Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Disciple Those Called to Ministry: Seth Polk

Leadership development and discipleship is a significant need in the church. In order to disciple those called to ministry, we must have a pathway for it to take place.

By Seth Polk
Member of the 4:12 Network and pastor, Cross Lanes Baptist Church, West Virginia.

When I first answered the call to ministry nearly twenty years ago, I was blessed with opportunities to learn and develop. My pastor at the time was Rev. Lonnie Norris. He is still active in ministry, after almost five decades of pastoring, and is currently the Senior Pastor at Crystal Lake Baptist Church in Lakeland, Florida. He took time to pour into my life and help me get started in ministry. I once thanked him for his investment in my life, and he gave me one simple word of advice. He said, “All I ask of you, is that when you have the opportunity to help others in the ministry, please do so.” I took that to heart, and have actively sought to train up others along the way.

Paul said to Timothy his son in the ministry, “You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have learned from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” 2 Timothy 2:1-2 This is a strong admonition to train up others in service to God, and entrust to faithful men what we have learned.

There are several principles that I follow, to be faithful in this. I will make reference here primarily to efforts with those who are following a life calling to vocational ministry, but the principles apply in others areas of leadership within the church as well.

First, pray for the Lord to raise leaders up.
Jesus said, “That harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.” Matthew 9:37-38 This cannot be overlooked, because it is the Lord who calls people to His work.

Second, be willing to give of your time to develop leaders. 
I think one of the reasons there is not more leadership development in the church, is because it takes time and we all have a limited amount of it. It is easier to just take care of things on your own than take the time to train others. Yet the impact of our lives can reach far beyond what we are able to accomplish on our own, when we take time to develop leaders. Think about the ministry of Jesus. His earthly ministry only spanned a few years, but He intentionally developed those first disciples. In turn, they led the early church to explosive growth by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Third, provide opportunities for leaders to serve. 
We try to implement the practice of aggressively giving ministry away in our church. As a primary leader in shepherding the church, God has called me to be faithful in “the training of the saints in the work of the ministry, to build up the body of Christ” Ephesians 4:12. When opportunities to serve are available, it provides a safe place for callings to be explored, spiritual gifts to be exercised, and for mistakes to be made. I mention mistakes, because we all have made them. It is a lot better to make them under the watchful eye of a mentor, who can graciously steer you in the right direction, than when you are solely responsible for a ministry, and the pressure is much higher. We encourage leaders in all areas of our ministry, to identify someone they can help develop, to do the same type of ministry they are serving in.

Fourth, invest in training and education for leaders.
We get the results we prepare for. If we aggressively give ministry away, without also training and educating people, failure is a high likelihood. My home church, First Baptist Church of Frostproof, Florida had a rich tradition for many years of investing in people being prepared for service. I was one of the beneficiaries of this in the early part of my seminary education. Numerous people were sent out from the church in ministry across the country, and the world. We do the same in our church. The church sees it as a high priority to provide practical training at the local church level, and also to provide for formal education when there is a need. We have had a steady stream of seminary students who we have invested in to be well prepared. Several of them are serving now in churches in the United States, and also in areas in the world that are still unreached with the Gospel. This is an investment in people’s lives, and also in the greater work of the kingdom of God.

Fifth, release leaders to do the work of the ministry.
Some will continue to serve in the context of the church they were trained in. Others will be sent out. A church should celebrate multiplication and encourage the process to be continued.

Currently I am working with eight men. They are at varying stages of life and ministry. The length of commitment to each varies depending on the needs of the individual. I work with men who are in our church, and also outside of the church through “Shepherd The Church Ministries”, a broader effort to develop and mentor servants in the ministry. Additionally, we regularly have interns and summer missionaries who are given practical opportunities to serve.

Our lives are impacted by those who have gone before us. Many have given an example of what it means to faithfully serve God. We then have the opportunity to leave a kingdom legacy by doing the same for others! I am thankful for many who have made a difference in my life and ministry along the way, and desire to be of help to others.