What if the next Chuck Swindoll, Billy or Ruth Graham, Dwight L. Moody or Jonathan Edwards, 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, in your sphere of influence? 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 up for spiritual success?”
Ministry today is not getting any easier. Do a Google search on any currently famous spiritual leader and you will uncover all kinds of gossip, lies and accusations on even the best of leaders.
David Paul Tripp authored a wonderful book entitled, “Dangerous Calling.” Reading this book will make anyone question the wisdom of entering full time Christian service. Others have counseled young men and women, “make sure that God is calling you into ministry, if there is anything else that you see yourself doing, then do it.” Everyone is called into ministry, but there are those who are called into full time Christian service, partnering with Jesus to build the kingdom of God. Being on God’s team is the greatest privilege anyone can imagine. Seeing lives change as God works and transforms lives as only He can do, is the greatest job on the planet.
Working with people who are working in-the-name-of God, can be either one of the greatest experiences imaginable, but it also can be the most difficult, disappointing and heartbreaking journeys in life. The Crusades and the Inquisition are examples of people justifying horribly tragic actions in the name of serving God. Our cussed humanness has a way of fouling up even the best of intentions.
So how do we prepare young people to walk with God for a lifetime, avoiding the very real temptation to become cynical and bitter when close friends aren’t even on the level of Job’s friends?
Warren Wiersbe often quoted, “Methods of many, principles are few, methods always change, principles never do.”
There are never changing, God honoring principles that provide a solid foundation for ministry in any generation. Certainly we live in a different culture today, so our methods may change, but what are the underlying ministry principles that transcend all cultures, locations and ministry environments and ministry sizes? How can we equip the next generation with the core principles that never change, so that they are empowered to use and adjust current methods to reach theeir 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 healthiest church was only 80 miles from him, 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. This intern, the product of PBC, has been called the “Evangelical Pope,” because of his far reaching, world impacting influence. Is it any wonder that Chuck Swindoll was prepared for ministry in a healthy spiritual environment under the tutelage of Pastor Ray Stedman? Ray Stedman saw the value of investing in young pastors who would one day leave Peninsula Bible Church and change the world.
The fruitfulness of Peninsula Bible Church, became a model and an inspiration to First Baptist Church, Modesto, to Pastor Al Broom and Senior Pastor, Dr. William E. Yaeger as they sought to create the kind of church that would be a leader-breeder, producing well equipped, God honoring Christian leaders who would one day be launched into the world, to be part of the world-wide revolutionary movement of expanding the kingdom of God to the ends of the earth.
The ripple effect of Peninsula Bible Church and First Baptist Church, Modesto is still being felt around the world as former interns are pastoring churches, running Christian education departments and leading effective mission organizations. The ministry of these two visionary, local churches cannot be evaluated solely by the size of Sunday services, because only God knows the affect of the investment made in strategic individuals who launched out and are ministering in the highways and byways of the world, where no one but God can count the eternal impact. There are para-church organizations, like Young Life, Youth for Christ and Teen Mania who understand what it means to reach and equip the next generation, but churches should be the pace-setters in this regard.
What can we learn from these two effective leader-breeder, next generation 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. Yet isn’t that how Jesus his ministry. He invested his life in a few chosen men who would provide leadership for the church after his departure from this planet.
How would a ministry be designed, that fully expected the next world changer, the next Billy Graham was in its sphere of influence? What if believers began to have eyes of faith for those in the neighborhood? In the classroom? 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 involved in ministry (serving) and prepared them with ministry principles that survive the test of time in every culture?
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 learn the fundamentals of game, serving them well no matter the level of success in baseball. 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 who become professional athletes were provided with a well developed track to follow, a pathway leading to a professional career. It is an organization where everyone is given an opportunity to get in the game and take a swing at the plate.
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 complimented by healthy spiritual coaching for the benefit of the next generation?
Where are the churches today that are modeling this type of ministry? Where is the next Peninsula Bible Church? Where is the next First Baptist Church, Modesto in our day? Who is the gold standard in preparing the next generation of world changers? If you find a ministry that is engaged in this kind of ministry, it will be run by leaders who are mature in the faith, sacrificial and visionaries who see beyond the here and now. It will be a messy ministry, but full of life and the joy of trying new things by faith. As Craig Groeshell states, “to reach people who have never been reached we need to do things that have never been done.”
Brent Dolfo from Leadership Network recently spoke on the Unseminary Podcast with Rich Birch. When asked about who is doing the best job of developing leaders, Brent responded, “…I think the guys that I really would talk about would be the guys at Community Christian in Chicago, Dave and John Ferguson, The NewThingNetwork that hosts the Exponential Conference. Those guys have done a really good job of creating a passion within their people, in that, “We’re here to help people find their way back to God,” and there’s so many pockets around Chicago that people need to find God, there’s so many churches we need to plant in the world. So everybody grows up with this idea that the only way we’re going to get there is if we develop leaders with passion and giftedness and calling that can go and do those things and they do a fabulous job with that.”
Why do we develop leaders? Because our ever expanding vision to help people find and follow Jesus cannot be accomplished without continually multiplying the number of leaders necessary to reach our goals.