God hasn’t made you responsible for the outcome. That’s his responsibility. But He has made you responsible for the process. Often we work harder at trying to control the outcome rather than just putting the right ingredients into the process. Paul was the initiator of the process by planting and Apollos continued the process by watering what God had initiated through Paul. Planting and watering in all it’s forms made up the process but God was the agent who gave the growth. When you stop trying to control the outcome, you are freed up to give your best to the process and maintain peace along the way. Having to control the outcome is stressful and not in our job description. God says, “Trust me with the outcome by not leaning on your own understanding and focus on the process of what I’ve asked you to do and watch what I do with the outcome.”
One of the most important leadership lessons I’ve had to learn is the need to reinvent aspects of my leadership during the different stages of growth we have experienced as a church.
I thought I was under pressure as a youth and young adult pastor of a large church but it’s clear there is a drafting effect of being a staff member on a team with a strong point leader at the helm. When you are apart of a team, you can get into the spiritual slipstream of the point leader, like a cyclist, riding in a pack, gets into the slipstream of the lead cyclist.
When I transitioned from youth pastor to lead pastor, the shift in weightiness of responsibility and accountability was very significant. Here are some ways I’ve had to reinvent myself as a leader:
- From highly directive to highly collaborative – When I first started the church with a core group of 13 people, I could make decisions instantly. Because the majority of the group were inexperienced in ministry, I needed to be stronger in my directives to shape the foundations of the church but as we grew bigger, I needed to consider the counsel of more people and include them in the decision making process. How I lead now is different to how I led in the early days. I recognized this by listening to people’s feedback and realizing if I didn’t change, I would limit the buy in of others. It’s not that I’ve abdicated the need to be directive, it’s that I’ve brought more people into the decision making process with me.
- From generalist to specialist – Like a GP at a doctors clinic I played the role of a generalist in the early stages of the church plant. As we grew I had to move from being all things to all people to being a specific thing to some people and empower others to be a specific thing to other people as well. Unless a leader makes the transition from generalist to specialist, the organization will be limited in its future growth. For me this has meant a greater clarity on my strengths and what I specifically bring that can make the single best contribution to the church. This reinvention must be reflected in your role and job description. For me the primacy of preaching and leadership are the twin towers of my role that must fight against the onslaught of the distractive attacks against it.
- From defined to re-defined – I began the church with a 52 page blueprint doc of defined ideas that I wanted to build the church with. Every year after that first initial year, I’ve had to redefine my ideas to fit with the ever changing context of the ministry and cultural landscape. This has extended to my theology. The demand for answers to people’s questions and my own wrestling with issues of God, life and ministry has forced me to delve back into the study of God’s word and bring a re-definition to how I think about God and the world around me. There has been a deepening of my faith in God and ideas about God through this redefining process.
I planted Activate Church in April 2006 with a core group of young, passionate and visionary young people. We had energy and drive but very little material resources. We had passion and vision but only a little wisdom. We had faith and were willing to sacrifice but we lacked the seasoned perspective of more experienced campaigners around us.
We grew quite quickly, by God’s grace but we also expended a ton of energy. Sometimes, we discussed things and wrestled with issues that really were more of a distraction, than it was a help. Since then, I’ve become very focused on making sure that my energy and the energy of the team around me is directed to what’s most important. It’s the leader’s job to work out what’s most important, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Growing up a pastors kid and spending several years on staff at a number of churches, I thought I had the goods to get the job done but little did I know there is a big difference between being a member of a team and being the point leader of the team. There is a drafting effect when you are working in the slipstream of a point leader that does make it easier, but the moment you take the lead position, the weight and wind resistance increases exponentially. There was a definite weight-shift that took place when I took the lead pastor role and it only compounds the further you go and grow.
Youthful enthusiasm brings energy and momentum to any organization, especially a church. At Activate we have a 6pm service Sunday nights that has more than doubled in the last 12 months and with it has come new Christians hungry for the word and passionate in their worship of Jesus. I value youthful enthusiasm but I have come to appreciate the wise sages around me who have given very helpful advice at much-needed times.
