I simply could not believe my mother-in-law would abandon our first born. After a few days of modeling infant care she left him in the care of two complete novices. I remember her smile and reassuring pat on the arm as she said, “you will all be just fine”. She was right. He survived – will turn 30 in a week. I marvel.
Rather early in their walk with him Jesus empowered a bunch of knuckleheads with barely a clue to whom he was and what he came to do (Matthew 10:1-15, Mark 3:13-19). Paul did the same thing (Acts 15: 19-23). I’m not suggesting you neglect to examine, pray, train or have high standards. I AM saying we often inhibit growth for and in ministry by under-empowering those God has called to be empowered (Ephesians 4:8-13). Our job is to equip and empower like Jesus, Paul, and my mother-in law. Risk? Of course there is risk. Jesus had his Judas and Paul had his Demas. So will you. But what else happened? Hint – read Acts. I marvel.
So, what are the barriers to empowering others? Here is a good start:
- Skills: People do need equipping. It can be as simple as:
- Watch me do and then talk about it. What went well? What did we learn? How could we improve?
- Help me do and then talk about it.
- I help you do and then we talk about it.
- You do and then we talk about it.
- I empower and give Paul -Timothy type oversight as you select an apprentice who watches you do – and the cycle continues.
- Structures: If your structure is designed primarily to guard against error and mistakes but your vision is empowering a missional community your structure is undermining your mission. Is your structure built to serve your mission, or is mission limited by your structure? Is there room for one elected to serve tables to “(do) great signs and wonders among the people” (Acts 6:2, 5, 8)”? Do you/ your board/ team leaders establish guidelines and then empower or over regulate and micromanage? General George Patton said, “Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity…If you tell people where to go, but not how to get there, you’ll be amazed at the results.”
- Unaddressed Fear: In 2 Timothy 1:6-8 Paul cuts through the litany of external missional challenges Timothy faces to a deadly internal one – fear. Maybe you have been burned before when delegated power was abused. Maybe you doubt the power of God to use broken, sinful people, including you. Maybe you have never seen it modeled well and are afraid to fail. Maybe you simply don’t want the hassle that comes with empowering others. Barnabas empowers Paul, they empower John Mark, and then there is a blowup. Acts is honest. Mission and messy always go together. Museums are clean and orderly. Is that what you wanted, what you were called to? What are you afraid of? Ask God to show you. Engage the fear before God and with others. Then by faith embrace Paul’s exhortation, Christ’s provision. There is no real ministry without mess, risk, and suffering (2 Timothy 2:3). Anyone who tells you otherwise is peddling left handed hammers.
Do it with wisdom, but EMPOWER. You will marvel.