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Disciple-Making Leaders by Alex McElroy


Disciple-Making and Learning to Follow the Leader

What role does disciple-making play in leadership?

Kevin DeYoung said, “The one indispensable requirement for producing godly, mature Christians is godly, mature Christians.”

Regardless of anyone’s religious views, the logic here is unquestionable. Discipleship is a necessary component for success in any organization or profession. A disciple is a person who is a pupil or an adherent of the doctrines of another. At its core, discipleship involves a life on life connection where the wisdom, understanding, and skills of one person are transferred to another. Discipleship occurs in every segment of society: sports, dance, construction work, government, parenting, gangs, etc. This is why one of the greatest skills a leader can possess is to be effective in disciple-making.

I have often said that bad leaders produce no followers, good leaders produce many followers and great leaders produce many leaders. In our present society, the need for true and unselfish leadership has never been more apparent. It is illogical to expect people to learn the principles and importance of being honest, protecting your character, looking out for the welfare of others, and giving without expectation unless they have been taught those things. To take it one step further, people need to witness those they follow actually living by these principles. Otherwise, they simply become good suggestions that are never practiced. The process of discipleship allows the disciple to see in a very practical way how to conduct themselves and how to model the qualities of authentic and effective leaders.

In the book Act Like Men, James MacDonald writes, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you, and you won’t know when you get there.”

I remember when I was growing up that when someone invited you to a party or an event they would give you the address and the directions. You would write down the directions, landmarks and all, and hoped you were able to find the location. Now, with the advent of GPS, we don’t need pages of directions written out on paper. However, in either scenario, we are being aided in reaching our destination.

When trying to reach the lifelong destination of fulfilling your purpose someone will have to give you directions. At some point, or more likely at many points, we will need someone to be our spiritual, familial, or professional GPS. Because we are a relational species, we need people to act as our GPS, to, out of their care and compassion for us, provide guidance and instruction. That is, if they as leaders possess the appropriate qualities. We have all heard the expression that people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. The process of discipleship allows the disciple-maker to demonstrate to those they disciple just how much they truly care.

A leader should be intentional about their commitment to disciple-making. The future of their business depends on it. The future of our society depends on it. The future state of our families depends on it. Because disciple-making is carried out through a life on life relationship, it cannot and should not be sugarcoated or cloaked in perfection. Those we lead need to see the good, the bad and the ugly. They need to see our failures as well as our successes. They need to know that a leader should be able to be good on a bad day and to carry out their assignment in spite of any obstacles.

One final reason I’ll give for why leaders should make disciples is that it increases their capacity as leaders. Most visions cannot be carried out completely in one lifetime. This means there has to be someone remaining who understands and can facilitate the completion of the vision or mission. The number of disciples (those that have been indoctrinated into the vision) has a direct impact on the success and longevity of the mission or organization to which they belong.

Paul told Timothy,

And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim. 2:2).

What faithful men and women will you disciple in order to produce the next generation of leaders?

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Alex McElroy is an international speaker and the Pastor of Education at New Life Covenant Southeast Church, led by Pastor John F. Hannah, with over 20,000 members. Alex has been serving in both youth and teaching ministries at New Life for over 10 years. In his role, he teaches Discipleship class designed for adults to learn, fellowship, and grow in their faith in a small group setting.

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