare and position kingdom leaders called “discipling”;
And, “discipling” has a strategic role and responsibility relationship called “fathering.”
So, when we begin with “kingdom” in a modern setting of church-anity dominated christianism, even in the apostolic and prophetic genres, we nearly always drive the development vehicle right into a brick wall because we laid our foundations for “church management” upon church growth principles more than kingdom establishment principles.
While we fight syncretism when it is Roman flavored like the plague, we throw parties to celebrate it when it seems to further our ability to accumulate believers as the measurement of success for modern church-anity. A recently celebrated transition of mega-church leadership spells out the challenges we face in a spectacular maximum: the ministry will be led by a team composed of a man and a woman sharing leadership roles: the celebration of which gives festive emphasis to principles foreign to the priorities of Jesus and kingdom but normalized in modern church-anity. No analysis of kingdom leadership dynamics enter anyone’s mind whatsoever in reaching a conclusion of appropriateness in the strategy.
I do not mean that team leadership or women in leadership or mega-church are the issues here. I mean that the analysis ignores every major and minor point of kingdom leadership and kingdom culture in the Bible as if they have weight bearing in the structure of kingdom leadership.
So, when we say, “Let’s produce some elite troops, some kingdom statesmen, some “Daniel, Joseph, Paul, Barnabas, James, Simon Peter, Stephen, Philip, John, Apollos, Priscilla, Clement, Titus, Timothy” leaders, we immediately look odd to moderns because we are about to engage in a process of preparation and positioning so foreign to the modern mindsets that we will offend those most qualified to by this same mindset to participate in the process.
Immediately you say that young people should be the candidates, you hear their parents screaming like lost sailors with sirens blasting the way to the precipice over a supercharged PA system. Parents think ministry training is something akin to VBS for twenty-year-olds, a short, summer course diversion between the time a child gets serious about making his or her way in life that harkens back to the fantasy created to keep them engaged in youth groups so they won’t fall into the drug culture. The idea that one of their children might enter into a call causes them to break out in hives.
They are happy for other people to do so, but their children need a four-year liberal arts education costing more money than a heart transplant they are certain will position their above average, gifted geniuses in a career. At the very least, parents will say, “Now, you need to learn how to make a living when this ministry thing doesn’t work out.”
So, I’m saying that the “candidate” profile of 18-22, ready for life in the Lord as “a full-time representative of Jesus” rarely finds acceptance with the parents and youth pastors of moderns. We know longer have a missionary zeal or martyrdom mentality. We wish our children to find their ways forward in acquiring a little American life, produce grandchildren as cute as they were as babies, and dress right for the annual family photo shoot.
So, we turn to the adult leaders of modern church-anity for candidates: Shields up! Here come the hatchet men of the senior pastors! “Stop pulling on my people! We put all the work in to produce these pew warming wonders! Go get your own leaders for the kingdom expansion! We need these normal folks to keep the machinery running and the big front door open for more growth!”
So, we turn to the mini-movements of revivalism for candidates: “Hey! We already have a full schedule of conferences for revivalist where they can watch the heroes perform and dream about their own video projects of hit and run resurrections. We just need to activate hundreds more of these “ites” of our mini-movement to expand our network for the purpose of coming up with the new conferences for those who attended the previous ones. The bigger we get, the more revival America will have.”
So. we turn to the offshoot Remnant groups no one wants to associate with because of an offbeat doctrinal view on the end times, a flavor of prophecy that scares the wool off the sheep, a subculture of prayer or worship or modernized hippie attire with torn jeans and a “way cool” approach to some back water consideration of community. After interviewing seven of these people, we are the ones who run screaming into the night.
At the honest, fair question remains: who are the candidates for the restoration of kingdom leadership dynamics?
2. I have been asking this question of the elite international apostles for more than twenty years without receiving much of an answer.
First, church growth has been the bedrock context for the emerging reformation, and the dynamics of church growth leadership are mostly inconsistent with the dynamics of kingdom leadership. The church growth model assumes the accumulation of believers, hopefully ones that require very little attention, transformation, or discipling (if that is even part of the equation), who are just thrilled to have a “church home” that fits their little American dream. Anything that rocks that boat is suspect. And, even if the senior pastor espouses something a bit more radical, the message is heard as one for “them” while the staff works behind the scenes to define what that radical message really means to parishioners in every day life, to the relief of the pew warmers who are happy to discover “he doesn’t mean that we are supposed to be radical.”
Second, church growth leadership has so little to do with kingdom leadership dynamics that any “equipping the saints” initiative looks like “how to pass plastics buckets on Sunday morning from one row to the next row in proper rhythm with the other CEO of a large business who is ‘serving’ in the next aisle.” After training people who could release healing, freedom, intercession, and warfare at a regional level, the church staff was angry that I hadn’t produced any nursery workers, hall security guards, parking lot attendees, and people to staff church events and parties. Red in the face, “let’s have a meeting and rip you a new one” angry.