The Send Network Church Planting Blog

Collegiate Church Planting: Identifying Leaders

December 5, 2016 by Troy Nesbitt

In my time as lead pastor of Cornerstone Church of Ames, God has done amazing things in our church. In order to make sure our growth was healthy, I had to invest considerable time in finding and developing healthy leaders to join our staff team. It was no small task, and I learned some pivotal lessons along the way.

Now, I’m leading the Salt Network to fulfill the vision of planting local churches to reach university cities across the Midwest. Our initial goal is to see 20 new churches planted in the next five years. Needless to say, I still am spending considerable time in finding and developing healthy leaders. I am identifying rising leaders both inside and out of our network.

We have no small task ahead of us, and because of my love for the kingdom and for the local church, we are looking for quality leaders for God’s church. Here are a few of the attributes in the leaders we are seeking.

1. Character
If you don’t start with Scripture, then you’re starting the wrong way. When Paul instructed Titus and Timothy about qualifications for elders, he started with character (1 Tim 3:1-7). Yes, gifting is important, but it is worthless and potentially destructive in the hands of a person who lacks character. A quality leader will be a man whose character is worth imitating—inside and outside of the church and inside and outside of his home. While no one but Jesus has perfect character, godly leaders will provide a template for integrity that we hope God will reproduce over and over again.

2. Gifting
A leader will first be qualified by their character, but he must also be gifted for the work. In Ephesians 4:11-12, Paul described the types of gifts God has given for the equipping of the church. Every believer has been gifted by the Holy Spirit, but only certain men of character have received “equipping gifts” to pastor and proliferate local churches. Furthermore, we have found that quality leaders are not usually those who have assessed themselves as having equipping gifts, but are those whose gifts have been recognized and recommended by leaders in their current church.

3. Experience
Future leaders must not only have character and gifting, but also experience that proves the validity of those things. In other words, having a desire to be an effective leader is not the same as being an effective leader. We don’t have experience until we have done something. We don’t have skill until we’ve done something well. And we don’t have wisdom until we’ve done something well over time. That’s my way of saying that bad experience is the same as no experience. Quality leaders have ministry experience that demonstrates God at work through their character and gifting.

4. Family
Family is one of God’s prevailing metaphors for the local church, therefore a future pastor will lead his own family well. Everyone has two families—a family of origin and a family of God. Quality leaders will have learned to benefit from the good and bad aspects of their family of origin. They will also be leading within the family of God. Their desire to serve God’s church will be reflected in how he chose a ministry partner, not just a wife. Likewise, their household will be in order and their children will be a delight to those they encounter.

5. Chemistry
Simply put, a future pastor is someone with whom you want to spend time. When your time together is over, you should wish you could have another hour. You aren’t put out by the time you spend with him. Rather, you’re energized by your interactions. There simply is relational chemistry. You should also notice that others feel the same way.

We’re dreaming big dreams for what God might do through the Salt Network. Everyday, we’re reminded that there is no way we can reach our goals if God doesn’t show up. While it could be tempting for us to cut corners in order to get more leaders in our pipeline, we know that Christ’s church requires and deserves biblically qualified leaders. May God bring more of them to our churches and to yours.

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