My church planting resident, Copper, wrote this yesterday after we had a large meeting of several lead pastor’s from around the state of Georgia. I think his words are wise and timely, and I am proud to say that he has loved and served me well in these two years. If you feel called to plant, or is you are a lead pastor and considering taking on a planting intern/resident, please read and consider…
As I was listening to the lead pastors of the various churches in Georgia speak about wanting to multiply churches; I was genuinely excited for what the Holy Spirit is doing in our midst. One common concern I heard among the pastors who where aspiring to multiply was not knowing what the process should look like. As a man who is a planting resident currently, I wanted to encourage you.
When a young man approaches you about planting and wants your assistance the very first thing he needs to do is serve. As a person who will soon be planting a church, I can tell you that I am quite head strong, bordering on narcissism. I have found that tends to be the norm for mass majority of young planters that I have met. We think that we have the keys to the city, or that we are special in some way. Where others have failed, we will succeed. The truth or fallacy of that thought is completely irrelevant. Before God calls any man to lead, he calls him to serve, probably in obscurity. I tell you this because I don’t want you men to be scared to take on a potential planter without having the proper infrastructure. If you have places where a man could serve, you have the infrastructure. MAKE THEM SERVE.
Make them serve in ways that they perceive and in fact are beneath their leadership capacity. Make them serve when they disagree with you. Make them preach 30 minutes when they want and could preach 50. I want to be specific in this, they need to be serving you the lead pastor, as well as, the body at large. Scripture never allows for the distinction of serving the masses, without serving the one. They need to serve you well. I say this, because if they are in fact called to be a pastor, people will follow them, and they need to know what its like to be under authority. They need to know what its like to put forth your entire effort to make someone else’s vision happen. They need the sanctification of waiting and patience. It is my personal opinion that they should do it while having a job somewhere else. If you pay people to serve they are employed. They are not serving. I needed this more than I knew when I started at Renovation. The Ghost was kind enough to use these extremely frustrating times to work out long-standing idols that where inside of me.
If I had planted when I wanted to, I would have run it into the ground. For their own sanctification, they need to serve you. Whether you are established or two months old you have the systems necessary to train a future planter. I hope you find this helpful and encouraging. I am excited what the Holy Spirit is doing among us. I expect and pray for nothing less than total revival in our people, our cities, our state, and our region.
In the last couple years of launching and leading Renovation I’ve learned one lesson the hard way that I wish someone had shared with me at the start…financially it’s often feast or famine. There has been very little in between.
So here’s something to consider if you’re early in your plant, or just dreaming of starting this ridiculous and painful yet glorious, God honoring process. SAVE! If you have any “extra,” save more than you normally would consider, because lean times are always crouching in the early years.
Where I’ve failed, and where you might as well is when the famine is on you live meager, budget strong, and make cautious monetary decisions in order to make ends meet.
But, when the feast is on, YOU FEAST. You buy the things you wish you’d bought when you were making ends meet. You do the things you wished you could do and go places you wished you could go when the famine was in full swing. And none of that is necessarily wrong, but it is considerably unwise.
So here’s a thought. Try and save, during the feast, the numerical amount you sometimes lack for necessities and small treats during the famine. If you do this consistently for some time, then the famine will cease to be as severe. This has been invaluable for my family over this last year. And this little bit of discipline has allowed for a much less tense, much more fun filled time as a family, even during the famine.
Now facts are, if you’re honest, and you’re in an entrepreneurial endeavor, this is you. So from one risk taking individual to another…at least consider this a means of not learning or re-learning this the hard way.
Several days ago I was sitting on a plane waiting to take off. We were heading home, back to Atlanta, and I was ecstatic. I’d gotten the exit row, the one right by the entrance door, so there was lots of legroom for the 6’ 5’’ guy. I couldn’t wait to see my wife and my daughters. This flight couldn’t have started any better than this. Then, as I’m sitting there the pilot approaches the cabin door to begin greeting people. Immediately an older lady jovially asks, “What are you doing back here; who’s going to fly the plane?” And the pilot’s response unexpectedly unnerved me. “I’m going to let my young first mate fly us home today. I can’t take ‘em all. That would be selfish.”
