The following is taken from
Malphurs, Aubrey, and Will Mancini. Building Leaders: Blueprints for Developing Leadership at Every Level of Your Church. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2004.
Though Jesus ministered to the crowd, he focused on and trained the core. Jesus began his public ministry (phase 1) with a small core of disciples. As his ministry moved into its second and third years, increasingly he turned his attention to these disciples, who were now his leaders. Finally, with his rejection by the Jews, he turned from his public ministry and focused his attention on the core of twelve. This involved preparing these leaders for their ministry following his death and resurrection (Matt. 19–20; Luke 14–19; John 10–11).
What can we learn about training leaders from the way Jesus trained his core of disciples? He believed that leadership training was vital to the success of his ministry during his time on earth and later. Thus it was important that he spend much time in developing leaders for the kingdom. He trained his disciples before sending them out to minister. Matthew 10:5 says, “These twelve Jesus sent out after instructing them” (nasb). And Jesus continued to instruct them while they ministered. John’s Gospel records more of Jesus’ instructions to his disciples than any of the other Gospels. In particular, chapters 13–17 concentrate on his training of the Twelve and demonstrate as well his constant ministry to his serving disciples.
It would be wise for today’s leaders to focus on and develop the core and not the crowd. Good leaders will always attract crowds. However, those crowds often prove fickle and eventually fall away because so many are following out of their own self-interests. Jesus committed his life to the Twelve because he knew that they, not the crowd, would make a difference that would have eternal consequences. Jesus’ example teaches us that the size of our core, not the crowd, is what ultimately counts in ministry and will honor him over the long haul. We can measure our success not by the numbers of people we attract but by our relating to and training a competent, godly core of leaders who will have significant ministries long after we have been forgotten.
It is also wise that today’s churches develop their leaders before and after they assume their ministry. While leaders learn much while doing ministry, they, like the disciples, benefit as well from preparation before practice. However, preparation should last only so long before the leaders are immersed in ministry. This is the mistake that seminaries make. Far too many attempt to train leaders in the classroom for three or four years with very little time in ministry. The result is that graduates finish the program with a piece of paper that says they can do ministry, but since they’ve really never done ministry, no one is sure of their competence.
Good leaders never stop learning. If they do, they cease to lead well. It’s imperative that they continue to learn long after they begin their ministries. Therefore, any good leadership program must continue to train its leaders even while they pursue their ministries.