Building a Leadership Team to Reach Our City

What is the work of a missionary? Depending on who is asking me the question, the answer can vary, but the essence is always the same. Training leaders who will establish the church is the work of a missionary and building a leadership team is a core aspect of our work in expanding the gospel to our cities. This is the model that is left for us, explained in the book of Acts. Paul and his team would share the good news in a city, gather those who responded into a church, and then appoint and train leaders to lead those churches. Recognizing this pattern, our ministry team at BILD International, is working with church-planting networks from all over the world. We are also doing this in Des Moines, Iowa, our home city. We are passionate about Des Moines, and we hope that all churches share this passion for reaching their home city.

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About Des Moines, Iowa

Let me share some perspective from our journey in Des Moines and the practical aspects of implementing long-term habits. Here are a few factors that make Des Moines a strategic city for the expansion of the gospel:

      • Capital of Iowa
      • Home to over 551,000 residents
      • 780,000 people live within 60 minutes (=24% of Iowa’s population)
      • The greater Des Moines area is composed of 16 cities
      • Downtown and East Des Moines are the highest density, low-income zones of the city
      • Des Moines is a central hub and there are significant opportunities for “Seek the Welfare” initiatives.

Leaders from different churches discussing the expansion and establishment of the church in Acts.

Encouragement From Our Journey

Leaders ask me how their denomination or network of churches can get people established in the faith, while often citing their unique circumstances, challenges and history of using a plethora of church programs. My initial response is: “We use Thursday evenings.” This is surprising to many leaders who are usually looking for another “plug and play” programmatic piece designed for today’s modern church machinery. But this cannot be the starting point. As leaders, if we understand our role in equipping the saints so that our people know the full counsel of God, we must help our people implement long-term habits for growing and developing in their faith.

Our leaders have been meeting on Thursday evenings for 10 years. This habit began when we were initially implementing the Antioch School because Thursday evenings worked best for everyone. When we started, we only intended to meet until we completed our Antioch School degrees. However, as the months passed by, we began to understand the principles for being a New Testament church, and realized that completing our degrees in the context of our church was just the beginning of our development.


During those years of meeting and learning these principles together, we started bringing food to share and slowly became a family that relied on each other. We shared our lives as marriages, occupations, pain and death were always part of someone’s life. In these initial years, our establishment and leadership development was housed and included a single church. After three years together, this church sent us out as church planters to our city, to continue the work to which we had been called.

This habit of meeting together regularly to establish each other in the faith, and be a family that encourages one another still continues today. Now, we have five different churches and we are seeing how each church plays a needed role in our city. Just as individuals are unique and have a role, the same is true for churches; each one is unique and has a role in the city. This ministry is only possible through the one-mindedness that is built through regularly studying and discussing the Bible together.

How It All Happens

We meet in a business owned by one of our benefactors. Our Thursday evenings looks like the following:

      • We begin our time together sharing a meal and our lives. Entire families, including children, participate.
      • We then move into 4 groups, each following a development track:
          • Becoming a Disciple – BILD Institute
          • Laying Solid Foundations in the Gospel – BILD Institute
          • Acts – Antioch School
          • Habits of the Heart – Antioch School
      • We end by gathering everyone together to pray and discuss upcoming schedules.

“The Church is not like a family, it is a family and I am thankful that it looks like it too!”

There is much work still to do but it has been an exciting process of growth. We are seeing entire families where parents and children each learn the same principles of the faith, while simultaneously discussing these principles with leaders who sharpen their vision and purpose in the city.  Some of these leaders are enrolled in the Antioch School, earning degrees with their work. The church is not like a family, it is a family and I am thankful that it looks like it too!

The Antioch School is an important aspect of our work in reaching our city. It provides a developmental pathway for leaders who need the cultural currency of a degree, but want to learn in the context of their work in the church. This process builds one-mindedness among leaders who seek to reach the city. It is in this context that we can truly begin to see how the church of Jesus Christ can have lasting impacts on our cities.

Dangerous Calling

Paul Tripp’s new book, Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry, is a must-read for anyone who is serious about character development of church leaders.

Pat Bowler, Lead Pastor/Elder of Valley Life Church (Lebanon, OR), drew my attention to this book in an email.

