The Planter in Community: Defer Leadership

A few years back I attended a missions conference and struck up a conversation with a missionary who was serving in southern Africa. As the conversation progressed I began to ask him questions concerning how he measured success, expecting to hear something along the lines of number of baptisms or size of his ministry; however, what he shared with me was far different. According to my new friend, he labeled success as going to the Sunday gathering of his church and never having to get up to speak because those he was reaching were doing all the leading.

I have thought on that conversation a number of times over the years and how challenging it is to have that type of mindset, yet how right it is to think in this way. While I have yet to perfectly implement this, let me share some of my experiences from the past several years of church planting.


At the heart of my missionary friend’s mindset was the heart to delegate, which is never an easy thing to do, especially in the early days of a church plant for a few reasons:

1. Delegation is hard because it takes discernment.

If we delegate a responsibility too soon or to the wrong person it can have a very damaging effect on the church so it requires much wisdom and patience.

Delegation is hard. At the heart of my missionary friend’s mindset was the heart to delegate, which is never an easy thing to do

2. Delegation is hard because we give away things we enjoy doing.

One of the reasons I was excited to plant was the different work and responsibilities that came with it. Over the years I have found it hard to give away these responsibilities and opportunities to others.

3. Delegation is hard because we like things centering around us.

Truth be told the greatest challenge I have regarding delegating is myself. I like having things in the church revolve around me. I like being up front for people to see me. I like the control of having my hands on everything.


Unless your desire is for your church to never grow to be more than a small group and be unhealthy, delegation will be necessary.

1. Delegation is necessary to be Biblically faithful.

The book of Ephesians tells us that God has placed different leaders over the church to equip the saints in order that they can do the work of the ministry. One of the ways a planter or pastor can have security that he is being faithful is when others in the church are taking ministry responsibilities off his plate.

Delegation is necessary. Unless your desire is for your church to never grow to be more than a small group and be unhealthy, delegation will be necessary.

2. Delegation is necessary for the church to properly function.

Not everyone, including pastors, has every gift. There are some things you will be good at and other things you will not. By delegating responsibilities it allows the pastor to spend more time doing the things God has gifted him to do; this allows others in the church to serve in the areas according to their gifting. For the church to function in the way described in 1 Corinthians 12, delegation is necessary.

3. Delegation is necessary for the good of all involved.

One of the great leadership lessons in the Scriptures is the story of Moses and Jethro in Exodus 18. Up to that point in Exodus, everything revolved around Moses—seemingly nothing was delegated. However, as Jethro surveyed what was taking place he not only informed Moses that what he was doing was not good for himself but also it was not good for the people. In an act of wisdom and care Jethro helped Moses learn how to delegate. Without a desire for delegation the planter has set himself and the plant up for burnout and failure.

4. Delegation is good for your soul.

Not only does delegation get things off your plate, it allows others in the church to minister to their leaders. Even the best and strongest leaders still need others to pour into them, and when we delegate ministry to the church we create necessary channels by which the church can care for its leaders.


In 3 John, the apostle found no greater joy than hearing that those he ministered to were walking in the truth of the gospel, and when we delegate we too can share in that joy. My missionary friend let me know that his great joys in ministry were seeing those in whom he had invested, lead. Do not miss out in that joy.


I have always been challenged by the simple phrase from Count Zinzendorf to “preach the gospel, die, and be forgotten”. As we plant churches our hearts longs for much to be made of Jesus, and when we delegate responsibilities the church becomes less about the planter more about the body and ultimately more about our Christ.

Published May 19, 2016