Last October, Harry Reeder, pastor of Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham, Alabama, published a book, “3D Leadership: Defining, Developing and Deploying Christian Leaders Who Can Change the World.” ByFaith asked Reeder to talk about his motivation for writing the book, and what he hopes to accomplish with it. 

“3D Leadership” was written because of three convictions, two of which are rooted in the Scripture and one that is derived from observation of today’s church in today’s world. Even more specifically, “3D Leadership” was written to accomplish what is identified in the book as an “immodest proposal.” 

Christ-centered, gospel-saturated and Spirit-filled churches need to embrace the opportunity to once again become “Christian leadership factories,” whereby the church defines Christian leadership, develops Christian leaders, and deploys them into the world.

In other words, while the church maintains its mission — the Great Commission — to make disciples of all the nations; and maintains its message — the whole counsel of God proclaimed through the primacy of the gospel of saving grace in Christ; and embraces its ministries through fidelity to the Great Commandment of loving the Lord with all of our heart, soul, and mind, and our neighbor as ourselves— an intentionally nurtured consequence will be the blessing of a church becoming a leadership factory. A church that defines leadership should not only develop Christian leaders for the church through gospel evangelism and discipleship but also develop Christian leaders from the church who are then deployed into the world to penetrate every sphere and institution of society.

So, what are these three reasons that undergird this “immodest proposal” of “3D Leadership” — defining, developing, and deploying Christian leaders from the church into the world?

Leadership: An Appointed Instrument 

The first reason is because God Himself has ordained leadership as an appointed instrument through which He accomplishes His purposes. The simple fact taught in the Bible and affirmed in history is that whenever God initiated a significant movement, He would always raise up a leader who would become a multiplication and mobilization leader with an unalterable commitment to their God-given mission and message. Here are a few affirmations of this biblical principle:

When God called His covenant people out of Egypt and brought judgment on Egypt, He raised up Moses, who multiplied himself and mobilized Aaron, Miriam, Joshua, Caleb, and the elders of the tribes. 

King David was called of the Lord with a clear mission and was surrounded by three chief men and 30 mighty men. 

Elijah had Elisha and those from “the school of the prophets.”

Paul had Timothy, Titus, Luke, Aquila and Priscilla, “leading women,” and so on.

The simple fact taught in the Bible and affirmed in history is that whenever God initiated a significant movement, He would always raise up a leader who would become a multiplication and mobilization leader.

The biblical examples go on and on. There are also examples throughout church history. The Reformation began with pre-Reformation leaders followed by Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Bullinger, Knox, and others. The Great Awakening was propelled by George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, and John Wesley, along with multiple other leaders.

Leadership Works

The second reason is the biblical principle that leadership works. Our Lord affirms this throughout the Scriptures by precept and also by documenting it with narratives that affirm how leadership affects the course of history.  

By the way, when the Bible affirms that leadership works, it records examples of leadership working that are both good and bad. Good leaders produce good results, and bad leaders produce bad results. Our Lord affirms this with clarity by stating the negative: “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit?” 

So, it’s not simply producing leaders, but it’s producing the right kind of leaders. This is why “3D Leadership” begins with biblically defining leadership, followed by biblically developing leaders. Then the church can begin deploying these leaders who have a clear biblical concept and purpose of leadership, which has been saturated by the gospel as they are developed by competent biblical leader-disciplers. Now those leaders who are being discipled can be deployed from the church into the world.

Conforming to Worldly Concepts

The third reason is an observation. Not only has the church abandoned the 3D leadership paradigm, it actually has taken a step far more destructive. Instead of the church defining leadership biblically, the church is conforming to the world’s concept of leadership. In other words, the world’s leaders are being imported into the church, and the world’s definition of leadership is being embraced by the church. 

This imported worldly leadership is unsurprisingly having a negative impact upon the church. The church not only has abandoned its opportunity to define leadership, but it now installs leaders from the world based on their worldly leadership successes and then promotes them into the church for others to follow. 

If a celebrated leader in the world gives any notion of embracing Christianity, they are immediately promoted and marketed as a Christian leader, when at best they have only been exposed to Christianity for a very short time. We then place them into positions of influence based upon their success in the world instead of their gospel progress and maturity in Christ. By doing so, we not only position them to provide leadership for which they are not prepared, but, even worse, we are positioning them for greater judgment — since unprepared leadership will ultimately have negative consequences upon the Lord’s people, the church, and our witness in the world. They, as well as those who place them prematurely into leadership, are accountable to the Lord for those negative consequences that inevitably accompany improperly prepared leaders.

Therefore, instead of being a leadership factory, the church is a leadership consumer, importing leaders from the world into the church and, at best, presuming that six leadership-training classes will turn them into effective Christian leaders. 

So, What Should We Do? 

The modest request is simple yet profound — that the church, by consequence of its faithfulness to the Great Commission and to a Great Commandment lifestyle, marked by surrender to the Spirit of God and an irrevocable commitment to the glory of God, intentionally embrace the opportunity of impacting the world, not only by worship, evangelism, gospel deeds, and discipleship but also through a subset of intentional discipleship. This would initiate 3D leadership and create, within the church, a leadership factory. 

Christ-centered, gospel-saturated and Spirit-filled churches need to embrace the opportunity to once again become “Christian leadership factories,” whereby the church defines Christian leadership, develops Christian leaders, and deploys them into the world.

