"A biblical community for the spiritually curious."

SHARED LEADERSHIP

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 4:11-13).

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A MANNA! Life Group is a biblical “ekklesia” with shared discipleship and leadership.

Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness (Matthew 10:1).

[Jesus] replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother (Matthew 12:48-50).”

And [Jesus] directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people (Matthew 14:19).

After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves (Matthew 17:1).

He (Judas Iscariot) was one of our number and shared in our ministry (Acts 1:17).

You (Simon the magician) have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God (Acts 8:21).

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 4:11-13).

Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well. Surely you remember, brothers and sisters, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you (1 Thessalonians 2:7-9).

In the ministry of Jesus, we witness the process of discipleship and leadership. Jesus had many followers but eventually selected twelve disciples to mentor. He immediately gave these individuals the same authority He possessed to exorcise demons and heal people.

Jesus modeled shared discipleship and leadership development. It wasn’t about creating more followers. Jesus was about developing mature disciples who could lead. He started with twelve, the perfect size for a home fellowship (“ekklesia” or gathering). Twelve was large enough for group energy and task distribution, yet small enough for clear communication and interactive, participatory discipleship and leadership experiences. Jesus could get twelve men into a fishing boat or sitting together on a hillside or walking as a band of brothers down a road.

In time Jesus whittled his twelve to three specific men (Peter, James and John) who showed special aptitude and skill sets for leading others. These three men were “the cream” and experienced special access, deeper friendship and unique opportunity (like witnessing Elijah and Moses on the mount of transfiguration).

Jesus wasn’t playing favorites, although it seems that way. Rather, He focused his leadership and revealed how to share responsibility. If he had just chosen one (say Peter), Jesus could be accused of favoritism (“teacher’s pet”). If he had selected two (say James and John), it could’ve been viewed as divisive. But Jesus selected three, one-fourth, of the twelve to learn to lead and teach at a higher level. He then shared leadership with all twelve disciples. Jesus taught them all how to pray, teach, lead, heal and pastor. It’s no wonder that Luke identifies Peter as the leader of the Christian sect in its earliest days. It’s no wonder that John will pen not only a beautiful historic gospel, but the prophetic Revelation and tender pastoral letters. And James? He’s the first apostle to be martyred (Acts 12:2).

Later, Paul writes to the Ephesians and explains that Jesus carved out four specific leadership roles for biblical communities: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors-teachers. The Greek is helpful in Ephesians 4:11 in connecting pastors and teachers. It’s “pastors-teachers” and not “pastors and teachers” (as many translations read). These four roles are essential, but we tend to get hung up on the titles. If we step back and look at the responsibility we can see these roles remain active yet today.

 

  • APOSTLE ("one who is sent"): This is any individual called or commissioned to go. A missionary can fill this apostolic role today, but so can someone who begins a new work (like starting a church, religious school, faith-based organization). 1 Corinthians 9:2; Galatians 1:1.

 

  • PROPHET ("one who “forthtells”): This is an individual who prophetically encourages believers and, may through the Holy Spirit, even give predictive messages. A radio or television preacher or an inspirational author might fill this particular prophetic role today. Acts 11:27-28; 13:1; 15:32; 21:7-9.

 

  • EVANGELIST ("one who tells"): This is an individual who shares the “good news” (gospel) of Jesus. This can be anyone who shares Jesus with family and friends. Acts 8:4-5, 26-35; 21:7-9; 2 Timothy 4:5.

 

 

Biblically, a pastor is a teacher and a teacher is a pastor. It’s why they’re connected in the Greek. It’s the same role. Pastor-teachers are also referred to as “elders” or “overseers” in the New Testament. Every house church used multiple appointed “pastor-teachers” (more mature  and older individuals to spiritually guide and guard the doctrine, vision and values). Acts 14:23; 15:2; 1 Timothy 5:16-18; Titus 1:5.

Paul tells Timothy and Titus (his disciples) that these “overseers” or shepherds needed to be a mature, blameless, highly-respected believer, who is faithful to spouse and family, good, holy, self-controlled, hospitable, humble, able to resist temptation, able to teach, not given to drunkenness or violence, nor quarrelsome or a lover of money (1 Timothy 3:1-7, Titus 1:7-9). Ultimately, this shepherd/leader “must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it (Titus 1:9).”

In the book of Acts, Paul and others appointed these mature “overseers” in every house church they planted.

