Category Archives: Develop Leaders

Free Book Summaries!

I love to read books, but don’t have enough time to read all the books I want to read. A while back I heard about someone who was creating book summaries of great books and I was like, “Yes! I get to digest the important points of some important books, without having to read the entire book!” – and then I found out I had to pay for these book summaries, and I was like, “No! I’m not going to do that!”

But now there is someone giving FREE book summaries. That is AWESOME. Auxano has just launched SUMS, free book summaries created for church leaders.

Auxano is a great friend of ELI and we encourage you to sign-up to receive SUMS.

You Can’t Give What You Don’t Possess

Followers of Jesus should Experience Life in a way that truly makes “the things of this world grow strangely dim.” Yet so few seem to—why? Jesus did not come to take life away, but to bring us a full, overflowing, wellspring of Life that pleases the soul like nothing else on earth can (John 10:10, John 4:10-14). And then we are called to Bring Life to others—to whoever will receive this gift from God. Experiencing Life and Bringing Life.


But you cannot give what you don’t possess I meet way too many Christian leaders who sell a product (Living Water) that they don’t drink.  That’s a sure recipe for either burn out, hypocrisy, or horrible moral failure.  At Gateway Church, we put together Spiritual Outcomes that help a person know what developmental outcomes to shoot for in different seasons, whether Discovering faith, Developing in faith, or Deepening that faith.


But as I look at all the possible outcomes, I’m convinced that three are foundational. Like a 3-legged stool, they form a steady base that can hold weight. So if you do nothing else, get these three spiritual disciplines as habits in your life, and help develop them in your kids and others.


The 3-Legged Stool:

  1. Staying Connected Moment by Moment – Jesus said, “Abide in me [stay connected] and you will bear much fruit, apart from you can do nothing.” (John 15:5) I hope it doesn’t take much convincing that this is important, since Jesus said that apart from this you can accomplish nothing of eternal significance!  Many Christians know about this – it’s called by many names “walking in the Spirit,” “abiding in Christ,” “practicing his presence”—but I find few who truly make an effort to grow daily in greater moment-by-moment connection. Soul Revolution and the 60:60 Experiment ( were written to help us grow in actually doing the one thing Jesus said was most important. I recently came across a new book written on the same topic from a little different perspective, Present Perfect by Greg Boyd.
  1. Feeding on God’s Word – Jesus said we must also “stay connected” to his Words (the Bible reveals God’s will and ways), so that we will can know the truth and be set free. (John 8:31-32)  He said we do not live by bread alone, but every Word that comes from God. (Matthew 4:4)  David declares that the person who meditates on God’s Word day and night is like a tree planted by a stream. It always has an underground Source of nourishment, even in the drought years, so it’s leaves stay green. (Psalm 1:1-3)  Over the last 25 years of ministry, I’ve observed that people who have developed regular habits of feeding themselves from God’s Word (daily reading a chapter, memorizing, meditating on its truths, studying it) keep growing.  Just like physically growing up means we must feed ourselves daily or become unhealthy, so we must feed ourselves spiritually. Anyone who can read or listen to read scripture to them can feed themselves. This idea that you need a Sunday service to “feed me” is the biggest lie that’s ever kept people stunted from growing!
  1. Confessing Community – If the evidence of truly growing to love God is how we love one another (1 John 4:7-9), then you can’t follow God’s Spirit or live out all the commands of Scripture if you are not in close proximity with a few other Christ-followers. If fact, Scripture warns us not to blow off regular meeting together. (Hebrews 10:24-25) Jesus spent most of his time developing 12, and poured even more time into Peter, James, and John. We must learn to live out all the “one anothers” of Scripture, supporting each other to grow up spiritually as we walk in total transparency together (walking in the light as it says in 1 John 1:5-9) and confessing our sins to God and each other because this heals us. (James 5:16)

Don’t try to sit on a 2-legged stool.  You need to be developing in all three practices, and when you begin to develop others—start here!  Help them develop in these three practices: Staying connected to God’s Spirit, feeding on God’s Word in daily ways, and living in loving, confessing community with a few other Christ-followers.

3 Keys to Developing Others

This week we have some great insights from pastor John Burke on how to be an effective people developer. You can read more of John’s thoughts at

“You have a teaching gift, bro.”  “If I do, God made a mistake because I don’t do public speaking.”  That was my exact response to Dave White as a 24-year-old working in the marketplace. Dave was a people developer. He intentionally looked to see how people around him were gifted, or where they needed growth, and then he encouraged them to develop in that area.  If they were willing, he got involved coaching them along the way.

