Often ministry leaders will ask, “What do you do for discipleship?” and then a few moments later ask, “What do you do for leadership development?”—as if the two are mutually exclusive. This is a grave mistake. While it may be helpful to view leadership development as advanced discipleship or as a subset of discipleship, it is detrimental to view leadership development as distinct from discipleship. Here are three reasons:
Discipleship is the only means.
God has designed the end and the means. The end is people from every tribe, tongue, and nation gathered around the throne worshiping Him because they were purchased with the blood of Christ (Revelation 5:9-10). We live with the command Jesus gave us: Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19). The means to this glorious end is not leadership development apart from Jesus. The means is not leadership development divorced from discipleship. The means is discipleship. He has commanded us to make disciples of all nations, disciples who will obey everything He commanded.
Discipleship impacts all of life.
To view discipleship as distinct from leadership development is to propose that discipleship does not impact all of one’s life. If a church approaches leadership development as distinct from discipleship, the church unintentionally communicates a false dichotomy—that one’s leadership can be divorced from one’s faith. Being a Christian leader must not be positioned as disconnected from living a godly life in Christ Jesus.
Leadership development apart from discipleship becomes overly skill-based.
If leaders are developed apart from Jesus, the emphasis is inevitably on skills and not the heart transformed through Christ. Divorcing leadership development from discipleship can leave people more skilled and less sanctified. And when competency and skill outpace character, leaders are set up for a fall. We don’t serve people well if we teach them how to lead without teaching them how to follow Jesus. We don’t serve leaders well if we develop their skills without shepherding their character.
Leadership development apart from being a disciple of Jesus always results in skills apart from character, in performance apart from transformation. Don’t divorce the two.