The Two Threads of Church Plant Leadership

The number one requirement for a successful church plant is a certain quality of leadership.

This leadership, in my mind, has two primary threads: what I call “the mojo” to start a church—that is the gifts, temperament, and spiritual entrepreneurial bent.

The second thread has to do with character, style and what has been called emotional intelligence.

In this brief blog, I want to talk about the latter.

Underneath most things that go wrong with leadership in the context of a church plant are issues that have their root in character issues. People can forgive, and get past, mistakes in judgment, changing viewpoints or misstatements. What is difficult to get past, and often undermines leadership in a church plant are issues that arise from various insecurities that exist in all of us church planters. This is why the spiritual formation of church planters are just as, if not more, important as their entrepreneurial formation.

As we, as healthy leaders, work to plant healthy churches, here are three things we must do and three things we cannot do.

We cannot:

  • Be willing to do whatever it takes to “win” at all costs in the various tussles of planting a church. This is the root of most inadvertent behavior that members report as “abusive”.
  • Manipulate others in the pursuit of our agenda/vision/mission; in every conversation or relationship, we must always leave people with a real choice, not a pseudo-choice that leaves us in control.
  • Grab for power as a basis for leverage; this pollutes relationships and “culture” in a way that is very hard to recover from.
On the other hand, here are three things that sustain well the lives of leaders and new churches:
1) Practice the Golden Rule:

Never treat people in ways that you would not want to be treated—and its corollary—treat people the way you would want to be treated.

2) Practice the Great Command:

In my view, church planters should be judged on the quality of followers and community they create not just the accomplishing of tasks.

3) Relax:

Memorize the end of Matthew eleven from The Message. Jesus said: Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.

A final, freeing thought that I picked up along the way from my friend and mentor, Dallas Willard. I am not sure this is a direct quote, but it is close:

Our projects are not God’s projects. We are God’s projects. He is creating a people for himself that will rule and reign with him now and forever in the renewed cosmos. The only thing that will last forever is the kind of people we become as we lead others in the context of church planting.