Reflections on Leadership Development 

The Gift and Value of Leadership Development, by Matt Agee

On August 1, I will join the people, pastors, and elders at Grace Church of Des Moines, Iowa as Associate Pastor to Young Adults. My family and I are exceedingly grateful to the Lord for His goodness, guidance, and provision. I am filled with excitement as I think of all He has planned for His people and His glory (Ephesians 3:20-21).

This time of transition has provided me the opportunity to reflect and to give thanks for the equipping I received at Parkwood through the ministry development program. Parkwood’s commitment through leadership development is to equip and deploy the next generation of ministry leaders. I, along with many others, have been on the receiving end of this biblical commitment.  

The following are my reflections on the equipping I received at Parkwood:

A passion for God’s Word is central to life and ministry. 

I remember sitting in Pastor Jeff Long’s office, sharing my desire to preach God’s Word. He sat patiently, listening to a young man filled with zeal share his heart. At the end of our time together, Pastor Jeff pointed me to an open Bible sitting on his desk. It was opened to Ezra 7:10: “For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the LORD, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel.” “This is the key,” he said, “loving His Word, reading His Word, and obeying His Word. You must start and end here.” Those words were spoken to a would-be preacher, but they should be true of every believer, and especially of those who desire to serve as ministry leaders. The equipping I received at Parkwood centered on God’s Word and on cultivating a passion for His Word. “You must start and end here.” I will never forget those words.  

God’s call is felt internally and affirmed externally.  

It is absolutely clear from Scripture that God calls servants to serve His people. A man or woman must feel a call to serve as a ministry leader. There must be an internal sense of calling, of burden, of heart-deep desire to give your life for God’s people (1 Timothy 3:1). However, the internal is not enough. The calling we feel internally must be affirmed by others externally (1 Timothy 5:22). This external affirmation is the foundational work of leadership development at Parkwood: shepherding young men and women to discern if and how God has called them. External affirmation happens when opportunities are taken and when feedback is provided. The opportunities, feedback, and affirmation I received (culminating in my ordination on April 19, 2015) were necessary and precious. By God’s grace, others will experience the same.

Humility is crucial for growth and development.  

Growth and development in ministry requires correction, input, coaching, course-correction (to use one of Pastor Joey Denton’s terms), etc. However, we must be humble enough to receive them. Only then will they bear the fruit God intends. This means that we must learn the vast difference between being merely agreeable and being teachable. Agreeability requires only that we nod our heads to what is being said; teachability requires much more. When we are teachable, we welcome and apply the words of encouragement, correction, and wisdom we receive from others. This calls for humility. Leadership development at Parkwood taught me that at every stage in my growth and development humility is my greatest ally and pride is my greatest enemy (1 Peter 5:5-6). There is no greater lesson to be learned.  

Ministry leaders are servants, not professionals.  

Don’t get me wrong. All believers should aim for excellence in their lives and in their various callings. However, leadership development at Parkwood showed me that ministry leadership is always servant leadership, meaning it embodies a different tone and mentality altogether. We follow the example of Christ who did not come to be served by to serve (Mark 10:45). One of the early books I read as a part of leadership development was Brothers, We Are Not Professionals by John Piper. Although the book is written to men in ministry, the lessons are applicable to all who serve. On page one, Piper writes, “…there is no professional childlikeness (Matt. 18:3); there is no professional tenderheartedness (Eph. 4:32); there is no professional panting after God (Ps. 42:1).” I would add, “There is no professional picking up trash after Vacation Bible School family night.” It is hard to appear professional while picking up trash. That’s the point.  

Gospel work is people work.  

If we are concerned with the work of the Gospel in the world today, then we must be concerned about people. Ministry leadership requires that we love, serve, and disciple people. A core component of leadership development at Parkwood is learning what this means and how it’s done. If we plan a great event, but somehow neglect the people involved, we have missed the mark. If we are reading all the best new books, but are not actively investing our lives in others, then we have missed the mark. In recent years, the book Trellis and the Vine has worked it’s way into the DNA of Parkwood’s pastors. Here is a key line: “…the growth of the gospel happens in the lives of people, not in the structures of the church.” Are structures important? Of course! However, it is possible to add and maintain structures while neglecting people. The personal investment I received through leadership development shaped me deeply. I was not neglected. I hope by God’s grace to continue the work in others.  

Discipleship is worth the time and effort.  