Now, the reason why this unnerved me a little is because I have flown a lot, and every bad experience I’ve ever had flying I can attribute to a “young first mate” taking the wheel. Bumpy flights, sudden cabin pressure drops, and pancake landings have been my experience with these young guys. So, my first response was to bristle up. Then I began to think, “If I am uncomfortable at best, completely unraveled at worst, about the idea of a young guy flying this plane and his care of my physical life, because I so value my life and the lives of the people on this plane, then why are we not equally unnerved about so quickly turning over high levels of influence and leadership to young leaders who are essentially in the care of the spiritual life and souls of people?”
It all culminated quickly in my mind as I thought of the myriad young leaders, including myself, who are thrust onto national and international platforms, given a voice to speak into the spiritual lives of people, but have logged very few hours in the “pilot’s seat” of anything. It is a fascinating and dangerous reality that I see running rampant in church and conference culture. Before you lead anything, you need to have proven that you’ve been faithful in something over time…and that you’re capable of handling some success.
You see, there are lessons learned in time served that cannot be gained through reading books, going to seminary, or even having an incredible mentor. Some leadership skills require a “you just have to have been there” sentiment, or the chance for irrevocable damage to the lives of the people these young men and women are leading is imminent. Instead of thrusting the young, trained, and talented into immediate influence, there needs to be a period of waiting and watching. Careful dissection of quiet idols, character leaks, and pressure points, all of which, unchecked, are the cause of the meteorite-like like falls of so many “talented and influential” young leaders. Young leaders need to wait for their time, and only God knows precisely when that is.
Now, am I saying there is no place of influence for a young leader? Of course not. But we need to lead low before we dream of leading high. We need to log some hours in the trenches before we sit in the general’s chair. We need to spend some time sitting under the leadership of a seasoned pilot before we dream of flying the plane. After all, if the young guy flying my plane makes one crucial mistake, I might lose my body. If a young leader in the church is thrust too soon into a position of influence and power and makes a crucial mistake, something much more costly could be lost.
Christianity started as a movement of men and women who were so compelled by the words of Jesus that their lives were overtaken by them. They DWELLED on LIVED, SPOKE, and DIRECTED every nuance of their existence by those words, and do you know what happened? Inside of a century Christianity grew from 12, to 120, to 3,000, to millions throughout the Roman empire. In fact Historians like Wayne Meeks say that by 300 A.D. nearly half of the people living in major Roman cities were followers of Jesus! How does this happen? Did it happen because they had incredible programs, beautiful facilities, or incredibly talented staff teams? Did it happen because they had full funding, dynamic music, and creative environments? No, it happened because they believed so strongly in who Jesus was, and His word, “Make disciples of all people,” that it permeated every facet of their lives. When the “visionary” left, His vision, a world reconciled to the God that created it, did not. That’s a movement! The question I’m left asking myself as I lead Renovation Church is this, “what would it look like to catalyze a movement rather than maintain an organization?” My hope is that you would ask yourself the same.
The group is headed to court on Wednesday. Young says the fight is over an organization — not a movement — and that he is not interested in organizations but would be glad to support a movement.
“Not interested in an organization,” says Andrew Young…neither am I. In fact, most people are not interested in organizations…but movements are a different story. When Dr. King founded SCLC it was a movement. A band of brothers and sisters fighting against a common enemy, injustice, and standing for a common cause, the rights, justice, and equality of all men…as promised in our constitution. But what happened? How did this great movement deteriorate into an organization better known for mishandling money, scandal and in-fighting than they are for what they once stood for?
This happens when the vision of the visionary dies with him, or begins to be altered so severely that it can no longer be distinguished from the rhetoric that replaces it. Soon the vision that catalyzed the movement is relegated to writing on the walls, in pamphlets, or on websites, while the trajectory of the movement changes, momentum slows, and an organization then becomes immanent.
I am desperate for Renovation Church to be a movement in the city of Atlanta. One catalyzed by a clear vision, and carried by committed people. It is so easy to lose sight and become an organization instead of a movement, just look at Christianity itself! Though Christianity is now, at least by most accounts, considered an organization…it didn’t start that way.
Most days I leave before my family wakes, and there are a few that I have returned when both of my girls were already asleep. It is ridiculous to go an entire day and not see the people who matter most to you…even in the name of the mission of God. Most of us spend so much time running, that we neglect what matters most, and run right through our lives until we wake up one day and wonder where it’s gone. This is the shortest blog post I’ve ever written, but maybe one of the most important. God does not expect us to sacrifice our families at the altar of ministry. If this convicts you the way it did me, repent and carve out time to give your family the best of you, not whats left over.