Review: Fruitful Leaders

15 March 2022 | Reviews | Dawn Martindale

Fruitful Leaders by Marcus Honeysett is described as ideal for anyone asking whether God could use them as a leader… it will also offer fresh vision to existing leaders, and inspire those who are cultivating a fresh crop of new leaders. - Marcus Honeysett, Fruitful Leaders: How to make, grow, love and keep them, 2011.

Chapter 1: God loves your church The full title of the book is ‘Fruitful leaders: How to make, grow, love, and keep them.’ The opening chapter is a challenge to current leaders to seek to be aware that there will be people in the congregation who have the gift of leadership as one of their spiritual gifts. Future leaders do not just need to be encouraged to develop their gifting, but need equipping, guidance, and support all along the way. The challenge is that a great deal of that equipping, if not all of it for some leaders, should come from the support of current leaders in the congregation.

The challenge to current leaders to equip other leaders in their community is a Biblical one. Ephesians 2:22 is a promise that God lives in the community of his people by his Holy Spirit. God gives gifts to these communities for their Spiritual growth, and no person that is a part of God’s people is without gifts to contribute. ‘Nobody’s Spiritual gifts should be overlooked or underused’ (pg20). Although leadership is actually a variety of gifts under the umbrella of leadership, rather a single easy to describe gift, its purpose is to work towards the release of everyone’s gift (Ephesians 4:11-12). The community as whole has the purpose of growing disciples and impacting the world in such a way as to bring glory to our Lord Jesus Christ. (Matt 28:19-20, 1 Pet 2:9, Eph 1:6,12,14). It therefore makes sense that leaders develop leaders within Christian communities, as these communities impact their world with the love of Christ.

There are lots of different types of leadership roles across Scripture, both Old and New, and many examples of leaders developing other leaders. In today’s congregations there are also many types of leaders who lead in different ways and in different areas, and exercise leadership in ways unique to their gifting, skills, and personalities. ‘The modern idea of a single leader who does everything while everyone else passively receives…, is unknown in the Bible’ (pg21). A view of few, elite (accredited) leaders, usually brought in from outside, results in churches expecting to see few leaders to be seen in congregations, and to not expect to raise leaders from within. That in turn results in a lack of emphasis being put on developing strategies to develop and grow leaders.

The fact is that the majority of churches have no regular on-going leadership training programme or strategy. I believe this lack is crippling many churches. They don’t expect God to raise up leaders from within and therefore don’t devote time, energy, money or manpower to nurture and train them if he does.(pg22)

The hope of this book is: to help churches to become aware of God’s gifting of leadership within churches, even small ones; for leaders to be expected to be journeying with other developing leaders – not expecting conferences or Theological colleges to do all the work; to help leaders grow as disciples as well as leaders so that their task is a delight and not a burden; and to identify and remove the barriers that prevent the encouraging, supporting, and resourcing of new leaders.

The chapter ends with an encouragement to pray both personally, and for the church leadership as a whole, to develop a passion and desire to develop leadership in both current leaders, and those of the next generation; and for leaders to lead boldly and daringly as they equip others and proclaim the good news of Jesus.

Chapter 4: Developing Yourself as a Spiritual Leader

There are two key intertwining points throughout the whole chapter: 1) A need for leaders to have accountability and vulnerability 2) The need to have a desire to grow Spiritually and to be spending time developing a personal relationship with God.

The chapter highlights two stories that could represent two different types of small group leaders.

  • The first leader is young, inexperienced, and aware of their weaknesses. However, they long for a mentor through which they can learn: ‘I’m really jealous of Timothy in the Bible. Paul looked after him and taught him everything. How do I find someone to do that for me?’
  • The second leader is highly experienced, knowledgeable, skilled, and dedicated to preparing deep Bible studies. However, this leader rejects an open offer to get together with other house group leaders to share and learn more together. They have three excuses 1) they do so much they have no spare evenings 2) the group are happy with what they already do and wouldn’t want to change. 3) the group is growing Spiritually both in their relationships with each other and with God.

In some ways it makes sense that the experienced and busy leader, with a growing group would not want extra (perhaps in their mind ‘pointless’) burdens. However, when asked which of the two groups a reader of the chapter would wish to join, most tend to veer slightly towards the group with the inexperienced leader. Many of us long for our leaders to be the kind of people seeking purposely to grow personally, as a leader, and in their walk with God, and making time to do so as a priority, no matter how experienced they are.

The chapter also addresses the popular concept that leaders are close to faultless, or on ‘some kind of exalted plane, inaccessible to ordinary folks.’ However, Paul and Timothy ‘wanted to be transparent about how they were learning and growing, so that other people could learn by watching them.’ Leaders need to be seen to be ordinary people and therefore needing to grow (vulnerability).