This reflection goes right along with the previous one. A central goal of leadership development at Parkwood is teaching and modeling what it means to disciple others. The expectation is that everything you receive you will reproduce in others. And you receive much! Of course, this is the responsibility of every disciple of Christ, but especially of those who desire to serve as ministry leaders. Through this process, you come to understand that discipleship takes time and effort. I remember riding in the car with Pastor Kem Lindsay when he explained to me that the all-important word in Colossians 1:28 is “struggling.” Discipleship requires struggling and effort. It can be messy and inconvenient, sometimes even painful (I know devoting time and energy to my development could not have been easy!) But, leadership development at Parkwood taught me that discipling others, sticking with them, investing your time and energy, is well worth it. Why? Because God gives the growth (1 Corinthians 3:7), and because He promises to finish every work He begins (Philippians 1:6). What a privilege to have a role in His work! 

The Church is God’s Plan A, and He has no Plan B.  

I could not forget this phrase if I tried, and for that I am deeply grateful. God’s work in the world is gathering a redeemed people around His Son from every language, nation, tribe, and tongue who will worship Him and enjoy Him forever. And He does this work of gathering through His people, the Church. The Church is God’s Plan A for reaching our neighbors and the nations with the Gospel. Leadership development at Parkwood taught me what it means to love the Church and to serve the Church and to commit my life to the Church. Why such a commitment? Because Christ promised that He would build His Church, and that the gates of Hell itself would not stand against it (Matthew 16:18). When we commit to the Church, we commit to God’s plan for His world. There is no greater purpose.  

So much more could be written. I could go on and on describing and rejoicing over all God taught me and all the ways He shaped me through leadership development at Parkwood. Truly, I am grateful to Christ for His people (Philippians 1:3). I know so many others feel the very same way.  

May our Lord continue His work through Parkwood until His Church is built and the earth is filled with His glory! 

North American Missions Offering

Much has been said the last few months about giving and going to the nations. Parkwood celebrated sacrificial and significant giving to the International Missions Offering in December, and earlier this month, we gloried in the mission of God during Mission Impact Celebration. Much of Parkwood’s focus has been looking beyond the United States and even North America to the global cities and hard to reach places of the ends of the earth. Now, however, we turn our attention to the North American Missions Offering, what Southern Baptists have historically referred to as the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering. 

It is important to see these offerings with a consistent vision rather than at odds with one another. To see these offerings with consistent vision, consider two things: the meaning of harvest fields and the reason for disproportionate giving. First, consider the meaning of harvest fields in the Scriptures. Begin with the Great Commission command to go and make disciples. Since going is actually a participle, the instruction is to make disciples as you go. As you go, make disciples near or far. Most should make disciples everyday during the course of your going to school, to work, to play. Others, though, should leave and intentionally go cross-culturally to make disciples. If we are to make disciples among the nations, then the geographical goal of that command necessarily includes the place in which you live. 

Likewise, this near and far tension relates to the harvest field. Followers of Christ are commanded to earnestly pray to the Lord of the harvest that he will send workers into the harvest fields. What fields? Certainly he does not only mean international locations to the neglect of closer places. What did Jesus say to his disciples before ascending? Indeed he directed his disciples to be his witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. When we consider the harvest fields, then, it is consistent to consider each of these geographical locations as legitimate fields of service. Jesus tells his disciples that the fields are white for harvest, and later he tells them to go to their current city (Jerusalem), to regions beyond their city (Judea), including areas that are different or even difficult (Samaria), and of course, to the ends of the earth. When you consider the biblical directive to go to the harvest field, therefore, do not negate every harvest field for one particular field. The hard to reach places are harvest fields for which we should pray and to which we should go, but other harvest fields exist also, perhaps in your own backyard.

Second, the reason for disproportionate giving to international missions should be understood in view of disproportionate need. No doubt much is said at Parkwood about going from the United States to the nations, about going to global cities and hard to reach places, about naming Christ where he has not been named, and no doubt Parkwood exhorts the church to give and send and pray toward these end of the earth harvest fields. But spurring this international harvest field focus is the reality of drastic need. Of course the lost are in the United States, but also across this country are many Christians and churches and resources. In the forty-five unreached people groups of the Caucasus Mountains, for example, many more lost live with much fewer Christians, churches, and resources. So we unashamedly raise the call to go to other nations even while we consistently go, pray, and send to our own country and North America.

For these reasons, it is consistent and right to highlight the far and hard to reach harvest fields even while we give through the North American Missions Offering to the North American Mission Board. With this vision for missions, would you please consider this week what you might give next week to the North American Missions Offering? I pray we would give faithfully and obediently in accordance with the gift given to us in the gospel.

