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The New “15-Hour Rule” for Church Planters and Preachers

The idea of the singular professional pastor running a church, doing all 18 spiritual gifts (depending on how many you read in the NT, etc.), has fallen out of favor. No one believes this is possible anymore. This is a relic of the hierarchies of Christendom where such consolidation made organizational sense (if not ecclesiological sense). Any pastor trying to do this will expire from burnout. It is a denial of the Holy Spirit’s work in the body (I Cor 12). (Should we then get rid of the M Div degree as well?)

Of course megachurches are able to keep the hierarchy going by building massive staffs that employ full-time specialists in each gifting, and then they employ huge cadres of volunteers for massive programs that they then call “gifts” (which is a complete misnomer—but that is a subject for another day. On this kind of false volunteerism, read Bill Kinnon here and Jamie Arpin Ricci here). But this is another story of the prolongation of Christendom past its time.

Why then, WHY WOULD WE think about planting a new missional church with a singular leader/pastor at the head of the ship? The only reason is if we are comfortable with the notion that we can recruit enough already existing Christians to be subservient to said singular leader and form a Christendom organization for managing and distributing Christians goods and services to them. But is this church planting or church reconfiguring? Is this Mission or Marketing?

This is why when planting a missional church/community, I prefer the leaders implement “the 15-hour rule.” The “15-hour rule” says that NO PASTOR/LEADER CULTIVATING A NEW MISSIONAL COMMUNITY SHOULD WORK MORE THAN 15 HOURS A WEEK ON MISSIONAL COMMUNITY ORGANZIATIONAL FUNCTIONS (including preaching, organizing, leadership, etc.).

Of course, this is heresy in the traditional world of evangelical church plants. Most assume the new pastor works 15 hours per week just on the sermon. Over against this traditional model, I believe “the 15-hour rule” works to do the following:

 1) It says no one pastor/leader can nurture a Christian community. It requires a minimum of three pastor/leaders who know the inter-relationship of their giftings according to the Eph 4 APEPT schema—Apostles/Prophets/Evangelists/Pastors/ Teachers. These pastors must work together in mutual submission to one another modeling the life of submission one to another in Christ. I’m of the mind you put three mature leaders who know their giftings in one place for 10 years who can lead out of mutual submission to Christ and His Mission, and you will have a fresh expression of the gospel (not dependent upon already existing Christians) in that place 10 years later.

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David Fitch is a bi-vocational pastor at Life on the Vine and the B.R. Lindner Chair of Evangelical Theology at Northern Seminary.