Leadership Development

As I reviewed Church planting issues articles, I find this mentioned often. The key issue here is that your church plant has leaders that are spiritual, Bible oriented and guided (working by Scripture principles), and mature. Unfortunately, this just begs the whole question of a church plant. We can easily take the leaders from some well-established church and transplant them, and we have a ready-made “church plant in a can”. Unfortunately, this sidesteps the whole question of church planting, which is to reproduce ourselves on 2 levels: 1) reproduce believers or evangelism, and 2) reproduce churches, which is church planting.

Church planting is about developing and forming leaders

In our modern society and way of thinking, we want everything “microwaveable.” By that, I mean we have come to expect that anything and everything that we want should be instant. We can make popcorn in 3 minutes, and most meals are now reduced to something along these lines.

But to make a really good leader, there is no such formula. I think of Moses, 40 years growing up in the worldliness of Egypt, 40 years of preparation on the back side of a desert, and all that in order to serve God with the last 40 years of service. If God works on an 80-year preparation schedule, why do we presume to think we can go into a situation with unsaved people, and somehow magically produce leaders in 2-3 years?

I have met missionaries who have started x number of churches in a first term. I am intrigued by that and have a million questions for them because I could not do that myself, and I still could not do it now after 30 years of missionary experience. When I have gotten to the bottom of what they are really doing, they are taking preacher boys from some Bible Institute and paying them a salary to gather some people. These churches are never self-sustaining, a key element of a true NT church plant. They are not self-reproducing either because if the money stops coming from the states, the people rarely are of a mentality of supporting themselves, so the group dissolves quickly. They are definitely not self-governing because he who has the money (or in this case pays the bills and salaries) makes the rules. This thing fails on all levels except it sounds great, and short-sighted churches in the US throw tons of money their ways.

What is necessary for good, church leadership?

As a pastor that had leadership classes in graduate school, I can tell you the greatest qualities of a good upcoming leader is experience, maturity, and spirituality. These things are usually inherent in the person, and it is very difficult to put them into a person who doesn’t natively have them. Moreover, it is extremely hard if the person refuses to “catch on” and change his own personality.

But these elements are not made in a microwave.

Experience – the quality of having been found faithful for many years

I think the desire, or even worse, the expectation of church planters is that somehow an unsaved person can be born again (a baby spiritually) in one moment, and a short year or so afterward stand, preach, and lead (a mature adult) is unrealistic. If a church planter uses “ringers,” mature Christians from other works that are “imported” to take over, this just replicates the errors and failures of the church where they came from. There is no certainty that they will be any better than a greenhorn Christian with no spiritual experience, but with maybe business experience or experience in handling affairs in his own life.

This is kind of like a chicken farm that produces everything chicken farms out the hatching of eggs into chicks to some third party. Kind of ridiculous if your business is reproducing chickens, don’t you think? This is what many churches do. We (churches) are the ones who are supposed to be reproducing Christians for the next generation, and we are supposed to be creating the leaders of Christian churches. When we think we can go to a Christian college and get ready made Christian leaders and ministers, again the microwave instant ready idea, we are doing the entire church planting or church growth responsibility we have a disservice. WE are supposed to be doing it, and WE are supposed to be the experts here. Nobody else doing it has the hands-on experience necessary. How hypocritical and crazy is this situation? Christian universities educate young people to be pastors, and even they realize that they are putting up “teachers” without first-hand knowledge which is silly. They invite pastors of local churches to come and be experts to teach their preacher boys. So even these schools realize they are really on shaky ground in trying to pass off “professional experts” that don’t have hands-on experience in the field! It is like teaching a flight instructor class and putting in a teacher that has never been a pilot! Or one that has only flown 50 hours in his entire life. Get a professional airline pilot, and go with that instead. He would have experience galore.

I am I saying that ministers and good Christian workers shouldn’t be used if they come from another church? No. It is just “icing on the cake” for a local church to have help in this area. But each and every church should have a dedicated commitment to evangelism and leader training within their own framework and church. From these people, with time, of course, the church should select their new leaders. These leaders fill several “uses” if I can say that. First of all, when the church itself grows, these people take over specific “sub-ministries” of the overall church. These are the workers/ministers that the church will have to execute ministry. Secondly, from these workers, missionaries should be called. Thirdly, when a pastor is going to step down, there should be a high priority placed on rewarding those ministers who have labored in the church, faithful to the doctrine and practice of that particular church to be first considered in replacing the pastor. I have always been irritated with the habit of churches to look outside of their own ministers FIRST for a new pastor. It is as if there is a hidden presumption that their own assistant ministers or pastors are incapable of handling the work. If they are, that is a bad reflection on what the previous pastors have done. They may be, but they should at least be first considered before going beyond the walls of the church.

I have seen many a church go through a pastor transition. About 10 of my supporting churches over the years have had that happen, and it continues to happen constantly. In the majority of these cases, the new pastor takes the church in a totally different direction and attitude than the previous pastor. This is just wrong. In some cases, it was a good thing because the previous pastor wasn’t really doing so great a job. But more than not, the new pastor is not vetted nor researched enough, and he trashes the church in general and leaves it after a year or so, and the church attendance in decimated literally (churches of 180 to 200 members have less than 15), and the second time around the church candidate committee is much more serious (and desperate) that the first time around.

