Apr 03, 2017
Bring Fivefold Synergy to Your Ministry
Featured Writer Mike Filicicchia helps us find fivefold synergy in our leadership pipeline by identifying five distinct callings.
Think about your leadership pipeline for a moment. If you’re a little late to the game and wondering “What’s that?” you’ve come to a great web site replete with resources to help you define your pipeline. But if you’re avid reader, podcaster, or conference-goer, you can probably draw a diagram with many nodes, explaining the various levels of leadership in your ministry, the core competencies and qualifications for each, and the pathway for training someone to take on the next level of leadership responsibility. But I want you to pause and assess one often-overlooked aspect of your pipeline by answering this question: Does your pipeline accommodate different leadership callings as well as it accommodates different leadership capacities?
You are likely familiar with Moses’ leadership dilemma in Exodus 18 where Jethro alerts Moses that his solo model of leadership has made him the bottleneck for justice being served in Israel, and that he’s headed straight for burnout. Jethro’s wise proposal was to appoint trustworthy men who could lighten Moses’ load, men who could serve as officials over “thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens” while Moses dealt only with the most difficult cases (Exodus 18:21-22). I can imagine why Moses required outside intervention to implement this solution: he had an absolutely unique relationship with God among all of the Israelites. Even if the men who were to oversee thousands were the epitome of “men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain,” they did not speak with God face to face, as one speaks with a friend. Only Moses could lead from that kind of intimacy with God. When just one heard from God, it was wise to build a hierarchical system based on leadership capacities. Like this Mosaic system, most of our modern pipelines have defined places for leaders of varying capacities.
But in these last days, God has poured out his Spirit on all people. God no longer speaks to just one man, but to all who follow Jesus by faith. And it was Christ himself who gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up (Ephesians 4:11-12). Jesus himself determined a new model for the leadership of the people of God, and it required gifted men and women to function in five kinds of leadership callings to build up the church into full maturity. I realize that throughout church history, much has been made of the continuation of all five of these callings. I’ll briefly summarize the primary functions of each equipper and let you be the judge of whether Christ is still giving these men and women as crucial gifts to the Church to accomplish his purposes in this generation, as he did in the New Testament generation. I’ll also include reflection questions to help you assess whether your leadership pipeline cultivates or stifles that particular leadership calling.
Apostles: “Sent ones” who serve as foundation pieces for the church in new fields of ministry. They are starters and entrepreneurs whose eyes are always on the horizon for new ways the Kingdom of God can advance and expand. They establish and strengthen the underlying culture and structures of new gospel communities.
- What avenues do you offer students to investigate and plant new ministries to reach new pockets of people?
- How are you training students to live cross-cultural lifestyles and start new ministries? (this can be as simple as training upperclassmen to live intentionally among freshmen in residence halls)
Prophets: Poets and speakers-forth of God’s heart and purposes for his people. They are deeply intuitive perceivers with a keen sense of what God is up to, and often prefer artistic means of expression. They consistently call the church back into faithfulness, justice, and intimacy with God.
- What place does God-glorifying artistic expression have in your ministry?
- How are you training students to discern the voice of God and speak it over others for their strengthening, encouraging, and comfort?
Evangelists: Warm-hearted storytellers whose deep love for lost people helps the church proclaim and embody the good news of Jesus. They build trust easily with outsiders and share openly about what Jesus has done in their lives.
- What environments does your ministry have for facilitating meaningful connecting points between believing students and their unbelieving social spheres?
- How are you training students to build new relationships with lost people, share their story of faith, and share the story of Jesus?
Shepherds: Tender-hearted people who foster and guard a nourishing atmosphere where people can feel safe, be authentic, receive care, and develop loving relationships that strengthen their hearts, souls, and minds in Christ.
- Where in your ministry can students authentically be themselves, share their burdens, and receive ministry for their soul’s deepest needs?
- How are you training students to listen well, offer godly counsel, resolve conflicts, and tend to the spiritual needs of others?
Teachers: Grounded people whose deep convictions of the truth of God’s Word bring a wealth of wisdom and understanding to the church. They consistently re-orient others in the timeless truths of Scripture.
- Where in your ministry are students free to study, meditate upon, share, and instruct one another with Scripture?
- How are you training students to read, understand, memorize, and teach Scripture into the full spectrum of issues they face today?
My hope is that these descriptions and questions get your gears turning for what it means to develop a leadership pipeline that helps students grow and flourish in their specific leadership calling, rather than moving them along a uniform path. Five pipelines may even be useful. Most likely your ministry is much stronger in its leadership training and opportunities in one or two areas than it is in the others. You may even be noticing right now how this imbalance lies at the root of some deficiencies in your ministry. Without this balanced diet of ministry, the Body of Christ suffers all kinds of illness. Our ministries desperately need environments and training opportunities that create an atmosphere of fivefold synergy, where every gift Jesus has given to his church has an opportunity to develop, thrive, and express itself. Our maturity and our mission depend on it.