Humbly, the book “3D Leadership,” is offered as an initiating instrument for Christian leaders and members in the church to reclaim the prioritized blessing of influencing the world by biblically defining Christian leadership, developing Christian leaders, and deploying these leaders throughout the world into every valid institution and sphere of society. 

When Moses was called home to be with the Lord, he had intentionally left leaders to carry the mission and message of the Lord for the glory of God into the next generation. When Paul was called to glory, he didn’t leave a vacuum but left a diverse company of multiplication and mobilization leaders for the next generation, and he had also planted as well as revitalized churches that became leadership factories. 

It is an inescapable fact that the Gospels also record leadership multiplication and mobilization as a salient feature in the life and ministry of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Stop and think for a moment. If you were about to initiate a movement that would be secured on the cross at Calvary, announced in the triumphant resurrection to be proclaimed throughout the world, what would you do strategically? 

Most of us would probably work on marketing and branding as well as scheduling large group events secured at premier locations to promote our initiative, and so forth. 

While there is nothing wrong with working on presentations, securing premier locations, and having large group meetings, the Gospels clearly affirm that Jesus focused His time and energy on the three, the 12, and the 70 leaders whom He matured, influenced, trained, and deployed to become multiplication and mobilization leaders. How did He do it? How did they do it?

The unmistakable dynamic is that Christ was committed to defining, developing, and deploying leaders into the world who would be faithful to their Christ-given mission, message, and ministry.  The result was and is astounding.

In less than 25 years after the ascension of Christ, a frustrated pagan adversary spat out 13 words from the continent of Europe, recorded in Acts 17: “These people who have turned the world upside down have come here also.” 

Of course, we know who turned the world upside down — the Holy Spirit through the people of God, His church. We know what turned the world upside down — the power of the gospel. But we also know how they turned the world upside down — through gospel evangelism and discipleship, gospel church planting and revitalization, gospel deeds of love, mercy, and justice, and gospel leaders defined, developed, and deployed

It is no accident that the Apostle Paul always left multiplication and mobilization leaders of his team in the churches he planted if he didn’t have time to define,develop and deploy leaders before he left. Furthermore, it is no accident that Paul continually defined leadership and enumerated the characteristics of leadership throughout the Epistles, as well as prioritized the development of leaders such as Timothy, Titus, Luke, and leading women. Interestingly, in his last Epistle before his martyrdom, he commanded Timothy to develop a “leadership pyramid as a vital part of his ministry philosophy.  

“Finally, my son, be strong in the grace that is found in Christ Jesus and the things you have learned from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:1-2).

At the top of the leadership pyramid is the “principal leader” (that is, Paul), who multiplies and mobilizes a plurality of “proven leaders” (that is,Timothy, Titus, and so on), who are each to multiply and mobilize a plurality of “potential leaders” (faithful men), who are each to multiply and mobilize “possible leaders” (that is, others also). This leadership pyramid is foundational to establishing a leadership culture in the church that multiplies, matures, and mobilizes leaders who not only benefit the church but are sent fromthe church into the world. 

Early in my life, I fell in love with baseball. During the summer, I would get up every morning and walk two miles to spend the whole day playing baseball at Veterans Park in Charlotte, North Carolina. On the way home in the afternoon, I’d stop by the Charlotte East Branch Library and check out a book to take home and read that night. The next day, I’d drop it off and check out another on the way home the next afternoon, and so on.  As you would suspect, I consumed the section on sports novels first. As I wondered what to read next, in God’s providence, I began to check out books from the U.S. history shelves, specifically focused upon the 18th and 19th century. Reading those books introduced me to another love in my life — history. That eventually led me to a double major in college of theology and history—all of which led me to a third love in my life: seeking to learn about leaders from history who, in the midst of adversity, did not simply observe the trajectories of a culture to profit from them but changed the trajectories of a culture even if it cost them personally to do so. Ultimately, this included church history in general, Reformation history in particular, and the Great Awakening history specifically.

However, nowhere have I been more profoundly drawn to the pursuit of leadership, the study of leadership, and the faltering yet intentional desire to multiply and mobilize leaders for Christ from His church into the world than when I am reading the Word of God. 

Later in my life, a good friend, Tom Hawkes (who planted one of the first daughter churches of the church I pastored in Charlotte, Christ Covenant) played a role. Tom, who now leads the Center for Church Planting for Reformed Theological Seminary Charlotte, encouraged me in the 1980s to do something that ultimately led to my writing this book two decades later. 

As the Mission to North America assistant coordinator of church planting for the PCA, Tom challenged me to teach a series of classes on leadership multiplication and mobilization. My answer was, “Well, I really don’t have any material.” He responded, “I didn’t think so.” That naturally led to my question, “Then why would you ask me to teach these classes?” His answer: “I believe you multiply and mobilize leaders intuitively, and I want to see that you start doing it intentionally.” 

The result of that exchange and challenge was a life-altering change in my leadership priorities to embrace a commitment to do something I have enjoyed studying and doing for my entire life — defining, developing, and deployingleaders. This ministry lifestyle change also led me to write this book. I hope, by God’s grace, it will be of value to those who read it.  


Harry L. Reeder III is senior pastor of Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham, Alabama.    

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