Ideally, longer is better, but MBBs rarely experience ideal circumstances. Paul warned Timothy to not allow new believers to become leaders because they might become prideful. Yet, Paul selected leaders in churches after sometimes knowing them for a few weeks to a few months. His actions seem to indicate that he expected rapid growth.
MBBs may have no Christians around them, and they may be used by God to lead Muslims around them to the Lord. Leaders would then be needed for small groups and even churches. MBBs may need to assume responsibilities earlier than some Christians feel is appropriate. The key is, as always, to follow the Holy Spirit. Paul did that. Even so, some leaders made mistakes in his time that needed correcting. The growth of the church has never been error-free, and there are always messes.
Some say that the key to leadership selection is to see who keeps showing up. There is certainly merit in demonstrated faithfulness as a qualification for leadership, but please do not discount the role of discernment. A wait-and-see approach may leave an MBB church without needed leadership and stifle growth. Also, note that leaders may not always continue doing what they were doing previously – Joseph was in jail one day and helping run Egypt the next; David was anointed to lead Israel while tending sheep; and Saul was on a quest to imprison Christians when he was called to lead. Please do not be too dogmatic about process because God does not always require a specific process, as can be clearly seen in the life of Joseph.
If you are an MBB leader and need to appoint people to leadership, trust God to guide you to the right people through prayer. Use the biblical qualifications for elders and deacons to guide you when looking at character, and be prepared to monitor the progress and growth of your leaders. If you see areas needing correction, address them supportively and with the goal of finding God’s best for those leaders and those they are leading.
To do all of the above, MBBs will need to study leadership in the Bible, and the writings of Paul are especially helpful. My book, Discipling Muslim Background Believers, covers selecting leaders as well as having an intimate relationship with God in which you can grow in your own ability to hear the Lord and to lead and select leaders.
Keywords: MBB, leadership, selecting leaders