I attended Leadership Network’s Innovation3 Conference last week in Carrollton.
I had the opportunity to share a table with Neil Cole at a luncheon he was hosting to talk about his book Organic Church.
The basic premise of the book is that church is most the church when it is small and highly reproductive. Cole focuses on making disciples who make disciples and start new churches – even in the confines of people’s homes or in coffee shops.
Cole is a part of a resource network called Church Multiplication Associates (CMA) and calculates that CMA on average sees two new churches planted every day (that’s right, it adds up to 730/year).
We’ve been facing leadership development challenges in the Storyline Community — in a good way. More people are participating than we have leaders to lead.
So, wondering what might be ahead for us, I asked Mr. Cole: “How long does it take before a person becomes a disciple and is able to lead and care for a house church?”
Cole said, “Well, that’s easy: 3 years, 6 months, 29 days, 8 hours, 22 seconds.”
And he stared at me.
Then he put his hand on my shoulder and said, “You know I’m making fun of you, right?”
I said, “Yeah, I got that.”
He went on to say that there’s no formula or identical pattern for developing leaders.
Then he said something very profound that I’ve been chewing on this week.
“In the institutional paradigm, leadership development is about getting people to do something for you (e.g., lead a group, teach a class, preach a sermon, develop curriculum, etc.).
“In an organic paradigm, leadership development is discipleship. Leadership is about following Jesus so closely that other people want to follow you because they think by doing so they might also be able to follow Jesus more closely. Skills and logistics flow out of a disciple’s relationship with Jesus.”
Then he put in a plug for his new book, Organic Leadership.
He’s right. The easy part is teaching people the skills of event planning, conversation facilitation and connecting with people.
The hard part is seeing passion for God cultivated in people such that it’s contagious and other people follow because they want that passion.
It challenges me as a leader, too. Am I contagious? Are people following because they see a passion for God in me that they want? Am I a person of character?
Those are much deeper questions than “Can I run a leadership development group well?”
I thanked Neil Cole for being patient with me. I’m still deprogramming from institutional ways of envisioning leadership.