October 7, 2011
Catalyst 2011 Final Message with Andy Stanley
The ministry of apprenticeship: If you are one step ahead of anyone, you have something to offer.
Andy Stanley’s final message at Catalyst stressed one big idea: the vitality of Christian leadership depends on apprenticeship. Stanley defines apprenticeship as the process of “selecting, modeling, and coaching for the purpose of replacing yourself.” As Stanley said in an earlier talk, most of us have a problem with that word selecting. It seems so unfair. But Jesus wasn’t "fair"—in the sense that he didn’t spend the same amount of time with each disciple. According to Stanley, "Our job is to look behind us and pour our lives into a few selected people.”
This leads to another implication for every leader: “Your responsibility is to empty your cup. It is not your responsibility to fill someone else’s cup.” That should take a huge burden off of us as leaders. We don’t have to know everything. We don’t have to be experts. We don’t have to fix people and fill their cups. For Stanley, “If you are one step ahead of anyone, you have something to offer to someone who is one step behind you.” What a great—and liberating—goal for every leader.
Stanley shared the following personal story.
He was meeting a friend for lunch. The friend, a circuit judge, has incredible power and works long hours. But when Stanley went to his office, he had to wait for his friend who was talking on the phone. As he talked, three young people sat on a couch in his office, frantically taking notes and trying to keep up with the judge’s conversation. When Stanley’s friend got off the phone, he turned to his interns and asked, “Okay, based on that conversation, what did you learn?”
It struck Stanley that this is exactly what Christian leaders should be doing every day, apprenticing younger leaders. This isn’t a program or a curriculum. You do it by inviting people to walk beside you as you complete different aspects of your leadership. In other words, don’t do your ministry alone. Don’t interview alone. Don’t budget alone. Don’t design, prepare, or create alone. Bring someone along with you. Again, you don’t have to fill their cup; just empty your cup.
So as the conference ended, Stanley gave every leader one more specific assignment: “Replace yourself.”