How to Develop a Personal Discipleship Plan

Michael Ward, the author of The Sixth Sola, shares his approach to personal discipleship.

Michael shares:

  • How he came to Christ
  • The other five solas
  • The purpose of the book
  • the intended readers
  • His view on other methods of personal discipleship
  • How preaching can be more effective
  • The reading plan
  • The Great Relationship versus the Great Commission
  • How this approach has impacted him 
  • If the Bible were a gym, what would be the exercises?


His Book: The Sixth Sola

His website:

Closing Thoughts

Thanks for listening to Coaching Christian Leaders. You should subscribe to this podcast so that you’ll never miss an episode.

You can find this podcast in just about any podcast app. We are on Apple Podcasts, Deezer, Gaana, iHeartRadio, Google Podcasts, and now we are on Amazon Music. Check it out and make sure you subscribe.

This is Mark Jones and I will speak with you soon.

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The First Leader You Must Train

Every pastor I've ever met wants to reach the lost and build disciples. I believe that’s you as well.

I know you want to see people saved and for your church members to grow in their love and understanding of Christ. That’s why you got into this work.

But now, after years of doing this work, you realize that it’s impossible to do it alone. You need help. You need others to come alongside and share the load.

In part, that’s why you are listening to me. That’s why you found this podcast. You want to learn how to identify, train, and release leaders into the work.

This is Mark Jones and I help pastors reach the lost, build disciples, and develop church leaders. Thanks for listening to Coaching Christian Leaders. If you want to know more about how I can help, then please visit

In today’s episode, we are going to focus on the most important leader you must train. You must train this leader before all others. And a failure to do so will cause problems.

Who is that one leader you must give the priority to? It is yourself.

Over the past four leadership development episodes you have:

  • identified a leadership position to develop.
  • You have written a short job description.
  • I have asked you some questions with the hope of creating in you a sense of urgency.
  • And we have brought the Lord into our planning.

And today?

Today we are going to focus on ourselves. We are going to work on our own leadership skills.

Let me take a couple of minutes and tell you a bit about myself. My story will help you understand the value of personal leadership development.

For me, becoming a pastor is a second career. Before I was a pastor I was career military. I retired from the Air Force in 1995 and shortly after that went into full-time ministry.

The work I did in the Air Force – I was a Russian Linguist – had nothing to do with pastoring a church. So about one year before retirement I began to work on a Master of Divinity. Then about one year after retiring I went into ministry.

I tell you this because early in my ministry career I realized something.

Seminary did not prepare me to lead a church.

In general, Bible colleges and Seminaries do not train pastors to lead churches.

In seminary, I had only one class on pastoral leadership. All the other classes were on theology, Bible book studies, and language (Greek, and Hebrew). Those things are essential but they do not prepare you to lead a church.

Where did I learn how to lead? The leadership skills I possessed, in the beginning, came from my years in the Air Force. The rest I learned on the job and from speaking to other pastors.

And now I want to share with you what I have learned.

Over the next few episodes, we will work on personal leadership skills.

  1. You need to learn to read with intention.
  2. You need to work with a coach or a mentor who will challenge you.
  3. You need to surround yourself with a small group of peers and meet with them regularly.

Today we will focus on reading with intention.

One of the best ways to learn to lead is to read with intent.

If the internet is telling the truth, then CEOs read approximately 60 books a year. That’s five books per month.  You are the CEO of your church.

I know you already read to preach. Books that help you with message prep probably equal 2-3 books per month. So why not use the other 2-3 slots and read for leadership development?

About a year ago I came across an article by James Clear titled 7 Ways to Retain More of Every Book You Read. James Clear is the author of the book Atomic Habits. I’ll put a link to this article in the show notes.

But for the next few minutes, I will give you Mr. Clear’s seven points and put my spin on them.

  1. Quit More Books

You do not have to read a book cover to cover. If it is not bearing fruit stop reading it. Not every book is worth the investment of time. And often you can get what you need early and then move on.

Let me add this. If you want the information the book contains but find the book to be a drag to read, then buy a summary book.

