Last month, I wrote to you about building men of God. I promised to show you a plan of action that you could use to develop servant-leaders, men of godly character and keen Biblical minds, husbands who know how to love their wives, pastoral elders who know how to love Christ’s Wife, the church.
So here goes. This article, therefore, will be a bit different than usual in this monthly column. In it, I will not be detailing an argument, or teaching a point. Rather, I will be suggesting a curriculum, complete with goals, textbook recommendations, and scheduling suggestions. I am not expecting a rash of people and churches to run out to copy these suggestions, which by the way, arise out of my regular practices here in Dallas. Each church has unique needs and unique gifts. Some may choose to use other texts, to meet at other times. What I do hope and pray will happen is that many of you will begin to take more seriously, perhaps for the first time, the serious duty of cultivating men for godly service as servant-leaders in home, church and kingdom. If these ideas spark better ones in your mind and church, please let me know. I am always interested in refining and reforming ideas and practices of my own!
A CURRICULUM FOR LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT
Bethel CRC Dallas, Texas
Purpose: The purpose of training is to cultivate, with deliberate and careful training, godly men who possess Biblical character, Biblical knowledge, and ministry skills, thus enabling them to give leadership in their homes, in the church, and in their world, so that in all things, Christ might have the preeminence!
Name and Overview: The first course in the curriculum will be called “Leadership One.” It will focus on the character of Biblical servant leadership, on the character of a man of God, and on establishing a functional and broad base of Biblical doctrinal knowledge. A second course, called “Leadership Two” will provide specific training for elders and deacons (and men who “desire the office”), to be offered once per year, possibly during the Sunday School hour, and lasting approximately twelve to sixteen weeks. “Leadership Three” will be individual mentorship offered by the senior pastor initially (later by other pastoral staff as well), offered upon written application to those who desire to be cultivated for possible full-time church ministry (e.g. those who desire to equip themselves to be youth pastors, missionaries, ministers of education, or who desire practical preparation and training prior to applying to seminary).
Curriculum Description: “Leadership One”
The curriculum for “Leadership One” will include a variety of materials. Because men of God must be men of the Word, the first textbook will be the Bible. Men will be asked to commit daily to the reading and study of God’s Word. Initially, we will plan our reading and study together as we study “Leaders in the Bible,” beginning with Nehemiah, then studying the life and ministry of Moses, then that of David, the “man after God’s own heart.” Later, you will be developing reading and study plans of your own. Secondly, because men of God must be men whose lives are thoroughly shaped by God’s own character, we will be studying Christian Character, using the excellent volume, The Man in the Mirror by Patrick Morley (Brentwood, Tenn.: Wolgemuth and Hyatt, Publishers, Inc., 1989) (study guide available). This study aims at calling men to faithfulness in a wide range of problem areas, including problems in a man’s identity, relationships, money, time, temperament, and integrity. Thirdly, we will be studying Biblical Reformed Doctrine using a couple of resources: First, an excellent resource entitled Essential Truths of the Christian Faith by RC. Sproul (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, 1992). This volume does a good job of summarizing key Scriptural doctrines (102 of them!), drawing clear lines of understanding and aiding in developing discernment. We will also be using the adopted creeds of this church as the standard material, over against which Sproul’s book will be studied as the course outline.
Note: It is clear from this curriculum that “Leadership One” will require a serious commitment of time and commitment from each student who enrolls. It is expected that this course will take a minimum of 6 months, meeting weekly for at least an hour. Reading and study assignments will be given throughout; later on in the course, some leadership servanthood assignments will be given as well. Class will meet each Friday morning at 6:30 sharp. If more than 12 enroll, a second section will meet on Saturday mornings at 6:30 AM.
Curriculum Description: “Leadership Two”
(Training for potential elders and deacons) (This course presupposes the student has taken “Leadership One” and demonstrated spiritual fruit from having learned and applied that material to his life and practice.)
During this course of 12–16 weeks (depending on the development level of the students), we will study With A Shepherd’s Heart: Reclaiming the Biblical Office of Elder by John R Sittema (Grand Rapids: Reformed Fellowship, Inc., 1996). (OK, what else did you think I’d use?) Additional materials to be used extensively will be The Elder’s Handbook and The Deacon’s Handbook both by Lester De Koster and Gerard Berghoef (Grand Rapids: Christian’s Library Press, 1979 and 1980, respectively). Focus will be given to the pastoral character of the office of elder, to the nature and character of the diaconate, to case studies that aim at developing pastoral sensitivity in the participants, and to a review of Biblical Reformed doctrine. Also studied will be the structure, ministry goals and ministry strategy of Bethel Church. Prior to completion of the course, those “desiring the office of bishop” must sustain an exam (both written and oral) in Bible and doctrine knowledge, and undergo an extensive interview with the elders covering the following areas: their personal life including their practices of piety and ministry, their commitments to Scripture and creeds, their positions on issues facing the church, their understanding of and commitment to stewardship of time, treasures, and talents, their relationships within the body of believers, their relationships with wife and family, and other related matters. (I must express public appreciation to the Christ Covenant PCA of Charlotte, N.C., for allowing me to make use of their Officer Examination and Sessional Interview materials in the development of this course.)
Curriculum Description: “Leadership Three”
Since people who apply for and enroll in this mentorship program will each have their own goals, backgrounds, and needs, the curriculum for each will be unique. Those wrestling with a call to the preaching ministry will be given widespread reading assignments designed to help prepare them for seminary study (or some other preparation). They will also be given pastoral apprenticeship duties that will better enable the senior pastor and the elders of the church to evaluate their spiritual qualifications, in anticipation of the need for the elders to recommend candidates for the ministry. Others, wanting to serve ultimately in unordained capacities in youth work or an education ministry, will be given tailored reading assignments in those fields, along with service assignments within the areas of their interest and desired ministry. In every case, “Leadership Three” candidates must have completed the prior two courses and demonstrated evidence of spiritual fruit resulting from those courses.
Since the curriculum for “Leadership Three” will vary from individual to individual, no set length of program can be set. However, each applicant should expect to commit to at least a year of weekly meetings with the mentor, complete with reading, writing, and service assignments throughout the course of study.
Dr. Sittema is pastor of the Bethel CRC in Dallas, TX.