Summary: A series of sermons foccussing on the Natural Church Development characteristics

Two weeks ago we heard the presentation of Natural Church Development by Major Sylvia Watts and the feedback that we were given after the meeting and in the days following was very positive. With that in mind the corps council has decided to go ahead with NCD and in the next few days we will be receiving the questionnaires for us as a corps to fill in. Because of time constraints Sylvia was not able to go into as much detail as perhaps she, and we as a corps, would have liked so over the period of a few Sundays we will be looking at the 8 characteristics of a healthy church that were mentioned. They were

1. Empowering Leadership

2. Gift-oriented Ministry

3. Passionate Spirituality

4. Functional Structures

5. Inspiring Worship Services

6. Holistic Small Groups

7. Need-oriented Evangelism

8. Loving Relationships.

So this morning we are going to look at Empowering Leadership; this quote is directly from the handbook that comes with NCD

Please notice that our first quality characteristic is neither called “powerful” nor “empowered“, but “empowering” leadership. Let me explain the difference. “Empowered leadership” could mean that there is one (sometimes several, but usually one) ingenious multi-gifted leader with a great vision. And this leader needs volunteers to help him turn this vision into reality. Our study shows, however, that this could not be farther from the truth. Leaders of growing churches do not try to build up their own power to become all-powerful. Exactly the opposite. They consider it as one of their most important tasks to empower other Christians. They equip, support, motivate, and mentor individuals to become all that God wants them to be. Some of these Christians may even be led to go very different ways than their leaders. But empowering leaders can rejoice about such a Christian with all their heart because they know that God has a unique calling for every individual. What is interesting is that most of the pastors who reached the highest scores in our survey are hardly known to a wider public. And yet they provide us with more helpful basic principles of leadership than most of the world-famous spiritual “superstars.” Leaders of growing churches do not have to be superstars. In fact the superstar model can be a hindrance for church growth. God generally does not fulfill his plans through super-gifted heroes. If someone plays this role (or has to play this role because the church expects it) it is usually a sure sign that something is definitely not going right.

The Bible reading that we shared is an example of empowering leadership. It is a familiar passage; after Jesus’ death and resurrection Peter went fishing and took the other disciples with him, he didn’t force them to go but they still went with him. The nets were empty, Jesus called out to them from the shore to throw it out on the other side of the boat and the nets were full but did not break. They had a fresh fish breakfast on the shore and Jesus asked Peter to feed his sheep. He could have told them about what it was like to die, what God was like, but he didn’t; Jesus restored Peter and gave him a task, a vision, a purpose that was to guide him until he died. This is what empowering leadership does, it gives a person a belief in themselves that they can play a part, that they are worthy of being trusted. Empowering leadership asks difficult questions, yes;

“Simon son of John, do you truly love me?”

but not in an aggressive way, it encourages not demands and doesn’t drop someone because they disappoint or let the leader down.

“Feed my sheep.” This to Peter, the man who had denied him three times.

An empowering leader does not think that they are the ultimate end, that those who follow them have reached the goal when they are clones of the leader. That may seem a strange thing to say when we, as Christians, sing the chorus

To be like Jesus!

This hope possesses me,

In every thought and deed,

This is my aim, my creed;

To be like Jesus!

This hope possesses me,

His Spirit helping me,

Like him I’ll be.

That is true we do like to be like Jesus, but not because He said that this was the goal. All the way through his life and ministry, Jesus pointed towards the Father, not himself, as the goal and heaven as the reward of following. Jesus also said that those who believed and have faith in him would do, not only what he had done, but even greater things (John 14:12).

Jesus exemplified Empowering Leadership through his living and ministry and he showed it to be a willingness to lead and to serve those that he led. A willingness to encourage and embrace those who were seen as worthless and beyond hope of God’s grace and favour. He did not show Empowering Leadership to be an imposition of will, did not show it to be a grinding down of resistance or intimidation.

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