It’s the question I get asked most often by young, aspiring church planters — “If you had to do it over again, what would you do—or not do—differently?” It is in answer to that question that I’ve been using my “rearview mirror” perspective. So today, here’s installment #4, with the previous three being Prioritize preaching, Place a premium of prayer, and Keep preaching, praying, and pastoring connected.
4. Embed shared authority into your DNA. Because I believe plurality in church leadership is a core value taught in the New Testament, we instilled this from the beginning. Identifying and training men as elders, developing a staff team, delegating assignments and authority to deacons and other trusted leaders — these are ways to keep the church from becoming all about you.
Be aware that, as a church planter, it will be about you to some degree. At least initially. And if you get comfortable with this, enjoying the credit and kudos, you’re buying into a very fickle form of security. People change and situations morph; you won’t always be the hero. So don’t mount the white horse at all. Share authority biblically and wisely. Celebrate the team as well as the players; especially rejoice with the success of others. Lead, but don’t be lord.
A serious warning: Plurality is messy. I thought our elder team had this conquered early on, but it wasn’t till a few summers into the church plant that I realized we had miles to go. I confessed to our elders, via a rather long letter written by the pool of conviction over vacation, my shortcomings in this area, promised a new path, and by the grace of God he has been walking us up that road. But it has not been easy. I still stumble at times. Run well at other times. They, too, are trekking with me, sometimes tripping and other times jogging fine. We have been at it for a few years now, adjusting things and tweaking elements, and I’m finding that this principle is not easily mastered. Why? Because the only “organization” in America that operates in this way is the church. So yes, shared authority is messy. Is it worth it? You bet!
Don’t misunderstand me — human leadership is still necessary. And there are those elders/leaders with greater reach, those who are “first among equals” in influence. But no one man is the Head. Jesus is. And Elders lead as one under his authority, not as many with their own authority.