Here’s a trustworthy saying: Whoever desires to be an overseer desires a noble task, but whoever desires to be a bivocational overseer desires a crazy task (1 Tim. 3:1—check the Greek, it’s in there). Who would do this? This is an important question, and I’m grateful that God is calling men to step into this vital role. But an even more important question is who should do this?
Who is uniquely shaped to plant a church while working in the marketplace? Start by looking around your ministry and asking some of these questions: Who is serving without stressing? Who is leading his family joyfully? Who is showing career success while balancing home, church and recreation? Someone hitting each of those marks may be a good fit for bivocational ministry. More specifically, we’re looking for someone who hits the following five marks:
Connected – Look for someone who is engaged in your ministry and adds significant value. This helps the potential planter learn your DNA. It will also give you a picture of his heart for Christ and for people.
Character – Look for someone displaying evidence of ongoing life transformation. One trait you especially want to see is humility. This may seem like a no brainer, but a teachable spirit is one of the essential character traits for a church planter. Not teachable = no transformation. No transformation = stale leadership. Even the sharpest of guys need to be teachable! With all that a high-caliber businessman may bring to the table, he will still need to come under your leadership and be a learner.
Competency – Look for someone with the God-given skill to lead people. Even if that skill is raw, it can be developed. Someone without it can still add value in significant ways, but he is probably not going to be a good bivocational planter.
Capacity – This is a big one for a bivo guy! Someone could be connected, have the right character and be competent, but without capacity it will all come crashing down. A bivocational planter has to be able to spin multiple plates and keep them going without looking worn out!
Called – Last and, of course, not least he must feel called to both plant a church and keep his day job.
What if he’s not the guy?
What do we do with guys who don’t fit all of the above criteria, but have a heart to see churches planted? It depends on what they are lacking. A guy who is not connected needs to be encouraged to engage at a deeper level so you can observe him more and see how he stacks up in the other areas. A guy lacking character needs to be discipled, and after a period of proven faithfulness in character development, he can be reconsidered. I believe guys who are connected and have character, but are lacking in competency and capacity, can add value to the church planting effort immediately! They can keep serving as they work with other church leaders to intentionally develop competency and capacity. We have to be wise in whom we invest. Even Jesus spent more time with three than the other nine! He was intentional about who He was developing for leadership, and we must be the same.
How to recognize and evaluate potential planters:
Connected – Is he a regular attender of your worship gathering and a small group? Does he give financially? Does he serve in some role? If you answer no to any of these questions, work on them first.
Character – Talk to those close to him. Does he display the character of Christ in his personal life? In his work life? In his hobbies? Ask him what God has been showing him in the Word lately and how he is applying it. Is he consistently listening to God and obeying Him?
Competency – Is he currently leading an area of your ministry? If not, you need to get him in a position where you can observe his leadership skills. Is he leading well in other areas outside the church?
Capacity – Here is where you press into his day-to-day life by asking, “What are you involved in and how is it going?” If he is involved in very little and feeling stressed, he may not be the right guy. He doesn’t have to have flashy leadership gifts, but he should demonstrate a consistent ability to successfully steward his current leadership opportunities. How well he is handling each thing his responsibilities with family, career, hobbies, personal development and volunteering?
Called – What is motivating him to want to plant? Can he communicate a sense of calling—something God has put on his heart that he just can’t shake. You’re not looking for perfect articulation. In fact, stumbling over some words, long pauses, or even a tear or two may not be bad things. Look for evidence of God doing something in his heart, more than a perfect explanation of what he wants to do.
These five marks of a leader should give you a pretty clear picture of whether a guy is fit for bivocational church planting. As you look follow the early church example of being devoted to prayer and trusting the Holy Spirit to guide every step.
Published November 8, 2016