An exam for potential church planters (3)

By Andrew Munneke

So this is the third in a series of blogs to discern if you’re called, gifted, and able to be a church planter. In the first blog, we covered identity and the motivation for why you’re really pursuing starting a church. The second was about the core competencies of a church planter, and recognizing if you have them or need to grow in a few areas.

This blog is a bit more diagnostic. I’m asking you to do a candid self-examination as you read. Here are the three questions you’ll want to answer: Would I follow me? Does my household follow me? Do leaders follow me?

Would I follow me?

Trust. That’s the first step in a relationship with someone. If there can be no trust, there can be no relationship.

What we’re doing when we ask people to follow us is actually asking them to trust us. And that’s a huge thing! When you’re asking people to let you be their pastor, there’s a trust that needs to be there. This thought goes back to the character discussion we got into a little bit in the first blog.

So, if I know me—and hopefully you are self-aware enough to know your heart and its motivations and affections—and I was asking me to go and be a part of this new church, would I actually do it?

Let me ask the question this way: If you knew someone who had the same experiences, the same leadership track record, and the same heart motivations as you…would you follow that person? If you answered “Yes,” then let’s take this a step further.

{ If you knew someone who had the same experiences, the same leadership track record, and the same heart motivations as you…would you follow that person? }

The best leaders also make the best followers, so another good question to ask when considering your own leadership is: How well have I followed other peoples’ leadership? 

Do you frequently question others and think, “I could do it better…”? If so, as a leader you’re likely to lead more of a dictatorship because you don’t know how to work with people to achieve a common goal. People will become more like commodities to you to fulfill your vision rather than partners.

In the same way, if you can make a collaborative vision within the whole—not depending solely on yourself—then people will want to share this vision for your church and trust you to lead them.

And the last question I will ask you: How well do you lead yourself? Do you accomplish goals that you set for yourself? Do you show up on time? Do you fulfill your commitments and obligations? (Ok, so maybe that question actually consisted of three more questions! But, I think you get my point.) If you cannot lead yourself, then how can you expect to lead others?

Does my household follow me?

Obviously, this is taken from Scripture itself (1 Timothy 3:4). Your family is the group of people who know you and love you the most. If they aren’t willing to follow you, or you do a bad job of leading them, there are different caveats to what that means.

Is your wife on board? Sometimes we’re tempted to use our “calling from God” as an excuse to drag our wives into something they don’t really want to be a part of. Word to the wise, you should listen if she’s saying:

“I know you have a heart for New York City, but that will squash my soul.”

“I need you to be home more than the church/ministry will allow you to be home.”

I’m definitely not saying your wife can’t have insecurities or questions about going into ministry. Honestly, I think it would be unnatural for a wife not to wonder, “How are we going to pay the bills? Is this best for our kids?”

As a pastor, your job is all about dealing with people’s pain and how the Gospel speaks into that (this includes Christians and non-Christians, by the way). When your wife is in pain not knowing where the money will come from, or worrying about you being bi-vocational and the stress that comes with that, how do you speak the truth of the Gospel and shepherd her through those “red flags” and fears? How you shepherd your family is a reflection of how you will shepherd a church.

Your priority is to your family first. And nothing will disqualify you from church planting faster than if your marriage is crumbling and falling apart, or if you aren’t loving your kids well.

Do leaders follow me?

Let me say first that it’s great if you’ve had experience leading a small group. Like I mentioned in the second blog, leadership experience is necessary, and leading a small group is a good place to start.

But I also need to point out that leading a small group is different than leading a small group of leaders. As a pastor, you will need leaders (you could also call them key people) to follow you, and this requires a totally different skill-set.

{ Leading a small group is different than leading a small group of leaders. }

There are usually a few different leadership groups you will need: a core group, a financial support group, and (my personal conviction) a church or church network to support and send you out. How you lead and cast vision for each of these groups will be different.

Sidenote: I both like and hate the term “core group” because there’s the danger that they think they are the influencers. But if you communicate to your core group that they are carrying the DNA of the church, then this group will hopefully multiply itself into different ministries and leadership roles within the church in a way that new leaders will embrace and multiply. For example, if your core group is missional, then when they multiply themselves the goal is that your church as a whole will be missional.

And similarly for your financial group and church network, you must be able to cast a compelling vision so that they want to support you.

To be continued…

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