Discipling to Leadership
Discipleship and leadership development go hand in hand. Those who are discipled and begin to take on the role of leadership in a church then begin to disciple others. The discipled become the disciplers.
Walk back with me to the late 1990s to visit with Bob and Debbie Clark, living in a Tugutil village in the Asia-Pacific Region.
“Based on our interaction with the church, we selected five men and designated them as elder candidates,” said Bob. “We let them and the church know that we would be observing how they functioned and interacted with the wider church body over the next year. We asked them to take turns teaching for Sunday worship services and midweek Bible studies and work together to oversee the discipleship needs of the church. After a year our plan was to ordain those we felt were ready to take on the official role of leading the church as elders.”
A Change in the Plans
But then things changed. Drastically. And the missionaries needed to remain flexible, accepting the way God moved and changed their direction.
“Before that year was up,” Bob continued, “religious rioting in that part of the country forced the missionary team to be evacuated from the area. Not long after that, we no longer had a flight program in the region. … As a team we relocated to a safer area and brought out several Tugutil believers to that town to continue Bible translation. After a few years there, part of our team retired, and some of us took on additional ministries. We never lived full-time among the Tugutil again, only making 2 to 4 week-long visits a few times a year.”
Though it was still the desire of the team to see leaders functioning in the Tugutil church, these challenging turn of events meant it would take a lot longer than originally planned.
But at last God allowed the Tugutil Church to have ordained leaders. “It was a long time (more than 10 years!) before our first elders (two of the five original candidates) were ordained, even though as far as we knew some of them were functioning well as leaders for several years,” concluded Bob.
Now there is a thriving church among the Tugutil people. The elders have discipled others who in turn have begun outreaches to other communities. Regardless of “bumps in the road,” God has moved the Tugutil Church to maturity.