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learning communities

Raising Up Apostolic Leaders

Dr. Charles Revis, Executive Minister, ABC of the Northwest

In his book on leadership communities Revolution in Leadership, Reggie McNeal calls this new breed of leaders that churches need today “Apostolic Leaders”. (Reggie is the author of several outstanding leadership books, including A Work of Heart and The Present-Future.)

This emerging apostolic leader looks like the early church leaders we read about in the Scriptures. This leader will be a visionary, someone who gives his or her life in pursuit of a compelling vision of the kingdom of God. The apostolic leader is captured by the prospect of transforming their communities as they lead their churches to share the gospel. This leader will be missional, practicing an intentionality in their ministries that shows up in kingdom expansion. Such a leader refuses to let their congregation settle for maintenance ministry. This leader will seek to empower others through the development of other leaders in the church who will, in turn, launch new ministries. They release the ministry to others rather than reserving it for the “professionals.” This leader will be team-oriented and reproducing, developing a team of leaders that will guide and develop the ministries of the church.

Such a leader knows that to be a strong leader does not mean being the church’s dictator. The apostolic leader believes in shared leadership which is plural in its essence and expression. This leader will be entrepreneurial, developing creative approaches that help the church find success in connecting the gospel with people in the surrounding culture. The focus of such a leader will be more about ministry that happens outside church walls.

“Rather than dreaming up church programs and then trying to attract people to them, apostolic leaders begin with their insights into people’s needs and then design ministry efforts to meet them where they are.”

This leader will be  kingdom-conscious. Their focus is broader than the institution known as church; this leader will seek to expand God’s kingdom.

Traditional learning models have stressed the transfer of information from teacher to pupil. This form has dominated the church culture and academic training for ministry. The focus is on teaching, rather than learning. Most ministry challenges that we face today were never addressed in seminary. The learning model that will equip us for ministry today will be continuous, peer-to-peer, critically reflective and culturally relevant. One model that assists ministers in pursuing these values is the Learning Community.

A Learning Community is a group of colleagues in ministry who come together to continually explore and articulate an expanding base of knowledge for the purpose of ongoing preparation to meet the ever-changing challenges of leading today’s church. The spirit of this peer-to-peer group will be characterized by mutual respect, authenticity, learning and shared responsibility.

Reggie McNeal comments that a Learning Community is exactly what Jesus developed with his band of twelve.

“He called a group together to share a journey and to learn from him the most incredible truths ever revealed to humanity. The apostles watched and listened as Jesus worked and taught. They debriefed together the experiences they shared. Jesus sent them out on mission and unpacked their experiences when they returned. Along the way he challenged their notions about what God was up to in the world.”

This band maintained their learning community after Jesus left them. They continued to learn. They had no books or experts. But, they had each other, their experiences, the Holy Spirit, and a commitment to share the Good News as effectively as possible. The result? They changed the world!

The development of our own Leadership Learning Communities throughout the ABCNW is our own response to the challenge of raising up apostolic leaders for the church today. It is our dream that the many qualities of an apostolic leader as outlined by Reggie McNeal will become inculcated in the leaders within the churches of our Region. To the Glory of God.

© Dr. Charles Revis, ABC Northwest