The other night I had a dream.
I was working for a church and the leader took me aside and showed me an architectural map of the church, this wasn’t a map of the church building but rather the ministries that existed. Then he told me that he had made me a shareholder – he pointed to a section of the map and said that he had given me the shares in this area. As soon as I received the knowledge that I was a co-owner my mind was filled with all sorts of supernatural vision and wisdom for this area of ministry. I began to plan, dream, build like never before.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the significance of this dream especially in the area of spiritual inheritance and the importance of releasing leaders within the church.
The Leadership Crisis
A few days before having this dream spiritual inheritance had been on my mind. I had spent some time over coffee with a dear friend in ministry who was sharing about their frustrations with feeling the lack of inheritance and release coming their way. I also happened on a fantastic preach by Danny Silk from Bethel Church on ‘Momentum’. This was a talk that unpacked the need to keep pursuing spiritual inheritance. My heart felt stirred. This is a topic I wholeheartedly believe in and yet I’ve yet to experience its effect in the UK church.
I had felt bugged for days and the thing that had been bugging me was that in my experience at least, there has been a sheer lack of releasing the young emerging leaders into senior positions of leadership within the church. It wouldn’t bug me if these leaders had little experience, or if they were still lacking in maturity but by in large they have hit a ceiling – they are experienced, they have entered spiritual maturity and they either need to get released or they will leave.
There is a leadership crisis in the church today but it’s NOT that there aren’t up and coming leaders. Rather in my opinion the crisis is that wisdom is not being applied in knowing when and how to transition leaders into seniority. Shares are not being handed over, there are little prospects and what was given to the generation currently in senior leadership is not being replicated to the one underneath.
There are of course exceptions where there is opportunity to flourish in church leadership. Most seniority are looking for todays young talents in the areas of worship leading, youth leading and urm youth leading. But if you are called to strategy, planning, master building, teaching and direction the door seems firmly shut with a big fat sign that says “come back when your 50”.
One of my best friends son is a farmer. Her parents are farmers and her son is now following in the family tradition. He studied veterinary science and for the last two years he has been working on his granddads farm. A couple of months ago his grandfather wrote him into the deeds of the farm making him a co-owener. Because of this he’s committed. Because of this he’s coming up with ideas that will bring this farm into the modern world. I asked his mum what difference would it have made if he had just remained a worker – she said that he would have reached a point where he would have left and either started his own or worked where the prospects were better.
If senior church leaders do not radically rethink their strategy for releasing leaders into seniority within the church, we will see the current church be abandoned by a highly gifted passionate up and coming leadership – they will not build on what has already been built they will start afresh and build their own as it will be the only way they will be able to grow as leaders. Spiritual Inheritance will be cut off and we will all be the worse for it.
Of course in this article I am speaking broadly, there are pockets within the UK church where this is happening. A big thank-you to those leaders who are releasing. If you’re feeling that what I’m saying is a bit harsh and disrespectful, please believe me, I truly am someone who values the senior generation in ministry. I understand the need to serve as a young leader. I understand the need to learn from those older than us. But I also understand (to some degree at least) the spiritual connection between generations and the benefits that can come if specific things are done and done well. One of those things I believe is this transition from worker/apprentice to shareholder. It’s the time in a leaders life of commission where their calling is actualized and verified by their spiritual fathers.
So what’s to be done and further more what can we learn?
First things first, let’s get the vision
Before I begin with the how I think we need to look at the why. If we don’t understand the benefits of spiritual inheritance and more specifically releasing leaders within the church, then we probably won’t bother to embrace it.
I believe there are spiritual treasures that are available, things that we will only get if we take up the process of spiritual inheritance. This treasure will benefit;
- the leader released
- the senior leader doing the releasing
- the wider church body
Firstly let’s start with the leader being released. Going back to my dream, once I had become a shareholder I began to operate on a new dynamic level. In the dream I had already been working within this organisation – but as soon as the promotion came I began to have a hightend spritual gifting in the gifts I was already operating in. The most important thing to say here is that this is not an issue of human promotion but instead a spiritual one. There might very well be human benefits that come along with being released into senior leadership; more influence, more favor etc but the main benefit for the person being released is spiritual promotion.
Biblically its the double portion principle thats evident in the Elijah/Elisha duo. The recipient no longer is just operating in their own gifting, authority and annointing. When a significant transition happens such as commission, a spiritual alignment takes place where they inherit the spiritual equity of their senior. In theory if this happened we would see the gifts and anointing on leaders increase as each generation succeeded the other. In real terms; my children’s children should be seeing a greater degree of healing, prophetic revelation, insight, wisdom, faith and knowledge than I am currently experiencing.
For the senior leader there too is spiritual benefit. Its called legacy. If their whole life is devoted to personal success and personal ministry then at the end of that life that will be their legacy. For some this is quite significant! However, for the person who understands and embraces spiritual inheritance their legacy comes under supernatural multiplication. If spiritual inheritance and release is done properly (through relationship) the person (s) that you release, carries a part of your spiritual DNA. Which means that all of the things that they achieve and do through their ministry are partly accredited to you.
