In this day and age in which church planting movements are commonplace across the landscape of America, the formula for an “effective” church plant often involves identifying a charismatic, extroverted, educated (theological), magnetic, young, passionate, visionary, dynamic, eloquent man who can draw together and lead a team of followers to accomplish the fulfillment of his masterfully developed vision/mission while teaching in a “relevant” style. I’ve been taught this principle; I’ve read about this principle. However, I’ve seen this principle implemented. I question whether this is in conformity to Scripture from both the perspective of qualifications and practical leadership.
First, the primary qualifications required for a church planter are (a) personality, (b) education, (c) speaking, and (d) strong leadership/administrative skills. Interestingly, you will find none of these as qualifications for a church planter in Scripture. A first qualification found in Scripture would be gifting, having been given as an apostle gift to the church. Unfortunately, many churches neglect or deny the existence of this gift to the church, ignoring passages like Ephesians 4:11-13 and giving these gifted individuals the option of either being misidentified and misunderstood within the church or venturing out independently to plant churches (which is not as effective as being sent and connected). Assuming the church planter would exercise oversight within the church, another qualification would be that of being “above reproach”. 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 flesh out this qualification for an overseer of the church in both character (rather than personality) and handling doctrine (i.e. teaching, refuting, correcting, etc. which can be aided by education). So, in view of Scripture, the primary qualifications of a church planter would be gifting (apostle) and being “above reproach” in character and handling doctrine.
Second, the primary leadership style required of the church planter is leading from “above”. The church planter is the man with all the answers; vision is given, programs are implemented, people are utilized to implement the vision (primarily involving the Sunday service, although that is a gross generalization). In contrast, the Biblical vision is leadership from “below“. Jesus taught that whoever desires to be great among his followers, must be a servant of His followers, even a sacrificial slave (Matthew 20:25-26). According to Philippians 2:5-8, this kind of posture extends to all followers of Christ. Jesus humbled himself to become a human. Rather than becoming our equal, He took on the form of a sacrificial obedient servant. All followers of Christ, especially leaders, are to become accustomed to the view from “below”.
In addition, rather than being “strong” leaders, followers of Christ are to boast in their “weakness” so that the power of Christ might reside in us, for when we are weak, we are strong (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). Even those with the gift of “leadership/administration” must recognize that the gift is from God and lead diligently from His resources entrusted to them in order to serve others (Romans 12:8; 1 Peter 4:10). Apostles (and the other 4 equippers) function primarily as those who equip the body of Christ for ministry (literally “service”). Effectively, apostles are servants who equip the body to serve, helping them to understand and live their Biblical mandate (Matthew 24:14; 28:18-20). Rather than helping the body to understand and implement their vision, leaders are to equip the body in such a way that they are caught up in the story of God revealed in Scripture, partnering with Him in the renewal of all things (Revelation 21:5; Colossians 3:9-10) as servants of the kingdom of God (and its King; John 18:36) as it spreads like yeast through dough (Matthew 13:33).