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How do we raise up leaders in church ministry? When we think about church growth and solving leadership problems within the church, a frequently occurring reaction is to search for “stronger” leaders, and we become consumed with trying to find them.

John Wiley

I have been asked how I find leaders, as if there is a shortage of leaders. Leaders are easy to find; we have no shortage of leaders.

I find it interesting that Jesus did not utter the word “leader” or “leadership.” Neither is leadership listed as a fruit of a Holy Spirit-filled life in Galatians 5.

I’ve been wrestling with the question, “What makes a good leader in a church?”

Through the years, I have come to understand that those who are trained and discipled to follow the way of love are the very best leaders: “Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy” (1 Cor. 14:1, NIV). Note the word “follow.” For me, this means that love leads, and I follow the way of love.

The very best leaders in my church are those who let Jesus’ standard of love and leadership determine how they treat all people. I have noticed that people are strangely drawn to love. When I love people the way God loves me, a crowd will ensue. Allowing love to lead is the “secret sauce” of being successful in the ministry of Jesus here on Earth.

How do I develop leaders? I teach people both what love looks like and Who love is. There are five key things I do to bring people around to being led by love:

  1. I bring them to a personal revelation of the love that God has for them.
  2. I teach them to grid everything they do through the lens of love (code for being Spirit-led).
  3. I ask them to never cave to the social pressure to be unloving.
  4. I never walk away when they don’t measure up to moral standards.
  5. I don’t ask them to step down when they blow it. (Neither did Jesus.)

When love is removed as the central focus of discipleship, the church is left with teachings about morality. When we lead by morality and not by love, we become keepers of law and make disciples who do the same.

For me, following the way of love is the narrow road that Jesus referred to. There are few who find it, live it and lead others to it.

Lead on, Jesus, and I will follow the way of love.

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is the senior pastor of River Church Family (Kansas City East Foursquare Church) in Raytown, Mo.