In his book, Leading Across Cultures, Dr. James Plueddemann (former International Director of SIM) writes:
“Leadership development is at the heart of world missions” (cf. 47-48).
Wait a minute. Isn’t the spread of the Gospel at the heart of world missions? Is Plueddemann’s statement just the first in the slippery slope to the Social Gospel?
In a word, no.
Leadership development is essentially the fulfillment of the Great Commission. As Christians, we are not called to merely just proclaim the Gospel: we are called to train up believers who, in turn, can train up believers themselves. The movement in missions today (which I whole-heartedly think is the right movement), is toward equipping local Christians for the work of the ministry.
Another way of phrasing leadership development, I believe, is to change it to discipleship. Without discipleship, missionaries create an unhealthy (and unbiblical) culture, where the only one with the power (and access to God) is the missionary. By providing healthy training and leadership for local churches in world missions, the missionary empowers the church to grow without the missionary, and the Great Commission is fulfilled more effectively.
Thanks be to God for this new movement in world missions.