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Great church leaders understand the complexity of leadership, but viewing it with four “corners” in mind will give you a framework for leading better at church – and also at work, home, and beyond. Here are the four corners of leadership:

Corner #1: Environment

Leaders are responsible for establishing an environment where growth and success can happen. In the church setting, this environment is called a discipleship culture, and it is marked by such things as love, joy and teachability. Jesus spent three years creating this environment as he walked with his disciples, and we need to follow in his footsteps as we create these kinds of environments on our leadership teams and in our church at large.

John 15:11-12I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you.”

Corner #2: Equipment

Leaders must make sure everyone has the tools needed to move forward and succeed. In a church setting with a discipleship culture, these tools are critical. Most pastors think their job is to preach great sermons, but that’s only a small part of it. The Apostle Paul made God’s strategy clear:

Ephesians 4:11-12 Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ.

The pastor’s job is to equip God’s people to make disciples, not just to preach great sermons. That’s where tools come in. One leader has said it like this: “If you want to build a church, preach sermons; if you want to start a movement, use curriculum.” That’s a shockingly old-school statement, but it really makes sense. Getting everyone on the same page with simple discipleship tools keeps your church moving in a common direction. Tools can never replace God’s Spirit working in the hearts of God’s people, but God can use them to catalyze a movement. That’s the heart behind our discipleship tools at pursueGOD.org.

Corner #3: Training

Having tools is frustrating if you don’t know how to use them; that’s where training comes in. In the church setting, training for discipleship (or mentoring) starts with modeling. In a mentoring culture, pastors are mentors first and foremost. If pastors buy into the discipleship system, they’ll use it to make disciples in their world: at home, in the neighborhood, and at church in their top-level leadership teams. Catalytic pastors mentor a few and then release those people to do the same thing in the same way. That’s what Paul prescribed for Timothy:

2 Timothy 2:2 You have heard me teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others.

Corner #4: Willingness

The first three corners must be owned by the pastor or leader at church; the last corner is the responsibility of the follower. At the end of the day, the congregation needs to take the ball and run with it. Remember: a culture is about what everyone is actually doing in your church. You can talk about discipleship all day long, but if people aren’t willing to personally commit to doing the hard work of discipleship every week, it’ll never happen. Parents must be willing to mentor their kids. Group leaders must be willing to mentor their groups. Individual mentors must be willing to walk with people through real-life issues. So what should a pastor do if leaders are unwilling to go full circle and start mentoring? Patiently instruct for a period of time – but if the problem persists, move on to someone who is willing to follow your lead.

Matthew 10:14 If any household or town refuses to welcome you or listen to your message, shake its dust from your feet as you leave.

Leaders can only do their part: creating an environment, the equipment and the training for a discipleship culture. At the end of the day, others must be willing to follow their lead and participate in the discipleship culture.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Watch the video together or invite someone to summarize the topic.
  2. What is your initial reaction to this video? Do you disagree with any of it? What jumped out at you?
  3. Which “corner” is your strongest as a leader? Which is your weakest? Explain.
  4. What words would your team members use to describe the environment you’ve established as a leader? Which words would you like them to use?
  5. What is the crucial equipment needed for the job where you lead? Which tools does your team lack right now?
  6. Check out the training modules in the ministry tools section of our website. Which modules can you begin to use in your church, and with whom?
  7. Which people are willing to follow your lead? Which people are unwilling? Why?
  8. How can you apply the four corners at home or at work?
  9. Write a personal action step based on this conversation.