In their FREE Exponential eBook, Sending Capacity, Not Seating Capacity, J.D. Greear and Mike McDaniel, leaders of The Summit Church, share some of the lessons they’ve learned over the last 10 years of planting 23 churches domestically and 90 internationally, and sending out 555 people from the congregation to be part of new church plants. Below, they focus in on what it takes to make a risky move and commit to share your best leaders–the people you least want to send–with new church plants.
Missiologists say that to begin advancing on lostness in North America, we need to increase the rate at which we’re planting churches fivefold. As you can imagine, planting that many churches will take a lot of resources. However, it may surprise you that the greatest obstacle to planting more churches is not a lack of funds; it’s a lack of qualified planters. Our own denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, has an aggressive strategy to plant 15,000 churches over the next 10 years in North America, and while financial resources are always tight, the greater limiting factor, according to leaders like Kevin Ezell of the North American Mission Board, is not money, but planters.
If that’s true (and our experience has shown it is), then the greatest resource your church can contribute to the mission of God is your best leaders. The challenge, of course, is that your best leaders are the ones you least want to send (you can probably think of a lot of other people you would love to send). But what the world most needs are the people who are already making the greatest impact in your church.
How can you afford to send them? I want to share two principles that have helped our church embrace sending out our best. These two principles have helped us fight against a mentality that plagues most leaders—the mentality that we have a limited number of leadership resources.
1. When you send out your best leaders, God raises up new leaders to take their place.
The more we’ve given away leaders, the more we’ve found that God replaces them.
I’ve seen it happen again and again. I remember sending out Andrew, a good friend and one of our best pastors. He could do anything there was to do at our church (and he had done most of it). I had any one of three jobs I would have loved for him to take at our church, but we knew he could serve the Kingdom better as a church planter. However, I wondered if I would ever replace Andrew. Now, two years later, we miss him, but he is leading one of the fastest-growing new churches in our state, and God has given us Todd, Chuck and Bowe (just to name a few) in his place.
Releasing leaders creates more leaders for two reasons: one natural and one supernatural.
The “natural” reason: Leaders are attracted to places where others want to see them reach their full potential. If leaders see your church as a place primarily looking to plug cogs into your machine, they’ll stay away. I remember reading at one point how an absurd number of upper-level leaders of Fortune 500 companies all emerged under Jack Welch’s leadership at General Electric. Leaders knew that if you worked for Jack Welch, he would help you reach your full potential, whether that meant staying at General Electric or releasing you to take a position at another company. Welch took that approach even if it wasn’t always in the best interest of his company. However, it turned out that his outlook was in the best interests of GE because his reputation drew young talent to the iconic company.
On top of this, there is just something about sending that draws out leaders. I call it creating a leadership vacuum. You create a great spot for a leader, and it draws them out.
The “supernatural” reason: God tells us to be generous with everything He gives us, and just like He promises to multiply your money when you give it away, He multiplies your leadership resources when you send people out. It’s like the little boy who gave his five loaves and two fish. Not only did he get to see Jesus use them to feed the multitude, at the end there were 12 baskets full of leftovers (John 6:13).
Sending out your best leaders is one of the hardest things to do. But isn’t that what we teach our people to do? To put God first, even in bad financial times, and let Him provide? Why would we teach our people to do something that we as churches don’t do? God’s work done God’s way will never lack God’s supply.
2. At its core, multiplication is about developing leaders.
Our journey into multiplication began as a calling to plant churches, but the longer we’ve been doing it, the more we’ve realized that there is another, more fundamental task underneath planting churches, and that’s developing leaders.
You see, if our church is not developing leaders, then our church-planting efforts are really just reaping the fruit of someone else’s work. We may be equipping leaders, but we’re not raising them up from the harvest. Now I realize that everyone builds off someone else’s foundation. Rarely do we get to take someone all the way from unbeliever to church planter. But if we’re truly committed to multiplication, we can’t just fish out of the pond; we have to stock it.
Jesus did not build His church by recruiting the 12 brightest stars from the dean’s list of His local synagogue. Many of His disciples were blue-collar workers with little to no formal theological training. Nor were they all individuals of impeccable reputation. One of His apostles was a tax collector, one of the most despised occupations in the ancient world. And you can’t exactly say that these guys were quick studies. Throughout the gospels, the disciples bumbled around like idiots arguing over who would be the greatest, calling down judgment on people they didn’t like, turning little kids away Jesus, and generally unable to comprehend anything Jesus said. Peter actually became such a stumbling block at one point that Jesus called him Satan. How’d you like that distinction? “Yeah, you’re that guy who Jesus called Satan, right?”
But these were the guys that Jesus used to turn the world upside down. Peter, a.k.a. the disciple with the foot-shaped mouth, who denied knowing Jesus even to a middle-school age girl, became one of the greatest leaders in the early church. He was eventually crucified, upside down in fact, because he felt unworthy to die in the same manner as Christ. If that is how Jesus approached multiplying His church, shouldn’t we be following in His same pattern?
“Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest’” (Matt. 9:37-38, ESV).
Jesus spoke these words to His disciples just before He sent them out (Matthew 10). So basically this was Jesus’ pre-game speech. These were the last words He gave His disciples before He sent them out to face demons, diseases, poverty, and persecution. And what did Jesus tell them? “Pray for help.”
Now I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t put that in my Top 10 of best pep talks. There are so many other things Jesus could have said to the disciples in this moment. He could have reminded them of all that He had taught them; how they had been chosen for this very task; how they were more qualified than anyone else to carry out this mission. But instead He tells them to pray for help.
So what’s going on? I think Jesus wants to instill in them a simple principle that would transform the way they approached ministry: The key to bringing in the harvest doesn’t lie in any one man, but in multiplication.
The Apostle Paul got this. God sums up Paul’s calling in Acts 9:15 – “… he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.” How would you like that assignment? Paul, your job is to reach the Gentiles … and the Israelites … oh, and while you’re at it, why don’t you throw in a few kings, just so everyone knows what’s up?
What made that mission doable for Paul? What enabled him to not be overwhelmed by its sheer enormity? Paul recognized from the very beginning that his calling was bigger than he was. Paul realized that just because Jesus called him didn’t mean he was supposed to be the only one to fulfill the mission. So he devoted his life to not just doing ministry, but to multiplying and sending out leaders.
The same principle was true for Jesus and His disciples, and the same principle is true today. God accomplishes the Great Commission through sending, and at the heart of sending is the call to multiply leaders.
About the Authors
J.D. Greear is the lead pastor of The Summit Church, in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina. With more than 8,500 in weekly attendance, the Summit Church has been ranked by Outreach magazine as one of the fastest-growing churches in the United States. J.D. has also led The Summit to further the Kingdom of God by pursuing a bold vision to plant 1,000 new churches by the year 2050.
J.D. has a Ph.D. in systematic theology from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the author of Jesus, Continued…: Why the Spirit Inside You Is Better Than Jesus Beside You (2014), Stop Asking Jesus into Your Heart: How to Know for Sure You Are Saved (2013), and the forthcoming book Gaining by Losing: Why the Future Belongs to Churches that Send (2015). J.D. and his beautiful wife, Veronica, live in Raleigh and are raising four ridiculously cute kids, Kharis, Alethia, Ryah and Adon.
Mike McDaniel is the church planting pastor at The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, and the director of The Summit Network. Over the last five years, Summit planted 17 churches in North America and in 2013 launched the The Summit Network with a vision of planting 1,000 churches in our generation. Mike lives in Durham with his beautiful wife, Jamie, and their daughter, Madelyn.