On Starting a Fellowship and Raising Up Leaders

Recently I received an excellent question from the reader of this blog. This is the question:

I am part of a small congregation that started out as a Bible Study
group.  At the current time, the leader has full control of all aspects
of the group/congregation, from time and place of worship/study, music,
finances, etc.  Maybe I’m wrong, but I have suggested that I do not
believe that to be a healthy situation.  As we continue to grow, I
believe we should have a form of leadership structure besides one person
being solely responsible.  Would you share with me your leadership
structure model and also your Shabbot worship schedule.  Thank you for
your time.

What follows is my answer this question.

Like a slow moving yet intense grass fire, interest in the biblical or Hebrew roots of the Christian faith is spreading globally. Sadly, suppression of this movement’s pro-Torah message has become institutionalized in traditional Christianity since the fourth century onward. Additionally, many non-biblical, even pagan traditions have mixed into mainstream Christianity. What’s more, most churches refuse to detach themselves from these unbiblical doctrines of men and to reorientate themselves along purely biblical lines, which the biblical roots movement purports to embrace. Because of prevailing conditions in the church system, many people are exiting the churches in search of a religious experience that is truer to the biblical truth. These factors are the impetus behind the spread of the biblical or Hebrew roots movement. This is a fulfillment of Malachi’s prophecy that in the end times before the second coming of Yeshua YHVH’s people would remember the Torah of Moses they had forgotten, and turn their hearts back to the spiritual (biblical) fathers of their faith (Mal 4:1–6).

Because humans are social beings who aren’t designed to be solitary creatures, it is only natural for those leaving traditional churches to seek the fellowship of like-minded individuals, who like them, not only want to explore but to practice their common and purer biblically faith.

This grass roots movement naturally gives rise to home fellowships and eventually to congregations being formed. Usually the person starting the fellowship will, by default, become the leader. This is often where the problems begin. Like grass, those in this movement can tend to be shallow rooted and easily blown with the winds of doctrine and the mind of man. This can produce very unstable situations out of which congregations form. What is the answer to this problem? Quality leaders need to be raised up; quality as defined by biblical standards! 

There’s an old saying that an expert is merely a person who knows a little more than the next guy. This is often the case with the individual who is starting a new Hebrew roots fellowship — often in his or her home. In many cases, the person is barely six months or a year or more ahead in his biblical understanding of those he’s attempting to lead and teach. It’s a case of one’s zeal running ahead of one’s abilities to properly function. The social dynamics of such a new group can be both exciting and scary. If the new leader is a novice in the art of leading people and in his knowledge of the Scriptures, and particularly in a Hebraic, pro-Torah background of the Scriptures, the results can potentially be catastrophic. Some leaders become like little dictators in an attempt to protect and preserve their groups (which they view as their new little fiefdoms) and their egos at all costs. These well-intentioned, but misguided efforts can, unfortunately, lead to much grief, offense, strife, division and enduring animosities causing great hurt and harm to the individuals involved not to mention to the efforts at spreading the gospel message and the expansion of the kingdom of Elohim on earth. Some people become discouraged, throw up their arms in frustration or even disgust and leave the faith altogether.

If these are the fruits when a new congregation is planted, then we might want to reevaluate our approach. Since the Bible must be our guide in all that we do, what then is the biblical model for starting new congregations and raising up godly leaders? At this point, I could write a long dissertation, but let me briefly share my insights on the subject based on an understanding of the Scriptures, years of experience in pastoring, collaboration with other leaders, and a lot of hard knocks and difficult lessons that I’ve learned along the way.

The Book of Acts and the Epistles and the rest of the Bible give us general principles in these areas that can guide us. They are few and simple. Here’s what I’ve learned on the subject.

