Life is a constant cycle of seasons and change. Regardless of our occupation, nationality or socio-economic background we will all experience seasons of great change. Often times when we look back on these seasons we don’t even recognize the person we used to be. Sometimes these seasons are full of joy and excitement, sometimes they’re filled with pain and sorrow but most times they’re filled with both. As Christians, we cherish these seasons believing that God is using every moment of every day to draw us closer to himself while making us look more and more like Jesus in the process.
This blog post is about one of those life changing seasons in my life. I spent the last three years serving as a Worship Resident with Austin Stone Worship. I am so grateful for this community and the investment of two men in particular during this season. God used these two men to change my life forever. They invested in my life both through discipleship and leadership development. These two areas of investment often overlap each other so for simplicity we’re going to place them under the umbrella of development.
Over the last few years we’ve seen a resurgence in the priority of the church to develop faithful leaders. “Leadership development” has even become one of those cool buzz words often heard in Christian communities. This is exciting but we must remember that this is not a new phenomenon, but rather an ancient, rich and important command for every follower of Christ.Developing leaders in the church has always played a crucial role to the life and health of the Church. We can find many examples of faithful men leading and commissioning other faithful men to lead the people of God throughout the Bible.
Deuteronomy, Chapter 31 gives us a quick glimpse of Moses’ leadership and commissioning of Joshua. 1 Kings, Chapter 2 walks through King David’s charge to his son Solomon who would soon be crowned king of Israel. The gospels show us the greatest example of leadership development and discipleship the world will ever know as the Savior of the world, Jesus, poured into and taught his 12 disciples (including Judas). In Matthew 28, we have the “Great Commission” in which Jesus sends his disciples out to be the Church and to make more disciples.
Perhaps a more well known example of biblical development is that of Paul and Timothy. The letters of 1st and 2nd Timothy are Paul’s exhortation and charge to a young pastor named Timothy as he leads the church in ancient Ephesus. One of my favorite verses in the Bible comes from 2nd Timothy 2:2, “…what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” Paul’s charge to Timothy is simple – invest your life into faithful men who will then invest in other faithful men, so that the gospel will be preserved for future generations. You and I are followers of Christ because of the many faithful men and women who came before us. It was through their obedience to make disciples that we heard the good news of the gospel and put our faith and trust in Jesus. In the same way you and I are called to make disciples who will make more disciples. God is building his Kingdom through the obedience of faithful men and women who make disciples. The life of our local church depends on discipleship and leadership development. We will die without it.
Again this blog is less about my experience with making disciples, but rather how faithful men have invested in leading and teaching me. During my residency, there were two guys who intentionally poured into and invested in my life. These two guys had different strategies for my development but they were each faithful to my growth. My time with them was one of the most challenging, rewarding and fruitful times of my life. I will walk through five incredibly effective and helpful ways in which these guys invested in my life and development (in no particular order).
1. Focus on the few. So often we are caught up in the number of followers we have and how big is our sphere of influence. We believe the greater our platform, the more people we can influence and the greater impact we’ll have in the kingdom. That wasn’t Paul or Jesus’ strategy. They invested deeply in the few and then called them to do the same. They thought in terms of multiplication rather than addition. By investing in a few these men were able to give me a more of their time and attention.
2. Offer your best. When I began my residency my supervisor gave me the part of his job that he was most excited about. He gave me an opportunity to work on a project of great value and importance. He knew that he could accomplish the same responsibilities more efficiently than I could, but he also regarded the character and leadership growth that would take place in the process of greater value.
3. Character over skill. Both of these men let me know their number one priority was always to help me grow in my love for Jesus and my obedience to his word. If I learned nothing more about music and leading worship with an instrument in my hand but I grew in my love for Jesus, then my time as a resident was a success in their eyes. This was difficult at first because I wanted to immediately work more on the practical aspects of leading worship, but they wanted my heart and character to reflect that of Jesus’ from a stage as well as when no one was looking. We eventually dove into musicality, but I am so grateful for their investment in my character and love for Jesus first. I am a far better worship leader because of their investment in my heart and character.
4. Be available. I can’t count how many times I received texts or phone calls from them to let me know they were praying specific prayers for me. They prayed for me in ways I didn’t even know I needed to be praying. They were available for me daily to have fun, confess sin, talk through life decisions, and to have open and honest conversations. Their love and commitment to me has impacted my life in more ways than they will ever know.
5. Be patient but always challenging. Both of these men knew my skill set and deficiencies well. I was given opportunities and projects that they knew I would knock out of the park but they also allowed me to be in situations that I could potentially fail. Times of hardship and failure have shown themselves to be the best times to teach, challenge and encourage. They were honest and patient with me all the while continuing to give me more responsibility and more opportunities to grow and improve. God used their patience, honest feedback and new opportunities to grow me as a Christ follower and worship leader.
This was one of the most challenging, rewarding and fruitful seasons of my life. Because of these men and their faithfulness and investment in my life, I feel far better equipped and ready to lead and serve the people of God in whatever avenue the Lord brings me.
Because “all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Jesus,” Matthew 28:19 isn’t just a suggestion to make disciples, it’s a command for all believers. But also be reminded that in the very next sentence he promises to always to be with us. Jesus’ command for us to make disciples is not a buzz-kill but rather it is an invitation for our greatest joy. King David says in Psalm 16:11, “… in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
Spend some time praying this week asking God to bring you individual(s) to invest your life in and disciple. Also, ask him to remind you often that your investment in others is not only for God’s glory and the church’s edification, but it is also for your utmost joy.
If you are interested in learning more about the Austin Stone Worship Residency click here.