Here’s what I mean. Say you want to read Jim Collin’s book Good to Great but you do not want to read 400 pages. Someone has written a summary book and it's on Amazon. Summary books give an overview of the major ideas, they give an analysis, and they are typically under 50 pages long.

You need to be reading more to improve your leadership skills but if the book does not click with you then quit it. And if you think the info is good but the read is overwhelming, see if someone has written a summary book.

  1. Choose Books You Can Use Instantly

You need to be reading on the subject you can instantly use.

Later I will recommend a few books you should read first. One of those is Paul Axtell’s book Meetings Matter. As I read that book, I began to use his ideas to change the church board meetings. It was exciting to see his ideas come to life in our meetings.

  1. Create Searchable Notes

This bit of advice improved my reading. Today I mainly buy Kindle books. Kindle books save me money. The cost of a Kindle book is much less than a print book. Plus, at the end of my pastor career, I am not stuck with 100’s of print books that I can’t get rid of.

But the main reason I read Kindle books is that I can search on my highlights and print my notes.

I use a free program called Kindle Mate to pull off and print these highlights. Mr. Clear recommends Evernote. Whichever, create searchable notes.

One more thing on this. If you really want to retain what you read, when you finish a book, print out your highlights, read over them, and then write down the ones that really resonate with you.

  1. Combine Knowledge Trees

You need to link or hook what you are reading to something you have already learned or experienced.

You do this when you read the Bible or commentaries. Your mind makes links to previous studies or message series.

When you read secular material you need to create similar links to previous material. But you will need to be intentional.

  1. Write a Short Summary

Mr. Clear gives a short outline on how to do this. He recommends you ask yourself these three questions: 1) What are the main ideas? 2) If I implemented one idea from this book right now which one would it be? 3) How would you describe the book to a friend.

  1. Surround the Topic

Mr. Clear means that we should pull in articles and other subject matter that speak to the topic of the book. But I want to give an alternate way to surround the topic. Try and get a few friends or congregational members to read the book along with you. Then meet to discuss it. Surround the topic of the book with their ideas and viewpoints.

  1. Read it Twice

Good advice but not every book is worth reading twice, but... those that are you should read over again. At the very least, you should read back over your highlights and notes.

Here they are one more time:

  1. Quit More Books
  2. Choose Books You Can Use Instantly
  3. Create Searchable Notes
  4. Combine Knowledge Trees
  5. Write a Short Summary
  6. Surround the Topic
  7. Read it Twice

So the first step in our personal leadership development is to read with intent. You need to be reading 2-3 leadership books per month.
In the next episode, I will give you some book titles that you need to read now to grow as a leader.

Some of those book titles are listed on my Resource Page found at So just pop over to and look for the Resources tab.

Thanks for listening to Coaching Christian Leaders. You should subscribe to this podcast so that you’ll never miss an episode.

You can find this podcast in just about any podcast app. We are on Apple Podcasts, Deezer, Gaana, iHeartRadio, Google Podcasts, and now we are on Amazon Music. Check it out and make sure you subscribe.

This is Mark Jones and I will speak with you soon.

Please share this episode with others!

Values-Driven Leadership

Bobby Albert is the President of Values-Driven Leadership. He is the author of The Freedom Paradox, Principled Profits, and True North Business.

Today we spoke with Bobby shared his insights on leadership and the state of our country.

He Shared

How he came to know Christ as your savior.

Why he wrote The Freedom Paradox.

What is meant by “Freedom Paradox.

How Freedom + Responsibility = Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. 

What’s the value of going all the way back to the birth of our nation?

Four cultural changes

  1. People are acting on emotions rather than principles
  2. People are exhibiting scarcity mindsets instead of abundant mindsets.
  3. People are focused on symptoms instead of the root problem.
  4. People no longer understand how you communicate is as important as what you communicate.

What is the hope for American?

His Books

The Freedom Paradox

Principled Profits

True North Business

His Website and Email

Visit for a free gift.

Closing Thoughts

Thanks for listening to Coaching Christian Leaders. Please subscribe to the podcast. You can find us at Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Deezer, Gaana, iHeartRadio, Stitcher, and most any podcast app.


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Where's God in Your Plans?

