In the book of Acts, Paul and the apostles entrusted elders in every church to keep Christ’s teaching and continue to establish all believers in the faith, building up the body of Christ and progressing the Gospel.
Today, strong church leadership is just as important as it was in the first churches of the New Testament, and training church leaders continues to be at the forefront of BILD International’s mission in providing the necessary tools to equip leaders in churches around the world.
One such partnership takes us to Word of Faith, a megachurch in Atlanta, Ga., that has heeded the call to train and establish leaders within its 18,000-member congregation.
In 2014, Word of Faith was in the process of designing its own curriculum to train and ordain emerging leaders when pastoral leadership was introduced to BILD. Learning they could take BILD’s materials and structure a training program to fit their needs, the Dale C. Bronner Institute of Ministry and Leadership Development (IMLD) was founded.
IMLD takes internal church leaders who are committed to the vision of the church through a 24-month program that will prepare them to serve within the church. The model Word of Faith has for developing a team of leaders that are one-minded in ministry vision and philosophy made it easy to adopt the comprehensive curriculum that BILD had already created.
BILD’s materials for church-based theological education look at the whole blueprint of the New Testament design for spontaneous expansion of the church. It begins by taking leaders from a study of living out life together within the church, to the process of leadership development, and finally, all the way to building church networks and global movements.
“It’s really been a tool that has helped us to grow our leaders,” said Cynthia Durant, IMLD’s director of leader development. “It’s important for leaders to be trained and developed. When you are a leader you have great influence. We’re looking for them to become healthy church leaders.”
Cynthia and other team members have gone through executive education using BILD’s curriculum and are now assisting students as they develop the tools they need to fulfill their future roles as church leaders or church planters. Cynthia’s role brings her alongside students from beginning to end, guiding their development over the course of the program.
“I’m one of the few that has that total perspective,” she said, adding it’s a blessing to her to see the work of God in their lives and how they change, not only spiritually or theologically, but into their best, healthy self.
While students in the program have envisioned and strategized what their own leadership will look like upon graduation, there are a lot of traditions within churches today that can be a stumbling block as they grapple with New Testament principles and absolutes and non-absolutes, she said.
“The key to the church body is one-mindedness,” Cynthia said. “By the time they get out of Acts [BILD course] and we move into the Pauline book, they understand the importance of church leaders and how significant a church leader is to not only planting churches but also to building the kingdom of God.”
On the other side of developing internal church leadership is the support of external pastors and church planters who partner with Word of Faith through the Christian Alliance of Pastors (CAP).
CAP engages and supports leaders as they develop their vision for starting a church, big or small. Through the use of BILD materials, particularly the collection of encyclicals that address the fundamental importance of seeing sustainable and thriving church networks and movements, leaders are challenged to look beyond the four walls of the church and see the global mission of establishing God’s kingdom.
“There is more focus on being kingdom minded and not just church minded,” Cynthia said. “There is the mindset that God wants us to grow the kingdom and to grow the kingdom means to plant churches, because churches are still the best way to evangelize the gospel.”
Realizing and understanding the many challenges faced by today’s churches is no small task when it comes to leadership development, and this challenge points us back to the Acts model of evangelizing and establishing churches.
Courtney Wright is the chief pastoral support officer with CAP and the visionary behind Power of One, a strategy in its infancy that reshapes the vision of the church, starting with one microchurch or house church and planting more churches that are networked together until it becomes a movement.
“The spontaneous expansion that took place in the early church was a result of them being solidly founded churches that were doing discipleship at the local level, and smaller groups that then grew into a movement,” Courtney said.
As she studied BILD’s encyclicals, addressing the challenges faced by churches today due to the lack of growth or establishment in leaders and members, the idea of Power of One was forming in Courtney’s mind.
“I began to imagine what it would look like,” she said. “It starts with one, we call them microchurches, one house church, and from there once that model is created, it can be duplicated across different places, cities, parts of town, and individuals.”
A major component of Power of One is its sustainability because it is modeled after the expansion of the gospel in the New Testament and seeks to recreate what Paul set forth in Acts.
“Our vision is that we’ll start with just a few house churches and grow them from there,” she said. That will happen by identifying leaders and developing those leaders and establishing all believers within the church.
Because Power of One is a new concept, CAP is being methodical with how they’re rolling things out, she said. “We are continuing to teach others the encyclicals and there’s other training we’re bringing to the table for Power of One that helps people with how they change their mindset.”
“It’s a process,” she said. “This strategy is a long-term strategy. It’s not a quick fix. It’s a step in the right direction, but it will take place over years, not weeks or months. There are some early gains we get, but it is a long-term strategy.”
In addition to wanting to see Power of One impact the landscape of establishing strategic and sustainable church movements, Courtney connects that vision to the future of leadership development.
She would like to see every church and every pastor form their own leadership development process that is intrinsic to their own churches. CAP offers administrative support to leaders as they move through a development process, but over time she anticipates churches will have the ability to administer that process themselves.
“Then they can create it and package it exactly the way they want, and have the capacity to have leaders that are leading that training in their own context,” she said.
That vision coincides with their partnership with BILD and its mission to equip leaders within the cultural context of the local church. In turn, the establishing of leaders and building up of strong churches will continue to build a one-mindedness around Christ’s principles and the progress of the gospel around the world.