Another ministry role also emerged: deacon and deaconess (ministry leaders). In Acts 6, there’s a dispute over the distribution of food. The twelve apostles recognized this type of issue was not their problem. They appointed and commissioned (with a laying on of hands) seven men to work this ministry so they could devote their time to “prayer and the ministry of the Word (Acts 6:4). Essentially, they shared leadership responsibility and even authorized these seven men with a laying on of hands to give them the ability to do the same miraculous deeds as themselves. Philip was one of these men. In Acts 8:4-8, Philip possesses these special supernatural gifts.

The bottom line: every house gathering (“ekklesia”) had a shared discipleship and leadership DNA.

The spiritually mature taught the lesser spiritually mature. The leaders equipped new leaders. The older helped the younger. The richer shared with the poorer. There were overseers and ministry leaders. And everybody had an opportunity to contribute their time, talent and treasure.

Similarly, in MANNA! Life Groups we operate with a shared leadership model.

Each group is purposely planted with twelve individuals, of which at least three are identified as “pastor-teachers" to lead, shepherd and facilitate. Every leader has a direct mentor and every mentor oversees 3-5 mentees. The responsibility of every mentor is to shepherd their mentees and teach them the values and vision, philosophy and practices, traditions and teaching model to lead and facilitate a MANNA! Life Group.

In every MANNA! Life Group there are the following roles:

  • “House Pastor”: This individual leads the home gathering. He or she is the designated leader and mentored by the community leader. This “shepherd” oversees the spiritual nature of the group, manages attendance, handles spiritual issues and guides the group within the MANNA! Life Group values and vision. He or she can also do double duty as a facilitator or house host, depending on personal skills and/or desire. The House Leader opens every gathering with a welcome, introduction of guests, prayer and lighting of the candle. He or she also closes the gathering.

 

  • “Facilitator”: This individual facilitates the general lesson or Bible study portion of the gathering, oversees group discussions and teaches the content. He or she is also responsible to recruit someone to lead the Lord's Supper devotional). They are specifically mentored by the community leader in discussion strategies, group dynamics and lesson preparation/delivery.

 

  • “House Host”: This individual or couple prepares the home for gatherings, insuring all necessary technology works and that there is enough seating and rooms for breakouts and prayer. They also prepare the Lord’s Supper.

 

  • “Group/Prayer Leader”: This individual is in charge of the breakout conversation (applications of the topic) and leads gender-specific prayer huddles.

 

  • “Communion Leader”: This individual is responsible to write or find/read a scripted communion meditation and then lead the group in taking the bread and juice.

 

  • “Ministry Leader”: This individual or couple, led by the Spirit, will initiate and lead various ministry experiences that grow out of the group. They may collect offerings, handle promotion, host a party, plan an event or lead in some other fashion.

Everyone who participates in the gathering is involved in setup/cleanup, hospitality, greeting, bringing food, transporting members/guests, bringing friends, planning group events and various other acts.

The goal for every gathering is to involve each person in a sharing role.

Just the act of attendance is a sharing of time. Bringing food is an act of hospitality. Helping to clean up is an act of sharing service. Some members (co-pastors/facilitators, huddle leaders and hosts) may have more pronounced roles but all are critical. We are a family.

A shared leadership also means no decision regarding group life should be made apart from the rest of the other leaders that make up a “community” (2-3 home fellowships combined). If there is dissension, gossip or criticism of one or all, the house leader is obligated to share the problem with the other house leaders and their community leader. We are a team and our team is only as strong and viable as its weakest leader. Therefore, MANNA! Life Group leaders will meet occasionally to discuss various community issues. All such conversations are confidential.

Overall, MANNA! Life Groups are autonomous groups where the decisions are kept as low-level as possible. MANNA! Educational Services International seeks to only control the elements (Acts 2:42 format, open-inclusive groups, general biblical doctrinal agreement). As long as groups remain under this large umbrella, the rest of the decisions, practices and activities are freely enjoyed. Liberty and grace is the rule.

The Board of Directors for MANNA! Educational Services International do not set any restrictive guidelines on MANNA! Life Groups except that they adhere to an Acts 2:42 format (all gatherings must include biblical study, prayer huddles, fellowship and participation in the Lord’s Supper), remain open (inclusive and inviting_ and submit to the general MANNA! Statement of Belief.

Should any issue, problem or controversy arise within a specific Life Group, it will be dealt with from the lowest necessary authority (leader/shepherd/facilitator, community leader or area director). Very rarely will local issues or specific house gathering problems rise higher than the area director. The goal is to keep all decisions and low-level as possible.

In general, unless it's a matter that involves heresy (false doctrine) or immorality (biblical sin), then MANNA! Life Groups are autonomous in nature, submitting only to Christ Jesus and the norms of their community, area, region or zone.

 

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.
(Matthew 28:19-20)