By Tom Hocking
I had been there before, of course-at the front of a church watching a radiant bride and a nervous groom. I’ve seen bridesmaids in apple red dresses. I’ve enjoyed the fragrance of calla lily bouquets. I’ve intoned the words, “By the authority vested in me as a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and according to the laws of the state of California. . .,” scores of times.
But this time was different-this time I was reciting the vows for my son and his beautiful bride.
Of course there were a variety of feelings surging through my heart, but one worry that never entered my mind was whether I had done a sufficient job preparing Zach to love his wife. I didn’t fret that I didn’t meet with him every Tuesday morning to disciple him on the fine art of marital communication. I wasn’t concerned that he may not have paid attention to my sermons about biblical marriage. I was even okay with the fact that he wanted another pastor to handle their premarital counseling. (BIG surprise, right?)
Why was I – and why am I still – so confident about Zach’s preparation for marriage despite my many, many parental mistakes? Because I am head-over-heels in love with his mother – and have been for the last 30 years. I’m convinced that the absolute best way for parents to prepare their children for marriage is to love each other with abandon – respecting, believing in, and trusting each other.
So, what did I learn about training leaders from my son’s wedding? Just as the key to training my son for marital leadership began with loving my wife, so training people for spiritual leadership begins with a passion for God Himself. To develop leaders, we must first become devoted followers of Christ.
The critical question for those of us who want to influence others is this: what is our passion in life? Do we want to change our world? Influence people? Make disciples? Bind wounds? Build the church?
My friends, we need to apply the simplicity of the great commandment to our passion for leadership development: “Love the lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength (Mark 12:30 NKJV).” As much as we long to be fruitful and effective, the path to abundance does not begin with a passion for people, but rather a zealous desire for God and His glory.
As Jesus put it so simply “He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing (John 15:5 NKJV).”
So what does this mean practically? It indicates that I must practice disciplines that increase my personal passion for God and prescribe similar practices to those I am privileged to influence.
Jesus and Paul trained leaders by both seeking God in solitude and challenging their followers to do the same. Christ’s invitation to the future leaders of the Church was “Follow me.” Paul said, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ (1 Cor. 11:1 NKJV).” I cannot train a leader if that leader is not willing to follow my example of loving God by studying, memorizing, and reflecting on His Word.
Loving my wife remains my favorite way to teach my sons how to lead in marriage. But, loving my Lord is an even sweeter way to teach my sons-in-the-faith how to lead!
Editor’s Note: The 2009-2011 moderator of the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches, Tom Hocking, is challenging Grace Brethren churches in the U.S. to unite in a commitment to make disciples through training leaders, planting churches, and adopting holistic ministries. He is the pastor of the Bellflower Brethren Church in Bellflower, Calif.