In 1999, a group of leaders from a variety of ministries met to discuss the growing shortfall between evangelism/church growth and the number of leaders that have been trained to lead new flocks. Over the past several decades, much time has been devoted to evangelism and church planting. While both are vital to the growth and maturing of the believing community, there has been little effort given to transformational leadership development.
Unfortunately, while the secular community offers many insights into training leaders with important skills, there is often an element of professionalism that masks true, vulnerable, leadership transformation. Personally, I have seen this in my own life. When skills and talents were the focus, the hidden agenda to prove myself overshadowed vulnerability and honesty. When leaders lead from their own resources, they soon begin to fear exposure, not knowing enough, not having it all together, and the cycle of performance-based leadership begins.
MentorLink International began because many successful ministry leaders realized this shortfall. While the church was growing, those left to lead the newly formed congregations were often stretched beyond measure and fearful of losing their positions. When we place performance, producing numbers or raising substantial funds above the spiritual health of the leader, then we are faced with a crisis within the spiritual community. This is true for all of us. When I have to be someone other than who I really am in order to feel that I measure up, then I have to put on a thousand disguises and play the game of "pretend"because of fears I cannot admit to.
Over the past few years, as I have had the privilege of traveling internationally, I have met with numerous leaders, and their hearts are all the same: they are looking for a safe environment to be real, to admit to their struggles and to be encouraged that they are not alone. The heart of mentoring is coming alongside of someone and believing that what God says is true about them, encouraging them in their spiritual journey and in life in general.
I find this especially true in China where the concept of saving face is so important. It is very difficult for leaders to admit to others their own struggles and the truth about what is going on in their lives. However, with the pressures leaders face in China today, the need is real and growing.
One story that demonstrates the value of what we do in mentoring relationships is of a church leader in his late 70s. He is still very active in serving and has established several training centers throughout the country. As we talked about the need for mentoring, he commented that this is probably the biggest need he sees within the church today in China. His heart was moved as he shared about this often missing personal element in ministry. For years, the focus has been on the skills of teaching, preaching and knowing Scripture with little attention being given to the personal and relational aspects of leaders' lives. He sees the importance of meeting their needs and the necessity of assisting them to meet the needs in their lives and in the lives of their congregations. One of our key coordinators spent several weeks with this gentleman and, as result, they have a close relationship. This follows the mentoring model which starts with a one-on-one relationship where individuals are in a safe environment where they can grow and develop.
Whether you are the pastor of a large congregation or a child on the playground, you have a sphere of influence; you are a leader in that sphere that you influence—no matter its size. How will you impact those around you? Will you jockey for position, throwing around clout, all the while trying to be someone or something that you are not? Or, will you serve—no matter where, no matter how—those whom God places in your path, giving them the good news that God likes you? In fact, because God made you, he is pleased with you, perhaps not always with your performance, but, then, he is in charge of your spiritual growth. Your spiritual maturity is in his hands; whenever you are ready, he will be there. There is nothing left to prove. In his eyes, you measure up.
If you were to really believe this, how would you live? Would it change the way you see yourself and others around you? If you dare to believe that you are on God's "A" team and there is no "B" team, would you enjoy living? Would you step out in faith to see God show up and show off? MentorLink International dares to believe that leaders around the world need a reminder that God is who he says he is and that he values intimate, personal connection with the believing community. We are taking this vision into China, and we are encouraged by the desire of church and ministry leaders to grow spiritually in all aspects of their lives.
Image credit: Chad Downum.