Going with the Gospel #3

Going to the Dibo…
A small team has recently returned from a trip to the Dibo to prepare the way for future trips. Their update is encouraging. Though few believers exist among the 120,000 Dibo, one believer, a pastor of 28 years, is currently serving this Muslim people group. An interview with Pastor Akeem* offers insight into the work of God among the Dibo and how we might pray and be involved in reaching this people with the gospel.

Muslims, of course followers of the Quran and the prophet Mohammed, understand Jesus as a historical figure but find it difficult to hear that he is the Son of God. Accordingly, Akeem reasons the Gospel of John is a great place to begin with Muslims, since that book affirms with emphasis that Jesus is the unique Son of God. The pastor recalls one man who came to understand that Jesus, recognized both in the Quran and in the Bible, was raised from the dead. The man knows that Mohammed had died and is still dead. Jesus, though, died, was resurrected, and will come back one day as the Judge of all people. In fact, Mohammed will be judged by Jesus. This good news is often quite incredible and even disturbing for those Muslims who first hear it. Sometimes they may be ready to receive this gospel after a few days, but most require a year or more of conversation and explanation of these concepts that are at first so foreign before they surrender to Jesus. Pastor Akeem went on to recount stories of other Dibo who have recently received the truth of the gospel. The Father is indeed at work in Nigeria and among this unreached people group.


Surrendering to Jesus is not easy, particularly for the Dibo. Identifying as a Christian is immediately difficult, and dangerous. “If you abandon Islam, you must be killed – shot or poisoned,” the pastor said. The best practice for now is to send new believers away from their home so that they may be discipled and gain some maturity before they return. Be encouraged that the hand of God is moving among the Dibo, but be vigilant to pray for them as well.


Given the desperate need for the gospel among the unreached of the world, and hearing of God working among the poor, the Chorti, and the Dibo, would you consider going on a trip to share the gospel in one of these places? Inspired by God and zealous for the gospel among the nations, Paul rejoices that “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13). But he writes in the next verse, “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone sharing with them?” The God who saves has chosen to use his church to proclaim his gospel. If you will consider going and sharing that the others might hear and believe, begin by completing this trip application. Short-term trips are planned throughout 2016 for these and other partnerships.

*Names are concealed for security purposes.

Going with the Gospel #2

Going to the Chorti…

A mission team led adults in Bible study and ministered to children in several villages on the most recent Honduras trip. As John and Kem led a men’s Bible study in a particular village, one young man stood out in the group. 

Pam immediately recognized the young man from a trip five years ago to the same village. That day, we were told not to visit the house where the demon possessed boy was, but thanks be to God it didn’t stop us. We approached the house to be greeted by the father coming around the house with a machete (a common tool for Chorti farmers but still unnerving!). Once we explained who we were and what we were doing, he allowed us to come onto his porch, and the young man who was inside finally came out very distraught. We laid hands on him and prayed for him in spite of his clinched fist. That day we took a picture which remained on a mission team member’s refrigerator all this time.


The young man was interceded for continually as the picture served as a reminder. Now, to see the miracle of this man attending this Bible study on “How to be a Godly Husband” was amazing! He had a precious wife and three children. We praise God for what he allowed us to see and the work he has done in this man and among the Chorti.

In addition to this and other short-term teams, many will remember that we recently sent a mid-term family to live among the Chorti. David and Carla Demaree moved with their children to Honduras in November to disciple Edgardo and to increase gospel work in this partnership. David heard years ago about Edgardo’s desire to be discipled more deeply in the Word and ministry. In our partnership with Edgardo and the Chorti, Parkwood was faced with two options if intense discipleship were to be sought: remove Edgardo from the field and connect him to a discipling relationship, or send a discipling relationship to Edgardo on the field. As the Father called the Demaree family to Honduras, David proved to be the answer to Edgardo’s prayer and the solution to Parkwood’s direction.


Please continue to intercede for the Demaree family and for Edgardo and Emilio(translator and partner) as they work with David. Pray specifically for discipleship–that depth in the Word and integrity in life would deepen and increase for the sake of the gospel among the Chorti. Pray for David that he would be strengthened and given wisdom as he oversees discipleship. Pray also for Carla as she assists with language and ministry and continues to fulfill her calling as a mother. And pray for the children as they adjust to a new schedule and pattern of life. 

The mission team, upon seeing God’s hand at work in that young man, was reminded of the call of God in Isaiah 6. God calls, and we are given the opportunity to respond. Similar to Isaiah, we should raise our hand to be numbered when we hear the invitation to go and be sent. God is at work, and we have the privilege to be involved. As with the mission team and with the Demaree family, let us say with conviction, ‘Here I am; send me” (Isaiah 6:8).