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  • Training Leaders | It’s Costly

    Jim Wallace

    “The cheapest way isn’t always the best way.”

    When I first heard this, our missionary team was operating in a complex, cross-cultural situation in East Asia, developing indigenous leaders who could carry forward the mission into the future.

    On the one hand, we had a ‘cheap’ choice that was expedient for both the nationals and the expatriates. (And we were all already drained physically and emotionally after a tough ministry season.) On the other, we had a ‘costly’ choice that would require more sweat, tears and money for everyone — but would position emerging national leaders to increasingly influence how things were done. After much heated discussion and hesitation, we chose the ‘costly’ route.

    Looking back, it was clearly the best route. It helped move us from an expatriate-led ministry to a national-led movement that multiplied indigenous leaders and further resources.

    We went from a North American-dominated team, to a much larger, multinational movement that helped make disciples and plant churches. It also provided more space for rest and spiritual refreshment in the long run.

    Was the choice a cheaper investment? An easier process? Did it possess pragmatic efficiency?


    Did it possess lasting, spiritual effectiveness for cultivating emerging leaders? 


    This remembrance of costliness and true effectiveness is important for me. As noted in my last post, doing Christian leadership development with local churches is messy. Collaborative partnerships with diverse churches and supervising pastors requires time and flexibility. It’s costly. To combine that engagement with a partnering seminary, accounting for accreditation details, academic degrees and tuition? Very costly in terms of time, energy and money. But—

    A costly, collaborative investment with other Spirit-filled saints can help the cultivation of distinctively Christian leaders.

    And in a cultural context flooded with information, starving for discernment, and tremendous temptations to (ad)minister in ways more pragmatic than biblical, accountability to theological disciplines — and disciplers — is a healthy habit.

    Let’s conclude part four of this series on ‘training leaders’ by adding a few questions for further consideration:

    If you developed leaders less tethered to theological resources and accountability…

    …how would that shape their calling to Christ and the church?
    …how would they likely approach the training of other disciples?
    …how would that impact their sending to the church and world?

    And how has the Lord trained you through ‘costly’ moments of ministry?