Equipping and Releasing is the job description for a Christian leader.
Of course it’s not comprehensive, but it’s an essential component. The ability to equip and release your people is a vital element of godly, Christian leadership.
So why doesn’t it happen more? And what obstacles rise up in your mind when considering whether to adopt this mind-set?
1) It requires too much trust. – This is probably the one which resides deepest in the hearts of leaders who fail to equip and release. Delegation requires trust. You have to trust that God will work when responsibility is given to others. Things can go wrong. People make mistakes. It’s harder to control what will happen.
But just stop for a moment. When Christ ascended into heaven, he entrusted the message to a bunch of nervous, confused men, who hadn’t a clue what they were doing. Not that long before, they’d deserted their Saviour. That’s a lot of trust. But of course, it leaves out the work of the Holy Spirit. When He arrived, everything changed. The church was born. Believers were empowered by the Spirit. And the same is true in your church. When you equip and release, you entrust your people into the care of the Holy Spirit. Will they make mistakes? Undoubtedly. Will you be blamed? Probably. Is God blamed for the history of the church? Yes, but it’s still worth it. It’s still worth it! It’s God’s design and we fail him when we overwork and fail to equip and release our people. He didn’t, so we shouldn’t.
2) They’ll think I’m lazy. This is simply a failure of communication. It’s based on fear and no leader can lead successfully when they’re driven by fear. So look this one in the face and stare it down. Equipping is not a sign of laziness. It is a sign of strength and wisdom. Your congregation, however, might not understand it when yet another person is standing up to deliver the sermon. Where’s our guy? Why isn’t he up there? Didn’t I see him playing golf on Friday? What’s going on? Equipping and releasing requires explanation. For many, it’s a culture shift and when that happens, communication is critical. It’s necessary to explain what’s going on.
3) They’ll complain. They may well complain. They may complain that people with gifts ‘still in development’ are less capable. Which indeed they are. Services led by people who are new to the job. Musicians who aren’t professionals. Preachers who are learning their craft. Volunteers everywhere making mistakes. Every time you’re nervous about delegating to people whose gifts are still a work in progress, you will need to exercise faith. Faith in God, who equips his people. You will need to endure criticism, because of your inner conviction that you’re doing a job that is not always properly understood.
4) Don’t the flock need to be led? - Yes, indeed the flock does need a leader. And that’s you. But the wonderful thing about the church is that the Head of the Church is Christ. Not you. Or Justin Welby or the Pope or Tim Keller or Nicky Gumbel or whoever your favourite famous leader happens to be. Christ, by his Spirit, leads the church. Your role is to guide the church in line with the Spirit. And to do that, it is true that you will need to speak. You will need to preach. You will need to lead meetings and pray publicly. No one is denying that. But there are others in your church who are also led by the Spirit. The Spirit works in all, and can speak through unexpected people. It’s scary, because you can’t control the message, but it’s essential that you provide avenues for people to exhibit and share their gifts. The more threatened you feel, the more you will seek to control the public space for speaking. The more you trust God, the more the Spirit has room to move and breathe, because He is the one who leads, He is the one who is building the church. It just takes a little . . . faith.
5) My denomination won’t allow me to delegate. There may be some truth in this – some roles that you cannot delegate – and there may be some historical and theological justifications for that, but every type of church has ways of equipping and releasing people. Lay readers. Preachers who aren’t the vicar or pastor. Service leaders who aren’t the priest or worship leader. The church belongs to Christ, who equips his leaders to equip the people. Your loyalty is to Christ, and he has designated you to be an equipping leader. It’s right there in Ephesians.
Nothing I’ve written here is new. It isn’t even particularly controversial. It’s just that our church structures so often stifle the work of God. Leaders are handed a job description and they think they must do what they’re told. That’s not true. As a leader, your job is to obey Christ, who is an equipping Saviour. He calls you to equip the saints for works of service. So be bold. God’s Holy Spirit lives within you. He has called you.
And most of all, he loves you with an everlasting love, which means he has your back.
This week, we're releasing the third and final part of Roy Bishop's excellent series on Adultery. Click here.