Today I received a letter from a young man who is prayerfully considering planting a church. He feels the Lord has called him to do so. I appreciate the fact that as he is prayerfully considering this, he is seeking wisdom from those who’ve gone before him. Because I prayerfully spent some time in crafting my answer, I thought I’d pass along some of what I wrote back to him. I recognize that not everyone who’ll read this blog is a pastor, however, I pray that in the following 12 points you’ll find something that the Lord will use to speak to you today:
- Love. Love Jesus. Love His church. Love your family. Love the unlovely. Love the calling of God upon your life.
- Pray. Regularly pray for the families that attend your church. This will enable you to love them more.
- Read. “Leaders are readers” is more than just a cliché, it’s truth. You need to read God’s Word every day, not just to prepare a message. You should be on a regular reading program. I work out 1-2 hours, five times a week, and while I’m working out I listen to God’s Word being read to me on my smart-phone (notice, not Christian music…or even other’s sermons). I also try and spend time each day actually reading the Word and under-lining passages and jotting down thoughts. A Lead Pastor MUST be in the Scriptures. There is a serious lack of Biblical understanding amongst today’s pastors. They are all but illiterate in the Word of God. Sure they know lots about other stuff, but not God’s Word. It’s scary. Let me also say that along with the Bible, a Lead Pastor should also be reading other things, such as: Current events (news), books on leadership, etc. But remember, these things are to be read ALONG WITH THE BIBLE!
- Say no. When you are the lead pastor your time will become precious – requests to speak, requests to meet, requests to hear new ideas… etc, will come out of the woodwork. Guard your time, and get used to living on a schedule. Get a day-planner… or organizing app on your phone… and live by it. Make sure the things you say “yes” to are truly part of your mission and calling from the Master.
- Protect your joy. Don’t allow your joy to be sucked out. Be ready for criticism and negativity. You’ll see multiple critical emails and comments throughout your ministry, and you’ll meet with more than one disgruntled parishioner. Remember, you can’t please everyone. You must stand before Jesus alone to give an account. Galations 1:10 has always been a Scripture that I had printed out and above my desk to remind me of Who I was really working for.
- Protect your time. Guard your calendar from people and events that divert from the key mission areas of your life and the church, and your calling to study, set vision, pray, preach and teach. Only answer those emails that were sent to you that only you can answer. Try your best not to get caught up in the “defending the faith” type emails that often come across a young pastor’s path.
- Be the point man. When the church is young you’ll need to be the point man for EVERYTHING. Your input will be required for ALL decisions, as it should be – for you are the one called to be the Shepherd. However, your goal is to raise up another, and then many others that can free up the lead pastor from being the contact point for all but the essential ministries and activities. The sooner you raise these people, the healthier you and your church will be. CAUTION: When the church is smaller, other control-freak, type-A personalities will come out of the woodwork and try and latch themselves onto you and your ministry. Be careful who you allow to have a ‘voice’. You’re the point man. You’re the pastor!
- Oversee staff (some, many, or all). This comes into play as you grow. Resist the temptation to assign another to oversee the staff. You should be seen as the ‘Lead’ pastor. This is not an arrogant thing, but an understanding of what exactly God has called you to. Read Numbers 12 to get an idea of how God looks at a godly leader.
- Remove growth barriers. Observe barriers to growth (facilities, systems, groups, structures, disciplines) and put in place improvements to allow growth, under God, to continue.
- Supplement weaknesses. Identify the areas you are weak and the activities you find draining, then surround yourself with those who are gifted and called to do them. This is a HUGE mistake that I have seen many leaders make. They’ve placed people who had the exact same weaknesses as they had, and were too much like them in gifting and calling.
- Be SLOW to hire help. I have learned one very important thing over the past three years that I really wish I would have learned earlier: I should have been MUCH slower to higher staff. People should be willing to serve for free, before they are given a pay check. Obviously, this can’t always be the case in larger churches. However, in church plants and smaller fellowships, watch for those who are serving. The cream will rise to the top. Wait. Pray. Do not be too quick to “lay hands on a brother” (1 Timothy 5:22). Putting immature and novice people in places of church leadership is the BIGGEST mistake I made as a Lead Pastor. Please, please, please listen to me on this one.
- Remember your family is in the ministry with you. It saddens me when I see a leader whose wife or children are not on fire for Jesus. 1 Timothy 3 makes this VERY clear to me: “one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?)”. When a pastor has a child, that lives under his roof, who is not passionate for Jesus (doesn’t show ‘reverence’ for the Lord)… one must ask the question “Why?” I have always done my best to INVOLVE my children in the ministry with me. This doesn’t mean simply having them play or sing on the worship team – truly, anyone can do that, because it’s pretty fun to be in the limelight. I’d always INVOLVE them by explaining the calling that God had on my life, and thus on theirs… seeing as He had chosen to place them in MY family. They read the Bible with me. They prayed for people, right alongside me, when folks would show up at my home needing help. They went on mission trips with me. They preached sermons even! If you are called to be married… and then called to have children AND you’ve been called to be a PASTOR… then your family must understand that THEY HAVE BEEN CALLED TOO. If they don’t… then perhaps YOU are not called – and your ministry WILL NOT BEAR FRUIT THAT LASTS.
Money bro. Awesome and so very true. Thank you for sharing!
Gay Byrom says
So full of wisdom! I want to make sure Jeremy and Rachel see this. Love you and your family! GB