Often our churches don’t raise up leaders because we lack conviction. Granted, it’s probably much more than that, but it is certainly not less. Based on the lack of leadership development in many churches it is clear that many church leaders lack a real conviction for developing leaders.
If we look at Moses and Joshua, his successor, we see conviction for developing leaders in one and lacking in the other. And we also see that the implications of either possessing or lacking a conviction for development are huge.
Conviction for developing others gripped Moses. As you read through the Scripture, you see Moses pouring into Joshua. Moses served his people by pouring into the life of another. And immediately after Moses’ death, Joshua was ready to lead Israel.
After the death of Moses the Lord’s servant, the Lord spoke to Joshua son of Nun, who had served Moses: “Moses My servant is dead. Now you and all the people prepare to cross over the Jordan to the land I am giving the Israelites (Joshua 1:1-2).
The leadership legacy of Joshua, sadly, is very different:
Joshua son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died at the age of 110… That whole generation was also gathered to their ancestors. After them another generation rose up who did not know the Lord or the works He had done for Israel (Judges 2:8, 10).
Why the stark contrast? There is no record of Joshua investing in anyone. We don’t see him intentionally developing leaders. Clearly Joshua lacked the conviction to develop others. Like most leaders, he likely would never have admitted that. He would have claimed developing leaders was a priority, something that was important to him, but his life over the long haul revealed it wasn’t. Over time, our lives, not merely our words, reveal our convictions.
How do you know if something is a conviction? If you can imagine life or ministry without it, it is not a conviction.
For example, it is encouraging that most church leaders hold a conviction that Jesus must be preached, that there is salvation in no other name but Jesus. Because Jesus is a conviction, they cannot fathom ministry without preaching and teaching Jesus. If someone offered them a more “successful” or “larger” ministry if they didn’t preach Jesus, they would refuse. There’s no way they would even consider it. Their response would be: “What’s the point if Jesus isn’t the focus? Who cares if tons of people gather around something else other than Jesus?” This is conviction.
Clearly most church leaders do not hold this type of conviction for developing leaders, so they find ways to continue in ministry without it. Many church leaders have learned, like Joshua, to lead without developing leaders. They have learned to offer programs, conduct worship services, and manage budgets all without developing leaders.
Does a conviction for developing leaders grip your heart? Or can you actually function and see your church function without it?
Eric Geiger is one of the Vice Presidents at LifeWay, leading the Resources Division. He has authored several books including the best selling church leadership book, Simple Church. More at EricGeiger.com