Home Outreach Leaders Articles for Outreach & Missions Why We Need More Entrepreneurial Church Leaders, Not More Shepherds

Why We Need More Entrepreneurial Church Leaders, Not More Shepherds

I realize I might be opening up a controversial conversation. But I think it has to be said.

And I hope you’ll hear me out.

If the church is going to reverse some trends and maximize potential, we need more entrepreneurial pastors, not more shepherds.

There’s too much at stake to ignore this conversation.

We’re (Quite Literally) Missing the Boat

If you’re a Christian, for certain the reason you have the faith you have is because Jesus died and rose again. That’s the absolute foundation of our faith.

But would you ever have heard about Jesus if a rabbi named Saul hadn’t sailed all over the known world telling every Jewish and non-Jewish person he could find about Jesus, planting churches almost everywhere he went?

The Apostle Paul, as he became known, left a huge impact not just on the church, but on millions of lives (and on human history) because he possessed the spiritual gift of apostleship.

What’s an apostle? To put it into today’s idiom, an apostle is a spiritual entrepreneur. (Here’s a great article from Leadership Journal about apostleship in the church today.)

A shepherd cares for a (usually) small group. An apostle launches dozens, hundreds or thousands of new communities of Christ-followers.

The church today is flooded with leaders who fit the shepherd model, caring for people who are already assembled, managing what’s been built and helping to meet people’s needs. (This is also a spiritual gift.)

But we have far too few leaders who have the spiritual gift of apostleship.

I believe this helps explain the malaise in much of the Western church, in which the vast majority of churches are plateaued or declining.

We quite literally need people to get in a boat (or a car or a plane) and start new things, shake up the old and lead into a better tomorrow.

Is This Just Another Slam of Small Churches …?

Is this another slam against small churches?

Well … yes and no.

I love what Karl Vaters has said about small churches. Karl pastors in Orange County, California, where everyone has a megachurch it seems. He leads a smaller church.

According to Karl,

—90 percent of the churches in the world have less than 200 people,

—80 percent have less than 100 people.

And he asks a great question. What if [having a lot of small churches] is not a problem; what if that’s a strategy God wants to use?”

Interesting. You could hear this as a justification for keeping churches small (a justification I’ve heard far too many times).

But hear him out. He adds a crucial caveat:

I’m not interested in someone who says, “We have these few. That’s all we ever want. That’s all we ever need.” If that’s your attitude, God bless you (I don’t think he will).

I want people who want to innovate … who realize that maybe because of their gifting it works better in a small setting. But it’s not about settling. Never settle. Never settle.

Couldn’t agree more. Thank you Karl! (Here’s his whole interview.)

I just wonder if part of that innovation is going to come from people (even in small churches) with the gift of apostleship. If the church as a whole is going to grow, this has to become an all-skate.

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Speaker and podcaster Carey Nieuwhof is a former lawyer and founding pastor of Connexus Church, one of the largest and most influential churches in Canada. With over 6 million downloads, The Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast features today's top leaders and cultural influencers. His most recent book is “Didn’t See It Coming: Overcoming the 7 Greatest Challenges That No One Expects and Everyone Experiences.” Carey and his wife, Toni, reside near Barrie, Ontario and have two children.