As I travel around to conferences, meet with different churches and ministries, and chat with young Christians in my present ministry context I often meet young men, women, and couples with huge leadership potential. They get who Jesus is and what He’s about, they have innovative ideas and know how to think outside the box, they share Jesus’ heart for the lost and the least, and they want to make a lasting impact on the world as the hands and feet of Jesus. I like to refer to these guys as racehorses, because they’re at the starting gates restless, revving, and ready to take off.
As I’ve been reflecting on this over the past few weeks, I’m increasingly convinced that experienced ministry leaders have a responsibility to provide…
1) Permission to go. Someone needs to open the gate and release these young leaders to run. I meet some who are caught in the bureaucratic bottleneck of a missions organization. Others are sitting the bench in a church because they have not put in their time or they make established leaders nervous. Still others are guilted by the responsibilities of life or by relationships with close friends and family to play it safe and hold back. I sense an increasing burden to give these young race horses an opportunity to join the race, to get their hands dirty in ministry, and to provide opportunities to succeed and even fail.
2) Coaching and mentoring. Even the fastest race horse with the finest pedigree needs a trainer to bring out the best of its natural ability. Even the most gifted young leaders need a coach or mentor who sees the God-given potential in them, who believes in what God has called them to do, and is willing to invest the time to help them fine-tune their God-given ability. I can remember being a young leader and the spiritual big brothers God placed in my life who saw what God could do and challenged me to live it out. One thing I realize now is that their investment in me required a sacrifice of time and energy.
3) Focus and direction. The fastest race horse also needs an experienced jockey to steer them to victory on the track- otherwise it seems the horse would run aimlessly around the track. Many of these young leaders have a great deal of pent up energy and ideas oozing out of their ears. I believe that those of us who are a little further down the track have a responsibility to give them clear directed opportunities to use their God-given abilities and to live out the ideas and dreams God has placed in their hearts. The tough challenge for me and other leaders will be providing guidance without micromanaging, and providing encouragement without removing young leaders from the necessary struggle and tension of ministry.
All the responsibility is not on experienced pastors and ministry leaders though. If you are a young racehorse leader, you have a responsibility too. You must say yes to the risk. As my good friend Mike Linch from North Star Church says, put your yes on the table. Before you even know where God is leading or what God is asking, are you willing to say yes because you love Him and trust Him? If you look at the people God uses to make an eternal impact, they are not always the most influential, talented, or gifted. But they are the people who have place their yes on the table.
Reality is that when you say yes you won’t know everything you’re getting into, but everything in your life must be negotiable. You won’t have answers to all the questions- you won’t even know all the questions to ask. You’ll be required to take risks and make sacrifices you did not anticipate. This will require having an open hand with God concerning your family, your home, your resources, your career, your security, your plans…
OR you can play it safe. Your God-given ideas may never be implemented. Your divinely inspired dreams will remain dormant. The fire inside of you will smolder instead of being fanned into flame. And one day you may find yourself wondering what if…
But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.
-The Apostle Paul speaking to the leaders of the Ephesian church, Acts 20:24-
...fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
-The Apostle Paul writing to a young leader name Timothy, 2 Timothy 1:6-7-
Pray that I would have eyes to see the young leaders God has placed in my point of contact that I need to invest in.
Pray that God would send more racehorse type leaders to join our work in Burlington, VT.
Pray that our new church would create a culture that cultivates young leaders who impact this world.