“It is an extremely insightful book and one I thought would be of particular interest to you at the Antioch School; chapters 3 and 4 address an issue regarding the pastorate that directly relates to The Antioch Model (Chp. 3: “Big Theological Brains and Heart Disease;” Chp. 4: “More Than Knowledge and Skill”). Considering the paradigm of the school, I thought I would make you aware… Good stuff.”

I had already seen the book mentioned in a Christianity Today article, but Bowler’s email compelled me to order a Kindle copy even before I moved on to my next email.

Tripp’s deepest concern in the book is the peril faced by pastors with hazardous gaps in their character.  Pastors who try to do ministry apart from proper relationships with God, their spouses, and even their churches are pursuing a “dangerous calling.”  For example, Tripp asks hard questions, like “Does it seem best that most pastors are allowed to live outside of or up above the body of Christ?” (p. 68) and “Pastor, do you examine yourself daily by humbly placing yourself before the one mirror you can trust, the mirror of the Word of God?” (p. 157).

Some roots of the danger are traced by Tripp to the traditional form of theological education for church leaders.  “Over the years more and more professors came to the seminary classroom with little or no local church experience” (p.53).  “Academized Christianity, which is not constantly connected to the heart and puts its hope in knowledge and skill, can actually make students dangerous” (p.53).  “Their spiritual life became immediately more privatized when they left their home church to go to seminary in another city.  For many, the seminary became their primary spiritual community, a community that was neither personal nor pastoral in the way it handled Scripture and related to the student” (p. 84).

This non-pastoral approach to ministry training leads to a rather dangerous situation.  “Having graduated from an environment where, for three or more years, they were not pastored and had a rather casual relationship to a local church, they are now called by a church that doesn’t really know them” (p. 85).

Tripp longs for traditional seminaries to be different in terms of pastoral concern for its students.  “Shouldn’t every Christian institution of higher learning be a warm, nurturing, Christ-centered, gospel-driven community of faith?” (p. 49).  “What I am suggesting is that pastoral passion for the students shape the content of seminary education is delivered and applied” (p. 56).  “The goal of spiritual formation must dye the content of every area of study” (p. 56).

He illustrates this difference by describing the approach he uses to teach a pastoral counseling course for traditional M.Div. students.  He presents a “catalog of pastoral horror stories” and attempts to move students beyond their rather abstract biblical studies by helping them deal with some of the real issues in their own lives.  The complaint of one student highlights what he was trying to do.  “Professor Tripp, you’re preaching at us.  This is a seminary classroom, which means this is not your church, and we are not your congregation” (p. 46).

Think about that statement in relation to your Antioch School church-based theological education program.  Your “seminary classroom” is your church and you are a congregation.  Pastoral passion is a natural dimension of theological education when it is truly based in churches.  Rather than leaving home and church for seminary, ministry training is embedded in your pastoral communities.

On the last page of his book, Tripp issues a plea, “If you are a seminary, denominational, or ministry leader, work with others to address the places where your ministry training and culture are less than biblical” (p. 223).  We think this is what we have done with the Antioch School.  Some traditional theological education institutions are trying to make improvements in these areas, but we have recognized that the centrality of the church in the training process is itself a biblical concept.

Pat Bowler was right.  Dangerous Calling is an important book.  It helps pastors (and those who care for pastors) fulfill their calling.  And while Tripp focuses on improvement of traditional theological education, he also helps make the case for church-based theological education, particularly in terms of development of character and pastoral passion within the context of a church.

Sneak Peek: Leadership Development in the First Century

Here is an article written for the forthcoming Encyclopedia of Christian Education, called “Leadership Development in the First Century: Paul” by Stephen Kemp, Academic Dean of the Antioch School.  We thought you might enjoy an early sneak peek.

Leadership development in the first century was a natural part of apostolic work and church life in the progress of the gospel. Paul appointed elders in each church (Acts 14:23, Titus 1:5), wrote letters of instruction to the leaders of churches, and provided models by his presence (e.g. in Ephesus for two years) and the record of his presence (Acts 19:1-20:38). He also sent his young apostolic leaders into substantial places of difficult ministry (e.g. Timothy to Thessalonica, Titus to Crete) and wrote letters of instructions to them.

