Facilitator: A New Role for Church Leaders

By Dr. Cornell Haan

God is doing a new thing!

Most everyone would agree.  These are exciting days to serve the Lord. He is working more quickly than ever before.  David Mains, radio evangelist and founder of The Chapel Ministries and the 50-Day Spiritual Adventure wrote in “The Chapel Newsletter,” June, 1995, “Never have we been so confident that America is on the edge of a genuine, wide-spread spiritual awakening.  From around the country we are beginning to hear early ‘rumblings’—reports that indicate the beginning of a great move of God’s Spirit in our land.”

Meanwhile, the church is trying to catch up.  There is a new intensity in bold, corporate prayer.  There is a new love for jubilant worship.  Ten years ago few used words like intercessor, apostle, collaborating, or prayer walking.  Spiritual warfare was not on our radar screens.  As we approach the beginning of a new millennium, a new spiritual leader is emerging.  That leader is being referred to as a facilitator.

God is raising up a new breed of leader!

How is a facilitator a new breed of leader?  Facilitators give place to another person’s gifts, eliminating the need to be in competition with others.  Facilitators don’t need to look good, but desire Christ to look good.  Facilitators value the uniqueness of each person in the body of Christ and do not demand conformity or uniformity.

During the 1995 Mission America National Committee meeting 164 national church and parachurch leaders gathered.  At that meeting they asked themselves, “Is it possible—should we take the challenge to pray for and share the Gospel with every man, women, teenager, and child in our nation by year end 2000?”  The answer resoundingly came, “Yes!  We can!  We must!”  During one of the afternoon breakout sessions, one group was asked to identify what kinds of revival leadership will be needed should God send revival.  In times of revival, God works in ways that suggest new “wineskins” are needed for leadership for the new Third Millennium.  These are the five conclusions made that afternoon:

1.  There will be a deeper respect for each other’s ministries.  Unhealthy competition and controlling leadership styles will disappear in brokenness and repentance.
2.  Accountability toward each other will increase.  As a Kingdom mentality develops, a common vision will unfold.  Relationships will be restored and will be best maintained while kneeling in prayer.
3.  Collaboration, in contrast to cooperation, will be necessary for revival.  Cooperation says, “Come, help me” while collaboration remarks, “I want to be part of what God is doing.”  Collaboration will replace division, which will lead to repentance, evangelism and spiritual awakening.
4.  There will be an increased tolerance for ambiguity.  While a variety of ethnic and theological backgrounds exist within God’s Kingdom, the focus will be on Jesus and obeying His command in The Great Commission.  That can be done without compromising ethnic and theological distinctives.
5.  Strategic planning will develop flexible, non-specific, half-baked plans.  We will learn to do it the Jesus way, and not the American way.  Strategic prayer planning and walking by faith while the Lord paves the road, just before we put the next foot down, will dominate our strategic planning efforts.

The Role of a Facilitator

Some people have difficulty catching the difference between the old “American” leadership style and the “following Jesus” leadership style.  Helpful resources for additional study come from a Leadership Network’s NETFAX, entitled, “Helping Church Leaders Make the Transition from the Present to the Future,” and from the Lay Communique, published by the Alban Institute of Bethesda, MD.   They develop these contrasts to help define this new role of facilitator:

1.  Facilitators are concerned less with any official position, but more concerned about empowering others to achieve God’s calling on their lives.
2.  Facilitators are not concerned about their own personal agenda, but allow the Holy Spirit to set the agenda through all of the lives of those in the group.
3.  Facilitators are delighted when others feel a leading from the Lord to express their giftedness.
4.  Facilitators see themselves on the bottom of the organizational chart and in a servant role to the others in the group.  They see themselves fulfilled while helping others accomplish their goals.
5.  Facilitators lead by listening and coaching in order to bring out the best in others.
6.  Facilitators ask questions instead of giving answers.
7.  Facilitators provide opportunity for others to lead.
8.  Facilitators take the risk of mistakes, knowing that this provides learning experiences and allows for experimentation and innovation.
9.  Facilitators take responsibility rather than using authority.
10.  Facilitators are concerned mostly with their own spiritual journey.  They have a prayer team supporting them daily.  They have mentors to whom they look for advice.
11.  Facilitators give themselves away.  They do not use the phrase “delegate or die.”  They die to themselves and give it away.  They would gladly give their task to anyone who would take it.
12.  Facilitators are willing to die.  In fact they have died to their own agenda.  They seek God earnestly each day and hear the Lord give direction in each matter.

