If we look at the earthly life of Jesus we find that one of the 1st things he did when he began his public ministry was to choose 12 disciples with whom he could find friendship and in whom he could invest for the sake of the kingdom. At 1st they needed a lot of encouragement because although they believed he could be the Messiah and were blown away by his teaching and his miracles, they were far from the finished article. But over the next three years we gradually see Jesus giving them more responsibility along the lines of the following pattern
Stage One – I do, you watch
Stage Two – I do, you help
Stage Three – You do, I help
Stage Four – You do, I watch
After all, stage 4 is a simple way of explaining the Great Commission of Matthew 28 when Jesus basically said to the disciples, ‘The task of making more disciples is now yours, I am returning to heaven – you can do it because you have seen me in action and you have my authority to act.’
St Paul certainly followed this pattern – look at the book of Acts and you will see he was always investing in others, leaving elders behind in the places he had visited, and in Timothy in particular we see a leader who was the direct fruit of his ministry and in whom he continued to invest right up to the end of his life.
And yet the pattern of discipleship in the Church over the years has sometimes erred from this ideal in that too often people have looked to the clergy for leadership and direction, and the clergy have enjoyed a little too much exercising leadership rather than training and delegating. Here at St John’s and St Luke’s we need to make sure we do not fall into this trap. In recent months we have moved from having one full time cleric to having three, and also Jan Johnson will be licensed as to the office of reader on 3rd Oct in Ripon Cathedral (details elsewhere in Focus), and it would be tempting for us to want to give the lead, be involved, at every level of church life and for the laity to allow this to happen.
But rather than behave like this, we need to think instead that our increased leadership capacity should allow us to grow that capacity still further, or, to put it another way, to grow our own leaders. Such leaders will then in time be able to head up existing ministries and hopefully allow us to start new ones so that the kingdom of God can grow further in Bilton.
Of course identifying and growing these leaders will take time, but maybe now is an opportune time to be thinking and praying about whether there are particular skills or ministries you could be being called to exercise in the church. Remember the disciples were far from the finished article when they were 1st called by Jesus, but by staying in close relationship with Him, in time they did become the leaders he knew they could be. Remember that Timothy clearly felt inadequate (see 1 Timothy 4:12) but that Paul still saw in him the gifts to lead a church.
In the meantime we, the ordained leaders, will seek to do our part by investing in you, sharing responsibilities with you, releasing you to exercise leadership at a whole variety of levels for the glory of God. To this end, in January we hope to start the Growing Leaders course, a wonderful resource which does exactly what it says on the tin – see here – Growing Leaders
Then one last thing before I close: as you will recall earlier in the year our Gift Day raised the necessary funds to allow us to repair the heating system at St John’s and install a new sound system at St Luke’s. As far as St John’s in concerned, all has gone well and the hope is that by the end of September the system will be in full working order. Then as far as St Luke’s is concerned, the work has been delayed by the need to apply for a Faculty for the work from the diocese (this is the equivalent of ecclesiastical planning permission). This is in hand and we hope the work will begin soon.