By Neil Cole Perhaps the single most consistent need in churches is more leaders––more children workers, youth workers, worship leaders, musicians, bean counters and technicians. It doesn’t matter how big the church is, leaders are still in demand, in fact more so in larger organizations. There is always more ministry than leaders.
Our big problem is that we are constantly searching for leaders and trying to entice them to join us. Recruitment is when we search for a leader from the outside to fill a need on the inside. Most churches immediately take to recruiting people; it is our default and constant practice.
Leadership recruitment doesn’t help. It contributes to our poverty. Churches that recruit can never find enough. Recruitment is a consumer-oriented paradigm and is symptomatic of our most serious and lethal affliction.
Recruitment is much like picking out produce at the grocery store. Someone else did all the hard work of cultivating soil, planting seeds, growing and harvesting the fruit so that you can conveniently pick it up and take it home for consumption. If everybody was only consuming the fruit, and no one was farming, we would quickly have a lack of fruit. That describes the stark and desolate drought we are experiencing now in the kingdom. Having too many consumers and not enough producers has created a shortage of fruit. We all desire fruit. Jesus wants us to bear fruit, not buy it. Recruitment is an endeavor that is never satisfied.
Occasionally a quality leader is found, and they work well for a while, until they get recruited somewhere else. Like some cruel joke, the leaders we wish we didn’t have to keep stay, because no one is recruiting them.
There are never enough leaders for the demand. We start with a ministry need, and then work to find someone to match the task. This is actually backwards. We start with our eyes on our gaping needs and we are never really able to see anything else. It seems that once you start down the recruitment path you find yourself in a world where you are acutely aware of all that you do not have. There are not enough leaders to fill the current gaps let alone start anything new.
I used to think that recruitment was a strategy that only added ministry to the Kingdom and can never be a multiplying strategy. I have come to see that it is not even an addition strategy. Recruitment is actually a subtraction strategy. It doesn’t add anything to the kingdom. It simply takes from it. It is a strategy that uses the kingdom for its own good rather than contributing to the kingdom.
When everyone is taking and no one is contributing, soon the pool sucks dry and we are all left with nothing. The vast majority of churches are sucking up what little resources are left in the kingdom and contributing nothing. The results are a drought. Our pool is shrinking daily and in the end all we have left to us is the muck at the bottom of the pond.
This explains why so many churches are dying of thirst. Quality diminishes. Needs are left unfilled. Our thirst for more resources increases with no hope of satisfaction.
There is a solution all around you. There is an oasis available to all our churches with enough resources for everyone––if we can shift our minds to a different paradigm. We must lift our eyes (off our own internal needs) and look to the fields that are white for a harvest (outside ourselves).
We need to increase the capacity for production. Churches need to start farming and contributing to the kingdom rather then simply consuming. So many churches are more enamored with finding golden eggs rather than the goose that lays them. Having a golden egg is nice for a while but soon you want and need more; it is a limited resource. Having a goose that lays golden eggs means you will never want for more.
The few churches that do not lack for leaders have taken to a farming mentality. They are doing the things that God told them to do. They are making disciples from those who do not know Christ yet. Disciple-making is more then merely teaching the saints from a pulpit or curriculum. Making disciples starts with the lost and broken that are not in the church. We need to begin to see the great resource all around us. Our greatest hero for tomorrow’s harvest woke up this morning with a hangover in the wrong person’s bed. He or she is ready for transformation, and looking for it. Churches are not accustomed to seeing the lost and broken around them as a resource. We suffer poverty in a sea of wealth.
You see there are untapped and almost limitless leaders all around your church. As Jesus said to Paul while desperate and alone in Corinth: “I have many people in this place.” Jesus helped Paul to see the wealth around him. These future leaders are not in the kingdom of light…yet. He is telling us, “Get busy outside your own doors where the true riches lie.”
Jesus gives us a simple formula to discover the rich wealth of workers all around. First He identified the problem I’m speaking about. He said, “The harvest is plentiful (there is much fruit all around you), but the workers are few (we suffer a shortage of workers).” His solution? Not recruitment, but passionate prayer for workers to come from the harvest for the harvest.
The leader is the fruit, not the means to it. We need to see our role as producing fruit-bearing people rather than just using them for other ends. Disciple-producing from those out in the fields is our mission, given to us by Jesus. If we just did that we would see that we lack for nothing. It doesn’t cost a dime to make a disciple; it only costs your life.
If more churches would get their hands dirty in the good soil around them rather than dipping their hands into the pockets of other ministries they would find a source of golden eggs that never runs dry.