When leaders fall

David, Nathan, you are the man.jpg

More resignations, more shocking details of a leader in disgrace. Bill Hybels joins John Howard Yoder and Karl Barth in the hall of shame. Few leaders finish well.

The Bible is strong on grace without ever losing sight of the reality and seriousness of sin. Forget the debates on once saved always saved. We can all agree that saving faith perseveres to the end. It is perilous to confess Christ with your lips and set our hearts to deny him in deeds.

We are at war. Jesus laid out the terrain in Mark 13 and Matthew 24. Between his first and second coming the world will be characterized by conflict, natural disasters, wars, false prophets and the ever-present temptation to fall away. The danger is real.

So who makes it through? The ones who in their weakness, cast themselves on him. This world is passing away. Jesus has overcome the world. He led the way as the obedient Son who entrusted himself to his Father and triumphed over sin, death and Satan. His victory is ours.

There was a time in my life when I had no hope left. I wasn’t convinced my life was worth living. I had no strength left. The enemy was using my weakness to bring death and destruction. God had another plan. In my brokenness, I called out to God. I claimed my identity as one hidden in Christ’s death and resurrection. I rebelled against the reality I was experiencing. God is faithful and in his time and in his way he restored me.

Paul wrote to the Corinthians, 

We do not want you to be uninformed … about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead (2 Cor 1:8-9).

Leaders don’t fall because they are not strong enough, they fall because in their weakness they rely on themselves, not the God who raises the dead.

The underbelly of a movement


The controversial founder of one of Europe's largest Protestant churches is battling some in his church leadership over his reaction to multiple affairs.

Why do so many high profile leaders fall. Perhaps they are no more vulnerable than your average church leader, we’re just more likely to hear about their failures. No stream of the Christian movement is immune. I’m old enough and well enough connected to know of a host of tragic examples.

Leadership failure is a major threat to every multiplying movement of disciples and churches.

Money, sex and power are crouching at your door; they desire to have you, but you must rule over them (adapted from Gen 4:7).

Here’s DA Carson’s take on why the “Young Restless and Reformed” movement sailed into rough waters a few years ago. The lessons are transferable.

Who knows your struggles? Who holds you accountable? Who are you watching out for?

Download: The underbelly of revival - DA Carson

102-Nathan Shank: The five levels of movement leadership (2)

Nathan Shank discusses the Five Levels of Movement Leadership. The second part of a two-part series.

You can read more on Nathan's Five Levels of Leadership in Pioneering Movements: Leadership that Multiplies Disciples and Churches.

096-Pioneering Movements in South Florida - Troy Cooper

Coopers on a mission

Coopers on a mission

I've done a count and this is (around) the 96th episode of the Movements podcast. Our guest is Troy Cooper, a movement pioneering based in South Florida. We talk about how God has shaped him in that role and what it means to be on mission as a family.

Find out more about the Coopers...

To mark our 96th podcast I've finally introduced a numbering system.

Related: Pioneering Movements in South Florida - Jimmy Scroggins

Nathan Shank: The five levels of movement leadership [video]

My next book will be on Movement Leadership. It is due out in November 2015 with IVP.

A huge influence on my thinking has been Nathan Shank’s five levels of movement leadership. He unpacks it here on the world’s largest whiteboard.

If you like what you see and hear download Nathan and Kari Shank’s Four Fields manual.

Growing movement leaders

4gens diag what Jesus started

I asked Nathan, a worker somewhere in South Asia, about what he does to grow movement leaders.

His response opens a window on how to grow leaders in a growing disciple making movement.


I realize more than ever my role at this point is diagnostics. We have around 8-10 teams of workers experiencing some stage of CPM (multiple streams/multiple generations).  Their teams include dozens of local trainers who understand movement vision and truly campaign the tools that have reproduced.  

My training efforts are often asking a ton of questions in Fields 3 and 4 (reproducing discipleship and reproducing church formation) and or to find a weakness then wrestling with the brothers to pursue solutions in the Word.

This week we had three days training.  Twelve local leaders each with 5-15 churches.

The first day was on church formation... I gave two hours to examine a list of 'church health' passages we created together to answer the question, 'can you make a list of all the activities of healthy church?'

Then we compared the list they made against the churches they had started (we discussed forty-one different churches in all -- some mature/others new/lacking many elements on the 'healthy list' they had created).  Action plans for each church were the overnight assignment.

Second day they had all prepared a list of the leaders in the churches (whether formal pastors or new emerging leaders getting the first taste of responsibility/authority).  We spent the whole second day talking through 1 Timothy 3 character issues.  First in pairs they examined each leader on their list verse by verse in 1 Tim 3 making a list of strengths and weaknesses.  

We gathered together again, prayed a lot and then reviewed Matthew 18 (discipline was part of the church health list by the way). Then they had two hours to pray and study to find answers/passages of 'encouragement' for any character weakness in the emerging leader revealed by 1 Tim 3.  Great day of prayer!

Third day we pulled out the first three 'levels of leadership' to discuss movement health (do we have 'crops' of developing leaders at each level?)

We again examined leaders one my one to see where they fit in the levels, what competencies might be lacking and how we might push them forward with action plans from the next level ahead of them.

All that to say… we are not only focused on diagnostics, but we are training leaders regularly to begin their own diagnostics in their fields.

I would suggest this aspect of leadership development is a major difference in church planting movement sustainability.  


046-Leaders who multiply — Jeff Sundell

Are you a leader who wants to multiply disciples and churches? What does your job description look like? What do you do every day to become a catalyst for a church planting movement? This is number 5 in a series of six podcasts recorded at a Community of Practice with Jeff Sundell in April 2013.

Jeff talks about leaders who multiply movements. Jeff refers to the handout: Effective SC Core Competencies. The term "Strategy Co-ordinator" refers to a movement leader.