On Monday I had the opportunity to chat with a group of students from Moore College who are interested in church planting. I spoke on the leadership lessons I have learned in the past 5 years of church planting and pastoring. So here they are:

1. Care More About What God Thinks of You Than What People Think of You

There is a massive amount of pressure to have people come to your church when you are a pastor/planter and so there is huge pressure for you to please people. If this pressure is coupled with insecurity, a deep fear of man or some other issue this can be crippling for a pastor and will hold back a church.

What is the solution?  The gospel

The gospel helps you see who God is and helps you fear him and when you fear God and see him for who he is your fear of man will diminish. Additionally, the gospel says that you have been adopted as the child of God and therefore he cannot love you any more or less based on your successes or failures. These doctrines allow you to do the right thing and not worry about whether you are pleasing or frustrating people.

2. Work out your junk

Because of sin, you and I are screwed up people and the junk in our lives will hold us back. You may be socially or emotionally retarded and be almost on the spectrum, you may be a people pleaser or you may have issues with porn. Whatever your issues are they will hold you back and Satan will find ways to use them against you and your church! So do whatever you have to do to work them out. Go to counselling, get an accountability partner, pray, hell even hug a tree if it will help you work out your junk. But just work it out.

3. Develop a joyful relationship with Jesus

I am more and more convinced that a pastors chief responsibility is not preaching, leading,  pastoral care, setting vision or anything else that you read about in books and on blogs about leadership. No the chief responsibility of a pastor is making sure his love for Jesus and his passion for his glory is glowing like a hot coal. If the pastor is on fire for Jesus then a lot of the issues that he has will fade into the background. If the pastor is on fire for Jesus then people are more likely to catch fire. If the pastor is on fire for Jesus then his preaching, leading,  pastoral care, setting vision will be more potent because of it

How do you get on fire? You read the Bible and pray and not in a legalistic way which seeks to tick a box. No you read and pray in such a way that you are seeking to be filled with joy, you are seeking to grow your relationship with Jesus, you are seeking to be red hot as you encounter God in his word and you pray to him.

You do that day after day week after week you will be on fire and your passion and your godliness will go through the roof and people want to be around pastors who are on fire!

4. Learn to have a fierce conversations

We live in a world where to say what you are really thinking will either offend someone or get you branded with some kind of name. But as a pastor and a leader you need to be able to have a fierce conversational. A fierce conversation is not a conversation where you are angry it is a conversation where you communicate exactly what you think and feel in a helpful way.

There are two conversation that pastors and leaders should be having regularly.

  1. Encouragement
  2. Accountability

You need to learn how to have these conversations with passion, grace and truth.

5. Don’t outsource vision, values and mission

A few years ago the elders at Resolved decided that we needed a new vision for Resolved. So I got a team together to work out what the new vision was. This was a huge mistake. I firmly believe that a leader needs to have this vision grip his heart and this is not going to happen if he outsources the vision to a team. The leader needs to have a vision that grips his heart that he communicates with passion and let the chips fall where they may. The same goes with values. Don’t outsource vision, values and vision!

6. Make your hellos slow and goodbyes quick

I have a friend who got a job in a church and all he had was two meeting with his new boss and he didn’t check references either. Hiring someone only after two hours with them reminds of that scene in Pulp Fiction where Vincent (played by John Travolta) is a the car with Jules (played by Samuel L Jackson) driving  and he is pointing loaded gun at Marvin in the back seat (who ends up with his brains all over the car) because in both situations if you go over a bumpy road there will be blood.

You need to make sure you know who are going to be your leaders. If you are going to employ someone make sure you know who they are. If you are going to get someone to volunteer make sure you have called up their previous church and asked the minister all about them.  This takes hours and hours but it is worth it.

Also, if you have a person in leadership who doesn’t want to get on board with your vision or doesn’t trust you you need to work hard at this for a short period of time. But if it is clear that the person in question doesn’t want to trust you or get on board and the whole situation is as painful as watching a weekends worth of Sandra Bullock films then it would better for the both of you that the person in question left. This is hard but from experience it is better for all parties.

7. Finance matters

I have never been good with money and therefore up until recently I have farmed all the money stuff out to an individual who let me know what is happening financially. This the fiscal equivalent of Michael Jackson dangling his baby over the rails because it doesn’t take much for something to go wrong and then things can go very bad very quick.

Pastors need to know what is happening in their church financially because one of the ways you can know if the gospel is gripping a person heart is by their giving. If they are earning good money but they don’t give much if any money than here is a spiritual issue.

You also as a planter need to raise as much money as you can. More money means more ministry it is as simple as that.

8. Lose all hope

Lose all hope that:

  • You will get massive transfer growth
  • A billionaire will come and become a member and instantly tithe
  • You will preach one sermon or one series and that will bring revival.

When you lose hope of these three things your only option is to pray, strategise well and work your butt off. You will have to evangelise or die and this is a far better situation for the kingdom than if you got a massive bunch of transfer growth. If your church jumps from 30 in the first week to 100+ in a year, with all the growth being transfer growth, it is very easy to feel like your church is really happening. But really unless your church is seeing people become Christians you are just shuffling deck chairs on the Titanic and I dare say that most of the transfer growth will not be really interested in getting on mission because they didn’t come to your church because they liked the mission they came to your church because it was the latest cool hip church.

I pray for the church planters I know regularly. I pray that they get no transfer growth and therefore they are forced to work hard at evangelism and that a flood of people become Christians. This is why they planted a church to begin with.

9. Make sure core business remains core business

There is a massive amount of pressure to make your church plant look the coolest. You have to have videos and pictures which make people get excited for your church and vision. You have to have the best music. You need to have that hipster, I drink only coffee and listen to crap hipster music look down. Needless to say there is nothing wrong with doing these things (except if you are trying to be hipster that should be an unforgivable sin in my book) but these aren’t core business. As a pastor you can spend so much of your time on making sure your church is hip and cool (which is what I did in the first few years of Resolved) that you don’t spend time in preparation, prayer, pastoral work, developing leaders and doing evangelism. These are the things that are core business. As a pastor you need to focus on core business and farm out all the other stuff as much as you can. Why? Because you won’t be on your death bed and wonder if your graphics and videos that your church were cool enough you will wonder if you could have prayed more, preached more and better and developed people better so that more people would have come to know and love Jesus!

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