In 2002 I was hired by the church I serve to develop some kind of “learning church” thing. I had no clue about what this really meant and my subsequent networking connected me with some very gifted people and resources. Early on, after one of my scouting trips, I reported to the consistory recent findings and musings about how we might develop leaders. The day after this formal report, a woman on our consistory with charismatic leanings called me to share a dream she had about me the night after the meeting. She explained to me that I was not in the dream but knew in her spirit it was for people like me (and you). Interestingly, the dream was simple. She saw the bottom half of the torso of a man dressed in a grey pin-striped suit with legs crossed wearing black oxford shoes. A hand came and took one of the shoes off of the man in the dream and handed it to someone. As my friend relayed the dream I understood the interpretation immediately due to Holy Spirit synchronicity. You see, the night before I had read a children’s Bible story to my kids and it was the fourth chapter of the Book of Ruth where the unnamed relative who had first right of refusal in the Kinsman Redeemer – Levirate Vow episode handed his sandal to Boaz. This sandal transaction at the city gates of Bethlehem was the method of transfer of rights witnessed by the town elders to validate the transaction. In so doing, Boaz took up the rights and responsibility to purchase Elimelech/Naomi’s land and then sire a child through marriage to Ruth the Moabite (Mahlon’s widow, son of Elimelech) thus restoring the land and posterity to Elimelech of Bethlehem creating continuity and continuance of the divine inheritance of one of the clans of Israel.
The interpretation of the dream was simply this: God is giving back to his church the primary right, responsibility and privilege of raising its own leadership for mission and taking it away from seminaries and Bible Colleges. Those entities will continue to function in God’s economy as adjunct entities, but the church must take up the “sandal” of primary leadership development as we lean into revival for America.
So how does this concept of particularization work? Particularization is a concept coined by Dr. Robert Clinton in his robust work about how leaders develop over time. The bottom line is that current leadership in our churches need to be encouraged to start living out of a personal spiritual reproduction-multiplication mindset. The key shift comes in asking the question: Who is the Holy Spirit lifting in our context for leadership at any level? Particularization is simply the concept of paying attention to people and noticing potential. A particularizing leader then taps a person on the shoulder and deposits a “destiny word” to them encouraging them toward leadership exposures at appropriate developmental levels and of course some type of training. A particularizing process can be one person at a time in small churches to a broader approach in larger churches. The point, every church and every pastor can be a talent scout and advocate in their context to multiply leaders by particularizing them and mentoring them.
It is fascinating for me to hear current leaders’ stories about how someone noticed them at some point in their journey, and made an intentional comment about their gifting and potential. The right people that God has earmarked for kingdom leadership want and need to be noticed and esteemed by respected leaders. This is where the double-call to ministry confirmation takes place as we notice people of character leading in various ways and confirm that in them and by discerning in the Spirit we call them out into their God-ordained destinies. This work of advocacy for the deployment of others in the body of Christ can be one of our greatest joys in ministry.
In closing I’d like to ask you several questions. When is the last time you either observed or asked Sunday school teachers or youth leaders about the youth in your midst who are rising to the surface in spiritual matters and leadership qualities? Go after them and plant destiny seeds when prompted by the Holy Spirit. With gifted adults in your context, when is the last time you leveraged your leadership position to give them get an opportunity to use their gifts and talents in your context? How about your evangelism hit list? Is there any hidden talent there the Lord is asking you to tap into? I hope at the next Gospel Alliance Gathering in October 2018 we have numerous stories of how we as leaders are particularizing others and multiplying leaders to fulfill our Great Commission.