Pastors, God has commissioned you to make disciples.

God has gifted you to equip your church members for ministry.

And God has committed you to train up not one generation of leaders but to oversee the training of two additional generations of leaders.

But are you? Are you doing these things?

I know I have struggled to develop leaders. Why? One reason is that I got busy doing church. Each week was filled with sermon prep and then preaching; administration, phone calls, visits.

Nothing wrong with that. But weeks would go by, then months. And before you know it a year has passed and I still have not developed a leader.

But that’s changing. And I want to share with you how it is changing and what you can do to develop the next generation of leaders at your church.

This is Mark Jones and you are listening to Coaching Christian Leaders.

Today we are going to answer an all-important question. And we must know the answer to move forward in our leadership development.

Here’s the question – How do you know if God is in favor of your plans?

Does God support what you are planning?

Let me share with you something that I do. And always when I do it I regret it.

I get a great idea.

I develop a plan.

I identify the resources.

I contact the people.

And I forge ahead.

But I forget to do one thing. And because I forget this, often my plans fall flat.

What do I forget to do? I forget to include the Lord. I forget to seek His help and I forget to commit this plan or this idea to God. And you know what happens? Eventually, nothing, because God has not established these plans.

If you have listened to the first 3 episodes on Leadership Development maybe you have noticed that I have yet to identify a person to train. I have not covered how to select a candidate. That’s on purpose. We are going to lay this whole thing out before we go and identify and recruit trainees.

You see I am taking the Field of Dreams approach.

Maybe you saw the Kevin Costner film where Kevin Costner’s character, a farmer, hears a voice in the cornfields “Build it and they will come.”

And so he does just that. He builds a baseball field.

That’s what I am proposing. We are going to build a leadership development program before we even pick out a candidate to go through the program. We are going to create each step and then we are going to ask God to give us the leaders to train.

But what if we do all this planning and fail to include God in the effort? It’s possible that when the system is finished there will not be a candidate because we did not include God in the planning.

So let’s bring God in now before we get too far down the road.

Open your Bibles to Proverbs 16 and let’s consider the first three verses.

I’ll read from the King James Version initially.

The preparations of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue, is from the Lord. All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes; but the Lord weigheth the spirits. Commit thy works unto the Lord, and thy thoughts shall be established.

Of the three verses, verse one is the most difficult one for me to understand.

The preparations of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue, is from the Lord.

So I read through some commentaries, especially those that are language heavy, but they confused me even more.

I also considered other translations. Here’s the ESV.

The plans of the heart belong to man,
    but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord.

Or how about the NIV?

To humans belong the plans of the heart,
    but from the Lord comes the proper answer of the tongue.

On and on I studied and finally I selected Pastor John MacArthur Jr.’s understanding of the verse. Here is his note from his Study Bible,

“Human responsibility is always subject to God’s absolute sovereignty.”

Dr. MacArthur’s note seems to square with the majority of others and the other two verses, 2-3, support the idea.

“Human responsibility is always subject to God’s absolute sovereignty.”

The Good News Bible translates the verse with the idea that Dr. MacArthur is teaching.

We may make our plans, but God has the last word

We can make all the plans we want. And we should do so. But always remember, God is ultimately in control, especially when it concerns His church.

Now let’s consider verses 2

All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes; but the Lord weigheth the spirits.

When we plan, according to verse 2, when we develop systems and programs, there is nothing wrong with that, but...we can be deceived. We can even deceive our own selves.

We can with good intention come up with plans and programs that are in conflict with God’s Word.

Maybe we find or develop something that is completely out of step with God and His Word.

Verse 2 teaches that God weighs our ideas. He examines our motives. He determines the truth in our plans.

So if we can even trick our own selves into a less than perfect idea, what can we do?

The answer is in verse three.

Commit thy works unto the Lord, and thy thoughts shall be established.

Every step of the way, roll out your plan before God. Show it all to God. Commit your work to God and He will establish it. He will fulfill it.

So how do you do that?

First, see if the Bible supports your ideas.

In our project, Leadership Development, we know that God is all for church leadership. The Bible devotes many verses to leadership. The roles of teachers, deacons, and elders come right from God. So we know that developing leaders is something God is for.

