October 15th, 2014

Three Important Lessons for Leading in a Rapid Growth Environment

Mac Lake

Mac Lake

(This is a special guest entry by Mac Lake, Auxano Navigator)

This week I spoke with two different pastors who’ve recently built new worship facilities. Within a few short months their churches have doubled in attendance. While they’re thrilled with the growth, they’re now feeling the pain of needing more leaders.

The early church experienced the same type of growth pains. In Acts 6 Luke reports, “the number of disciples was increasing.” While this was a positive development it brought a new set of challenges to the church. In this passage we can find three important lessons for leading in a rapid growth environment.

Lesson #1 Growth always reveals our leadership deficiencies.

“In those days when the number of disciples was increasing the Hellenistic Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food.” – Acts 6:1

The disciples had to be overjoyed with the rapid expansion of the Gospel but others weren’t so happy. The Hellenistic Jews were concerned because their widows were no longer being ministered to at the level they had been previously. There was a sense of caring community that was being lost because of the numerical growth.

Do you see what’s happening? As the growth of the church was going up, ministry quality was going down. And because ministry quality was going down, complaining was going up. It became obvious there were not enough people to do the work. Growth always reveals your leadership deficiencies. And if you don’t address these leadership deficiencies you may lose the growth you gained. When explosive growth takes place classrooms become understaffed, small groups become large groups, new prospects fall through the cracks and people start to feel disconnected. That’s why it’s essential you have a strategy for developing leaders. A clearly defined strategy ensures you have an intentional plan for identifying, recruiting and empowering an ever-expanding base of leaders.

Lesson #2 Growth will require you to make hard choices about what you will and will not do.

“So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables.” Acts 6:2

The Hellenistic Jews wanted the Apostles to do something about the system for caring for their widows. It would’ve been very easy for the twelve to say, “Hey guys, let’s divide this up and each of us take a week, that way each of us only have to distribute food once every three months.” But instead they said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the Word.” The Apostles decided they would not BE the solution. Instead they wisely demonstrated disciplined focus by staying in the zone of their giftedness and calling.

Sometimes when we feel the pain of a leadership shortage we allow ourselves to BE the solution. That’s when growth is stunted. As your church grows one of the biggest temptations for you and your staff is to “do” more ministry rather than develop more leaders. So as you feel the pains of growth make the hard choice about what you will and will not do.

Lesson #3 Focusing on Leadership Development fuels continual growth.

“Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them. So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly.” Acts 6:3,6-7

The Apostles knew in order to sustain growth they had to act in a way that multiplied leaders. So they trained the Hellenistic Jews in a process of identifying and recruiting new leaders. This decision led to seven new men being deployed into leadership. But that wasn’t the biggest win. The biggest win was, “the number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly.” The Gospel moved forward, people were coming to Christ and lives were being changed.

One of the most fundamental things you must do in a growing church is build a culture of leadership development. If you wait until the need is pressing then you are already behind. Talk, pray, prepare and lead as if God is going to bring growth. Doing so will cause you to work with your current leaders to begin producing new leaders for the future.

 

 

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