  • In the Bible, when YHVH raised up a leader, he first called them and then prepared them. He often mentored them under an older wiser individual. This is the Hebraic way. This was the case with patriarchs (their fathers mentored them), Joshua, Samuel, David, Yeshua’s disciples, Timothy and so on. The Levites were trained for five years (from age 25 to 30), and the apostles trained those under them. Sometimes the prospective leader was both mentored and trained through life circumstances. Moses was presumably mentored by Jethro, his father-in-law and was a father, husband and shepherd for 40 years prior to leading the Israelites. Yeshua was a carpenter under his father’s tutelage before launching into the ministry to reunite the two houses of Israel.  Yeshua trained his disciples, and some of them were even fishermen before become fishers of men.  In may own life, not only was I privileged to have a grandfather and father who were both biblical researchers and minsters who mentored me, but I grew up shepherding sheep on the family farm for many years. After that, I volunteered in many ministries and churches for years under the care of older and experienced men of God before YHVH sent me out on my own. Such a process isn’t always possible today as new leaders in the Hebrew roots movement start Bible study groups in their homes, which often become congregations. If these individuals have no leadership training and experience and spiritual mentoring, and even if they do, they should seek several older, wiser and experienced spiritual counselors to help guide and train them. In our day of modern electronic telecommunications, such persons, if not available locally, can be found elsewhere. Seek their counsel, follow their advice and be accountable to them. Hopefully one can find several such individuals.
  • In the biblical record of the apostles, we find them planting congregations in many cities and raising up and appointing leaders before moving on. The ideal form of leadership in the local congregations was always plural with a board of elders officiating. Likely, an older and wiser man who had the most knowledge of the Scriptures would be the head elder. 
  • It may appear from the apostolic record that elders were appointed rather quickly. This may or may not have been the case. Each situation would have been different depending on who was in the congregation and the raw material the founding leader had to work with. There seems to be a dynamic tension between the need to quickly establish leaders, yet, at the same time, doing so carefully and slowly. The apostles are quick to warn us not to ordain leaders quickly and to know those who labor among us. Paul the apostle in several places gives specific, if not stringent, criteria for elders and deacons. Sadly, in our day, very few potential leaders (or even current leaders) fit these qualifications. Thus,  finding qualified leaders may prove more difficult than it might first appear. Many people, in their pride, feel that they are qualified to be leaders, but, if we follow the scriptural criteria for how leaders are to be raised up and appointed, such people seldom qualify in YHVH’s eyes. With time, experience and proper training, they might qualify — once they get over themselves!
  • Why is it important to follow the biblical criteria for appointing leaders in congregations? It’s very simple. Common sense tells us that leaders who are lacking in experience, training, knowledge of the Scriptures, whose personal lives are mess, who are full of pride, who are greedy or power-hungry, are spiritually immature, who don’t have a servant’s heart and who aren’t totally submitted to the Word and Spirit of Elohim will produce spiritually sick congregations. Sadly, churches are full of such toxic leaders!
  • There’s another old saying that the cream rises to the top. In YHVH’s spiritual economy, true God-ordained leaders don’t choose themselves. YHVH chooses them. Beware of leaders who are self-appointed. Their motives are usually wrong (e.g. the desire for money, power, fame, ego-gratification). Again and again, the Scriptures decry such leaders and contrasts them with godly leaders who YHVH himself has raised up and appointed who are after his own heart, who fear him, know his Word and who are submitted to him in humility. Also beware of individuals who are striving for positions of leadership. They are not the cream! Look rather for those who have a heart to serve YHVH faithfully within the congregation, and who care nothing about recognition or promotion. They are serving not to be men-pleasers, but for the love of Yeshua. Look for these diamonds in the rough and the cream that is rising to the top. If you’re a leader, pray that YHVH will send you such individuals and seek YHVH’s guidance on how to help develop them.

In conclusion, before starting a fellowship, a new leader must receive a divine calling from YHVH to do so. Next he must seek the counsel of older  and wiser individuals for counsel, guidance and accountability. Next, he must endeavor to share his leadership with others as YHVH brings worthy individuals into his congregation. The lead pastor-pope model isn’t the model the apostles established in the Scriptures. At the same time, the founding leader must not be too quick to appoint leaders for fear of appointing the wrong ones thus irreparably harming the congregation. Go slowly and let YHVH raise up qualified people who fit the biblical criteria. This may take some time, but remember Proverbs 3:5–6,

Trust in YHVH with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.


For more on this subject, see my video on the five fold ministry and their role within the local congregation.


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