‘Church planters tend to be self starters and often think of themselves as self-sufficient. That personality test is often resistant to the advice of others – thinking, “If I’d listened to other people, I would not be planting the church in the first place”.
So goes the quote in Ed Stetzer’s book. In context he is talking about the necessity of church planting coaches or mentors. This seems to be a big deal in certain American circles and sounds like a lot of business gobbledygook to the more cynical European mindset. Interestingly, Stetzer backs up his claim with figures purporting to show that church planters who have mentors tend to do significantly better than those who go it on their own.
Now, I may not like the terms nor the language in which it is couched but I am very interested in the concept of accountability. To whom should the planter be accountable. In my scenario there are various ‘checks and balances’. I am accountable to the eldership of the ‘mother church’ and give personal reports when requested. I am also accountable to my fellow elders for the day-to-day running of the ministry we are engaged with at ground level in Niddrie. I also have a relationship with the lead pastor of the mother church although the extent of that accountability isn’t that clearly defined. He sort of inherited me when he took on his job (poor bloke) and I sort of inherited him. Thankfully, he is a decent enough bloke who seems to know what he is about. Others may not be so fortunate.
I suppose the issue is who we let into our lives to be accountable to. Should we be taking advice and counsel from people who have no understanding of particular ministry pressures, no matter how experienced they may be in other areas? A gut reaction to that might be no. But, I personally quite like the idea of accountability to somebody outside of my context and able to offer more clinical advice. However, there are times when I wish could seek wisdom from somebody who ‘understood my particularised ministry frustrations’. Should we have more than one accountability partner? What happens if they disagree in their counsel (as has happened to me on more than one occasion)? Can too much counsel undermine our productivity and paralyse us? Stetzer gets around these issues by having a ‘supervisor’ to deal with work issues and a ‘mentor’ to deal with ‘personhood’ issues. I am not sure how you differentiate a man from his ministry. Who I am as a person and how I am doing spiritually impinge on my work so I am not sure how I would easily separate the two.
The truth is that I like to be a free spirit. I like to do my own thing. I don’t want some killjoy crushing my dreams and visions and trying to mould them into something they feel more comfortable with. But I desperately need accountability. I need to work on my pride. My way is not always the best way. There are things to learn from others – even those (God forbid) with whom I fundamentally disagree. Even closing in on 40 years of age I need to hear wise voices speaking into my life. That is the battle for me and many like me. We want to be left alone to get on with ‘kingdom work’ but because of the sinfulness of our own hearts we dare not be.