Having planted two churches and now working with church planters on a regular basis in a coaching capacity, I know first hand the fears associated with the situation. It’s a leap of faith and one God is calling many to these days.
My theory here is that recognizing the fear and realizing their legitimacy is part of guarding our hearts against them. The fact remains that for a church plant to be successful, at least in Kingdom terms, God must provide His grace.
Here are 5 legitimate fears of church planters:
I just got off the phone with a good friend. He is in a situation where the leader of his congregation is abusing the power that God has given him. As we talked about this I said, “Often a leader will surround himself with weak, yes-men, so no one will ever challenge him. Other gifted, strong leaders will be pushed aside, even though they could help build the vision, because the leader is threatened.”
My friend added, “In the end, he becomes the emperor with no clothes. And no one will tell him.”
Here are four ways to keep from becoming an insecure, abusive leader that produces little or rotten fruit.
For more than 30 years now, through three churches and a season of church consulting, I’ve keep two unique files. One is titled Beefs. The other is titled Bouquets. It may sound a little strange, but it has proven to be a great tool for reflection on both sides of a life given to ministry.
Ministry always has two sides, and much like God’s Word, there is grace and law. Most of us prefer the former over the latter, but they both represent an equally important part of reality.
I was recently watching a History Channel special on the days of 9/11. They highlighted many of the issues and misconceptions they feel contributed to the disaster.
I think the church could learn some valuable lessons from those.
1. It can happen to us. The U.S. had gotten to the point where it felt it were protected “by the great bodies of water” that bordered its country. So it never seriously considered a group could infiltrate to that level.
We’ve all seen it before. The team meeting went exceptionally well and everyone is energized by ideas that could greatly improve the church.
But only six months later, conversations about “What will happen when … ?” have degenerated into “What ever happened to … ?” The initiative that once had everyone excited eventually landed in the “graveyard of good ideas.”
There are a few common reasons why good ideas fail. Understanding those barriers is key to ensuring they never get in the way again …
In their return to Saddleback Church after the death of their son, Pastor Rick and Kay Warren share the very personal story of Matthew and his battle with mental illness. They explore the stages of loss that they are walking through with honesty and transparency, teaching us how to do the same in the tough and tragic times of our lives; reminding us that through it all, God is with us and loves us; and urging us to follow Paul’s teaching in 2 Corinthians 1:4-6—to comfort others in their troubles as God comforts us.
When studying church history, some of the most fascinating individuals we meet are the martyrs. These are the untold multitudes who, when given a simple opportunity to deny Christ, found it easier to stand for their faith and die rather than disavow the One who was sacrificed in their stead.
They faced agony and torture of a magnitude that so few of us can comprehend. They were flogged, impaled, crucified, eaten by lions, forced to fight to the death in coliseums and decapitated.
Were they not like us? Would they not have loved to live lives of peace and prosperity in the name of Christ instead? Would they not have loved to sit in our beautiful air-conditioned edifices with state-of-the-art sound, lights and videography?
In the 1990s, Peter Wagner published The Healthy Church, a book describing several diseases that churches sometimes exhibit. Some of his descriptions are quite helpful (e.g., koinonitis = excessive, inward fellowship), and the list itself challenges readers to come up with their own descriptions.
Here are 10 diseases I see as I consult with unhealthy churches around the country:
Every once in a while, we have to sit down and balance our checkbook. We take the time to assess what we’ve spent and how we are doing financially.
In a similar way, from time to time we need to take a spiritual inventory and a full audit of our theology. As leaders, it is easy to get in the performance habit—living our faith so publicly—that we forget the deeper parts of life that really comprise our foundation.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at a few of the basics.
"Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come." This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it.— 1 Timothy 4:8-9
Each year, people from around the globe compete for the title of world's strongest man. Held in exotic locales, these competitions feature events involving the placing of heavy stone spheres atop pillars, lifting large numbers of children on one's back, and pulling double-decker buses down a street. The strength and determination of the contestants are second to none. But for them to get to the world championships, they have to be disciplined in the way they train, the foods they eat, and the way they recover from injuries. If any one of these three aspects is neglected, the results could be disastrous.
Christians are not typically known for carrying 300-pound weights long distances, but their feats of strength are equally remarkable. People are healed of sickness and disease, families are reunited, and individuals surrender their lives to the Lord God for eternity. For the leader, there has to be a constant regimen of spiritual training. The apostle Paul understood this and made sure Timothy got the message.
The routine is pretty straightforward: Talk to God, the Lord of heaven and earth, daily. Tell him your needs and the needs of others, thank him for his answers, and let him know how wonderful he is. Get to know him and his son Jesus better by reading about them in the Bible. Learn what your spiritual talents are and begin to use them. Spend time with other followers, encouraging and challenging them to become more like Christ. As opportunities arise, tell those who don't know Jesus as Forgiver and Leader about him and his love for them. Repeat daily.
If properly followed, this regimen will provide a lifetime's worth of challenge and excitement. It's time to get serious about the faith. It's time to become truly strong.
I am one of those people who believes the best about other people.
In my career as a junior guy working his way up and as a CEO, I have met all sorts of leaders in the marketplace and, now, in the church world. I have noticed over the years that both leaders and managers in Christian settings (like churches or ministries) are engaged with much less cynicism by their junior people at the beginning of a relationship because there is this perception that a common set of spiritual rules are shared and believed.
