Saturday, May 31, 2014

The Right Stuff

My faithful weekly blogpost readers may notice that I am writing this week's post on Saturday rather than Monday.  The reason for this is because tomorrow morning, Star and I and our two daughters will be traveling to our new place of residence and the location of our new pastoral call.  Watch for more details on this in next week's blogpost….

For some reason, over the past year or so I have had many pastors, church leaders, seminarians and even business leaders ask me what the key ingredients in the makeup of a New Church Development Pastor are.  More simply put, people have asked me; "How do you know if you have…

The Right Stuff

to start a new church?"  Interestingly, the assessment process for determining the proper makeup and personality for a New Church Development Pastor has become quite formalized in recent years.  Christianity Today recently had a major article on the key ingredients necessary in the personality makeup of a New Church Development Pastor.  My friend Tod Bolsinger recently wrote a Facebook entry on the topic.  Numerous denominations have intricate procedures, exam processes, psychological intake tools and specially designated agencies to determine if a person is right to start a new church.  I know of one friend who was sure she wanted to be a New Church Development Pastor.  She underwent a very intense five-week training and exam course on the topic.  After the class was over, the "assessors" told her she was "unsuitable" for being a New Church Development Pastor.  Crestfallen, my friend found another pastoral calling.

(As a side note: I have always found it amusing that many of the so-called "professional assessors" for the proper makeup of New Church Development Pastor have never actually started a new church or ever been apart of a New Church Development themselves.  As one of my favorite cinema characters, Sean Connery in the movie "Finding Forester" once said; "Be careful of teachers of writing, they are sometimes the victims of never having made it as writers.")

In my humble opinion and experience of having started two new churches, and as a person who sits on the precipice of contemplating the start of a third new church (gulp…again, more about this in next week's blogpost), I have found that it basically boils down to 5 important factors:

1.  An Unquenchable Optimism
In his book, "Learned Optimism" writer Martin Seligman observed that all people have one of two words written on their hearts.  They either have the word "No" or the word "Yes".  Optimists have the word "Yes" written on their hearts.  Every single day in a New Church there is reason to become discouraged about something.  In fact, on a given morning, while worshipping in a movie theater, there are usually 50 reasons to become discouraged.  New Church Development Pastors always need to be able to look squarely in the eye of a problem and say, "Yes, we will get through this", "Yes we will prevail", "Yes we can!"

2.  A Deep Heart For People Outside the Church
I have often said that I sometimes enjoy hanging out with non-Christ followers more than I enjoy hanging out with Christ followers.  This is not to say that I do not have many incredible Christ following friends.  But I just love hanging around people with "rough edges".  A New Church Developer needs to have a heart that literally aches for those who don't know Christ, for people who have "rough edges".  I have found that this intrinsic personality make-up of loving outsiders cannot be manufactured.  You either have it or you don't.

3.  An Entrepreneurial Spirit
Entrepreneurs are basically problem solvers.  They love to look at a problem and come up with a technical solution.  I could spend hours listening to inventors like Dyson, the vacuum cleaner engineer who put his name on his new vacuum invention - The Dyson.  I love how entrepreneurs think.  A New Church Developer is basically a problem-solver.  The first problem to be faced is; "How do we get those people out there, to come into this church in here."  The answer to that question requires "out of the box thinking" - entrepreneurialism.

4.  The Ability To Raise Money
I will never forget the Presbytery meeting I attended a few years ago where a pastor stood up and said, "Why are we spending all of this money on New Churches?  Why don't we just do it the Biblical way, and trust the Holy Spirit to grow churches?"  My speech-givng friend was clearly not familiar with the apostle Paul and his ministry.  Paul was basically a good preacher, a strong leader, a wise pastoral sage, and perhaps most of all…a cracker-jack fundraiser.  In almost every one of Paul's letters he begins by thanking a certain church for their contributions and offerings.  Here's just one example; "When I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving except you." (Philippians 4:15).  New Churches Cost Money.  That's just the way it is.

5.  The Desire to Work Hard
New Church Development is the hardest work I have ever undertaken.  It is literally exhausting work.  Every morning at Highlands, my brother Jamie and I would wake up at 4:00AM to haul the trailer down to the movie theater.  There we would set up.  Then we would lead music, preach, meet people, and teach.  Then we would tear down the equipment and head home.  And that was just on Sundays.  Again, every time I read an epistle from the Bible, I have newfound respect for the apostle Paul who started many many new churches.  Paul must have been quite an athlete!  Starting New Churches is hard work!

So, that's basically it.  If God has called you to start and new church, and you feel you have these five aforementioned gifts, don't allow any professional church "assessor" tell you otherwise.  As a New Church Development Pastor, you just might have…

The Right Stuff!

All For Now,

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