Dave did three things every people-developer does well:

  • Listen – He listened to determine what areas a person could grow in. What gifts need developing? What places does this person seem stuck? Dave listened to me talk about things I was learning, and noticed how excited I got about the thingsI learned.
  • Assess – He assessed and prayed for what God appeared to be doing in that person’s life. What might next steps be to help this person develop? Dave assessed that I had a dormant teaching gift, because I loved to learn and give away what I was learning (often a sign of a teaching gift). But that gift was undeveloped because of my fear of public speaking. He assessed correctly that God wanted it developed.
  • Prescribe – This is the bold step of challenging a person to grow. It must come with lots of prayer to make sure this is God’s agenda and not your agenda, then lots of encouragement, then a few, clear, simple steps to take.

So Dave prescribed a first step of development, “Teach a college workshop on spiritual growth with me. We’ll do it together.” “No, I don’t do public speaking,” was my persistent reply for about a month. That’s where encouragement, prayer, and persistence come in.  Sometimes spiritual strongholds like fear or busyness or self-centeredness require prayer and persistence. Dave kept encouraging me even as I kept saying, “No.”

One day while praying about something totally unrelated, I had a clear thought crash into my head, “When you resist Dave, you resist Me.” Realizing God was using Dave to challenge me to trust Him, I changed my mind and taught the college group.

Dave followed a simple developmental paradigm. We prepared together, and he gave me a small part that I could succeed at doing. I felt like I failed nonetheless, but he gave lots of encouragement. He also challenged me to do it again, and gave me one thing to work on. This continued for about a semester until he finally said, “You’re ready. I want you to speak to 200 people in my place.”  I was horribly terrified, but actually gaining some confidence that if I kept growing, maybe this was a gift God could use.

You might never know the multiplied impact of taking time to spiritually develop another person, but one day God will show you how His Kingdom came life-by-life to earth.  Don’t miss the opportunity to partner with Him in His great people-development enterprise.

Setting the Bar

I attended a very small Jr. High School.  One of the benefits was anyone who was willing, got to play a sport.  There were no tryouts – only invitations to try out a sport so there would be enough players.  Which explains how I ended up on the track and field team as a high jumper.  I still remember what that bar looked like.  If you set it low, you approached it with a confidence that “anyone could jump over this.”  If you set it high, it felt like Impossibility.  No one could jump that high – certainly not me.

One of the most common questions I’ve faced from church planters is: where do you set the bar?  I hear things like:

  • “I met this amazing drummer who wants to play in our band – he also lives with his girlfriend, isn’t sure what he things about Jesus – but he really wants to play.”
  • “There is this great couple who want to join our core team and lead our hospitality ministry, but when I talked with them about our core covenant they said they didn’t think giving 10% was a New Testament thing.”

These are tough questions, but a simple axiom can help you navigate these decisions:

“Lower the bar of community and raise the bar of leadership.”

Many churches have the bar of community set way too high.  To someone on the outside, it looks impossible to get in.  You’d have to perfect like Jesus.  Which is why we say “No Perfect People Allowed.”  There are no perfect people.  Anyone and everyone should feel like it is a place they could belong, make friends and explore faith and even use their gifts to serve others.  So lower the bar of community.

At the same time, it is vital to raise the bar of leadership.  Too often, in a desperate attempt to fill spots, we act like my Jr. High track coach – lowering the bar so anyone can lead.  The problem is that lowering the bar of leadership is ultimately lowering the bar of discipleship.  If you let people lead who are not committed to Jesus nor submitted to His leadership in their own life, you communicate that discipleship isn’t really important.

Doing both simultaneously – lowering the bar of community while raising the bar of leadership –  will help you create a culture where everyone is welcome and everyone encouraged to keep moving towards Jesus.

Developing Leaders

I just returned from a ten day trip with John Burke to Finland, Russia and Estonia.  While there, I had an opportunity to meet with a small group of young adult ministry leaders in the Finnish Lutheran church to talk about developing leaders.  I shared two things with  them.
First is the recognition that most of our understanding of leaders is formed culturally, not Biblically.  I believe our best definition of Biblical leadership comes from Ephesians 4:11-13:

Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers
perfecting of the saints
work of the ministry
edifying of the body of Christ

Thus, a leader equips God’s people to do more serving that results in more people following Jesus and becoming all God intended them to be.

Next is the need for a framework for developing these kind of leaders.  We are using the following model at ELI in developing church planters.

The order is important.  Being must come first.  Developing skills and knowledge in leaders who lack Christ like character will not multiply the kind of leaders the church needs.  In the same way, doing needs to be prioritized over knowing which means we need more training grounds for practice.  Knowledge is best provided just enough, just in time.  I have added the tools dimension to the familiar heart, hands, head metaphor to acknowledge that leaders in various roles need to to know how to use various tools.  The tools don’t make a leader, but they can help a leader be more effective.

What do you think?  What is your definition of Biblical leadership?  How are you developing those kind of leaders?