The LEAD! Bible Study is supposed to focus specifically on the training of leaders, as opposed to merely general-purpose discipleship. To accomplish that, I’m planning on observing several fairly strong constraints — listed below — as I develop this material.
The goal of this study is not merely the transmission of information, but the transformation of the students. Thus, it needs to be led by someone who is accepted as a legitimate authority figure, who has the right (and ability, and courage) to discern and speak truth into people’s lives — no matter how delicate or painful.
A ‘leader’ for the purpose of this study is anyone who a) takes responsibility and b) exercises authority within the church. This includes everyone from Head Ushers and Sunday School Coordinators to Elders and Assistant Pastors — though the focus is on lay leadership, the “middle managers” of the church who are neither trained professionals nor passive attendees. As such, I am assuming that they already:
- have a basic personal knowledge and experience of Christianity
- are willing and able to make a strong commitment to attend and participate
- can read and pray aloud
- trust other leaders enough to share personal details of their lives
- would be comfortable leading someone in the sinner’s prayer (or equivalent)
If not, they may feel somewhat awkward, and drag down the overall level of the group. In such cases, I would encourage them to first attend The Alpha Course or a similar class on basic Christianity before engaging in LEAD!
The goal for LEAD! is to be more like a “boot camp” than a seminary. The latter exists primarily to train pastors and teachers in the orthodoxy and theological approach of a particular denomination or tradition. As such, it is essential for students to understand the historical and philosophical context of their distinctive beliefs, so they can pass them on to others.
In contrast, lay leaders need something more akin to “engineering” than “science”. They are less concerned with where doctrine comes from than how to apply it to the practical, relational, and spiritual issues they face every week.
This isn’t to minimize the importance of theological soundness, and if anything this course may force students to grapple with important theological issues that are overlooked in many seminaries! However, theology will be introduced on a “pull model“, where students ask theological questions in the context of how to approach and understand the challenges of living the Christian life. This is in stark contrast to the “push” model typical of most modern education, which communicates vast quantities of information in advance, leaving the student to find applications on their own time.