I’ve come to learn that wisdom trumps enthusiasm. Passion, energy, drive and enthusiasm needs the focus of wisdom to direct it to the right target. Not only do we need to bring wise and experienced campaigners around us but we also need to grow in wisdom ourselves. Wisdom comes from 3 primary sources:
- Fear of God (Proverbs 1:7) – Until you fear God and weigh most heavily in your life, you will remain an undisciplined fool.
- Wise Counsel (Proverbs 15:22) – Point leaders need the right information from the right people at the right time. Your job is to build a team of the right people around you, who can not only do their jobs but give you the counsel you need, when you need it.
- Applied Experience – It isn’t enough to just have an experience, you need to apply it to your life by reflecting and possibly journaling on what you have learnt from the pain or success of the experience. Some people live the same experience 50 years in a row and never learn from it. Don’t be that person. Learn, don’t make the same mistake twice and grow.
The curse of youthfulness is impetuosity and to be honest I had buckets full of it. On the one hand, I had an action orientation that lends itself towards quick results but sometimes, only temporary results. Our generation wants everything done yesterday. In fact I don’t know any leader who doesn’t want things moving more quickly. However, wisdom gives you the needed discernment and perspective to help make the best use of the opportunity that’s presented before you.
Impetuosity moves quickly but spends energy unnecessarily. Leader, you aren’t just called to make any old thing happen, you’re called to make a specific thing happen and to steward what God has entrusted to you. This requires both capacity and wisdom.
We must obey the biblical exhortation to proclaim to the coming generation the glory of God (Psalm 78) but we must also exercise wisdom in how we lead ourselves and the young people around us into God’s purposes for the future well-being of the church.
The book focuses on the Man, the Message and the Mission of the Church Planter. From the outset it is challenging as it addresses the issue of ‘men only elders’ in the context of the New Testament teaching on the subject (1 Tim 3:1-11 and Titus 1:5-7). This is quite controversial in light of the current liberal trend of interpreting the bible, particularly in western churches. The issue is rooted in how you read the bible, rather than in what is the popular cultural opinion of the day.
The first section is on the Man – The chapters in this part of the book focus on the type of man required to plant and lead a church. Because I have planted a church and continue to pastor the same church, I could identify with both the challenges and requirements of a church planter. At the core a church planter needs to be rescued by Jesus Christ, called by the Holy Spirit, qualified in character, dependent on God, skilled in preaching, pastoring and leading, with a Shepherds heart and determined to never quit.
The second section is on the Message – The preaching of the Gospel in our current culture has been so diluted that much of the original message has been lost to accommodate itching ears, lusting after a self-serving gospel (2 Tim 4:3). Darrin calls us back to the historical, salvation-accomplishing, Christ-centered, Sin-exposing and idol-shattering message of the Gospel.
The third section is on the Mission – As the church is God’s missionary to the world, we need to be on mission contextualizing the gospel in such a way that people can get a living, breathing, authentic encounter with Jesus that will transform their lives. Darrin shares from Mark Driscoll, “Contextualization is not making the gospel relevant, but showing the relevance of the gospel.” (Pg192)
The book summarizes by focusing on Jesus being the Man, the Message and the Mission. Darrin shares,
- “Jesus is the Man. The ability for us to change into the men God has called us to be is dependent upon our surrender to the Man who has perfect character. All of what we hope for in the men who lead our churches is found in the perfect life of our Lord.
- Jesus is the Message. The power for others to change is rooted in the gospel, which both rescues the sinner and grows the saint. All that we need to know, experience, and proclaim is found in the person and work of Christ.’
- Jesus is the Mission. The hope we have for this world to change is rooted in the resurrection, which both empowers the church to live and proclaim the gospel but also previews the to the world how God makes all things new. Our only hope for a broken, jacked up world is restoration, and our only hope for restoration is found in the One who forever conquered the radical effects of sin through his resurrection.” (Pg236)
This is a Christ-exalting, Gospel proclaiming tour de force on the Church Planter and I would encourage any pastor, leader, church planter and potential church planter to read voraciously with an open heart and mind to be shaped by a biblical reflection on one of the most important needs of our time, Church Planting.