When I grow up, I want to be a cowboy, or an astronaut, or a church planter. Admittedly, the desire to be a church planter is not that ubiquitous, but it has been on a steep upward curve in the last few years.
The growing number of potential church planters requires that there is an appraisal of a man’s leadership capabilities and capacity. Church planters should walk through and bear fruit in five gates of leadership.
- Lead self
- Lead wife and children
- Lead followers
- Lead leaders and groups
- Lead pioneering initiatives and multiplication of leaders
Lead Pioneering Initiatives and Multiplication of Leaders
The following scenario may be familiar to you. A man grabs the preaching pastor after a sermon and says, “I’m called to plant a church too.” What do you do next? You love the zeal, but you also love effective Kingdom advancement. For the love of God, and that man, take time to analyze the gates of leadership in his life.
Gate One: Lead Self (Every man)
… train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. – 1 Timothy 4:7–8 (ESV)
I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word. – Psalm 119:15–16 (ESV)
Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. – Romans 12:11 (ESV)
Our actions illustrate what we actually believe, not what we think we believe.
A church planter must be a gospel man. Therefore, there must be a solid bridge between verbal zeal and zealous actions. Our actions illustrate what we actually believe, not what we think we believe. A Christian leader must fundamentally have a heart for Christ that matches their pursuit of Christ. Every man must lead himself. This goes double for anyone aspiring to leadership.
Q: Would you follow that man’s example of Christ-centered passion and discipline?
Gate Two: Lead Family (Every husband and dad)
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, – Ephesians 5:25 (ESV)
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. – Deuteronomy 6:4–7 (ESV)
Something is amiss if a man has fervor for preaching, but no determination in family discipleship.
One of the disqualifiers of an elder is the abdication of loving discipleship in the home. Jesus said in Mark 8:36, “what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” I believe we could make a similar conclusion about family health: “What does it profit a man to lead leaders, gain converts, and start movements, only to forfeit his family?” Something is amiss if a man has fervor for preaching, but no determination in family discipleship. Every husband is pastor to his wife. Every dad is a Pastor Dad. Charge these men to step up to their role of family pastor. This is especially crucial to analyze in the life of a potential church planter.
Q: Would you follow that man’s example of pastoring his family?
Q: Would you want him to greatly influence your son or daughter?
Gate Three: Lead Followers (Every church leader and elder)
He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” – John 21:16 (ESV)
This gate is fairly straightforward. Every church leader, group leader, or elder should be able to lead followers. This leader does not have to come up with the vision, mission, DNA, or even the strategy of the church. They should have a solid grasp of the gospel. They should show fruit of the theories and practice of disciple making. They should be able to engage men and women at general level of leadership. They should be able to lead men at deeper levels of discipleship. This man gladly presses the values and vision of the church into the members of the church. They desire that their followers are known, led, fed, and protected.
Q: Can this man disciple men and lead coed groups?
Q: Can this man press the DNA of a church into members?
Q: Can this man protect the unity of church?
Gate Four: Lead Leaders and Groups (Every Lead Pastor)
shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; Leading leaders is distinct from leading followers. Leaders have more skin in the game. They take more risks than followers. There is typically more buy-in to the vision. Leaders have strong opinions and influence one another. Yet leaders also want to follow a stronger leader. They want personal and corporate effectiveness. The man who leads leaders must have a humble confidence in their role of shepherding, coaching, activating, developing, and maximizing the leaders in their care. – 1 Peter 5:2 (ESV)
Q: Can this man teach, inspire, and direct leaders?
Q: Can this man rally and activate leaders toward a mission?
Q: Do they know and love the actual people of the church instead of hypothetical people?
Q: Can this man delegate well?
Gate Five: Lead Pioneering Initiatives and Multiplication of Leaders (Every church planter)
… I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation, – Romans 15:20 (ESV)
As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. – 2 Timothy 4:5 (ESV)
I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. – 1 Corinthians 3:6 (ESV)
You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, 2 and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. – 2 Timothy 2:1–2 (ESV)
This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you—evangelism? – Titus 1:5 (ESV)
With Gates #1-4, a leader could be placed with existing people and thrive. Gate #5 requires a pioneer and risk-taker. This requires someone who enjoys the co-creation (with God and others) of something that does not currently exist. This not the place for the theoretical. A man does not summon up entrepreneurial capacity after getting a role that requires it. There should be a track record of courageous launches. That will also mean there is a history of failures. In their more immature years, there will probably be examples of starting things without finishing, or without proper planning. He should enjoy pioneering, but surround himself with strategists and executers. This is a man that embraces change, yet looks for values and systems that will ground the vision. This is most certainly a man that loves to proclaim the gospel to pre-disciples. Ferret out theoretical evangelists. Insist on finding glad gospel-tellers.
Another important characteristic deals with group dynamics. In a church plant, things change broadly and sometimes rapidly. As groups multiply, relationships change. It takes a unique leader balance the call of family and mission. Sometimes the mission of God (making and multiplying disciples) affects the ties of the spiritual family. It takes a strong visionary with a shepherd’s heart to lead followers through the shifting seasons. It takes a strong leader with clear focus to assist leaders through relational changes.
Q: Can this man envision and launch new initiatives?
Q: Does this man actually proclaim the gospel to unbelievers?
Q: Can this man delegate very effectively?
Q: Can this man navigate the difficult challenges that occur in culture and relational dynamics attached to growth, multiplication, and change?
I need someone to assess me as a potential church planter:
- Take the time to read, process, and pray through the above information
- Ask the most faithful truth-tellers in your life to give observation about you and the 5 Gates of Leadership
- Pursue other fruitful (refer to the 5 Gates) church planters you know
- Pursue an Acts 29 regional church planter gathering in one of our hub cities
- Pursue the Acts 29 application and assessment process
I need help in assessing potential church planters:
- Take the time to read, process, and pray through the above information
- Don’t rush into anything with a potential church planter. Take the time to see if their practice matches their theory.
- Don’t do it alone. Lean on other church planters to help you assess.
- Refer them to Acts 29. We are currently developing some duplicatable models for equipping church planters including monthly regional gatherings, year-long residencies, and church planter finishing schools.
I am grateful for this generation’s leaders who have developed helpful tools and processes to guide men toward church planting. Acts 29 has had years of fruitful assessment and recently upped the ante with some new initiatives. It is wise to invest the time, energy, travel, and finances for solid assessment. If you’re in the Southeastern Unites States, contact our Assessment Coordinator, J Tyler Deaton for more information. If you’re from outside the Southeast, contact Matthew Spriggs to get in touch with an Assessment Coordinator near you.
David Thew is the Pastor of Leadership Development at Summit Crossing Community Church and serves as an Area Lead for the Acts 29 US Southeast Network in Huntsville, AL.