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Elderlink: Conclusion

April 11, 2010

In the concluding session of 2010 Elderlink Atlanta, Randy Harris spoke on strategies for addressing the challenges facing churches of Christ for the next generation.  How do we lead our churches in the future?   He proposed an overarching principle for developing leaders for the next generation: “Come follow with me!”

The term “leader” is not a big positive concept in gospels.  Actually “follow” is a much more prominent topic. We need, not to lead better, but to follow better.   To reach the next generation we need leaders who are great followers. Get people to follow with you. Leadership is a side effect of following.

For most of Christian history, most believers did not possess a copy of the scriptures, nor could they even read them.  So how did they do discipleship in a pre-literate world?   In a world where most men don’t read books, we may need to employ methods similar to those used in past generations.  Those methods are not primarily focused “from the neck up.”   They focus on doing things together that build spirituality and character.

Randy presented an illustration from college football.   More and more college football teams don’t have a playbook, because so many players can’t read well enough to get the plays from the book. But they still run plays.  The coach lines up the team on the practice field and shows them how to run the play.  Then they run the play over and over until they get it right.  That is our model.

Randy offered a few examples of the kind of “plays” he is running with a group of ministry students.

  • Make a covenant commitment. Sign formal vows. Take them really seriously. Give one another permission to hold accountable. Include statements like, “If you see me acting like a jerk, here is what I want you to say to me”
  • Scripture memorization
  • Take the group out for a meal.  No one is allowed to get their own food, nor can they ask someone to serve them.  So each person in the group learns to enter a situation where they are focused on serving others rather than on serving themselves.  Run the play over and over until you get it right
  • For 48 hrs, don’t say anything that love doesn’t require you to say.  Then talk about it.   The group came to realize that so much of what their conversation is sarcasm — not compelled by love.

Randy then presented five fundamental boundaries to instill.  These are not the only needed qualities, of course, but are some needed qualities  that are not talked often about.

1) toughness – like Jesus was tough. Quit whining . Whining is not the appropriate response to anything.  He gave the example of a person with cancer who does not complain.  Be like that person!

2) risk taking He painted a picture of a disciple as being absurdly happy, entirely fearless, and always in trouble.  This requires trust in God.  We can’t be inspiring leaders while always playing it safe.

3) mindfulness of God Being calm and not anxious in all circumstances, with a deep sense that God is working in every situation — not just being aware of God when we are praying.  Hold one another accountable for observing 15 min a day of silence. Challenge disciples to have a 90 second prayer, 7 times a day.

4) exhibit and teach persistence Help them with discipline and commitment over time.

5) fun Being a follower with others following you has to be fun, joyful.

Randy closed with a challenge for all of us to get others to follow with us.  When we do that, everything else becomes an annoyance.   This is the purpose for which God called us to be shepherds.  And it must be done if we are to develop the leaders who will reach the next generation.

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