How to manage power as a church planter

By Briana Weathersby

You will be your own boss.

Starting a church is like starting a business.

In the beginning days, you will wear several hats.

While there are many truths behind these phrases, there are also just as many temptations. These are all words that several leaders shared with me when I broke the news that God was calling Jennifer and I to leave Memphis, TN and move to Marysville, OH to plant Living Hope several years ago.

As we consider the topic of power as a potential killer for church planters, we need to remember the words of John Calvin: “Man’s nature, so to speak, is a perpetual factory of idols.” Though we are called to church planting, we are still capable of sin. It is no secret that ministry idolatry is spreading rapidly among evangelical Christians in the United States.

After having numerous conversations with planters who have struggled and fallen, there unfortunately seems to be a common source of sin: the misuse of power. We are all one-step away from stupid. Let’s look at some practical ways to help us not take that step and become another statistic.

Don’t trust yourself
Scripture teaches us in Jeremiah 17:9, “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?” Many of us have similar stories of selling everything we own, leaving friends and family and following God’s hand and heart to plant a new work. Unfortunately, somewhere along the journey, many of us stop following God’s heart and begin following our own. Henri Nouwen wrote, “The main obstacle to loving God is service for God.” We must guard against the temptation to replace our affection for Jesus with our achievement for Jesus.

Don’t lead yourself
Leaders must be led. Is the Lord leading you? Who is holding you accountable? Contrary to popular opinion, you are not your own boss. Every shepherd needs to be shepherded. A foundational leadership verse is found in Proverbs 11:14b: “There is safety in having many advisers.” One of my greatest memories in the early days of Living Hope is my living room and kitchen being full of core group members helping me make those critical decisions. Why is there such a shift after our public launches? Fight against the idol of power by leading after your launch with the same spirit you possessed before your launch. I believe we have bought into the deception that leadership is power. However, I wholeheartedly believe Ephesians 4 teaches us that leadership is actually empowering and influencing others.

Humble yourself
One of the greatest ways to fight the idol of power is humility. When you model humility and lead with a teachable spirit, you immediately invite others to speak into your life and share the leadership load with you. God gives all of us as elders and leaders practical wisdom in 1 Peter 5:6: “So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time He will lift you up in honor.” The only power our hearts should long for and lead with is the power of God in and through our lives.

Remind yourself
The very last verse in the book of 1 John says, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols.” What an important reminder to us. Church planter, please remember that you did not plant your church; God did. The Scriptures are clear that God is the one who begins churches and ends churches. We just get to be a part of His activity. Remind yourself of the gospel every day and never get over your call to conversion or to church planting. You are who you are by the grace of God and you are where you are for the glory of God. Period. Church planters, keep yourself from the idol of power.

Published June 21, 2016

Briana Weathersby