The third major core strategy that we have in the Central Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church is to engage and develop clergy and lay leadership. This is both simple and profound in its essence. A church, any church, will not exceed the capacity of its lay and clergy leadership. The sage reader of this blog might well (should!) ask, “But what about the Holy Spirit?” My response is straightforward. Leadership needs to be (must be!) open to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Romans 10:14 states: “So how can they call on someone they don’t have faith in? And how can they have faith in someone they haven’t heard of? And how can they hear without a preacher?” A great example of this core strategy in action took place Saturday, September 7th. Under the coordination of Leanne Johnson in conjunction with deep staff support from both the Center for Leadership and the Center for Evangelism and Church Growth, we had a Discernment Discovery Retreat at Austin Avenue UMC in Waco for those considering going into clergy or dedicated lay leadership. It was a truly great praise God event! Another example is the recent work of the Conference Lay Servant Ministry Team through the leadership of Kim Simpson (CTC Lay Leader) and the Dr. Georgia Adamson (Ex. Director of the Center for Leadership Development). The Lay Servant Ministry Team is moving forward with far-reaching plans for lay leadership development. Additionally, the Healthy Church Initiative (HCI) has Lay Leadership Development (LLD) groups as a key component of its transformation strategy. I could go on, but you get the picture. When Jesus gathers the initial group of disciples around him, our Lord is engaging in deep leadership development. Our greater investment in leadership training for all ages, both lay and clergy, is following in His steps! Alan Hirsch, one of the deeper Christian thinkers of our age, comments in his book The Forgotten Ways: “The quality of the church’s leadership is directly proportional to the quality of discipleship. If we fail in the area of making disciples, we should not be surprised if we fail in the area of leadership development.” To which I add a hearty AMEN! Warren Bennis in his classic book on leadership, On Becoming a Leader, writes: “Leadership guru Abigail Adams was right on the mark (as she so often was) when she wrote to son John Quincy Adams in 1780 that hard times are the crucible in which character and leadership are forged: 'It is not in the still calm of life or the repose of a pacific station that great characters are formed,' she counseled. 'The habits of a vigorous mind are formed in contending with difficulty. Great necessities call out great virtues.' Just as World War II forged the leaders of the second half of the twentieth century, I predict that 9/11 and the dot-com implosion will be the crucibles that create a whole new generation of leaders. If so, we will have reason to celebrate as well as to mourn." The Bible says, “But not only that! We even take pride in our problems, because we know that trouble produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope. This hope doesn’t put us to shame, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” (Romans 5:3-5).