For an organisation or church to have a noticeable impact and leave a lasting legacy, developing new leaders is crucial. It is not an option to rely on recruiting ready-made leaders. For some, leadership development can seem an intimidating task. The best place to begin is by looking at how Jesus developed leaders around him.
We will look at a few of the ways Jesus developed Matthew (aka Levi) as a leader.
- Jesus found gold
Jesus first found Matthew sitting at a tax collector’s booth. As a tax collector, Matthew was not a popular man. He collected tolls for the occupying Roman Empire and was both a collaborator and an extortionist. If Jesus had been looking for dirt that disqualified Matthew, there would be plenty to find (read about why this is important). Instead Jesus was looking for gold and he found it. In Matthew, Jesus had found a man with faith, commitment and generosity. Unlike some of the other disciples who could return to the fishing boats, when Matthew left his job to follow Jesus there was no going back.
- Jesus offered dignity and brotherhood
After Jesus had met Matthew at the tax booth, they went back to Matthew’s house for a meal.
“While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and ‘sinners’ came and ate with him and his disciples.” (Matthew 9:10)
This was not simply a bite to eat. The meal meant that Jesus was treating Matthew and his friends as brothers and sisters who had dignity. According to Jeremias, “to invite a man to a meal was an honour… it was an offer of peace, trust, brotherhood and forgiveness.” To develop leaders as Jesus did, we must find gold in people and treat them with dignity and brotherhood.
- Jesus invited Matthew into a training community.
Jesus first called Matthew to follow him near the start of Matthew 9. In the rest of that chapter, Matthew sees Jesus raise a dead girl, heal a bleeding woman, open the eyes of two blind men, cast out a demon, preach in many towns and heal many diseases. He could have sent Matthew away to be given foundational training in a classroom, but instead he invited him to be part of a community that learned ministry by participating and learning from what Jesus did. The best context to develop new leaders is to invite them to be with you in the things you are already doing, and train them on the job.
- Jesus gave Matthew authority
Hot off the heels of Matthew’s experience of Jesus’ training community in Matthew 9, he finds himself on the front lines. At the beginning of Matthew 10, Jesus gives Matthew (along with the other disciples) authority to heal diseases and cast out evil spirits, and he sent them out to do what he had been doing. The instruction was to go from village to village, staying if there was a welcome, leaving if not. It was quite possible that Matthew would spend time ministering in a number of villages before he next touched base with Jesus. Jesus’ way of giving Matthew ministry was characterised by high trust and low control. After a relatively short time learning from Jesus, he was given responsibility and trusted to complete his ministry without micromanagement. Potential leaders are choked when too much control is exerted over them, but are empowered when they are given space to lead.
- Jesus believed in Matthew
Linked in to the previous point, Jesus saw in Matthew somebody who could do these things, even before Matthew saw it in himself. John Maxwell said, “Anyone can see people as they are. It takes a leader to see what they can become, encourage them in that direction and believe that they will do it. People always grow towards leaders’ expectations.” Jesus had high expectations of what Matthew could become and Matthew grew to fulfil those expectations. We will develop leaders when we see beyond what they are to what they can become, believe in them and see them grow in that direction.
- Jesus gave Matthew a second chance (and a third and a fourth)
Matthew was not the perfect disciple. On one occasion a man asked him to heal a boy who had seizures but Matthew was unable to do it. On another occasion, he was bickering with the others about who was most important. When Jesus was arrested and crucified, Matthew ran away. There were numerous times he messed up. Some were moral failures, other were ministry failures. As we develop leaders, we will come up against both. Developing leaders is a process and there will be setbacks along the way. Jesus did not allow the setbacks to derail Matthew’s potential. When he got it wrong, he got a second chance. When he got it wrong again, there was a third chance. And then a fourth. Everybody makes mistakes. The question is whether we will give those leaders we are developing the opportunity to bounce back, learn from the mistake and come out stronger, just like Jesus did for Matthew.
Jesus took a despised man through the process of leadership development. We see Matthew named in Acts 1 as an apostle, one of the men the Holy Spirit came upon at Pentecost and one of the leaders of a mega church in Jerusalem.
The way Jesus developed leaders works. Why not give it a try?