God uses a multitude of environments to develop leaders, but there is nothing like the Church. Because the whole world is His, the Lord can use any environment to develop and mature His people, but the Church is the best at developing leaders for at least four reasons
The Church is divinely designed to endure and develop others. Christ started His Church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome Her. Nations, organizations, and institutions will come and go, but the Church will endure. As the Church endures, the Church will disciple and develop others. God has designed and commanded His Church to make disciples. Developing others is in the Church’s DNA. We are not reverse-engineering development into who we are.
Heritage of Development
We are a part of a long and beautiful lineage of God-followers multiplying. Moses developed Joshua, Elijah trained Elisha, Paul invested in Timothy, and Jesus focused His ministry on His disciples. The Church was birthed in a discipleship paradigm, a culture where rabbis invested in their disciples. God’s people have always multiplied. The faith has always, by God’s grace, been transferred from one generation to the next, from one person to another. Developing others is deeply connected to what it means to be a Christ-follower. We are Christians because others have shared the gospel with us. We have matured because others have helped develop us.
Focused on Character
Research continually shows that character matters. For example, the recent leadership book Return on Character is based on research that reveals better performing companies are led by leaders who are seen as being filled with integrity, compassion, and forgiveness. While some business analysts push for ROI (return on investment) metrics, the authors believe that a case can be made for ROC (return on character).
Yet many of the books about integrity and character quickly degenerate into challenges and techniques for leaders to grow their own character, to discipline themselves to become stronger in integrity. We know these challenges are futile. Only Jesus can transform the heart. Only He has the power to form us into people who are filled with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The Church, because of Jesus, develops leaders whose character has been transformed.
Army of Volunteers
John Maxwell has observed that one way to know the strength of a leader is to give the leader volunteers to lead. It is much easier to get people moving in a direction when a paycheck and vacation time are involved. It takes much greater leadership skill, passion, and credibility to mobilize and rally volunteers around a shared mission. Leadership development in the Church gives leaders an opportunity to lead volunteers, to learn how to lead with a moral authority and not positional authority, a compelling mission and not an organizational chart, clear direction and not perks. Those who lead other volunteers in the Church are being developed in ways that help them in other spheres of life.