“Then He called His twelve disciples together and gave them power and authority over all demons, and to cure diseases. He sent them to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.”[1] ­– Luke speaking of Jesus

“I also look at the men God gathered around me and I sort of chuckle as I see the ones that God has used…The whole purpose of God is to choose those who really aren’t qualified, but then to anoint them with His Spirit.  Then, when the results are forthcoming, it’s an amazement and wonder to the world.”[2] – Chuck Smith

One of the most interesting things about the ministry of Jesus is that He selected leaders to train who would one day lead His people before He began gathering followers.[3]  He called men to Himself.  He called them to spend long seasons with Him away from their families.  He called them to leave their former occupations and come after Him.  And as you read of the ministry of Jesus in the synoptic gospels you see that these men hardly left Jesus’ side for three years.

Jesus and Leadership Multiplication

What’s all of this about?  It was about training the future leaders of His people.  In addition to spending lots of time praying alone with the Father, preaching to large crowds, and being available to serve individuals He came across who were in need, Jesus spent a ton of His time training leaders.  The twelve apostles were constantly sitting at His feet learning.  Generally speaking, Jesus would spend time formally teaching them in a small group settings.  This would be followed by giving them opportunities to serve.  He would send them out to preach, baptize, and work miracles by the Holy Spirit.  After these field trips the apostles would then come back to Jesus and He would give them more instruction, and the whole thing would begin again.[4]

As the story of the New Testament unfolds, Jesus spent three years teaching these men, testing these men, and allowing them to watch Him work.  At the end of that time Jesus died for our sins, was buried three days, and rose from the dead.  He then spent forty more days giving the apostles the last bits of information and training they needed before ascending back into heaven from where He came and pouring out the Holy Spirit upon them at Pentecost.  From that moment when they received the power of the Holy Spirit those men began to lead Jesus’ people in His physical absence, under His leadership, in accordance with the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives.

The Apostles and Leadership Multiplication

Fast-forward in the book of Acts and you find the apostles training other men after the pattern of how Jesus trained them.  In the missionary journeys of Paul you often see him traveling with a group of companions who were assisting him and learning from him.[5]  After serving faithfully alongside Paul and being tested in regard to personal gifts and calling, young men like Timothy and Titus were placed as pastors over local churches they had assisted in planting.[6]  The Apostles practiced Jesus’ example of multiplying leaders for the people through apprentice and assistant style training, and placed new leaders over new church plants wherever they went.[7]

Early Church Pastors and Leadership Multiplication

The teaching of the New Testament is that this element of intentionally training leaders in an apprentice style system wasn’t to stop with the apostle’s individual ministries.  Paul wrote as much to his assistant Timothy when he was pastoring the church in Ephesus: “And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”[8]  Timothy was to see carrying on this method of multiplying leaders, which began in Jesus’ training of the twelve and continued in the apostles’ training of early church pastors like him, as a major part of his duties as a pastor.


You, Me, and Leadership Multiplication

I would suggest that the mandate to multiply leaders after the example of Jesus and men like Paul and Timothy is as real for church planters and pastors today as it was in the first century.  In seeking to follow the example of the New Testament in this area I began to pray for a church planting team when I sensed Jesus was going to move us to Utah to start Refuge Church.  The Lord provided a great team for the task.  When we held our first service, though we only had about twelve people in attendance, we had a small worship team, Bible teacher, and Sunday school teacher prepared to serve.  All of these roles were filled by six adults Jesus put together for our church planting team.

In addition to prayerfully putting together a planting team when we started the church, we also started Refuge School of Ministry when the church began to grow and become more established.  The school of ministry is designed to be a church-based context in which men who sense a call to ministry and church planting can get theological instruction, character strengthening, and spiritual gift and calling discernment through practical service opportunities.  Usually our class times consist of our pastors teaching and praying with ten to twelve guys who sense a call to ministry.  The Lord has blessed this venture in faith in huge ways.

A Command to Leaders

We didn’t start the school of ministry to be cool, or because we saw a burning bush telling us to do so.  We did it in response to the example of Jesus, the apostles, and the command of 2 Timothy 2:2.  My challenge to you if you are a pastor is to ask yourself if you’ve taken the command to multiply leadership seriously enough.  If not, why not?  If you are an aspiring church planter, pray that God would give you the right team to assist you.  With a team you can not only do far more than you could on your own, but you will be able to begin training leaders from day one who will be able to assist you, and perhaps even plant more churches in the future.  Hopefully you don’t just want to plant a church, but a church-planting-church.  The fact is that if you don’t pray and work toward multiplying leaders you will never have a church-planting-church in the long-run.  The Lord wants to train others through you.  Let Him.


Sending New Leaders

The Lord is fulfilling the vision he gave to us at Refuge Church to be a church-planting-church.  He is training men in our midst.  He is giving clarity on place, timing, and methods for planting new churches.  We believe that as we train men and pray for the Lord’s leading He will continue to reveal specific the men He is calling and gifting to plant more churches from within our local body.  This conviction is born out of what we see in the book of Acts.

“Now in the church that was at Antioch there were certain prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.  As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’  Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands of them, they sent them away.  So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went…”[9]


 Is this dynamic happening in your leadership team?  If you’re looking to plant a church, is the training of new leaders something you’re already praying over as you prepare to step out in faith? Multiplying leadership is a New Testament church planting mandate.  Brothers, let’s do our job.

