Must Develop Leaders

One sign of a successful church planter and good leader is his ability to effectively develop leaders. Yet leadership development is one of the most-often-forgotten but most-needed things a church planter can do.

It’s most often forgotten because it rarely demands a planter’s time as loudly as his sermon, the budget, a counseling crisis, a critical member, or his Twitter account. It’s most needed because if a church planter doesn’t develop leaders, he’ll crush the church or the church will crush him.

It’s also often forgotten because it fights against the some of the very things that make up a church planter’s core.

When in college, I was frustrated that the college newspaper only gave editor positions to experienced upperclassmen and required all wannabe-reporters take a writing test. As an arrogant 18 year-old freshman, certain that a job at the Chicago Tribune was only four years away, I refused the test and instead started my own newspaper with a couple of other students. I did a little bit of everything: I served as reporter, editor, designer, and production manager.

When I told that story to a denominational church planting recruiter he said, “Bro… It sounds like you are a church planter.”

High capacity for work.

High desire for control.

Hates working for the man (unless I am the man).

A basic jack-of-all-trades (master of none).

In the early days of their church, church planters do everything to make their church happen. Well, everything but serve in nursery (which often gets delegated to their wife).

Unless a church planter can transition out of that do everything, control everything mode, he’ll crush the church or the church will crush him.

Good church planters can usually handle a core group of 50 by themselves. If they are really good, they can handle 75-100.

No matter how independent you are, no matter how good you are, you only have so much capacity. And eventually the church will get to a size where you can’t handle it any more. And when it gets to that point, if you don’t get people (other than your wife) on mission with you, you will either crush the church or the church will crush you.

As I’ve written elsewhere, leadership development should be near the top of a church planter’s priority list.

This is more than simply a pragmatic issue; it’s a biblical issue.

The Apostle Paul explains this in 1 Corinthians 12 when he wrote that no one person has all the gifts, but “to each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1 Cor. 12:7, emphasis mine). No one member of Christ’s church has every gift that Christ gives for the good of his church. That includes church planters. Christ has not given any one church planter every gift required to plant that church. Christ did give his church pastors to equip her members for ministry (Eph. 4:11-2). 

In fact, Christ is generous to his Church. He gives her a diversity of people with a diversity of gifts. He didn’t design his church to become a cult of personality, for Jesus alone is head and king of his Church (1 Cor. 1:10-17).  Jesus designed his church to be ruled by a plurality of men (elders) and served by a variety of men and women (deacons and members). The success of a local church isn’t dependent on one man; it’s dependent on Christ.

If a church planter wants to be obedient to the Scriptures and have a healthy church and healthy life, he must develop leaders.

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