Leadership development in the first century was development of local churches to sustain an exponential church planting movement. It is best summarized in 2 Timothy 2:2, “The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also (NASB).” Local church and apostolic leaders are responsible to perpetuate the apostolic teaching, namely the proclamation about Christ (kerygma) and the corresponding doctrine (didache) about what to believe and how to live accordingly.

All believers are gifted by the Spirit (1 Cor. 12:7). These gifts are to be stewarded for the sake of Christ and therefore need to be developed (Eph. 4:16, Col. 2:19). Gatherings of believers should include edification, stimulation, and growth (Col. 3:16, Heb. 10:24-25). Emerging leaders should “fan into flame the gift of God” (2 Tim. 1:6).

Roles and responsibilities are at the core of Paul’s teaching about leadership development. These can be categorized according to the social concept of household. A distinguishing characteristic of a Christian family is the spiritual development of its members (Eph. 5:21-6:9, Col. 3:18-4:1). The household is also present in Paul’s conception of the church (1 Tim. 3:15), instructions about relationships in the church (1 Tim. 5:1-2, Titus 2:1-10), and qualifications of church leaders overlap significantly with family leadership (1 Tim. 3:1-15, Titus 1:6-9).

Criteria are important in the first century model of leadership development. Overseers are to be “above reproach” (1 Tim. 3:1) and “have a good reputation with outsiders” (1 Tim. 3:7) and deacons likewise (1 Tim. 3:8). Timothy was acknowledge as having been “spoken well of” by the brethren (Acts 16:2). Qualifications of leaders and therefore content of leadership development include family characteristics (e.g. husband of one wife, managing his own family well), personal characteristics (e.g. self-controlled, respectable, hospitable), and ministry characteristics (e.g. able to teach).

The leadership development approach of Paul (with emphasis on organizational structure and the establishment of churches) and the leadership development of Jesus (with emphasis on relationship and the emergence of a new community) should be viewed as complimentary. The Gospels themselves were leadership development tools written by apostles who served alongside Paul (e.g. Luke was a close co-worker with Paul). The Gospels provide leaders and churches with a foundational understanding of Jesus (kerygma), an apologetic for the legitimacy of the apostles, and a connection between the teaching of Jesus and the teaching of the apostles (didache).


  • Bruce, F. F. The Pauline Circle. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1985.
  • Reed, Jeff. “Paul’s Concept of Establishing” in Pauline Epistles: Strategies for
  • Establishing Churches, Ames, IA: BILD International, 2001.
  • Verner, David C. The Household of God: The Social World of the Pastoral EpistlesChico, CA: Scholars Press, 1981. 
  • Zuck, Roy B. Teaching as Paul Taught. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1998.

Partner Stories: Bethany Bible Chapel

Bethany Bible Chapel is in her third year of partnership with the Antioch School. Pastor Thomas Clinkscale describes how leadership development has contributed to growth and a significant new trajectory at Bethany.

Partner Stories: Harvest Bible Chapel

This week we are highlighting one of our North America partner programs.  Pastor Bob Brueggen directs the School of Ministry at Harvest Bible Chapel Davenport.  They have entered their third year of partnership with the Antioch School and currently have 23 leaders in training.  Listen to Bob describe their vision for training solid leaders and the tangible fruit they have seen emerge so far.

When Vision Meets Practice

Bright IdeaWe are always encouraged to hear success stories from our partners.  We start 2013 with nearly 150 North American partners working to train up leaders in the context of their ministry.  They tell us of creative implementation and of fruit.  At times, though, we also hear from those who have hit logistical snags or from potential partners who fear starting because they anticipate problems. In the latter case the concern is sometimes that “if I build it, they will come”. They worry that their first, small group of students will multiply too fast as others hear about the opportunity.

