“The quality of your leadership will be measured in part by how well you manage your time.”
The comment appears in my journal, no doubt made by some church planting guru whose name I did not write down. And it’s true. The quality of his character, ministry, and marriage depends on how a church planter spends his time. “Leisure is a glorious opportunity and a subtle danger,” wrote J. Oswald Sanders in Spiritual Leadership. “A discretionary hour can be wisely invested or foolishly wasted. Each moment of the day is a gift from God that deserves care, for by any measure, our time is short and the work is great.”
How should a church planter spend his time? I’m sure you have your own list, but these are my current five priorities:
1. Lead yourself, your spouse, and your family.
I learned early in the adventure that I need to understand myself and lead myself carefully if I was going to lead anyone else. I have to be conscious of my own values, perspectives, strengths, and weaknesses. I need to nurture my passion for ministry, along with my capacity to make decisions, and I need to recognize the gifting, passion, and potential of others, too, starting at home, with my own family!
2. Love your people.
If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love the people in my church planting environment, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of preaching like Jack Graham, Danny Akin, and David Platt combined, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I started more churches than Vance Pitman and J.D. Greear, and if I could grow a church to more than 10,000 across the street from the Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake City, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing.
The key to any ministry – any ministry – is loving people. I heard Dr. Kevin Ezell say once, “If you love people, they will put up with a lot of incompetency!” There is no substitute for loving people.
3. Make disciples who make disciples.
I pastored three established churches over a period of 25 years before I planted a church. Until 2013 I never thought of planting a church. Never wanted to plant a church! I thought church planting was for guys who couldn’t pastor a church successfully. I’m still one of the most reluctant church planters on the planet, but what I love the most about this calling is the time and energy I can invest in making gospel-centered disciples who turn around and make more disciples for the glory of God! Make time for this, friends. Other things can wait. Making disciples is the main thing that Jesus has called us to do (Matt. 28:18-20).
4. Prepare gospel-centered talks and preach like your hair’s on fire.
Ed Stetzer has written, “Your preaching is not as important as you think it is, at least in church planting.” He goes on to say that preaching the Scriptures exegetically is essential, meaningful, and vital to the health of your church, but it is not the first thing you do. You evangelize a church into existence, and then you start preaching to the church of the newly evangelized.
But once you start preaching, preach! Preach with enthusiasm and passion and precision. Preach like your hair’s on fire, for God’s glory! I give much time now to preaching gospel-centered sermons that are clear expositions of the biblical text, and our church is growing spiritually and numerically. It’s a high priority now, and people are dying for the Word.
5. Build leaders.
Your church plant will never get beyond the infancy stage is you don’t build leaders. Start low, and start slow, but start building now! Currently I am using the book Spiritual Leadership by J. Oswald Sanders to engage five high capacity leaders in our church. We independently read a chapter a week, come together to discuss the highlights of the chapter, and pray. It’s not rocket science, but it’s changing lives and building leaders. We keep each other accountable for what we are learning and putting into practice. Build leaders and delegate ministry and keep it centered on the Kingdom.
Published June 7, 2018