In America we are drawn to successful people. But how do we define successful leaders? Often times I believe we are tempted to define successful leaders by those who do the most, who are the busiest and who have the most things to personally take credit for. And yet, I believe the Bible paints another picture for us of influence and leadership. Jesus, gave the responsibility of taking the gospel to the world to His disciples. Jesus started the movement, but He trusted His disciples to finish it. Paul continues in this vein as he extols Timothy to teach to faithful men what he has heard from Paul who will be able to teach others also. Leadership from the Biblical standpoint involves looking for others who will be able to take over what you are doing at some point, so that the gospel can continue to touch more lives.
In leaving Italy our hope would be that in our absence Italians would continue the work that we had started. And it is really a blessing when you get see a glimpse of that even just 5 months after we have left. A couple of weeks ago, a group of 6 Italians, 2 staff with Agape and 4 students, went to a missions conference called "Fireseeds" designed for all the students involved with Cru in Western Europe. Linda, Kimberly's disciple, and her husband Liberato were there, as well as a student Davide, whom Sam met and discipled in our last year in Italy. We heard the stories of how God met these Italians at the conference, challenged them to continue to trust Him in doing evangelism and continued to develop the idea of an Italian gospel movement with Italian leaders. Davide was even brought up on stage to share with the whole conference about his experience on the day that the whole conference did evangelism. It is so encouraging to see this core group of Italians growing in their walks with Jesus and owning more of the future of the ministry. Check out this video of Davide explaining his heart for his campus and thanking many of you for your investment in his life
Leadership development is at the heart of what we do. It is really exciting to think about what God can do with the lives of leaders that we get a chance to build up, support and commission. Even though we are changing contexts of ministry from campus ministry to young professionals and from Rome, Italy to New York City, finding leaders and helping them grow in their love for Jesus and their ability and desire to reach the world around them is still at the center of what we do. In New York, our hope is the unleash the millennial generation for the flourishing of the city. We are unleashing, because there is a sense that God needs to be involved in the process. God is the one who grows the future leader, and our role is to bring to light and encourage the leader to grow and in the person God is growing them to be. Our role as disciples and leaders who disciple others, and our role as developers of God's people is to understand what God is already doing in the life of a believer and to seek to unleash it. We want the city to flourish because that is what is God's design for the city. Flourishing spiritually as people are transformed through personal encounters with the gospel. Flourishing vocationally as people are unleashed in their giftings and callings. Flourishing in morality and ethics as transformed lives become activists for the gospel in the city. Flourishing in relationships as the gospel transforms relationships in family, communities and towards our earthly authorities. Flourishing socially as disciples seek to see God's Kingdom come to earth in terms of addressing poverty, slavery, and financial giving from a Biblical perspective.
How does developing leaders as an end goal change the way we do things? I believe that sometimes we need to let others do instead of doing it ourselves. Learning and equipping are such an integral part of building leaders, but if we are always so quick to do everything ourselves, there is not room for others to learn and grow by doing. It changes our role from a delegator to an empowering developer. The goal and scope of what the church is called to do is humbling and brings us to utter dependence on God, and also calls us to strive to excel in all that we do, even if that means sometimes doing less for the sake of others doing more. We are so thankful that in our absence God is calling more Italians to His mission, and makes us want to pray for them, that God would sustain them and the movement they are building.