What have successful practitioners of Antioch School programs done to manage the process?  Here are 11 practices we have seen used to move the vision of 2 Timothy 2:2 forward on the ground:

  1. Decide as a leader team to earmark time for developing other leaders.  In successful situations the existing leadership team has discussed the mandatory and missional nature of 2 Timothy 2:2.  A portion of someone’s time has been given over to this task and certain ministry responsibilities shifted to allow this to happen.
  2. Tap your students. Some may be able to teach the early courses to new waves of students (fulfilling a practicum in the process).  Others may be able to serve as mentors for younger students. Yet others may provide critical administrative help.
  3. Develop a mentor pool. Mentoring need not fall on a few shoulders. Find the people-developers in your midst and use them.
  4. Arrange for volunteer administrative help.  If you are more visionary by gifting, you may find that certain basic administrative tasks consistently drag down the training.  If so, look at who God had put around you.  You will often find someone within your ministry sphere, possibly one of the students, who is a perfect fit.
  5. Organize your students in cohorts who start a cycle of Leadership Series courses together.  Students may enroll anytime in the year to begin working on the more flexible portions of the training – personal development plan, assessments, practicums, etc. But many logistical problems are solved by arranging the courses on a consistent annual schedule.
  6. Have more than one person on your team go through our certification training. This can be done easily online.  This will reduce review bottlenecks if you have several students posting work to their portfolios.
  7. Recruit your students.  Don’t just take who signs up.  Pursue your “Timothy’s”, and use our resources to intentionally build your leadership team.
  8. Manage the expectations of the students from the start. They are being trained in the midst of ministry, on the front lines. The process will be transformational but also messy. That’s the nature of ministry.  If students expect this, they will work with you when any problems arise.
  9. Network with other church leaders in the area.  Find other leaders who share your vision for leadership development and who will partner with you.  Certain components of the training (the courses for example) can often be done collaboratively between several churches.
  10. Call us. We want you to be successful. We have expertise and multiple resources to assist you. We also have knowledge of best-practices that we have heard from others.  And if you are encountering a unique problem, we want to help discover solutions.
  11. Look beyond the first year.  Don’t be discouraged by the first year learning curve.  From the first moment you invest in developing leaders, you are expanding your ministry capacity.  Think ahead to ministry responsibilities that you will be delegating to your students which in turn will allow you to be more balanced as you continue to train.

Sometimes when vision meets practice, the difficulties cause the vision to die.  We believe, though, and have seen that church-based theological education works in churches and networks, large and small, rural and urban, with ample resources and few.  In the future we will bring some specific stories to you. In the meanwhile, we hope these suggestions will be helpful to you in crafting workable strategies for training leaders in your context.

Have you found other practices that are critical to managing your Antioch School training process?


I Don’t Have Enough Leaders . . . to Lead an Antioch School Program

“I really want to start an Antioch School program for our church, but we just don’t have enough leaders to support it.” 

Do you see the irony in this statement?

Most churches find themselves in this dilemma.  They recognize that they have a desperate need to develop leaders, but their current leaders don’t think they have the capacity to do so.  Current leaders just don’t have the time or skills necessary to launch an Antioch School program.

What are your options?

1) Hire more leaders.  This is also loaded with issues.  For instance, most churches also don’t have enough money.  And even if they did have plenty of money, they often don’t like the candidates and process associated with hiring outside ministry professionals.

2) Use a “plug & play” training program.   There are plenty of quick and easy solutions, such as a book that claims to provide a “portable seminary,” but most of these approaches have serious inadequacies.  Many are not much more than content “dumps” of what someone thinks leaders need to know.  Others use a rather fluffy fill-in-the-blank approach that doesn’t have much depth.  These training programs usually lack meaningful assessment and are rarely connected to academic credentials from legitimately accredited higher education institutions.  However, if you find a training program that meets your criteria and serves your needs, then certainly use it.

3) Use untrained leaders.  The price is right, but you can’t afford to make this mistake.  The costs of the damage done by untrained leaders may be the greatest expense of all.

4) Start an Antioch School program.  The Antioch School allows you to do things that most churches can’t do on their own.  Whether you think you have enough time or skills to focus on developing leaders, it is a biblical mandate and therefore must be a priority (2 Timothy 2:2).  We don’t pretend that it is easy to start and sustain an Antioch School program for your church, but it is do-able.  Unlike any option, it fits into and relies on ministry structures and mentoring relationships that God has already put in place in your church.   We find that many churches that use other training programs come to us later because they want something that is deeper, more extensive, bears academic credit and degrees, and/or has the unique features of BILD C-BTE resources (Biblical Theology orientation, Socratic discussion emphasis, in-service learning approach, etc.).

