The crying need of the church today is quality discipleship. Jesus tells us to “Go make disciples” (Matt 28:19-20). The question, that is, the missing ingredient of leadership development today is what Dallas Willard called “Non-discipleship … the elephant in the church.”  Despite Jesus’ last words to us to make disciples, lack of intentional discipling relationship not only remains ‘the elephant in the church,’ it declines the church. Lack of quality discipleship formation generates a weak leadership development plan. Question of leadership warns that ‘not every disciple will be a leader but every leader must be a growing disciple reproducing the life of Christ in others.’ Leadership without growing disciples suggests a task managers with ‘great influence but little spiritual depth.’

God Himself as the Ultimate Leader calls us to leadership with innate traits or abilities. The Bible remains the best source and the greatest Book on God’s giving capabilities and methods ever written. Leaders are therefore raised through quality discipleship, experience, test and developmental capabilities of of our knowledge, skills, gifts, emotions, and expertise with faith in God. Warning against unbridled stewardship and leadership, John Wesley inspires us to make all we can, save all we can, and give all we can with our times, talents, skills, and resources given to be used for God’s Kingdom. The place of talents, gifts and abilities are however limited and frustrating without quality discipleship, an encounter with Jesus. The limitations and barriers to the ability of the Samaritan woman to Jacob’s well just outside Sychar, a town midway between Jerusalem and Nazareth was broken before she became first choice to advance the Gospel in a region where it had not yet been heard (Jn 4:1-42). The barriers and limitations of the Samaritan Gospel ministry in each of us need brokenness to fulfil our maximum leadership potentials. Quality discipleship breaks barriers and limitations of fear, shyness, inferiority complex, pride, selfishness, laziness and racism to our talents, gifts and abilities for apostolic ministry, prophetic ministry, pastoral ministry, teaching ministry and other missional varieties of stewardship (Eph 4:10-13, 1 Cor 12:6-10). Quality discipleship reminds us that ‘we were first created in Adam in bodily form but in Christ we were recreated to do the will of God.’ Quality discipleship recreate and renew for quality leadership.

Mistakes made at the leadership level impact everyone, the structure and nations. Leadership is more than having a leadership positions, degrees, or titles. Leadership in missional sense cascades throughout the family life with the role of parents through the institutional life of the church and nations. The goal of Christian leadership is about leading people to Jesus and in Him we are reconciled to the Father. Leadership is invested in the Church by Jesus Christ, so that we may ‘all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ’ (Eph 4:11-13). Leadership beyond merely a cognitive grasping of concepts or skill development must be discipled. Martyn Atkins, a former President and Secretary of Conference, Methodist Church in Britain provides a very helpful contribution in one of his famous publications, Discipleship…and the People Called Methodist. Atkins explained that, “The desire for discipleship came first, and the ‘structures’ quickly arose because they served the desired purpose well.” Discipleship gives rise to structure and not structure to discipleship. Sadly, today the church want the best professional structure to promote a prophetic cell. It will end in frustration and decline. The question for leadership that calls for quality disciples is to reverse the quest for leadership structures before the call to discipleship. Leadership before discipleship is dysfunctional, more of civil servants for servicing human and material resources, hence the setbacks, frustration, and administrative burnouts and bottlenecks. The increasing cycle of non-discipleship in the church takes many forms of busyness without growing intimacy and supremacy in Jesus Christ.

Jesus’ disciple leadership principle for the 12 was by showing and teaching them what true greatness in the kingdom of God looked like. The quality of discipleship as the foundational to question of leadership shapes the theology, unity, and doctrine of the church. Quality leadership begins from a cell small groups as in the early days of Methodism that produce empowered people that changed the nation. The problem, in the words of Atkins, is that, many ‘Christian disciples in Methodism today know very little about its roots.’ According to Atkins, ‘What do we think God want?’ is a very different question to ‘what do we want?’ It is sad, while God is asking for obedience by walking in the light of His Word, the church want best structure that disables Christian discipleship. Atkins explained that, ‘structure’ ‘doesn’t bring about a desired change. Your car doesn’t change because you’ve built a new garage to put it in!’ Quality discipleship comes first with ‘aims and purpose to be shaped by a sense of God’s call and vision.’ David was first discipled before facing Goliath.

Apostle Paul in his letter to his young apprentice, Timothy points to some of the results of ignorance and false doctrine in the church at Ephesus. The Ephesian leaders kept their people busy, but somehow they had left their first priority. Their work for God had actually distracted them from God. They had busy hands, crowded calendars, full heads – but empty hearts. Apostle Paul explained how doctrinal controversy hurt the spirit of a church and prevent growth. The question of leadership, theology and doctrine points to what keep the church from its mission (1Tim 1:3-7). Just as the question of leadership shapes the church theology, the question of theology shapes the church doctrine. The reflection is what shapes the leadership? Apostle Paul on his list of qualifications for church leaders point to the key: “But let these also be tested” (1 Tim 3:10). Test not only qualify us for tasks and positions, test identify our potentials, reveals and removes errors. Test helps the developer and the tester to improve quality and service. Just as software production without testing ‘could be useless or sometimes dangerous for customers,’ leadership without discipleship is not only dangerous to the people, it declines the organisations. Discipleship shaped-leadership is first planted as a seed of salvation that begins to sprout in preparation to be tested as a plant. A plant as a symbolism of leader’s position matures and bears fruit shaped by healthy accountability

Discipleship shaped-leadership as a plant starts at home. If it does not work at home, do not export it. Discipleship shaped-leadership is first a person with priority on relationship with God. Discipleship shaped-leadership secondly is a partner with priority on relationship with spouse or friends. Discipleship shaped-leadership is about parent with priority on relationship with God and children. Leadership skills may get people on board meeting and direction. Leadership skills may even put the right people in the right places and grow the organisation. The problem is, skills without Spirit is suicidal and a setback to a church, leadership or ministry. The Bible explained that, the letter kills, the Spirit gives life (2 Cor 3:6). Christian leadership is beyond fancy walls of skills, letters, technology, craftmanship, theology, and beauty. The question of Christian leadership beyond interpersonal skills is first about abiding in Christ, digging down and laying a solid foundation of personal quality discipleship and holy character (Lk 9:23, Jn 8:31-32, 1 Cor 11:1). Healthy church and its leadership is the goal for quality discipleship (Eph 1:23). One of the tests discipleship is suffering – not easy going, but ‘a furnace for the testing of Christian quality.’ The path of quality discipleship involves conflict with principalities and power, therefore quality discipleship is not compatible with self-indulgence.

Many political, economic and spiritual walls are crashing and declining today as the wind blows and the rain comes down. Churches and ministries are collapsing and declining today due to character and discipleship issues especially among leaders regardless of our denominations, theological titles or degrees. The quality of discipleship as the foundational to any question of leadership, theology, unity or doctrine warns us that, ‘You are not a leader … You are only a follower of the Leader,’ Jesus Christ. Quality discipleship test and audit ‘evaluates the strength of an individual as a Christian leader by assessing (and encouraging) their level of trust, commitment, and faith in Christ.’ Quality discipleship with the Scripture as our textbook provides missional foundation for a viable and effective leadership (Jn 5:39). Without quality discipleship, everything else declines, especially leadership (1Cor 15:58). The root of churches and ministries growth and problem is discipleship hence, the need for us to repent and pray for a change, thereby breaking the cycle of non-discipleship. Discipleship empowers leaders to be spirit-filled, firmly rooted and effective in a missional, authentic, and personal relationship with Jesus.