This is important in our understanding of God’s will. Many years ago Garry Friesen’s book Decision Making and the Will of God heavily influenced my thinking.

If you’ve read it then you either love Mr. Friesen’s approach or you hate it. I get that. But we can all agree on this. The Bible is the complete understanding of God’s moral will.

So when we develop anything, we must line it up next to Scripture. If what we are creating is in disagreement with the Bible then it is out of God’s will, His moral will.

Scripture then is the first filter.

But what if what you are developing is not addressed in the Bible? Well according to Mr. Friesen then you have the freedom to create it.

Every pastor should read Decision Making and the Will of God. We will call it our first recommended book for this Leadership Development program. If you’ve never read it then there will be a link in the show notes of this episode and a link on my Resources Page at


So remember what we learned in Proverbs 16.

  • Your plans are always subject to God’s absolute sovereignty.
  • God is going to weigh out your plans. He will test your motives and look for the truth in them.
  • So lay out your planning before God and ask Him for His help and for His blessing.

Whatever you do, don’t do like I have in the past and get months into development before you remember to bring God into the planning. Now is the time to begin to share every idea you have with God. Ask Him to test you and your motives.

At the very end of Proverbs 16 we find this verse.

The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord.

I used to paraphrase this verse to my kids when we played Monopoly. I would say to them, “You can shake and blow on those dice all day long but God is the one who determines the numbers. So blame God when you have to go to jail or pay the rent at Park Place.”

As we create our plans and programs make sure God is included. Make certain you remember that He is in control and He will direct your steps.

When you cannot get a biblical understanding of your plans, then go ahead and dream and create. But also ask God to weigh your motives and your methods. Ultimately we want God to bless our efforts.

Thanks so much for listening to Coaching Christian Leaders. I would love it if you would review this podcast. You can do so wherever you listen.

Recently the podcast was picked up by Gaana and Deezer. I am very grateful to both Deezer and Gaana for taking us on. Welcome new listeners. Make sure you subscribe to the podcast where you listen.. That way you will never miss an episode.

I will be with you next week.

Resources Mentioned

The MacArthur Study Bible

Decision Making and the Will of God by Garry Friesen

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Without This, Your Leadership Development Will Fail

Often when we start a new project, when we begin to develop a new program, if we are lacking a certain ingredient, if we do not have one specific emotion, the project withers and dies.

But when we possess it we will see the project through.

This is Mark Jones the host of Coaching Christian Leaders and today I will share with you that one essential ingredient you must have to move your leadership development program forward.

When we last met, you were taking your first steps in leadership development.

You determined the leadership position to develop and then you created a one-page job description for that position.

If you have not done that then take a few minutes to do so.

What is that position you wish to develop?

I am working on developing elders. Maybe you need to create youth leaders or build up your children’s staff. Maybe it’s a deacon or women’s ministry leader. Whatever, you need to identify it and then create a simple job description.

In the last episode, I encouraged you to ask yourself this question – Why does my church need this leader now? And I wanted you to link your answer to your church’s mission statement.

Here’s is what I mean by that. Our church’s mission statement is To Share Christ and Build Disciples.

So when I ask myself Why does my church need elders now? – the answer must satisfy the mission statement. I need elders now to build more disciples.

If your need does not satisfy your mission statement, then pick a different leader to develop.

If you want some additional help with these steps just grab my worksheet titled First Steps. You can find it at on the Worksheets tab.

The First Steps Worksheet covers this episode and the previous two episodes. You can use it by yourself or print multiple copies and use it with your team. Go to, open up the Worksheets tab, and grab your copy.

Five Coaching Questions

Today we are going to cultivate something essential. Very early in the creation of this leadership development program, we need this essential ingredient or the process will fail.

What is it? It is a sense of Urgency.

Why urgency?

Without urgency, there will be no lasting motivation to take this on. There will be no passion in the process. And when there is no sense of urgency there is no forward momentum.

How do create urgency? You will create urgency by answering the following coaching questions.

So grab a piece of paper and something to write with or grab the First Steps Worksheet and let’s create some urgency.

