The church needs leaders – always has and always will. So where do church leaders come from?

In recent decades we’ve witnessed an enormous push to develop leaders within the church. Much of this has been influenced by the leadership development movement in the marketplace – which hasn’t been a bad thing. The church has needed to increase it’s leadership game, so we shouldn’t diss or dismiss the movement. To be honest, I’ve got an entire shelf of leadership books in my personal library. I’ve also had my fill of leadership conferences and even have a graduate degree in organizational leadership and management. So, yeah, I think leadership is important.

But I’d like to propose that the starting point for finding and making great leaders, in the church, is the path of discipleship. It doesn’t begin by sending somebody to a leadership conference.

When you read about Jesus in the gospels, you discover two significant groups of people who chased after him: the crowd and the disciples. The crowd was the mob who shadowed Jesus during his Palestinian ministry tour. Some were captivated by his teachings, others by his miracles. But at the end of the day, the crowd was somewhat fickle. They sometimes laughed at Jesus in their unbelief, or walked away when he spoke hard truths. In the end, it was the crowd who called for Pilate to crucify Jesus.

Out of the crowd, Jesus called his disciples. He didn’t pull his punches with the masses. There was no soft-peddling of hard truths. He called them to come and die, and to step into his new life. This meant – to borrow the often used distinction – they needed to stop being fans and become followers, fully devoting themselves to Jesus and his teachings. If you want a good dose of his message for the crowd, check out Luke 14:25-35.

Many people responded to this call and followed him wholeheartedly. It was from this larger pool of disciples that Jesus called The Twelve. These men would have a unique role to play in Jesus’ kingdom movement. They would become the future leaders of the church, heralding the good news to the ends of the earth.

For Jesus, the starting point for leadership development was discipleship. The apostles were disciples first, leaders second.

Over the years, I’ve observed that the best leaders are, first and foremost, disciples. They succeed because…they’re a lot like Jesus. They’re loving, courageous, and good. They’re committed and sacrificial. They’re emotionally healthy and relationally connected. When we live like Jesus and lead like Jesus, we impact the world around us.

What would it look like if the church made discipleship its primary objective? What women and men could we discover, to lead in the kingdom movement of Jesus? Who would naturally rise to the surface?