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Developing Future Church Leaders: The Identification Process


If we are going to develop future church leaders, we obviously need to know who those people are with leadership potential. I purposefully chose “identification process” as part of this post’s title because that is what we are doing. We are identifying those whom God desires to be in leadership. We should not be the ones determining who gets to be a leader and who doesn’t. God is the Potter (Rom. 9:20-21; Isa. 64:8). He is the One with the rights to form us for how He intends to use us.

Identifying Those with Heart Qualities to be a Leader, Not Merely Leadership Skill Potential

As seen in the example of Samuel anointing a king for Israel, God’s choice isn’t always whom we might choose. We tend to look at the external qualifications but God’s criteria is different.

But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart. (1 Sam. 16:7)

Leadership skills can be developed and honed but the heart is something quite different. People can externally look the part but the heart might not be right. Only God sees the heart and He weighs the motives of the heart (Prov. 16:2).

God’s wisdom far exceeds our ability to choose who should be leaders. Look at the twelve disciples Jesus chose — many unlearned fishermen.

Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things – and the things that are not – to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. (1 Cor. 1:26-29)

Identifying Those God has Empowered to be Leaders, Not Merely Those with Natural Leadership Abilities

God has designed the Body of Christ to operate within the sphere of spiritual gifting. Spiritual gifts are God’s special divine empowerment for us to do ministry in His strength, not our own. God, through His Spirit, is the one who assigns our gifts (1 Cor. 12:4) so our task then is to identify those whom He has gifted for leadership.

Some people have personalities that lend themselves toward leadership, what we often hear referred to a naturally born leaders. Since God created our inmost being and knit us together in our mother’s womb (Ps. 139:13), we can only conclude that our personalities would have some part in how we serve. Yet, God would not have supernaturally gifted people to serve in certain ways if our natural abilities were enough.

Whether leading by gifting or personality, all must come under the control of the Spirit. We must be yielded to and pulling on God’s power, not our own, if we are going to bear spiritual fruit through our ministry efforts (Jn. 15:1-5). Hence, a person’s walk with God is critical to being an effective leader.

Identifying Those Whom God Has Chosen, not Merely Filling Positions

Just because a person appears to have a yielded heart that loves the Lord and has leadership gifting still doesn’t mean he/she is the person of God’s choosing for a particular leadership position. God’s choice of the prophet Jeremiah to be His spokesperson in that particular time and place provides us with a good example. God told the prophet Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations” (Jer. 1:5). In God’s omniscience and sovereignty, He knew who Jeremiah would be and that he was the right person for that specific mission.

But, how will we know those whom God has chosen? In addition to observing who fits within the first two points mentioned above, we must spend much time in prayer. Consider Jesus’ example in His selection of the twelve whom He would develop into future leaders of His Church.

… Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles … (Lk. 6:12-13)


6 Replies to “Developing Future Church Leaders: The Identification Process”

  1. I found this article very helpful. There are many books and articles out there offering suggestions on how to develop potential leaders, but I have found very few describing the process of how to identify leaders. Can you please tell me who wrote this? As I would like to refer to this in a dissertation I am writing.

    • Hello, Nick. I praise God that you found this article helpful. Yes, identifying the leaders of God’s choosing is very important. We might sometimes overlook those He would choose or we might choose people based on outward appearance that are not really fit inwardly. If you want to refer to this in a dissertation, the author would be Phyllis A. Kline but also be sure to include Ministry Tools Resource Center and the web address of this post. May God help you in the writing of your paper and may you learn much in the process that can be applied to ministry to which God may lead you.

  2. Thanks very much for the post, this is just owe some. Choosing spiritual leaders according to outward appearance or educational skills has led to setback and crippling of God’s work. There is much truth in this write up. Choosing whose whom God appointed and equipped is highly imperative. This should be a real guide to the 21st century church. Choosing those after God’s heart.

    • You are welcome, Jack. We serve the same God as those given as examples in this post so indeed, His ways should be “the” guide for His church today! We certainly would spare ourselves a lot of trouble by choosing leaders accordingly. If even Jesus, as mentioned at the end of the post, prayed before choosing the Twelve, certainly we also should seek God first.

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