In order to create a sense of urgency, I am going to ask you five coaching questions. Take the time to honestly and fully answer each question.

I wish I was sitting across from you. When I personally coach pastors, it is questions like the following five that I ask. And pastors grow dramatically as they think and answer each question.

When I coach a pastor we explore each response and dive deep into the pastor’s situation.

Since I am working with you via a podcast I want to encourage you to answer each question fully and honestly. Bounce these questions and your answers off of a close friend or mentor. Better yet, discuss them with a key leader in your church.

Here’s question number one.

  1. Without this leader what is the current situation at your church?

Take a minute and think this through. Then write down a short paragraph that explains the current situation without this leader. You are trying to assess the impact not having this leader makes on your church.

I told you that I am working on developing some new elders. But for this question, I’ll use a different need as an example.

I need a Children’s Ministry Director, someone to pull together our different children’s ministry teams and give them focus, training, and support.

I have a Pioneer Club Director. I have someone overseeing Children’s Church. I do not have anyone overseeing Children’s Sunday school and I do not have a Children’s Ministry Director.

Without this position filled and developed the different children’s ministries never coordinate with one another. The staff that teach the kids during Sunday School, mid-week Pioneer Clubs, and Children’s Church never go to any training. And we are really dropping the ball in how we minister to kids.

So what about you? Without this leader what is the current situation at your church?

  1. What could be the situation at your church when this leadership position is filled?

Wow, what a question! Let your imagination run wild. Envision what could be if you had this position filled and functioning at its fullest potential.

Using my example of a Children’s Ministry Director, I see kids coming to Christ. I see staff connecting, coordinating, and serving at a high level. I see families growing in their faith.  I see a focused, trained, and supported children’s staff.

What could be the situation at your church when this leadership position is filled and the leader fully developed?

Here comes question number three. It’s time to dive deeper into creating a sense of urgency.

  1. Is the development of this position something that could be done or should be done?

Think about that question for a second. Is the development of this position something that could be or should be done?

What’s the difference between could and should? Could means that it can be done. It is a position that could be filled and developed. But something that should be done is something that must happen. You must fill this position. You must develop this leader. If you do not, there will be negative consequences.

Only move forward in developing this position if the answer is “should be.”

Just because you can do something is not a reason to do it.

Only move forward if your answer is “should be.”

  1. How will you feel if this leader is not developed?

I want you to tell me how it will hurt if you do not develop this leader?

A sense of urgency comes when we know something should be accomplished and when we feel the hurt if it does not come to pass.

If I do not develop a children’s ministry director, then kids and families will not grow in their faith. It is possible that kids in our community will not hear the gospel; at least from us. This greatly concerns me. And if I put names and faces to it, if I envision who it actually affects, then my heart breaks.

How will you feel if this leader is not developed?

And here is the final question.

  1. What are you willing to sacrifice to develop this leader?

This is a tough question for me to ask because often the answer is time. It takes time to identify, train, and place a leader. And time is something most pastors do not have.

If “time” is what you are willing to sacrifice, let me encourage you. The time you invest in leadership development you will receive back in spades once the leader is serving.

Maybe “time” is not the answer you came up with.

What are you willing to sacrifice to develop this leader?

As you think about the answer, compare the thing sacrificed to the potential gain once the position is developed.

You have to sow to reap.

Those are the five questions to create urgency.

I have created for you a worksheet that covers the first three episodes on Leadership Development. To get this worksheet go to Coaching Christian Leaders and click the link in the Worksheet Tab. There you can grab a copy of the First Steps Worksheet.

How Can I Help You?

These are typical coaching questions I ask my team and I ask those that I coach. When I provide personal coaching, these five questions take about an hour or more to cover.

Why does it take so long? Because when the client answers, we explore the answer and dive deep into the actual situation at their church.

Maybe that is something you need. Maybe you or your team needs some personal coaching. Email me at and let’s set something up. A few sessions of coaching can be an amazing experience. And you will get the personal touch that this podcast can’t provide.

Just email me at and let’s explore some personal or team coaching to move your ministry forward.

Thanks for listening to Coaching Christian Leaders. I will see you next week.

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