In a recent interview with national pro-life apologist Scott Klusendorf, I asked what experience framed his view and practice of leadership. He referenced an early Christian leader who “put him in the game” before he was ready. Scott made mistakes — as all of us do — but he had the character and capacity to do the work. He just needed the experience that comes from trial and error.
For me, it was Bob Latham and Rusty Kennedy who put me in the game before I was ready. Rusty scheduled me to preach to a large group of teenagers on a Thursday night in Indianapolis, and Bro. Bob called on me to preach for 10 minutes in a morning worship service with more than 500 people in attendance. I received a warning about my assignment about 20 minutes before I was to preach. When Bro. Bob and Rusty put me in the game, they were giving me ministry experiences that helped thrust me into a life of preaching and pulpit ministry. Since that time, I have been put into situations where I did not feel qualified, but I have seen God work in them.
Who can we put in the game?
For a student minister, it could be asking a high school student to lead a devotional for the group. A church pastor might invite a deacon to share their salvation testimony in a morning service. For an associational missions strategist, it may mean recommending a young man in the community to provide pulpit supply for churches in the area that are without a pastor. There are hundreds of ways those of us in positions of influence can recommend others and give them opportunities to serve. But why should we make this a regular ministry practice? Here are five reasons:
1. Because it will help them get started: Every Christian leader started somewhere. Whether it was teaching a Sunday school class or driving the church van, we each had the first ministry assignment.
2. Because it will affirm or clarify gifts and calling: For me, my very first assignment teaching fourth graders revealed that God was not calling me to teach fourth graders (LOL). God gave me other opportunities for ministry, and I did eventually discover gifts and a calling.
3. Because it recognizes that God works through ordinary people: God uses ordinary people to accomplish life-changing works, and nowhere is that fact more clearly seen than when He uses someone who is new to gospel ministry.
4. Because it helps fill the pipeline with up-and-coming leaders: Kentucky, like most states, is experiencing a near-empty pipeline when it comes to student leaders, children’s ministers, worship leaders and bivocational pastors. Putting people in the game may help growing Christians discover a calling from God in their life.
5. Because it is the way we got started: I remember a recent comment from Dr. Paul Chitwood as various leaders were recounting the passing of former KBC Executive Director-Treasurer Bill Mackey. Dr. Chitwood remembered Bro. Bill as someone who gave him ministry opportunities before he was ready for them. Dr. Chitwood has gone on to serve as our International Mission Board president. Dr. Mackey was walking in step with the Spirit when he recommended Paul for ministry assignments.
Who should you be putting in the game?