Facing the Leadership Challenge

The biggest challenge facing church planters is often the Leadership Challenge. This requires being the right person more than it requires doing the right things.

It’s a multi-faceted challenge that includes crisis of faith and personal doubt, personal attacks and confrontation, difficult choices in decision-making, spiritual adversity, economic hardship, temptations, feelings of loneliness coupled with abandonment by others, broken trust and agenda disharmony, doctrinal divisions, battles with pride, leadership backlash, limited support, emotional pain, sin, repentance and restoration, and total dependence on God!

Church planters must face the Leadership Challengeevery single day!

Critical Questions

They ask themselves on a regular basis:

  • Do I have what it takes to lead this church?
  • Am I certain that I’m hearing from God?
  • Where do we need to go next?
  • How will we succeed? What does success really look like?
  • Did I make a mistake starting this church?
  • Why do I feel so alone?
  • Where will we find more mature spiritual leaders?

My Personal Challenges

When I first planted a church in Castaic, California, I was twenty-five years old and had recently graduated from seminary. I had limited leadership experience, but several of my friends, my mentors, and the Western District of the Missionary Church placed their confidence in me that I could do this. So I faced this Leadership Challenge head-on!

1. For me, my first Leadership Challenge was personal. I continually faced my inner struggles with self-confidence. I questioned whether I really had what it takes to start a church, and I desperately didn’t want to let those who were following me down. I had to face my own doubts about my abilities to lead. Early on I learned to connect often with others who had gone before me. I met regularly with my coach. I met with a group of five other church planters once a month at an In-N-Out burger over an hour away for support and emotional encouragement.

2. I also faced a Leadership Challenge from those who I recruited to join our church planting team. Unfortunately, there were some who disagreed with our direction, disagreed with our approach, or just disagreed with me because they thought they could do a better job leading. I’d been warned that the people you start a church with are not the people you grow a church with. I thought we had such awesome people that our church plant would be different. It wasn’t. I’m grateful for those early partners, but the early issues of agenda disharmony were a significant challenge to my leadership.

3. It didn’t take long for another Leadership Challenge to appear: we didn’t have enough leaders. I couldn’t lead everything by myself, and we definitely needed more leaders than we had. This became a critical limiting factor to our growth and ability to shepherd those whom God had brought into our young church family. I had to take ownership for the ongoing development of new leaders. I couldn’t delegate this to others. I had to invest more time in raising up leaders.

Recommended Reading

There were several books that helped me to grow and to understand my role as a leader, and also as a developer/leader of leaders. I’d highly recommend these six books to you:

  1. Spiritual Leadership by J. Oswald Sanders
  2. The Making of a Leader: Recognizing the Lessons and Stages of Leadership Development by J. Robert Clinton
  3. The Master Plan of Evangelism by Robert E. Coleman
  4. Revolution in Leadership: Training Apostles for Tomorrow’s Church by Reggie McNeal
  5. The Book on Leadership by John F. MacArthur
  6. The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John C. Maxwell

You can also check out this guide on amazon.com: Raising Spiritual Leaders

Three Important Principles

I think Bobby Clinton’s book The Making of a Leader helped shaped my understanding of leadership development in remarkable ways. I still talk about these ideas and principles as I coach and mentor young leaders and especially church planters.

Here are Three Important Principles that shaped me as a leader:

  1. God develops a leader over a lifetime. This truth is foundational to my personal commitment to being a life-long learner. I never want to stop learning and growing.
  2. Character development comes before ministry. Ministry flows out of being. God is more concerned with my being than with anything I might do for Him.
  3. Faithfulness is the yardstick by which God measures ministry maturity. Faithfulness will continue to be tested at each new ministry level. It must be continually developed and demonstrated in the life of a leader.

What insights do these principles provide to your personal development as a leader?

How will you face the Leadership Challenge?

A Final Thought

You can face the Leadership Challenge! You can finish well!

Lesson 99 in Six-Word Lessons to Discover Missional Living states: Few leaders in ministry finish well. According to Bobby Clinton, only about 30% of the leaders in Scripture finished well. What will you do to finish well? Keep your relationship with God strong. Keep learning and growing. Keep developing godly character. Stay focused on God’s mission. (p 136)

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Author

Dave DeVries

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Dr. Dave DeVries is a coach, trainer, author and founder of Missional Challenge. He is passionate about coaching and training church planters and missional leaders. With 30+ years of church planting and leadership development experience, Dave brings his passion and encouragement to those he trains and coaches.
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