The church body obviously benefits too because lets not forget the whole point of church leadership; to serve and equip the body making them great and successful in their ministry in the world. The more gifting, annointing and authority that rest on our five-fold church leadership should have an impact on making the saints more potent in the callings that God has for them all over the world. It’s the Matthew 10:41 principle of gaining the prophets reward.
The art recognizing spiritual callings
Every Christian has a calling. It’s who they are and where they are meant to be operating. Sometimes (I believe) people have more than one calling and/or their callings develop through life. Every calling is as important as the next. There is no hierarchy or at least there shouldn’t be. The main thing is that each of us make sure we get to fulfill our calling in life because if we don’t do it no-one else will. Unfortunately this truth has been distorted in our western church. Church leadership ‘calling’ has been elevated to an unhealthy degree, it has wrongly been assumed by many as a place for the spiritual elite. The truth is that there is no higher calling than being a Christian in the world and until the return of Jesus a very small amount of Gods people are ‘called’ to serve the church in leadership. It involves leading God’s people to discover their own calling and equipping them to be great at that call. These people will be teachers, pastors, apostles, prophets and evangelists. In my opinion these people are not meant to be the superstars but rather coaches that dedicate their life to the raising up of others.
In this article I’m looking at this very small section of people called by God into Church leadership. Recognizing and releasing the callings that are on the majority of Christians life is equally as important but it is a topic for another article.
The first thing to say is that not all of Gods next generation church leadership will come through established routes. While I’m writing this I’m realizing more and more how broad a issue this truly is. With the amount of different denominations that exist representing the body of Christ, there are also many different paths for leaders. However, as I am sure most church leaders know, the denominational system is becoming more and more fluid as a generation rises that does not feel the need to identify themselves with a particular Christian culture but rather with Christ. The average Christian under 30 may well have had many experiences of differing denominations.
Even in the last five years this has had an impact on church leadership. Models and systems are changing and adapting to embrace people from different backgrounds. I guess if the next generation of Church leadership means something to us we must be aware that they might not come through our man -made systems. Are we prepared to look out for the unlikely candidates ? Are we prepared to recognize ‘calling’ that can exist outside of our training perimeters?
When we look at the biblical stories of leadership release they were prophetically driven, sealed with the Spirit and often involve unusual candidates. Elisha, King David, the 12 Apostles and the Apostle Paul to name a few. In most biblical cases leaders were recognized by others not self appointed. It seems to me that we have lost the art of recognizing spiritual calling and instead relied on a human systems of bible college, university degrees and different versions of leadership training to select our five-fold ministry leaders of the future. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for education, but biblically it is not the marker for someone to become a leader to serve the church.
I believe what is needed right now is for the senior church leader to rediscover spiritual recognition. Senior church leaders need to get close with the Father and ask for a spiritual ability that helps them identify and discern the callings that He has placed upon His kids. Once they get that revelation, their job is to empower that calling.
From Calling to Commission
There is definitely a period of time from ones calling to commission. Once again biblical stories of leaders show this. There is a time of learning, growing, failing, and serving that every called leader must go through. A time when even though they feel called by God they are not yet appointed by man. This time is often a character shaping stage of ministry and is essential for the future. Peter is a great example of this. He was called by Jesus while he was still a fisherman, he followed Jesus for 3 years and finally the risen Jesus commissioned him to be an apostle of the church.
However just as much as this learning time is all important to the persons development so too is the need to get appointed or commissioned. Timing for this is crucial. I believe there is a prime time for this to happen. Is it possible for us not only to embrace commission but also discern the right time in a person’s ministry for this to happen?
It seems that callings are either released or held back by God’s aspiration to partner with us in His unfolding plan. He has chosen for us to live in a family environment, not as independent ministers and because of this very fact we each have an effect on each others calling. This is why it is so vital that we realize the role we have to play. Senior leaders ought not only be able to recognize the callings on peoples life’s but they should be able to discern the right time to appoint and commission.
I was recently moved by the wisdom that came from Bethel church California where such a commission happened. Bill Johnson the senior leader along with an incredible leadership team commissioned Eric and Candace Johnson to take over as Senior Pastors of Bethel Church. Eric is 35 years old and has been working on leadership under his father Bill’s leadership for some years now. They held a commissioning service where they explained the vision for this. As Eric and Candace have been given this equity and stepped up into senior leadership of the local church, Bill Johnson and others have been released to give more time to the world wide movement. Everyone wins, including the local church.
Are you a Saul or a David?
The big question is are you going to be a Saul or a David? It’s a question you can only really ask yourself. Its a question I ask myself a lot.
King Saul was so insecure by the end of his Kingship that the only thought on his mind was to jealously guard what God had given him.
King David on the other hand spent his life building up enough resources that his children had more than a chance to succeed.
Personally I don’t want to wait until my 60’s to ask myself this question. For me it starts now. I’m 35 years old and I want to embrace a lifestyle of spiritual inheritance – giving away to others what God has given me. I don’t want to be bound by a poverty mindset, I don’t want to approach releasing leaders under me with human wisdom. I don’t want to say with my lips I’m a David but with my actions actually be a Saul. I want to make those younger than me, whose call is like mine to serve the church, shareholders.