“What is the one thing all leaders have in common?” was the opening question at a leadership seminar I attended twenty years ago. The main answer he was looking for by the group was “They all have followers.”
There was nothing remarkable about his insight. But other answers that surfaced were just as true: “They also have enemies.”
Someone else announced, “Leadership is disappointing people at a pace they can tolerate.”
At CMM, our mission is to empower leaders to multiply. We work with leaders all the time, so I think about leadership all the time.
Most of the men with whom I went to graduate school, who were preparing to be pastors, seemed mostly concerned with pastoral type studies (i.e. teaching, preaching, exegeting a passage of scripture, pastoral counseling). I don’t think they thought of themselves as leaders. Granted, it was a long time ago, but the emerging leaders I have the joy to work with today are not unlike the men with whom I went to seminary.
When I planted the first church out of seminary I was unaware of the importance of the leadership role God was granting me. Good judgment comes from experience and experience comes from bad judgment. I learned in the school of experience how to lead others.
By my second plant, my aim was on developing myself as a leader of others and, by God’s Spirit working in me, I determined not to define my leadership by the number of followers, nor by the number of leaders I was leading, but by the number of leaders I was able to make.
Many of the Planters today that have a vision to start a new church want it to be a parish type. They carve out a community and become the parish priest in a sense, even to those who don’t attend church. Don’t get me wrong; I love the missional zeal and the idea of a church caring for its immediate ministry sphere. I think that is biblical and wise. But Leadership wasn’t for my peers and doesn’t seem so for the new generation either.
Do we have an aversion to leadership? Have we gotten so burned by bad leaders, by corrupt and self-serving leaders, that we don’t want anything to do with it? I pray it not be so. We desperately need leaders in our churches, in our communities, and in our nation.
Our call is a call to influence others by grace. That means leadership at some level, because the essence of leadership is to have influence on others.
If you are a church planter, no matter what the size is of your congregation, you have influence. That is the nature of the job. You are a leader. Even if you are afraid of leading, you are still a leader. Perhaps it’s time for you to study it and learn it. Leverage it. Jesus can teach you. He will lead you as you lead others.
In the movie Forrest Gump, after Lt. Dan had lost his legs in Vietnam, they were both recovering in a hospital. One night, Lt. Dan yanked Gump off his bed and started yelling at Gump for saving him back in the jungle. He said, “You should have left me out there to die, that was my destiny, but look at me now, I’m nothing but a cripple, a legless freak. I was Lt. Dan Taylor, and I was supposed to die with my men, that was my destiny and you cheated me. I was Lt. Dan Taylor.” Gump says, “You’re still Lt. Dan.”
I’m not sure how you see yourself today…or what you think of as your destiny. But one thing I do know, God’s calling you to be a leader in the church God’s enabling. Read I Thess. 5:24 and download our FREE eBook “Leaders: Attract, Equip, and Employ” today!
Did you know that Jim Elliott was 29, Nate Saint was 33, and Pete Fleming was 27 years old when they went in mission and gave their very lives in mission for the Auca Indians? They accepted a call of God to go and they went with a missionary spirit.
I planted my first church a very long time ago while in my twenties. In some respects, I should not have been on the frontline, starting a new church from scratch, 2,000 miles away from our side of the world with a young wife and three little girls. But we were following what we believed was God’s calling. It is time again for the missionary spirit to reach this country’s mission field.
As I explore my confessions with you, I hope it will serve as a caution as you passionately pursue the call of God on your life.
Church Planter dudes are typically risk takers. They jump off when most people will not even get close to the edge. In many cases, there may be an addictive, competitive idol inside the mind and heart of the Planter.
Church Planters can deal with lots of ambiguity, but also disappointment is greater because of the huge ups and downs. This leads to a greater possibility of burnout (personal or family).
There may also be an aggressive desire for performance-based success and if your identity as a saint-sinner isn’t grasped then you will chase the illusive dream of self-fulfillment through church planting. It’s a hard road to go down because it is filled with pot holes, road blocks and broken pieces of wreckage on which you will hurt yourself or others.
In the first “Confessions” article, I wanted you to know that I wished I had believed in Kingdom Centered Prayer, and also that I had gone out to plant with nothing to prove. I had believed more in my own strength and ability and a lot less on the Holy Spirit to do his thing. Continue reading that article here.
Somehow the church plant was so consuming, I had little time for non-church stuff. I confess that I didn’t have many friends outside of our church plant or people I wasn’t trying to recruit to join it.
Even in my marriage, the church plant was sometimes all consuming. Rachel and I once heard a marriage conference speaker challenge pastors and spouses to go on a date and not talk about kids, church, or money. He said, “There is more to your life than those things. What are they? Talk about it.”
Another deception I wasn’t immune to was that my preaching was so good that people would flock to hear me preach. The people in the two little churches that I served as interim pastor said that my preaching was amazing. They had never heard someone so clear and so grace-centered. I was sure that when we moved to the city we planted others would be wowed too. They weren’t.
Now, I know what you are thinking: “That may have been true about you but not me.”
Dr. Tom Wood
I've been in the Church Planting business my entire career. I want you to know, you don't have to plant a church alone!