[1] Luke 9:1-2 NKJV

[2] Smith, Chuck. Calvary Chapel Distinctives. Pages 107 & 108

[3] See Matthew 4:18-25

[4] The Master’s Plan of Evangelism. Is a great resource that explains Jesus’ method of training and discipleship.

[5] Acts 20:1-6

[6] 1 Timothy 4:14; Titus 1:5

[7] Acts 14:23

[8] 2 Timothy 2:2 NKJV

[9] Acts 13:1-4a NKJV

7 replies
  1. Bill Holdridge
    Bill Holdridge says:

    I like it, Kellen. When I’ve focused on this in my own ministry, it has yielded fruit. I regret the seasons when I did not.

    Here are some additional thoughts that I/we perhaps need to consider:

    One, we need to remember that Jesus built men first, leaders second. He called them to be with Him, and then He sent them out to preach. He made them fishers of men by making them into better and gifted men.

    Two, Jesus’ program was to fulfill the Father’s plan and to prepare for the building of His church. Too often I’ve done discipleship with the focus on what holes in our church can these men fill. In other words, I can easily be program oriented rather than kingdom oriented. What this does is sort of predetermine (in my own mind) where a man will land after our training is finished. The alternative is to let the Lord determine these things (He will anyway!), and just focus on making men into better men who follow Jesus.

    I love the topic. I’m fixin’ to start another training sometime after the first of the year, so it’s timely. Thanks, Kellen.

    • Kellen Criswell
      Kellen Criswell says:

      I totally agree, Bill. We’ve tried to model training in the School of Ministry as well as our elder assessment and training process after Jesus’ method of discipling the 12. We bring guys into close proximity and spend time developing character, theology, and ministry philosophy. Additionally, we have them join in the work we’re already doing and give them oversight responsibilities over areas they seemed to have gifting in. We do both of these things to because Jesus spent lots of time in small group kinds of relational contexts teaching the 12, and He invited them into the ministry He was already doing.

      We’ve seen lots of fruit with this approach. In the smaller context we get to know where guys are at, pray together, and do some formal learning. As they join with us in ministry, we get to see their gifts get confirmed and their calling affirmed and refined. At the end of the day we believe many of the guys we’re walking with will (some already have) become leaders in our specific local church. On the other hand we are desirous and believe that others will be raised up and sent out to serve Jesus else where. This dynamic is happening at the present in some ways as well. I think you’re totally right. Train them up by the Spirit, and then let the Spirit take them where HE wants them.

  2. Trip Kimball
    Trip Kimball says:

    Hey Kellen, glad to see this post, not only do I appreciate what you’ve shared, but I heartily agree with Bill. This is (imho) the greatest need within the church, not just in America, but the world. It is overlooked because it requires time, patience, risk and an assortment of other things many leaders are simply unwilling to commit to… sadly.

    The “Master Plan” is a great training tool, as well as, simple, solid IBS (Inductive Bible Study), which was the foundation for our school in the Philippines. It amazes me how it still bears fruit a decade later through those discipled this way, and in ways beyond their training.

    Another thing that gets overlooked (imho) is simple, intentional, and relational discipleship that naturally breeds leaders, who will naturally have vision for church planting and cross-cultural missions. Bill said it right, too often we get it backwards… let’s plant a church, ok but we need leaders… ok, let’s make disciples, etc. Jesus said, “Go, make disciples…teaching them…” (Mt 28).

    After being out of my home culture for 15 years, what I saw in the US church upon returning was weakness, and at the heart of it a lack of genuine discipleship. I’m blessed to see it’s your vision for your church body and beyond.

    • Kellen Criswell
      Kellen Criswell says:

      Thanks for the encouragement, Trip. God is good. I gleaned a ton from “Master.” I love the approach of just looking at Jesus’ training of the twelve to determine how we should be trained, and train others. The IBS deal is something that is on my heart currently. I’m thinking about doing a study with the guys in our elder assessment process on IBS methods as well as teaching the Bible. Discipleship is definitely a huge lack in many areas of the church universal it seems. It’s awesome to hear reports like your report regarding the Philippines. I’d be really interested to hear about your time in the islands.

      It may be a testimony of how God used you down there that the Lord used to call me into the ministry, believe it or not!

  3. Trip Kimball
    Trip Kimball says:

    Kellen, I’d love to share with you some time… remind, where you are pastoring?
    Bill H is more than capable with the IBS training, so if he’s close to you he’d be a great resource. If you don’t have anything set, I can send you my very basic 6-8 hour workbook via email. Working over here & then back in the US since ’06, I’ve adjusted my approach to training to make it more interactive.

    BTW, along the lines of discipleship that goes to what Bill mentioned about filling “holes in the church”, which is probably everyone’s tendency… because my wife & I have worked with many different western and national leaders (not always of our choosing), we learned to be real flexible about finding a good fit for each person within the ministry. It can be messy, frustrating and even risky, but in the long run it always pays off.
    blessings & Merry Christmas from the other side of the world,

  4. Kellen Criswell
    Kellen Criswell says:

    Hey, Trip. That’d be great if you’d email me your content. I’m always looking for good tools. Perhaps we that can begin an email conversation about your story? I’m currently in northern Utah. I live in Ogden and we meet in Riverdale as a church on Sundays. Where are you at currently? Merry Christmas to you!

  5. Trip kimball
    Trip kimball says:

    Right now I’m in the Philippines so my Internet has been a bit sketchy. Usually I’m in Jacksonville, FL. I return to the US Jan 30, but I can send you a digital copy of my workbook. Just send me your email address.

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