I see a 20 to 50-year view of GNJ, and I am encouraged.
I grew up in a working-class Philadelphia community in which four people, all the same age, went on to significant leadership. Jimmy Bagian became an astronaut and logged 337 hours of space travel. Jerry McGinn became a head referee for college football and refereed 10 bowl games including the Rose and Orange Bowls and the National Championship. Dennis Ourlian became a captain and commanding officer in the U.S. Navy, leading strategic commands for the military. And I became a bishop of The United Methodist Church, the only slacker in the bunch. It is pretty remarkable that the four of us grew up at the same time, in the same neighborhood and all rose to significant leadership positions.
There have been sports teams who have generated championship teams year after year and organizations and companies that have been leaders in their field for decades.
Why does this happen?
This is the second in a five-part series on building and growing a regenerative church conference that is constantly generating:
- Passionate faith
- Transformative Leaders
- Vital missional congregations
- Money, and lots of it, for mission
Organizations can achieve important results and lead their fields for decades because they focus on developing a culture, mechanisms or processes that help them thrive and do a number of things well. In the church, this includes developing regenerative systems in the areas of faith, leadership, congregations and money. All four are critical to a sustainable mission.
Today I want to talk about leadership. Leadership is key to the health and growth of the church. Not only leadership at the top but leadership throughout the church. In a conference like GNJ, we need to consistently raise up, call, equip and support transformational leaders for a healthy GNJ that is making new disciples and growing vital congregations for the transformation of the world.
In my hometown in the Olney section of Philadelphia, these four leaders were made. In this community very few of our parents went to college, and yet cultivating young people who pursued challenging goals was woven into the fabric of the community. Parents encouraged their children to participate in extracurricular activities and supported them. There were high expectations of children. You worked hard, were encouraged to achieve and parents supported you. One or both of my parents came to every football game I played from the time I was seven-years-old through college. My neighborhood had a culture of developing the skills of leadership during the time I was growing up.
This same culture was infused in the United Methodist Church my family went to in our neighborhood. Over a 20-year period, 15 clergy were produced. One is the General Secretary of Archives and History, and also grew up three blocks from where I lived. Another is the head of the Salvation Army in Indiana. Another heads a church organization, and others went on to be missionaries and pastors.
Organizations, including the church, can cultivate leadership year after year. When they stop, the organization begins to decline.
Recently, I have been talking with clergy about being apostolic leaders who have a clear mission, wisdom and determination just as the leaders of the first-century church had.
Attributes of today’s apostles can be understood through three characteristics – the spirit, skills and attitude of apostles.
- Spirit of Apostles – Risk taker, Innovator, Courageous, Collaborator, and Creative problem solver. Apostles have a unique spirit.
- Skills of Apostles – Builder, Developer, Explorer, and Organizer. Apostles create something that grows the mission and people.
- Attitude of Apostles – Encourager, Investor, Leader of leaders and Coach. Apostles see everyone as a potential leader and pour themselves into the development of people.
Apostles inspire people, create a bigger mission, develop people and organize the church to accomplish the mission.
Cultivating and sustaining this type of leadership today is not too unlike the community I grew up in. Setting high expectations, believing in and supporting your emerging leaders give them lots of opportunities and allow them to fail. Support them when they fail, encourage them to excel beyond their accomplishments, and give them increasing challenges.
Jesus was an apostolic leader. So were Peter and Paul. Each of them had their detractors, and each sought to develop the people around them. They never gave up, and they always lifted up the people around them. They developed new apostles by calling, equipping, challenging and supporting them.
I call upon each of our churches to spot potential leaders and prayerfully call, equip, challenge and support them. I challenge each of our congregations to give permission for your pastor to be more apostolic and to continue to support and challenge them to develop their leadership to lead the congregation to engage in and grow more fully the mission.
In GNJ we are developing new leadership resources that create a culture of leadership, spot and call new leaders and grow our leaders to be like Christ in their attitude, skills and spirit. It is still taking shape and will include:
- Developing leaders holistically through a lay leadership development process. .
- Working with young people prior to seminary and while in seminary – our Mosaic Ministries.
- Targeting three different groups of clergy with a comprehensive leadership development program :
- Supporting, challenging and using our most apostolic leaders to work in developing other clergy.
- Working with clergy who are serving well and want to become apostolic leaders.
- Working with our clergy who have not been performing well through intense skill development, growing knowledge of what to do and focus on and laser coaching that increases awareness and challenges clergy to excel.
If GNJ is to have a strong mission in 20-50 years, it will be through effective apostolic lay and clergy leadership. It will take all of us working together to develop a leadership culture that cultivates attitude, skill and spirit. I hope you will keep GNJ in your prayers as we develop our leaders.
Keep the faith!
The United Methodist Church
Greater New Jersey