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Don’t Empower People Too Quickly in Your Church
Church planters, fight the urge to empower people too quickly.
Some planters, desiring to expand their plant team and move ahead in their mission, will dole out leadership responsibilities to people they barely know. Many even counsel this: “Give ’em a job, and they’ll stick around,” as the logic goes. Yet that “logic” is suicidal.
How Do You Know They Support Your Vision?
Brothers, your primary co-laborers (and certainly your primary leaders) need to comprehend and be able to articulate and even defend your vision. The worst thing you could do is to empower someone who has competing ideas. Draw a line with an arrow pointing upward on a piece of paper that represents your vision. Then draw another one, that starts at the same point, but veers off at a 45-degree angle to the left. That sort of vision that is out of alignment is easy to spot. However, it’s harder to catch the person who veers off only slightly. Yet, if you project that line’s trajectory, it still ends up in a drastically different, potentially devastating, spot. Knowing if someone’s vision fits with that of your church’s, however, takes time. Do you really want to position someone to pull against the vision God has given you?
How Do You Know That They Know How to Follow?
People often flock to church plants seeking positions of influence. They desire to draw near to the pastor, shaping him and the future of the church. Often they bring track records of resisting authority and causing division in previous contexts. The last thing you want is to put an arrogant and power-hungry person in a place of leadership. He or she will end up hurting people around them. That same person will likely undermine your authority, as well. If he or she was angry and dissatisfied with their previous pastor, it’s almost certain that you’ll soon be the next. Make sure they know how to follow before you let them lead. How do you know this? It takes time. In fact, making them wait will generally force their motives to the surface. Be careful. You don’t want to end up empowering someone who could become your worst enemy.
How Do You Know They Are Strong in Character?
You need someone to lead worship, so you give them the mic. You know nothing about finances, so you hand someone the books. Be careful, brothers. Don’t let your desperate feelings and their flashy gifts keep you from seeing their heart. How do you know that worship leader or bookkeeper is a gospel-formed man or woman? How do you know that small group leader will represent Christ or your church community well? You don’t initially. As hard as it is to do, give it some time. Exercise patience now, and avoid a blowup later. It’s much harder to fire someone than it is to hire them.
Here’s a rule with only a few exceptions: most people think they’re the exception to the rules. Do they want to be a part of a church where people show up and are immediately given positions of leadership? Of course not! How could that be a healthy course? But most think those rules don’t apply to them. They’re special, of course. And they don’t want to patiently pay their dues and earn that influence. Treat this new, cheerful, ostensibly gifted person just like anyone else. Depending on how they react, you’re more likely to save yourself headaches and even earn their respect later.
Be careful. You don’t want to end up empowering someone who could become your worst enemy.
There is a tension in the early days of planting that is difficult. You desperately want to add to your plant team, especially with strong leaders. However, during that time, you’re shaping the congregation’s DNA. In the time you are tempted to be the most lenient, you really must be the most cautious. Some planters hand the reins of their nascent church to people they barely know. It may lead to quick growth, but it won’t result in lasting health. True, in a church plant, time’s not on your side. But you have more than you think. And who has time to start over? Pray hard. Calm down. Wait on the Lord. Get people to buy in before you let them lead out.