Am I a leader?

Am I a leader?

This is a tough question and one that gets put to me quite often. What do I think the requirements are of somebody interested in church planting and working in inner city contexts? Too many to stick on one blog. So, let’s just kick around a few.

1. Do you have vision? Not can you see, but are you a visionary? Can you see potential where others see problems? Can you visualise a project or a plan long before others do? Many people aspire to be visionary leaders but are really just followers. Many more think they can plant because they read a book or went to a conference or did a year out for theological training. Some people are great team players. I am not one of them. I need to lead and to think and to plan and to ‘cast vision’ (I’ve always wanted to say that in a sentence). Many take 7 months and 47 meetings to decide whether they ought to pray about having a vision for the future. They need to ‘seek the Lord’ for 6 years before they can decide ‘whether it is his will to move forward in  this direction’. Without being flip, let me suggest that this type of individual is not a leader who is going to have the drive needed to move things forward.

2. Do you have the ability to inspire others to follow your vision?  The sexy word is ‘enable’ but I hate it because it makes it sound like we’re some sort of care worker. Leaders have vision and leaders inspire. People often wonder how I manage to talk people into coming and doing internships here at NCC and my answer to people is something like this: ‘Do you inspire people?’ People will follow visionary leadership. They will follow something if it inspires them. Do you inspire people? Or do you just make them perspire? Many men leading churches in our country today are struggling because they are about as inspirational as the keynote speaker at a morticians roadshow. Are people buying what you’re selling? If not, you’re in the wrong gig.

3. Do you encourage your people? I have a reputation for a no-nonsense approach to pastoral care, counselling, evangelism and preaching. I am direct. I don’t have time to faff about and pretty it all up. But I encourage people. I get alongside them and I know when to say the right word in season. I know when to give a rocket but I know when to give them a little hug. People perform better when they are encouraged. This is a hard gig and there is a lot of fallout. People come and go but you keep a core by encouraging your team. If you don’t have that gift then get somebody about you who does or it will be curtains in no time.

4. Do you walk the walk? In other words are you like one of those old WWII generals who sat 50 miles behind enemy lines sending the troops out to fight on the front lines but never once getting their feet dirty? Or are you first over the top to lead the way for your people? Too many pastors hide in their studies and prepare mediocre works of oratory sometimes berating people for not being more evangelistic or missional or whatever new buzzword they have read about in this months ‘Briefing’ and yet they themselves don’t meet another human being all week, let alone an unbeliever. People can sniff out the falseness of that. I never ask my people to do what I am not prepared to do myself for them. We must model it.

There are lots of courses on this and that out there in ‘evangelical bubble world’ right now. There’s a course for the gospel, evangelism, pre-evangelism, discipleship, small groups, care groups, missional groups, planting. There’s a course for everything. That’s the problem. Many leaders are wondering why their people aren’t engaging with the world or why they have lost confidence in the gospel. Well, my advice is to look closer to home. Like begats like in this game and never more truer  than in church planting circles. What kind of leader are we? Maybe we would be better as part of a team rather than leading a team. I wonder what the UK church planting landscape would look like if there were less followers in charge and more visionaries? Messy, probably. But more exciting too I would guess.