I Am Not A Church Planter

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Let me set the record straight. Charles R. Ridley is not a church planter. Don’t hire him!

But wait a minute. He is the guy who developed the Church Planter Profile. He has assessed scores of candidates for church planting. He trains people to interview and assess candidates for church planting. Yes. He is the guy, some have said, who Ridleyizes people.

Let me do a brief self-assessment. I served as an associate minister in my African-American Baptist church in Indiana. But my track record does not demonstrate that I am a visionary leader, one who builds an enterprise from the ground floor. While I have many friends and close colleagues, I do not gather together groups of people nor spend time regularly cultivating new relationships. I am resilient, flexible, and motivated. As a former academic administrator, I have cleaned up messes created by others and helped warring faculty members find a way to work together. I have mentored and trained a number of very successful doctoral students, but I cannot claim other features of creating ownership of ministry. I am at my best in the lab or library but much less so in the community.

I might write something like this as part of the conclusion of an assessment report: On the Church Planter Profile, Ridley falls below the norm of the church planter population. He has several assets that bode well for this type of ministry, including a fierce personal motivation, indomitable resilience, flexibility, and the ability to facilitate cohesiveness among peers. However, his clearly below par abilities in two key behavior categories—visioning capacity and relationship building—would overshadow the impact of his assets. In fact, these knock out factors knock him out of serious consideration as a church planter. Furthermore, his mixed features on creating ownership of ministry add weight to the conclusion. On balance, Ridley should be viewed as a group facilitator and maintainer, not a catalytic builder. A better fit is a ministry where his analytical skills and detail orientation, along with his assets on the profile, could be used beneficially.

Paul’s message in I Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4, and Romans 12 is instructive. God gave many gifts; each person’s giftedness has a special place, and all of us serve the same purpose of edifying the Church. Paul just as well could have said “God has gifted some people as church planters.” Therefore, it is disheartening to hear about individuals who are devastated when the evidence does not affirm them as church planters. Not profiling as a church planter to some people is tantamount to being a failure. Somehow, they have internalized an invalid message. We never should send the messages, even inadvertently, that people who do not profile as church planters are not gifted for ministry and that church planting is a superior ministry. These messages are not biblical.

And don’t forget. Michael Jordan never soared to His Airness heights as a baseball player in the minor leagues. Was he a failure?