“The difference between leaders and followers is perspective. And the difference between leaders and great leaders is greater perspective. ” -J. Robert (“Bobby”) Clinton
Young leaders—for our purposes—young church planters need more perspective.
Once upon a time I planted a church.
It almost seems silly, twenty-five years later, but at that moment I had absolutely no perspective. The church that I was planting was called “Community Church” and it was in a small college town in Whitewater, Wisconsin. I was twenty-seven at the time. We’d started the church with a rag-tag handful of people who were waiting for us to arrive in town. None of them had leadership capacity, which (I suppose) allowed me to lead. But it also meant that we would have to change the feel of the group if we were to attract any people who were more like us. So, we changed the meeting location and time, and a few other things, and we started to follow up on leads. Before long we thought we’d struck the jackpot. We had a young physician and his family, and we had a college professor of sociology and his family in our group. We had momentum in those first few weeks, and then, not knowing any better, we launched the church to public services in less than three months.
Things went pretty well. We were growing, people were coming to faith and being baptized, and we set up shop as a real church. It was happening! It was going to happen!
And then I lost my perspective.
Six months after our launch I had breakfast with the college professor, Craig. He was now the chairman of our church. He’d been intimating that he didn’t enjoy his job and was perhaps going to seek out a professorship at another institution. During breakfast he announced that he took another position and would be moving before long.
It almost sounds silly, twenty-five years later, but I’d completely lost my perspective. Church planting is always full of uncertainties. I’ve told many people over the years how much the emotion of fear pervades the life of a church planting pastor. We must have had some other hassles in the church. What was it? Money? Criticism? Logistical hassles? I don’t remember. I do remember maintaining a stiff upper lip, driving home, meeting my wife on the porch. I collapsed into her arms. “This thing is over; this thing is over”, I sobbed.
A right perspective:
Some perspective can only be learned by being sifted. But some perspective can be learned with a steel-hearted resolve to not shrink back in the face of uncertainty. I wish I’d been better at that in my earlier days.
How’s this for perspective: “…On this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” (Matthew 16:18)
By the way, the church added numbers each week, and it continued to grow, and today it is pastored by a wonderful couple which has turned it into a multiplying powerhouse. It wasn’t over by a long-shot.