We don’t think you have a better option. 

So, how do you do it?  The BILD Leadership Series courses, as well as the Personal Development Assessment forms, are tremendously efficient tools.  Rather than start from scratch, you are able to use our tools to implement a comprehensive training program.  We make it possible for you to do what God has called you to do and what only you can do.

It probably will take some realignment of priorities for you as a church leader.  However, you don’t need to take the entire burden on yourself.   Even students may be able to help in a variety of ways.  For instance, you may have someone with administrative gifts who can help with the operation of the program.  You can implement a “buddy-system” so that students can hold each other accountable for doing their work.  Some students with teaching gifts can even share the load of leading the class sessions.

The Antioch School program put in place to train future leaders may actually mobilize leaders along the way, not just as the end product of the degree programs.  Now that is a wonderful irony! Reserve your spot in an upcoming eLuncheon to learn more about the Antioch School!

When is the eLunchon? 

When: eLuncheons are held weekly, typically on Monday and Tuesday.
Time: 12pm CDT

How do I signup? 

To reserve your spot in an upcoming eLuncheon, click on the button below:

Or click this link:


Put the Seminaries Out of Business?

Guess which seminary president made these comments.

“If a young man has the opportunity to study with a pastor and be right in ministry alongside him all the time, that is going to be better than what you are going to get at any theological seminary anywhere on the planet.”

“Another trend is that more and more pastors are beginning to take responsibility for theological education within the context of their church.”

“My argument is that we need to put the seminaries out of business.”

My hope is that if the Lord lets us operate long enough that we can turn out pastors who will not look to the seminary like we’re the medical school to turn out doctors.”

“Generation after generation of the Christian church has had to develop the ways it trains pastors.  The seminary in the American experience grew out of the effort to emulate other forms of professional education.  And in one sense, that’s the downfall of the entire experiment.  You had debates going back to the nineteenth century as to whether the ministry is a profession and should we should have professional schools alongside the others.  What you have with the emergence of the modern seminary is a school that is intended to train pastors for the church alongside the medical school, dental school, . . ., and all the rest.  That works educationally, but it doesn’t work for the church.”

“Seminaries should not be the places that train pastors.  We should be the places that help churches to train pastors.”

“The transfer of cognitive information is what we do really well.  We have classrooms.  We have books.  We give tests.  We expect papers.  That’s what goes on.  But what goes on in pastors training pastors in the local church is far more important and fundamental.”

“The local church needs to train what only the local church can do.  Pastors are the most effective trainers and educators of pastors.”

“You can’t franchise out theological education.  It belongs to the church of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

These things were said by Al Mohler, President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, in an April 2011 Gospel Coalition panel on “Training the Next Generation of Pastors and Other Christian Leaders.”

When I first listened to the panel, especially the comments of Mohler, I kept waiting for them to say that the panel was sponsored by the Antioch School!

In the spirit of honesty and full disclosure, he and others say much more.  Mohler has a particular perspective about the relationship of the seminary and church that still has a vital place for the seminary, particularly Southern.  In the video above, go to 4:58, 11:20, and 27:13 to hear him explain what he means. However, the bottom line as noted above is that he acknowledges the church’s role as “far more important and fundamental.”

In the Antioch School, we take this idea very seriously.  We think much more can be done in the local church than Mohler imagines, including things that he thinks are better done by the seminary, such as “getting that running start in ministry” and even matters of “cognitive transfer.”  The church is the ideal context for guarding the deposit.  The church still is the institution that God created for the purpose of passing on sound doctrine, cultivating ministry skills, and transforming character in an integrated manner.

We are delighted to hear leaders of traditional seminaries acknowledge the unique role of the church in theological education.  And we are even more delighted to be doing something about it by providing the truly church-based Antioch School.

We are not trying to “put the seminaries out of business.”  In fact, we envision seminaries being reinvented as true resource centers for churches and church networks, but in a form that is not dominated by the schooling paradigm.

What we are really trying to do is to “put churches and church leaders in business,” particularly the business of training leaders that God has mandated for them in 2 Timothy 2:2.

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