At 9 a.m. this morning I logged on to my Google + Hangout and started a coaching call with 5 pastors from all over the U.S. Toward the end of the call one of them made a confession that all of us need to own at some point if we are ever going to experience true breakthrough as discipling leaders:
“I feel like the Wizard of Oz behind that curtain. I know how to run the systems of our church, but I don’t know how to invite people into my life and show them how to live as a disciple.”
That may be worth reading again…
During our conversation, it was apparent that the following dynamics were at play:
- No one had ever modeled for him how to make disciples who make disciples in the local church
- He worried that if he gave honest access into his life, his marriage, and his family people may not want to follow him
- He was so busy running the organization of the church that he didn’t have any time left over to make disciples
My response? Amen, Amen, and Amen!
For most, this is our starting point if we are honest about it. And, if we have the courage to own this and confess it, this can become the starting blocks that we push against to move forward into the race.
I remember well a few years back when God shifted my focus from the nuts and bolts involved in the process of recruiting church planters and launching churches to the life on life realities of being a disciple of Jesus who makes disciples of Jesus. I started caring a lot more about who these leaders were becoming, in the health of their marriages, and in sustainable and life giving rhythms that would take them far beyond “Launch Sunday”.
Almost immediately a tension arose in me that I didn’t expect. On the one hand, I knew this shift toward discipleship as foundational for all ministry was a very good thing. But, on the other hand, I also knew that I wasn’t a good example of what this was suppose to look like.
My reality was that I traveled a lot for my job as a Church Planting Director. My wife worked full time in sales and also traveled. We lived over 20 minutes away from the church we attended, and our involvement was not especially deep or meaningful. Our three teenage children were going through the normal stuff that teenagers go through, but I was not providing intentional leadership in the home to disciple them along the way. In fact, the truth be known, I wasn’t even leading my wife very well. We seldom prayed together. Most ministry attempts we made felt burdensome. And, deep down, I felt like something very important in our marriage and our family was slipping away, but I had no idea what to do about it.
BUT – I was good at my job. I was good at building teams, raising resources, and laying the groundwork to start new churches. I could coach leaders, I could bridge the gap between the young planter and the denomination, and I could communicate well. And, all of those are good things.
However, those good things were becoming my curtain. I performed them well, but I also hid behind them. There was a brokenness behind that curtain that I felt, but was afraid to own. I was too embarrassed…there was too much at stake…what if people didn’t want to follow me?
And then, the day came. The day came when I could no longer ignore the brokenness, no longer cover it up with my competencies. It was a Sunday in May, 2013. I was visiting one of our church plants. And, as I watched this young couple scramble around to build momentum in this baby church I began thinking about the toll this experience was taking on them, their marriage, and their children. I could see the handwriting on the wall; they were in for the struggle of their lives in the coming months to hold all of this together. We had trained them to gather a crowd and conduct a good worship service, but we had not trained them how to make disciples.
I could see my own brokenness on display. But worse, I could see the sorrow and stress they were heading for, and I was the one who put them there. My own story of burn out and deep cynicism for the church was being acted out for a new generation. The only difference? This time, I was one of the directors.
As I sat there that morning, taking all of this in, these two words bubbled up from somewhere deep inside of me; “Never again”. I knew in that moment that I could never again put another family on the front lines of church planting without training and apprenticeship in making disciples.
But where would these trainers come from? Who would we connect these aspiring church planters to apprentice with?
And then, the other shoe fell. God was calling me to become one of those trainers. God was calling me to provide a living example of a life worth imitating for these leaders. But first, I had to pull back the curtain and admit my brokenness. It was time to step out and begin dealing with the heart issues, and that meant owning my failures and struggles as a husband and father. And that wasn’t going to be easy…