What if the next Billy or Ruth Graham, Dwight L. Moody or Jonathan Edwards, Chuck Swindoll, Mother Teresa or even a Francis Chan just happened to be a young person in your neighborhood, your class, your ministry, or your church? What would ensure that this future world-changer would be set up for spiritual success? What kind of spiritual foundation would be most helpful for a lifelong, world impacting ministry? What would be the priorities? What would be non-essentials?
When God desires to prepare the next Beth Moore or Rick Warren, would God choose to place such a person in your ministry? That is a question worth asking and a vision worth pursuing. Whether or not God chooses to do so, the most important question is a personal question, “are you willing and available for God to use to set someone else for spiritual success?”
Warren Wiersbe often quoted, “Methods of many, principles are few, methods always change, principles never do.”
We live in a different culture today, so our methods may change, but what are the underlying ministry principles that transcend all cultures and ministry environments? How can we equip the next generation with the core principles that never change, so that they are empowered to use current methods to reach the next generation?
In the early 70’s, Pastor Al Broom (Church Dynamics International) visited over 100 churches, all across the US, looking for one church that best modeled a healthy spiritual environment. At the end of his quest, Al concluded that the best example of a healthy church was only 80 miles away, at “Peninsula Bible Church,” pastored by Ray Stedman. It is not surprising that Pastor Ray Stedman and Peninsula Bible Church was used by God to train a young intern by the name of Charles Swindoll. World changer, Chuck Swindoll was the product of the healthy spiritual environment created by Peninsula Bible Church, Ray Stedman, the Elders and leaders in that healthy church.
The fruitfulness of Peninsula Bible Church, became a model and an inspiration to Pastor Al Broom and his Senior Pastor, Dr. William E. Yaeger as they sought to create the kind of church that would be a leader-breeder environment, in the local church, producing well equipped, God honoring Christian leaders who would one day be launched out into the world, to be part of the world-wide revolutionary movement of establishing the kingdom of God to the ends of the earth.
The ripple effect of Peninsula Bible Church and then First Baptist Church, Modesto is still being felt around the world as former Interns are pastoring churches, running Christian education departments and leading mission organizations around the world. The ministry of these visionary local churches cannot be evaluated solely by local attendance, because only God knows the affect of the investment made in strategic individuals who are ministering in the highways and byways, where no one but God can count the number being impacted.
What can we learn from these churches? What are the timeless principles and ministry strategies that set future leaders up for success? How can a church, in today’s culture, be intentional about investing in the next “Charles Swindoll,” or the next “Beth Moore?” How can the local church provide ministry opportunities for young leaders to cut their teeth in ministry, learning ministry skills, making mistakes, developing spiritual muscles so that they are prepared to weather the formidable challenges that accompany any effective and impactful ministry.
Pastor Al Broom and Dr. William E. Yaeger selflessly and sacrificially chose to invest in the next generation. It would have been much easier and certainly cheaper to do ministry by hiring fully equipped and prepared pastors. They chose to hire fewer pastors, who would invest in Interns and lay people to do the work of ministry. These pastors built teams, reaching ten people who would reach ten people. They initiated a movement of reproducing Christian leaders, allowing opportunities to make mistakes and experiment with ministry ideas and hone skills for a lifetime of fruitful ministry.
Rare is the ministry that is intentional about preparing the next generation, because it is messy and costly and frustrating and often under appreciated and un-noticed, because it is done behind the scenes, where the public is often unaware.
So, what would my life look like if I really believed that the next world changer, the next Billy Graham was in my sphere of influence? In my neighborhood? In my class? In my ministry? I’m not just talking to pastors here, this is a question for every believer who has said “yes” to Jesus’ universal call to make disciples to the ends of the earth. What if every person who bows to the Lordship of Jesus actively and strategically served others by setting them up for spiritual success, helping them get engaged in ministry (serving) as soon as possible? What if every Christ follower saw local church ministry like the farm system of baseball, where young people start with spiritual T-ball, gaining confidence and learning the game. Little league baseball is run by volunteers who give time and energy to young people, teaching them baseball skills, because of the common love of the game of baseball. Those become professional athletes were provided with a well developed track to follow, a pathway leading to a professional career.
So the question becomes, “what will a ministry look like when it is intentional about providing a “spiritual farm system,” a spiritual growth track of best ministry practices and healthy coaching for the benefit of the next generation? What if a church had an army of volunteers who love God and His church, even more than little league parents love baseball?
I’m wondering, where are the churches today that are modeling this type of ministry? Where is the Peninsula Bible Church, or the First Baptist Church, Modesto in our day, that is modeling a healthy leadership development environment where the next generation is being prepared to tear down the gates of Hell, to the glory of God.
Talk to me, what do you think?