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Essential Skills for Missional Leaders

Oct 30, 2007
The church is desperately in need for more missional leaders to rise up in it ranks. Here are four essential skills that help a leader align their churches with God's mission.

1. Empowering those around them.

Missional leaders are multiplying leaders. They understand that within the Great Commission they have all they need to get the job done. They have been empowered with spiritual authority, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me." (Matthew 28:18 NIV) They have been entrusted with a specific task, "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[a] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you." (Matthew 28:19-20 NIV) They have the encouraging promise of His presence to help them along the way, "And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (Matthew 28:20 NIV)

Missional leaders understand that the mission is bigger than them and that they will need hundreds and thousands of other leaders to achieve God's missional goals. They make it their business to always be on the search for emerging leaders, with the eye of an eagle they look for those who possess the raw leadership skills. My friend, Tom Nebel, likes to say that he is not a recruiter but just a spotter always looking for potential in those around him. They are leaders who never do anything alone. They always have some one along observing because they understand the power of the informal equipping process and that more is caught than taught in leadership settings. They understand that everything the church does revolves around one aim "make disciples". If a church is good at making disciples it will be good at making leaders because in the end, a good spiritual formation plan will lead to an accelerated spiritual multiplication. Missional leaders are always evaluating and tweaking the spiritual formation process or system to see if they are hitting their mark.

Missional leaders know what it is to be entrusted by someone with a task. They have, over time, cultivated the art of delegating responsibility to trusted leaders. They take the time to communicate expectations, responsibilities and parameters of the job. They provide guidance and encouragement through coaching. They provide positive reinforcement through celebrating the smallest victory in that leader's ministry. When I think of an empowering leader my mind always runs to Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, who earned the nickname "Barnabas, son of encouragement." (Acts 4:36 NIV) Barnabas was a 'leader-maker' who sought out potential leaders, who generously created opportunities for leaders to develop their area of giftedness and who walked alongside, nurturing leaders to encouragement. Barnabas sought out Saul, who became Paul, and together they sparked a revolution that still burns today all over the world.

2. Building and maintaining healthy relationships.

The mission of God is a relational mission. His plan is to use people to reach people. His plan is to use frail human beings to supernaturally build his church and unlock the Kingdom of Heaven:

"And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven". (Matthew 16:18-19 NIV)

Missional leaders know that developing strong interpersonal skills is critical to their effectiveness. They must care for those who need care. They must listen attentively while others are speaking. When they are corrected they receive it humbly. When they need to be confronting negative behavior in others they speak the truth in love. They know how to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn. The Bible is full of teachings on how Christians are to love those outside the church and those inside the family of God.

Missional leaders understand they are called to love (Mark 12:28-30) and called to build loving communities. Jesus said, "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another". (John 13:34-35 NIV) Francis Schaeffer in his book, "Mark of the Christian" makes this sobering comment on this verse, "In the midst of the world, in the midst of our present culture, Jesus is giving a right to the world. Upon His authority He gives the world the right to judge us whether you and I are born-again Christians on the basis of our observable love towards all Christians". (pg 187)

Missional leaders rise to this challenge and do the tough work of building loving relationships throughout the church.

3. Creating ministry teams.

Teamwork is essential to achieving God's missional purposes. One man said, "It is not biblical to think of ministering alone." Jesus modeled ministering to large crowds (Matthew 7:28) along with ministering within a small unit or a team where more intimacy and authenticity was cultivated. (Luke 6:12-16) Paul went out on mission endeavors with a ministry partner and a ministry apprentice. (Acts 13:1-5; 16:1) The early church launched large (Acts 2:41) and at the same time grew small as they met in homes sharing their lives together. (Acts 2:46) There are no Lone Rangers in Christianity (by the way, didn't the Lone Ranger have Tonto on his side?)

Missional leaders know that their church will only grow as large as its capacity to provide ongoing care through a network of small groups and ministry teams. They understand that their church's impact will only extend to the point that they are continually developing shepherd leaders to lead, care and facility these little platoons. They have experienced the power of seeing mentoring relationships spring out of the smaller settings of ministry. They have seen these small groups adopted a family in need and minister to them with personal care. They know that these groups are not just an add-on or just another program in the church but the very health center of the church.

Missional leaders see the great opportunities that small groups promise but they also see the great pitfalls that they can bring. This is why they spend hours training, coaching and encouraging leaders. This is why they start with great care and manage them with close supervision.

4. Designing & developing healthy church systems.

The Apostle Paul wrote, "Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel". (Philippians 1:27-28 NIV) The image of contending means striving together or fighting side by side as in an athletic contest or team sport. I personally like the term 'synergy' which is defined "the interaction of two or more agents or forces so that their combined effect is greater than the sum of their individual effects". (American Heritage College Dictionary) Missional leaders know how to build synergy throughout their church, aligning all the individual pieces to work together for a greater outcome. This is accomplished through their understanding of functional church systems or structures.

What are church systems? Church Systems are reproducible processes by which the church actualizes its values and achieves its mission. Missional leaders know how to design these systems, to create processes that are manageable and measurable. Not only do they know how to designed them but they also know how to development and tweak them all the way with out losing momentum. Michael Gerber wrote, "Systems run the business and people run the systems". Missional leaders understand that healthy systems are only as good as the people who are running them and that time, energy and resources need to be invested in these leaders who are running these systems that are critical to fulfilling God's mission.

Final thoughts

The Army Leadership Manual says, "a true leader in not satisfied with knowing only how to do what will get the organization through today; you must also be concerned about what it will need tomorrow." (pg 13) Missionally driven leaders get the job done and are always anticipating the next step the church needs to make to achieve God's missional purpose through the local church. Knowing the next steps for your church is what makes the difference between a leader and a follower. Followers are looking for direction, leaders are thinking about the next decision, the next hurdle and the next level for the organization. My prayer is that through this article that your passion for God's mission will grab your heart and your desire to grow as a leader burns with great intensity.
About the Author
Gary Rohrmayer has a unique focus in mentoring leaders within God's mission. He is a sought after personal coach for pastors, church planters and missional leaders. He specializes in the areas of spiritual formation, church multiplication and church health.
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