The leader’s responsibility is to equip God’s people to do His work and build up the church, the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:12, OGV).
Recently, I looked at a Facebook post from a former member of Fellowship who had left thirty years ago to build a church in Africa.
This church now has thousands in attendance.
The member was a part of Fellowship for about four years and a talented leader, and I felt discouraged when he left, as I had great plans for him in the church.
In almost 50 years as the Senior Pastor of Fellowship Church in Springfield, Ohio, I’ve watched hundreds leave to become missionaries, school leaders, pastors, business leaders, non-profit founders and leaders, and members of the body of Christ – in other churches and locations.
Though grieving when they departed (often, the hole they left was deep), I began to realize that I had a “releasing” ministry in my calling and with the church that I pastored.
Where did I get this idea of “releasing leadership?”
Decades ago, I read a quote by Corrie Ten Boom. Her book, The Hiding Place, is one of the top 10 influential books in my life. Her quote . . .
Hold everything in your hands lightly; otherwise, it hurts too much when God takes it away.
From the time of reading this quote, I knew that my ministry and that of Fellowship Church was to release followers of Jesus to other places.
A couple of background notes about Springfield:
A well-known polling organization once listed Springfield, Ohio, as having the worst economy in America for much of the past three decades. Another organization described Springfield as one of the saddest places in America. As I was growing up in Springfield, my friends in high school talked about leaving the city as soon as possible.
Living in Springfield, my ministry was doomed or blessed to lose members to other cities and countries.
I just had to understand it as a blessing.
I’ve often thought that if a person could spiritually prosper in Springfield, with the community’s oft-oppressive spirit of poverty, this person could prosper anywhere. My city is a great training ground for developing faith.
And this has happened with hundreds who have left to serve in other places and, through their ministries, thousands who have also been released.
Now back to the one person who left decades past. He could never have planted a church in Africa reaching thousands if he had stayed in Springfield.
Soon after he left, a college student approached and asked me to disciple him. I did, and he stayed in Springfield. He, along with his wife, have become two of the most significant spiritual leaders ever in our community.
In God’s Kingdom, releasing leaders always has a great payback.