“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!
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!