The Function of a Facilitator

If you desire to network, you understand that your spiritual destiny is tied to the spiritual destiny of others.  That is nowhere more true than in the accomplishment of the Great Commission.  Phil Butler, of Interdev, in his pamphlet entitled, “Partnership: Accelerating Evangelism in the 90’s,” wrote,
Previous evangelism approaches have often been individualistic, autonomous and fragmented . . . There has long been acknowledgment that Christian witness is most effective when the various elements of the work of the Kingdom function in some sort of coordinated way.

So far we have used some unfamiliar and new words, like networks, partnerships, and coalitions as if they all carry the same meaning.  Let’s define some words.

1.  Networks: Any group of people or entities who communicate and share information to enhance each member’s individual purposes.
2.  Partnership: Any two or more who collaborate to achieve a common purpose.  In the business world, partnerships have strong legal connotations.  These legal connotations most often do not exist in Kingdom business.
3.  Consultation: A group that shares information on a topic of common interest.
4.  Coalition: A consensus-based partnership, which requires a consensus about the common purpose of that coalition.
5.  Constitutional: A formal, contractual partnership relationship.

Facilitators give leadership to networks, partnerships and coalitions--not boards or executive committees.  What is the difference?

1.  Networks, partnerships and coalitions commit significant time to prayer, humbly acknowledging personal and organizational inadequacy and dependence on His sovereign control, with the awareness of each member’s giftedness.
2.  Networks, partnerships and coalitions have a champion for the cause, but also one who will serve by calling and organizing the meetings.  That person, the facilitator, must not threaten or overwhelm the group.
3.  Networks, partnerships and coalitions are open groups. All people sharing a burden for that ministry are welcome.
4.  Networks, partnerships and coalitions benefit everyone.  The facilitator seeks to identify the resources each member brings.  Value is given to it as part of the completed mission.
5.  Networks, partnerships and coalitions are grounded on mutual trust and benefit.  Trust takes time to develop, but is hastened by time spent kneeling in prayer together.

Phil Butler, CEO of Interdev, teaches significant principles for Strategic Partnerships.  These principles can be adapted to the function of a network facilitator.

1.  Effective Facilitators build trust, openness and mutual concern.
2.  Lasting partnerships need a facilitator—someone who, by consensus, has been given the role of bringing the partnership to life and keeping the fires burning.
3.  Successful Facilitators develop a specific goal or task.  This means lasting partnerships focus primarily on what (objectives) rather than how (structure).
4.  Facilitators understand that partnerships are a process, not an event.
5.  Facilitators take the time and effort to develop an effective partnership.  Effective partnerships do not come free.
6.  Effective partnerships are even more challenging to maintain than to start.  Facilitators make sure the vision stays alive, the focus is clear, communications are good, and outcomes fulfilling.
7.  Facilitators assist their partner’s ministries by developing clear identities and vision.
8.  Effective Facilitators acknowledge, even celebrate, the differences in their partner agencies’ histories, vision and services.  But facilitators must ultimately concentrate on what they have in common, like vision, values and ministry objectives, rather than on their differences.
9.  Effective Facilitators encourage a high sense of participation and ownership.  The widest possible participation in objective setting, planning and the process of meetings, and on-going communications is vital.
10.  Effective Facilitators expect problems and plan ahead for them.

Objectives and Activities for a Facilitator

Before the First Meeting:
During the Exploration Stage, the Facilitator develops a list or database of all ministries with a similar focus for that people group or area of ministry concern.  It would be helpful to learn about each ministry’s vision and interest as well as being informed about the targeted people group or ministry concern.  He may gather articles which identify the scope and needs within that focus.

Phil Butler, CEO of Interdev, gives these objectives for the Facilitator:

The facilitator’s activities start with private conversations with key persons.  The purpose of these conversations will be to listen to their heart and vision for their ministry, in order to understand their vision, mission and purpose.  Often these key persons and/or their agencies will have research on the subject or people group available.  The facilitator should request a copy and/or ask them to do some research on the mission of the partnership.

Communication will be most important.  Most facilitators use email to send out reports, meeting invitations, and follow-up materials from past meetings.  Telephone conference calls are also helpful, and save the higher expense of travel.  Some partnerships have functioned very well without ever actually meeting together in person.

But for most groups, travel will be necessary part of the network cost.  Most networks meet as a whole once or  twice a year, but more frequently for sub-committees.

In all activities, the facilitator needs to demonstrate impartiality and neutrality as a servant leader.

