The challenge we face in church today is not just a lack of discipleship of the believers in church, but a lack of discipleship in the leadership as well. Though leaders are the most important people forming the core of the church, they are seldom discipled. One of the most obvious reason is that they have no time to be discipled because they are serving in so many areas in the church. They have so many meetings to attend. Some of them are even facing burn out. Where can they find time for discipleship? Most of the time, they have to use the Bible to feed others, but hardly do they have time to let others feed them.
Another issue is regarding who to disciple them? The obvious answer may be the pastor but this does not happen most of all the time. Besides the fact that the pastor has even more meetings and activities to attend, a more tricky problem is that he may not have the authority to do so. For some churches, the pastor is employed by the church, as such the pastor is at the mercy of the congregation. The elders who are usually lay leaders have more say than the pastor. The pastor can hardly comment on the church. They just act upon the directions from the elders or the board. Hopefully they have a godly group of elders who can put aside their own agendas. If not, the church will just keep debating and voting on every issues based on their human minds rather than discernment from the Spirit. It would be tough to have these elders placed under a discipleship program. Most of them would just hang on to their power in church. Sometimes there are even factions and power struggle.
Another common problem is rotational leadership. Pastors are usually given four to six years terms in a local church before they are transferred to another church. Though it meant well not to let the pastor hog on to his power to build up his own “kingdom”, it also means that the pastor is not close to the people as compared to the lay leaders. As such, the power and authority of the church still lies with the lay leaders. The lay leaders often think that they know the church better than the pastor and therefore think that they have more say about the congregation and have lots of expectations on the pastor. Yet the pastor cannot do much besides the usual pastoral duties on Sunday because the members are under the control of the laity. These lay leaders are also the chairman for various committees in church, and this makes it even more difficult for the pastor to direct the committees. In many cases, the pastor is accused for not doing enough in each area of ministry, where in the first place they have not allowed the pastor to direct their committees.
Then what about the pastors themselves? Who are to disciple them? Of course, the senior pastor can disciple the younger generation of pastors provided that he has the time and put emphasis on the work of discipleship. However, there are many pastors who like to hold on to the power rather than delegate their power. While they know they should train up the younger generation, they are fearful that the next generation would destroy what they have built up. As such, they cannot let go of the church and the young pastors cannot rise up to take the helm. While the main pastor may be very successful and popular, the younger generation of pastors are being suppressed in leadership. These churches do run a high risk because they are built on the faith and charisma of the senior pastors. If the next generation of pastors are not given the opportunity to rise up, the future of the church would be at stake.
There are no easy solutions for the issues above. It would be easier if we all are humble enough to admit that we need to be discipled. However, this is usually not the case. Not all pastors, elders or deacons like to be discipled. They have so many things on their hands. I must say that these leaders are usually very capable. They are very good at getting things done and organising activities. But the downside is that they often neglect the building of their spirituality and character. What they need is to build in time for peer discipleship. Rather than spending so much time in meetings, allocate time to share about what God is doing in their lives and what they are learning from God. It may also help if each has a buddy where there can be more sharing and accountability. It is a time we put aside our titles and designations just to be our brothers’ keepers. It will be good if we are able to do this for different levels of leadership. Remember, the higher we go, the greater is the need for discipleship. Jesus did not get caught up in meetings, but He spent His time discipling people, especially the leaders-to-be. Spiritual leaders are not there just to get things done, they are the ones leading the way in spiritual formation too. If we are serious in growing the kingdom of God and building successions of leaders, we should start discipling the leaders soon.