The chapter encourages leaders to develop a hunger for growth, and for God’s Word, so that leadership flows from a person’s walk with God rather than replaces it. There are some questions in the appendix to consider in regard growing as a Christian, and growing in desire for God, and helping others to grow. (Appendix 1 E is entirely about seeking Spiritual friendship.) Then, towards the end of the chapter, there are three practical steps for leaders to implement:

  1. Finding a mentor. ‘When we have appropriate support, it is so much easier to grow.’ Often it is easiest to relate to people of a similar age to ourselves when it is easiest to have the greatest level of mutuality, and vulnerability. But also seeking help from wiser, older Christians is good. However, ‘the older we get, the greater the percentage of godly spiritual leaders who are younger than us. We need humility to realise that God may want to use them to feed us.’ The author mentions an invaluable Spiritual friendship with a pastor over a decade younger than himself.
  2. Make a plan for Spiritual growth after identifying weaknesses through the appendix questions and share with a friend/mentor.
  3. Seek as much leadership wisdom as you can.

I couldn’t help but notice that all three are about opening ourselves to the critique of others.

Chapter 5: Leaders Who Love the Holy Spirit and the Bible

Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness – the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people. To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.
(Colossians 1:24-29)

Two key principles from the above Scripture form the basis for this chapter. 1) Spiritual leaders love and proclaim the message about Jesus so that others can get to know and grow in him. 2) They do so, not in their own strength, but in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Contrasting 1 Timothy 3 with 2 Timothy 2:14-3:9 shows that leadership is largely about character and attitude which is developed by learning to live out Scripture rather than simply trying to understand it as a cerebral exercise. Reading Scripture with the desire to not only know about God, but to know God, and to want to be like Jesus, is to be led by the Spirit. This is something that deepens over time. Our desires for the things of the Spirit will intensify, and a desire to love others as Jesus loved, will intensify over time as we seek to grow in faith as we spend time in the Word. This desire is the mark of a true leader.

In order to read Scripture in such a way as grow in love for God and others, not in just knowledge, Honeysett suggests worshipping over Scripture as we read: ‘The whole point of reading and teaching the Bible is so that God receives worship in your life, and through you in the lives of others.’ We need to not only teach Scripture, but enjoy it, and allow it to draw us into deeper relationship with God as he lives in us. The principles from Colossians 1 show that the Spirit led life is ‘a life full of receiving the love of Jesus and passing it on to others….’

‘Leadership is a gift from the Holy Spirit.’

Like all Spiritual gifts it needs to be used to serve others in love (Spirit led), not used because of love for self (led by the sinful nature). As leaders seek to be led by the Spirit, they may feel a bit stuck in their faith journey if they are not able to have fresh outlets to express their faith and spiritual desires as they bubble up within. Bible-studies are great but they are not ends in themselves. They should us cause us, as leaders, to long for outlets to put into practice our learning.

In this chapter we are challenged to pause to pray: You might like to take a few minutes at this point to pray, for yourself and for other leaders in your church, that God will help you:

  • To set your desires on what the Holy Spirit desires.
  • To find fresh ways to serve others in love, so that they will get to know God.’

Chapter 6: Caring for yourself as a leader There are various struggles for leaders when it comes to caring for themselves Spiritually. In busy periods leaders can be tempted to combine together their Spiritual life and their work, seeing Bible study or sermon preparation as their time spent with God. Behind this may lie a belief that God and/or people love them because of the quantity of work that they do. Leaders can be tempted to believe in their own importance, and this can lead to shying away from admitting to mistakes or being vulnerable.

However, in investing in themselves Spiritually, leaders will be better equipped to cope with the needs of others. No matter how pressed for time they might be, leaders need to make time to spend time with God in prayer and worship. It would also be helpful to ask friends to help since leaders are not always good at caring for their own souls. Friends can pray together, figure out challenging ministry situations together, and help each other pursue holiness.

Chapter 7: You could be a leader maker This chapter is all about being willing to take the risks (and time) required in raising new leaders from within the church and teaching them how to lead. People with a potential to lead and teach who are in a church where there are few or no opportunities to develop their gifting and abilities often face insurmountable challenges in developing their gifting. External environments like conferences and Theological colleges can be inaccessible due to any combination of factors such as finances, time, distance, or travel difficulties. Where a church is not able to spot, or develop, or support new leaders from within, it may mean that new potential leaders cannot develop their gifting; or perhaps have to delay their training, or perhaps they and/or their family will need to make huge sacrifices to allow it to happen.

This chapter contains stories, both Biblical, and contemporary, of both willingness, and unwillingness to develop new leaders. The chapter highlights that being willing to develop new leaders means being willing to pray for new leaders; allow new leaders to become apprentices to more mature leaders; ease new leaders into taking on responsibility as they are ready; creating safe spaces where mistakes can be made/protecting the potential leader when mistakes are made; and releasing these new leaders in support and encouragement. A church or group that sets up the ability to train and develop new leaders from the start, or from small beginnings, will be a church or group that sets in place the ability to grow well and organically as it develops new groups with the new leaders. New leaders can lead us further with God than we would ever be able to go by ourselves.

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