The Spiritual Role of the Facilitator

John Paul Jackson is pastor of the Shiloh House Church in Fort Worth, Texas and is editor of Streams of Shiloh.  His writings sharply address new leadership roles for the coming revival.  He calls them “faceless people.”

Years ago, the Lord began to give me and others dreams and visions about a breed of people who would become leaders when God returned the “Passion of Pentecost” to the church. . . Today’s renewal by the Holy Spirit may well be the beginning of what will one day become a divine network of massive proportions.  It may well foretell a time when the favor of God, flowing unencumbered through faceless men, will transcend human structures.

Jackson goes on to identify seven characteristics of facelessness.  They are listed below in an edited form to fit our subject of the facilitating style of leadership.

1.  Authority by favor.  A facilitator’s true authority does not come through having a title or the formation of structural hierarchy.  Luke 2 identifies two forms of favor: favor with God and favor with man.  Both come from God.
2.  More love for Jesus than for theological dogmas.  As facilitators are seen seeking the very heart of God, others will value their love for Jesus more than their    denominational affiliation.
3.  Relationship over hierarchy.  Facilitators know that the greatest changes in the church come through relationship.  Relationships embrace a spiritual synergy when two or more agree.  Then two can put ten thousand to flight.
4.  Character over giftedness.  Facilitators know that character doesn’t come fast, nor does it come easy, but it lasts a long, long time.  Character is God’s inoculation against the pride that comes when His power flows through mere men.
5.  Lack of ownership.  Facilitators give their ministry to another knowing that they do not own it.  Together the network is building what is His.  They have nothing to protect, and no reputation to uphold.  Everything is now God’s to kill or keep alive.
6.  Greater anointing with less privilege.  Facilitators know they have not earned their gifting and anointing, and so are content with less public recognition.
7.  Kings without kingdoms.  Facilitators have the ability to minister without measuring success by size or numerical impact.  The size of a kingdom does not define the anointing of the leader.  Facilitators will not be perfect, but they will be broken in heart and contrite in spirit. God will place the weight of His Kingdom on the shoulders of such people.

The Servant Role of a Facilitator

Ted Haggard in his book, Primary Purpose, Section III, “Lifestyle Warfare,” develops seven power points.  Power Point #3 is entitled, “Becoming a Servant.”  There he concludes:

This attitude is obvious when you affirm uniting for your primary purpose in a city.  A humble spirit from a servant’s attitude causes others to have an open heart toward you.  If your attitude reflects your desire to bless them and cause them to be successful with no ulterior motives or sinful manipulation in mind, people will welcome you and open their hearts to you.  So you become more effective when we work toward the bottom instead of the top.
Several years ago, Vio Duca and his family escaped from Romania where he served the Lord as Minister of Worship and Music in one of the great churches in Transylvania.  His first days in this country were spent delightfully with my wife and I.  One of his Romanian sayings, which he used often, was spoken with appropriate hand movements.  He said, “The way up is the way down.”

In INC. magazine, January 1997, Donna Fenn interviewed Jim Nichols and Sid Holbrook, owners of Infiltrator Systems, a $50-million manufacturer of septic chambers.  In defining this partnership, Nichols says, “He and I formed a relationship.”  Fenn writes, “No, Nichols isn’t alluding to strategic alliances, corporate partnerships, joint ventures, or any other fashionable form of entanglement.  What he’s talking about are relationships that start with a spark of common interest and that could eventually result in an agreement to share proprietary technology or in an exclusive distribution arrangement—even Nichols himself never knows how they’ll turn out.…When Jim Nichols talks about relationships, he’s not just stamping a new age word on the fine old art of schmoozing.”

Here are some of his principles adjusted for the facilitator’s style of leadership:

1.  Don’t start with an end goal.  Keep foremost the role of people.
2.  Find folks that believe in your vision and what you are trying to do.
3.  Home in on individuals.  Figure out how they can become part of your ministry.  Focus on their ministry and the methods they use.  Make your ministry secondary.
4.  Count on that person spreading the word about the vision.

Biblical Evidence for Facilitators

Some people say networking doesn’t work.  Frankly some networks fail.  Why?  Certainly the training of the facilitator is critical.  Patrick M. Morley, facilitator for the National Coalition of Men’s Ministries writes a paper on “Why Some Groups Fail.”  His conclusion is, “Let’s have a ‘Wow!’ vision-driven, prayer-based, opposition-expecting, example-setting, long-term thinking, kingdom-building, Christ-focused, fun-loving, relationship-based, task-oriented, can’t wait-to-be-part-of-it group.”