All of this points up one very important advantage of using in-house candidates for pastor replacement. This is that when the entire staff participates actively in the church philosophy, it is a group commitment, and usually when one of them takes over the pastor’s position, you know very well what you are getting, and usually he is committed (has been, and has a track record of that) to that church’s philosophy, stand, separation position, etc.

Satan has used this unavoidable pastor transition time to almost always destroy churches. When you see members who are good Christian people give thousands of dollars to the church’s physical structure and running, and then all of that goes down the drain in the matter of a short year because of a bad minister that gets into the pastor’s position, this is really sad. God’s faithful churches have to abandon and do a total restart (church plant) from nothing every 10 years? That is not a good trend in Christianity.

Maturity – the quality of overlooking ones needs to serve others

The formula is very simple here if you care to see it before your eyes. A leader needs to forget about his own life and needs and put himself to the life-consuming task of serving others. (Quickly I add, while he should forget about his own money situation, the church he serves should protect his economic situation so that he is well taken care of.)

A leader is somebody that is a professional in taking care of others. He expends his own life, time, and energies in doing the work of God in that church, in all aspects of what a church is and should be, and he is happy and content doing so. He is not “bothered” by people or their problems. He is both at once, detached personally from people’s problems (these problems do not upset his own life) and at the same time he is compassionate and passionate. He sympathizes with the people, and he does what can be done from a church standpoint for them.

Any candidate committee with a head on their shoulders will not take promises here. They will want to see a track record of this very thing in the pastoral candidate’s life, and they would want to see dedication and commitment as well as excellence in what he has done “before”, already established in his past ministry and life.

A profile of a false prophet is very keen here. A false prophet is in it to get what he can from the position. The first thing he is going for is the money. When a pastoral candidate first wants to know how much do you pay, or that is a keen point of contention before committing, better to pass that one over. Likewise when a pastor has his eye peeled to the financial affairs of the church, always wanting to “keep his finger on the pulse of the money flow”, that is a bad sign. I was in a church once where the pastor had the counting committee to count the offering immediately after taking it, and then during his sermon, one of the counters would write the amount of the offering on a piece of paper and put it on the pulpit for him to see during his sermon. That kind of show and great concern during the discussion of finances is usually misplaced. It reveals only bad things about the pastor.

Secondly, a false prophet wants power and control. One brother from another church asked me one time about purchasing a car. He was in that process, and according to his pastor, he had to get approval before he made the purchase, and as a business owner, he was looking at a brand new car, and the pastor commented that he had to pay a tithe on whatever it cost. (Great idea pastors! Teach a tithe coming in and going out! Really extra-biblical!) But the extent to which soul liberty and the priesthood of the believers is totally trashed today by these false prophets is amazing. On the very negative side here, I have seen false prophets regularly take advantage of their people, getting teens pregnant, and also micro-managing inside other couples marriages. This just gets cultic really fast. Teaching God’s principles is one thing, but making actual decisions about divorce or staying together for the couple like they are children is going too far.

Thirdly, a false prophet wants fame and glory. So often these people have “eye” trouble, but spelled “I”. They must glorify their own selves, or their own work (their local church). It has been amazing to me to go into very few churches to visit, and most of the service was over before I could ever pick out who the pastor was. Since he wasn’t preaching that night, he sat in the audience with his wife, and “enjoyed the service.”   But the self-adulation of some ministers is really amazing, a cheap thing in the ministry.

Spirituality – the quality of seeking the spiritual

I think the problem mostly is that we get into puffing up one another and our own selves, and we “miss the boat.” Being spiritual is all about being occupied with the things that God is occupied with. What is important and a priority to God, that is what is important and a priority for us. I see this play out so clearly with Jesus in his ministry. The disciples were worried about earthly fame and glory, Jesus with doing the Father’s will. The disciples were worried about economics, specifically Judas getting rich for himself. Jesus used finances, but focused on ministry and fulfilling his life’s goal, the salvation of men’s souls, and glorifying God.

A spiritual person is one who cannot see life or will not allow himself to see life except through God’s eyes. This is important in church leadership, yet it is so neglected. “We” (those typical earthly ministers) worry about a building, salaries, ministry position in the community, gaining acceptance and not offending people, etc. Jesus was not worried about these things. He met in the open with no A/C, no heat. He lived simply. God provided as life marched on. Jesus spoke the truth as God wanted men to hear it. This truth offended those who did wrong and rang true to those who were true followers of God. Jesus’ frankness drove his opposition and enemies crazy to the point of killing him. Jesus kept on unmoved by opposition even when it came to threaten his life. The opposition plotted and did kill Jesus. Jesus won the victory by allowing even this to start a great movement. He lost himself and his own welfare in doing the will of God.

This is the kind of spiritual leaders we need. People who are not worried about what damage doing God’s will, will cause them personally, but they are committed to doing that will of God.

“Reproducing Culture”

In the literature I read on this topic, many spoke of wanting to reproduce culture. I don’t get it. We do not reproduce the world’s culture, but we walk in stark contrast to it. We should reprove the world and its culture, and impose God’s culture instead.

These comments came after reading this article: No church planting Family alone

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Pastor David Cox is a missionary. See my ministry updates here.