Last week, I introduced 5 quantum leaps of faith that Jesus invites each one of us to take. Each of these leaps of faith is grounded in the Bible and exemplified by Jesus himself. This week, let’s look at Quantum Leap #1: Be Fruitful and Multiply Like Jesus.
In Genesis, God commands the first humans to be fruitful, multiply and fill the earth. In this Quantum Leap #1, however, I’m not talking about making babies. I’m talking about replicating Kingdom leadership. There is more to following Jesus than emulating the spiritual principles he taught. We are also called to multiply ourselves as leaders by passing on our Kingdom vision and values to the people we lead.
I call this replication a quantum leap because it is so outside the norm of what we consider possible, do-able, or even desirable. I work with a variety of church leaders around the country. In congregations large and small, leaders fall into the trap of thinking that leadership means, “I have to do it all.” They think they have to write and preach all the sermons, teach all the classes, fix all the fights, do all the ministry, counsel all the sick, bury all the dead, visit all the ailing, and lead the charge on every outreach initiative of the church. This is hard to say, but somebody has to: Doing it all is not Christ-like, and it’s not leadership; it’s fear-based, over-functioning. We fear that people won’t like us or respect us if we don’t do it all. We fear that no one will pick up the slack if we delegate, or that they’ll screw things up. We fear that we’ll let God down if we aren’t superhuman. These fears lead to over-functioning.
Jesus himself, in case you hadn’t noticed, didn’t do everything. Yes, he brought Lazarus and a 12-year-old girl back from the dead, healed a wide variety of people, and died on a cross. However, when it came to the day-to-day ministry of executing the vision of the Kingdom, he delegated. He taught others how to do what he did and handed ministry off to them. Even those activities we most associate with Jesus—healing the sick, casting out demons, and proclaiming the Kingdom—were carried out by others.
As leaders, we aim to grow our churches, to make disciples. That’s good as far as it goes. But if we’re not going on to make apostles out of these disciples, we stop short of fully embodying Christ-likeness. Jesus didn’t just make followers; he made leaders. He empowered his disciples to be miracle-working healers, priests and prophets in their own right by commissioning them as apostles. We know of 12 officially commissioned apostles. But Jesus didn’t stop with them. He deputized at least 72 others to act on his behalf and enact the vision of the Kingdom. “After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go.” He told them to heal the sick and to proclaim the Kingdom. Clearly, Jesus didn’t do everything himself.
When you think about it, if Jesus had insisted on doing everything, the vision of the Kingdom would have been crucified with him. Instead, 2.1 billion people now check the box “Christian.” Likewise, if we insist on doing everything, the vision will move, retire or die with us, even as the church continues to decline. In the meantime, the stress will all but kill us. Doing it all ourselves translates into not enough down time, not enough family time, not enough rest time; and definitely not enough vacation time. It also means we stunt the growth of the Kingdom by not sharing power and authority with those who wish to grow.
How do you do that, you ask, when no one seems to want to do anything? Here are three strategies for being fruitful and multiplying like Jesus:
- Develop a community-based vision that is worth investing in. Let it be big enough, bold enough and impactful enough that your brightest, most committed people would want to be involved. Rev. Ralph had the idea of ending hunger in his county by coordinating the hunger relief efforts already at work to make sure no child group was left out. He preached about it, prayed about it, and gathered people. The vision garnered tremendous interest.
- Invest intentional time and energy in your most promising leaders by sharing the vision with them. When Rev. Ralph began to gain traction, he gathered a vision team around him. This inside circle bought in to the vision with excitement; they began to generate ideas and interest among other church folks, growing the number of people involved.
- Demonstrate leadership and invite shadows. Invite your top people to join you in leadership meetings and activities, so they get the inside scoop. Rev. Ralph let them watch him at work and they learned to imitate his actions. He taught them the biblical and theological underpinnings of his work; mentored them in how to preach, pray and act on behalf of the vision. Then, he set them loose to expand the scope of his work.
Jesus didn’t stop with making disciples. He was fruitful and multiplied; he went on to empower apostles to carry his message, speak his words and enact his deeds. They took the quantum leap with Jesus. We can too. Let this be the year you stop doing everything on your own.