Some people say networking is a waste of time and money.  And it can be.  However, the Bible gives us plenty of reasons why we should network regardless of our past failures or personal opinions on the pros and cons of networking.  Networking doesn’t seem to be a Biblical option.

Ezekiel 37:1-11a is a well-known prophetic chapter about the valley of dry bones.  However, this chapter teaches a great deal about the importance of networking.

1.  A ministry, or bone, unattached to other ministries, is a dry bone or ineffective ministry.
2.  Ministries, as bones, need to be attached by networks, or tendons, to come to spiritual life.  See the many “one another” verses.
3.  Ministries or bones without muscle or skin are weak and unattractive.
4.  Tendons, or networks, establish points of reference from which ministries draw their strength.
5.  Connectivity allows the ministries to move strategically with the entire body.
6.  Ministries or bones need to be attached to the right bone or ministry, or the outcome is ridiculous.
7.  Ministries or bones, regardless of their great strength and attractiveness, need the breath of God in order to have revival fires burning within.

I Corinthians
1 Corinthians 12 teaches about the strength of networking the body together.  The following principles can be learned:

1.  Ministries have different spiritual giftings, service, and strengths for the good of the whole body.
2.  The ministry is one with many parts.  Some ministries have many parts, like a rib cage.  It is easy for them to think they are the entire body.
3.  All ministry belongs to each other.  They are needed.  They are important no matter what size or level of strength or attractiveness.
4.  All ministries need to be connected to the whole by tendons or networks, partnerships, and coalitions.
5.  All ministries have their role in the workings of the body.  (see list in 1 Corinthians 12)

John 17:20 is the great verse quoting the Lord’s prayer for unity.  Jesus prayed that the believers would be one for two extremely important reasons.
1) So that the world might believe in Jesus.  Unity makes for effective evangelism.
2) So that God’s glory would rest on those who are one.  Unity brings empowerment and anointing.

For years the church has called for cooperation.  Cooperation has come to mean, “I’ve got a good idea or vision. Will you come help me with my vision?”  A new word, although it is as old as the Bible itself, has emerged.  The word is co-laboring.  Co-laboring means that this is the way God is going.  We will follow Him together and co-labor with Him and each other as we follow Him.

Facilitators are God’s tendons.  They are God’s glorious connectors of His body.  Tendons are not particularly attractive.  They are not particularly well known, maybe even faceless, but very important for the days ahead that bring revival and new breath to the dry bones of the church.

Conclusion:  A True Parable

“My destiny is tied to your destiny.”  How true!  In fact, it is true for every human on the face of the earth.  However, it is even more true when God’s servants have the same mandate, “To go into all the world and preach the gospel.”

Little Johnny cried over his shoulder, “See ya, Mom.”  Quickly his mother shouted, “Don’t let the door slam!”  As the door slammed, Johnny went out to play while his mother prepared for dinner.

The time for dinner came and his mother stepped outside and called loudly, “Johnny, dinner is ready.  Dinner is ready!”  But Johnny did not come.  A blizzard had begun.  The wind and the snow was blowing with gale force now.  Putting on her warm coat and hat, she went out to the barn and into each out-building and called, “Johnny, dinner is ready.”  But Johnny was not there.  Dad came home and both went out looking for Johnny.  He was not to be found, even by calling the neighbors.  After three hours, distraught parents phoned the police.  Soon the police, fire and rescue, and sheriff departments were on the farm looking everywhere for Johnny.  By midnight, it was too cold to continue the rescue.  Everyone went home to return at 6:00 a.m.

In the morning, over a hundred people from town came to help look for little Johnny.  Before they started out, a lady suggested.  “Let’s form a line and hold our outstretched hands together and walk through the field.  If anyone sees Johnny, just cry out and we will all come running.”  It was agreed!  A short time later, a shout rang out.  Everyone ran.  Johnny’s mother was way on the other end of the line.  Nobody ran quite like his mother.  But when she got there, she found that Johnny was already dead.  As she held her child in her arms, she looked at the Fire Chief and Sheriff , “If we had only held hands earlier we would have saved my Johnny’s life.”

This true story tells the essence of networking.  If only we had worked together earlier, we may have been more successful in accomplishing the Great Commission—possibly millions of people would today be in Heaven if we had joined hands to accomplish the task.

Dr. Cornell Haan, National Facilitator of Ministry Networks
Mission America/Celebrate Jesus 2000
5740 Regal View Road, Colorado Springs, CO 80919
Ph: 719-593-1151, Fax: 719-265-9398, Email:

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