by Steve Cordle
Thanks to Jeff Tunnel for filling in for me last week! He prompted a great question about whether it is ever OK to fast-track people into leadership. When we have a defined equipping track, is there ever a time we should let people start leading a cell without completing it, or fulfilling requirements like church membership. Let me spin off that question for a moment.
Personally, I don’t allow someone to start leading who has not gone through our membership class and taken the membership vow. Why? Most people don’t avoid membership because it’s meaningless – they avoid it because of what it means. If they know we ask leaders to be members (and therefore know and agree with the church’s vision and values), their refusal to do so indicates they will not be good ambassadors of our vision and values.
However, in recent years there have been several times I have encouraged people who havenâ€™t completed the equipping track to start leading anyway – provided they commit to going through the equipping track while they get started. Coaches can provide on the spot instruction and encouragement. Iâ€™m comfortable with this as it allows non-linear growth.
I believe one can fast-track learning, to an extent. What one cannot fast-track is discipleship and spiritual growth. So the main question for me is not whether the person has been through the equipping track (we can take care of that in lots of ways), but rather, how solid are they spiritually? We donâ€™t want to â€œlay hands on someone too hastily.â€
The times I have regretted fast-tracking someone are not the equipping track flexes, but rather when someone starts out of the gate spiritually fast and I move them into leadership, only to find their spiritual immaturity comes back to bite me.
When is a person spiritually ready? Itâ€™s hard to quantify, but a good equipping track gives the time, experiences and the learning which promote that readiness. One can make the case that someoneâ€™s refusal to submit to membership indicates aimmaturity (or woundedness) that one wouldnâ€™t want to spread. The desire to start serving right away is great – but a truly mature person will understand the need to walk through the process. They can also start evangelizing, discipling, and serving in the group context even before they are a leader.