Urban Leadership Development 102

Leadership Development is of the utmost importance in the local church. This is especially true of churches in the gritty inner city context where “ready made” leaders are not often drawn. Therefore, churches must be committed to the process of making, molding, maturing, and mobilizing leaders who will plant churches and lead within our congregation.

Develop A Robust System

After a brother or sister has submitted to biblical discipleship over a period of time, showing him or herself to be faithful, available, and teachable, the leaders of the church should prayerfully consider beginning the leadership development process.

It’s the investment to make theologically-informed, spiritually-rooted, and maturing disciples through intentional training and theological education.

That begins with developing a robust leadership system, which is a more intensive version of discipleship, that cultivates solid theological grounding while honing unrefined skills and providing practical expertise.

Here are three areas that we should consider when creating a process:

Head (Content)

This refers to the content and information that’s communicated regarding the Christian faith. It’s vital that leaders in the urban churches have solid doctrinal convictions. Paul encourages Titus that he teaches what accords with sounds doctrine (Tit. 2:1). It’s a prerequisite for ministry. Because our faith is based on a very specific message that’s been faithfully transmitted, it is of first importance that we understand the gospel and that we are able to accurately convey that message to others (1 Cor. 15:3-8).

From creation to the fall of Adam in the Garden of Eden, to the saving work of Christ on the Cross and the eventual restoration of all things, content traces the contours of redemptive history and is able to re-communicate them in a simple, understandable message.

While biblical content is the primary source, it’s important that our leaders are broadly read. In order to understand the plight of ethnic minorities in the inner city context, I encourage them to listen to lectures, read books, and listen to podcast speeches that place the struggle in a historical context.

That includes material on African American religious history (especially the development of the Black Church); the Reconstruction Period, Great Migration, and understanding the tension of race in the United States. This is extremely vital to develop well-round leaders. This will prove to be extremely helpful in urban apologetics. By reading broadly it aids leaders in combating the falsehood that’s crept into our cities.

Have them dismount their hobbyhorse and penchant for examining the cultural landscape from their myopic perspective because it causes cultural dissonance with the community we’re seeking to impact.

Be sure to ask the questions and assess what this disciple needs to know. What should they do and what books, articles, and sermons do they need to read or listen to in order to become theologically fit?

Hands (Competency)

Loving Jesus and being committed to the spiritual disciples is not enough. We must develop competencies to serve in the urban church.

During the leadership development process, it’s important to assess the skills (this can be done through DISC profiles, strength finders, etc.) and gifting of the people in the process. Once those gifts have been discovered they need to be honed. This assessment aids in discovering the person’s unique skills set.

We’re not looking to mold specialists that focus on one particular area of ministry but “deep generalists.” These are people that dive fairly deep into several different fields of study. They grasp the most important aspects of each field, enabling them to grow qualitatively and deeply impact their church through the diversifying of their own skill sets.

We want to develop leaders that have a specific job title but are able to handle multiple tasks while training and developing other leaders to fill in other ministry positions.

Ask key questions such as – how can I help this person develop his/her skills so they can walk in their unique gifting? What are some skills that this person needs in order to be an effective leader in Christ’s church? It’s often discovered when we exercise our gifts on a regular basis, so we need those in the process to maturity. Consider this process:

  • I do; you observe; I explain.
  • I do; you assist; I explain.
  • You do; I assist; you explain.
  • You do; I observe; you explain.
  • Begin the process with someone else

Heart (Character)

Character can be defined as the moral fiber of our being. It is an essential quality for leadership in any capacity, and it’s important because it’s one of the principle requirements of trust. Ultimately, trust is a prerequisite for meaningful relationships.

Those who lack character have moral deficiencies that will be unhealthy for the people that they seek to lead. We must distinguish between our character and reputation, however. While our reputation is what people say about us, character is the sum total of who we actually are.

Any leader or potential leader of Christ church should be morally upstanding, and it’s important that we stress this quality in our leadership development. Christian character is the collection of our traits and behaviors that show who we really are, and it shapes our actions and how we treat others. So as you begin the process of leadership development, this should be stressed continually.


There’s much that we can say about developing leaders in the inner city context, and there are varied approaches to the process, so don’t feel confined to develop leaders through one specific sphere. Take a varied approach.

That’s it for now. Next time I will explain the process that I use.

Grace and peace.

Ernest Cleo Grant, II

Ernest Cleo Grant, II (@ernestcleogrant) is the Lead Pastor of Epiphany Fellowship Church of Camden, a graduate of Reformed Seminary (D.C.), and is currently completing his Doctorate of Education from Stockton University. He and his wife Sarah have been married for almost a decade and have two children( Amaela and Chancellor). He's an avid reader, a community advocate, and has bylines in The Witness, Christianity Today, The Star-Ledger, Desiring God, and other publications

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