development

A number of years ago, Wilkesboro Baptist restated our church’s mission. We affirmed publicly that our mission is to lead our neighbors and the nations to follow Jesus. This mission statement is essentially Jesus’ commission to his followers in Matthew 28. In affirming this mission, we articulated four specific mission steps for accomplishing this mission: worship, learn, serve, replicate. I’ve written on this subject here on my blogpost on multiple occasions and written a book entitled Commissioned as an explanation for how we as a church will lead our neighbors and the nations to follow Jesus.

Our four mission steps direct our programming and activity decisions and describe a process for helping members to live on mission.

  • To worship means that we gather to celebrate and declare the glory of God and his gospel through song, sermon, and ordinances.
  • To learn means that we join with other believers in Sunday school classes, discipleship groups, and doctrinal studies to deepen our faith in doctrine and devotion.
  • To serve means that each member at WBC is gifted and designed to serve in our church, community, and the world in worshiping God and spreading the gospel.
  • To replicate means that we are to replicate the life of Christ in other believers by inviting them to worship, learn, serve, and follow Christ.

Worshiping, learning, and serving are typical steps or programs in the life of nearly any church. But the church does not merely exist to be active in programs, the church exists to make disciples: to lead our neighbors and the nations to follow Jesus. To replicate is to make disciples. Making disciples is the imperative command from Jesus to his followers in Matthew 28:18-20.

Our church can worship, learn, and serve without fulfilling our mission. In order to fulfill our mission, we must replicate the life of Jesus to others. In our context replicating takes place when we invite others into a faith relationship with Jesus Christ. Here’s an example from our worship step. Just recently one of our high school seniors invited her boyfriend to worship with her at church. He began attending and was convicted about his need for Jesus. We met and talked about his need for salvation, and he committed his life to become a follower of Jesus. That is replicating. Someone was invited to worship with us, and upon hearing the gospel, he became a follower of Jesus.

Here’s an example from our learning step. We recently had a faithful Sunday school class birth (replicate) a new class at church. That new class is already full. In that class are multiple discipleship groups that recently birthed new discipleship groups. When a class births or a discipleship group births, we are replicating opportunities where members can learn to follow Jesus.

Here’s an example from our serving step. Nearly all of our adult Sunday school classes have a co-teacher model. We do this for practical reasons. It is healthier for a class not to have a teacher expected to prepare and teach every week of the year. Co-teaching creates rest for the primary teacher. Also, co-teaching adopts a model where teachers are being replicated within Sunday school classes readying the classes to birth. When we serve together we are helping others to follow Jesus.

These steps have been instrumental in the health and mission at Wilkesboro Baptist. But these steps have left me with a serious question:

If it is healthy for our servants and leaders to replicate in their groups and teams, then how do I as the Senior Pastor model replicating in my calling and ministry?

As a follower of Jesus, I seek to accomplish each of these steps in my Christian walk by inviting others to worship, helping them to learn, and equipping them to serve. But how do I replicate as a pastor?

I believe that having a plurality of elders is the God-ordained means for me to replicate the life of Jesus into others by developing them as pastors and elders. With a plurality of elders, I will have the opportunity to invest in staff and lay elders with the goal of replicating the life of Christ in those who will lead our church. In essence, affirming a plurality of elders at Wilkesboro Baptist Church is the next step in our church’s acceptance of our mission: leading our neighbors and the nations to follow Jesus.

As I’ve thought about this, what better way to fulfill our church’s mission than to raise up lay and staff elders within our congregation whose very calling is to lead others to follow Jesus by shepherding them?

Last summer, our staff led a pastor’s forum that included our summer intern and some young men called to pastor. Those forum conversations were encouraging and insightful for all involved. These kinds of forums and leadership conversations are things we can continue for staff and lay elders as well as pastoral interns and other potential elder candidates.

Here are some examples of what replicating leadership could look like:

  • Staff and lay elders (hereafter, just elders) will gather regularly for prayer and spiritual development.
  • Elders will work through leadership decisions together.
  • Elders will be empowered to shepherd the congregation and to make ministry decisions.
  • Ministers, pastors, elders, interns, and potential elders will be invited to read and discuss books on pastoring, theology, leadership, mission, and culture.
  • Elders will be empowered to oversee ministry at Wilkesboro Baptist Church and to invest in the next generation of servants and leaders.
  • Potential elders can be identified, prayed for, and invited to consider serving in leadership positions in the life of the church.
  • Potential elders, pastoral interns, and young ministers may never become staff members at Wilkesboro Baptist, but they can develop a ministry philosophy as well theological fidelity by participating in leadership development at a healthy church.

Here’ s a final anecdote. One of the greatest privileges of my ministry life was serving for fifteen years at Mud Creek Baptist Church. I learned a great deal about ministry, theology, pastoral care, and leadership. While leadership development (replicating) may not have been the intention of my staff ministry position, it was certainly the result. And what I experienced was not unique to me. There are a number of Baptist churches being served by former staff members at Mud Creek. We have been able to take what we learned there and apply to our current ministry situations. Wilkesboro Baptist Church is not a perfect church, but it is a healthy church. Developing a church polity with a plurality of elders is a pathway to developing leaders. Developing leaders may serve WBC, but they may also leave WBC to fulfill a calling to mission and leadership outside of WBC. One obvious example is our former Minister of Communications, Gary Buffaloe. Gary served at WBC for more than 3 years. At the beginning of 2022, Gary left our church staff to plant a new church in Boomer, NC at Camp Harrison. Gary and his team at Warrior Creek Church are fulfilling the mission of leading others to follow Jesus, and WBC got to play a part in kingdom advancement.

A plurality of elders is a vision for replicating leaders for our church as well as for the mission of spreading the gospel to and through other churches and ministries. This model is biblical. Paul replicated the life of Jesus in students like Timothy, Titus, and Luke to serve the purpose of spreading the gospel to the nations.

Photo by Hudson Hintze on Unsplash