I love simple, effective strategies. And the strategy Jesus used to multiply leaders before email, texts, iPads and even printed books was incredibly effective! He did it old school.
1. Educate (face to face). Jesus often took the disciples away to solitary places and taught them the mysteries of the kingdom.
We have to give those we lead the right information. They need to know things like job descriptions, goals, expectations, communication routes, vision and direction. As we look to equip leaders, communicating with them face to face lets them know how valuable they are to us.
There is a pervasive stereotype that leaders are the ones in the limelight, the ones on stage, the extroverts with big personalities whose faces are on the front page. Like many stereotypes, I think this one is often unfair.
Some of the best leaders I know don’t demand up-front attention, but their leadership is powerful because of the fruit it brings.
Their teams or organizations or the individuals who come in contact with them are grown and propelled forward by the vision they have and by their strength, even if their vision and strength are quiet and unassuming.
One of the reasons I think quiet leadership like this is so powerful is because the burden of responsibility is taken off one person and transferred to many.
A group of people living up to their full potential is truly more capable than a single person living up to his full potential. This is easy to admit. Which is better—one person who is living out the gospel or a group of people with unified vision and purpose, all contributing equally to the community in his or her own unique way?
The answer is obvious.
So a leader, then, might sometimes be the person from stage, teaching and explaining and casting vision, but a leader might just as often be the one who is discipling, training or just living a life worth mimicking behind the scenes.
Chances are, this is happening over coffee or lunch or at home or in an office. No stage (or lights) needed.
The other thing I love about this view of leadership is that it acts as an important reminder that we are all leaders, if we’ll accept the job title.
We are leaders in our homes, with our families, in our marriages, at our work. We all have the opportunity to be someone who sets the tone for the year or the week or the day.
We can choose to not just respond to what life hands us but to set the pace, to cast vision, to inspire change.
When we do this, we suddenly start to impact people around us without even realizing we’re doing it. Their lives will change as our lives change. We can make an impact without asking for any credit.
The final reason I love this view of leadership is that my favorite leaders are humble people.
Some of those very humble people are “limelight” people, in the sense that they are well-known and sometimes on stage. But none of them are begging for the attention or asking for praise. In fact, each of them are willing to work hard and live their life in an honest, congruent way.
Their main objectives are to do what God has called them to do and to help others discover and do the same. They’re contributing to the kingdom in their unique way, and they’re doing it to the very best of their ability. I know up-front people who are doing this, and I know behind-the-scenes people who are doing it. But all of them are humble.
And people are noticing and changing.
It doesn’t take fame or notoriety to live this way. In fact, it doesn’t take anything other than just a willingness to work hard, be humble and welcome the grace of Jesus.
With more than a dozen years of local church ministry, Justin Lathrop has spent the last several years starting businesses and ministries that partner with pastors and churches to advance the kingdom. He is the founder of Helpstaff.me (now Vanderbloemen Search), Oaks School of Leadership, and MinistryCoach.tv, all while staying involved in the local church. Justin serves as a consultant in the area of strategic relations predominantly working with the Assemblies of God, helping to build bridges with people and ministries to more effectively reach more people.
The conversation took place recently. A young man told me his dad, a pastor, recently committed suicide. He talked about the pain his father experienced in ministry as well as the intense loneliness.
Though suicide is not an inevitable outcome, I do know the number of pastors experiencing loneliness is high—very high. I hurt for these pastors, and I want to help in any way I can. Perhaps my nine observations can be a starting point for a healthy discussion on this important matter.
It’s common knowledge that men are far less likely to go to the doctor than women. While that may not be very shocking, one of the justifications for their reluctance to schedule a check-up is intriguing. Many men don’t go to the doctor because they don’t want to find out something is wrong.
This idea of “what I don’t know can’t hurt me” is part of the reason women’s life expectancy has long outpaced men. The average U.S. woman lives to be 81.3, while a man’s average life span is 76.2 years.
Churches that value and welcome assessments can expect health and growth.
Pastors and leaders, I’m going to give you a sneak peek at your final exam. You’re going to stand before God one day, and He’s going to evaluate your faithfulness. He’s going to look at seven different aspects of your life to judge your faithfulness, and you should be highly interested in developing these areas of your life and leadership.
1. Do you possess the right values? A faithful person knows what’s important in life and what isn’t important in life. A faithful person knows how to invest his or her life. A faithful person makes their life count. A faithful person knows the significant apart from the trivial.
While experiences like Legh's show us humans have physical limits to their endurance, the same can also be said about their spiritual lives. Thankfully, there are warning signs that exist before it becomes too late. When people don't want to read their Bible or pray, if they decide to shut people out of their lives, or if church becomes just a ritual, something deeper may be going on. They may be suffering from spiritual dehydration.
Just as a "Low Fuel" light tells us to fill up the car with gas, it's time to ask God for a renewed spirit when we see these warning signs. Consider that Jesus had crowds following him everywhere, but he knew his spiritual limits so well that he consistently took time to recharge, even when death was near (see Luke 22:39-43).
When your life's "Low Fuel" light comes on, don't ignore it. God wants to recharge and renew your life. Allow him to do just that. Make sure you accept his help to cross the finish line.
Courage is not just a personal trait. It’s an organizational trait as well.
And we all want, in some way, to be part of an organization and team that demonstrates courage. That is willing to push up the hill, against the odds, beyond all doubts to achieve results and impact what most thought not possible.
So here are a few points about creating a courageous organizational culture: