5 Essential Qualities of Great Pastors and Church Planters

Danny Kirk, Grace Hills’ Community Pastor, started a back porch discussion off the other day with this question: what do you think are the basic, essential qualities a leader must have to be an effective church planter?

The more we talked, the longer our list became. And I even thought of Charles Ridley’s excellent list of 13 characteristics of a church planter, which I can’t improve upon. But before I get into it, let me issue this disclaimer to ward off those who will nail me for being overly pragmatic… God can use anyone he wants to use to do anything he wants done. Skilled or not, talented or not, charismatic or not, God can do amazing things through ordinary people.

Having said all of that, some people seem to lead well while others struggle. In general, these are the characteristics of leaders I see influencing growing numbers of people for the kingdom’s sake…

Character in the heart

Every leader’s influence is merely temporary, no matter how large, if there isn’t solid character being developed at the core. Trustworthiness is really the foundational quality of a leader. It’s not the product or the fruit; character is the root. Often, the character of a leader is best revealed out of their home life – their marriage, their relationship with their kids, and who they are when the public isn’t watching.

The good news is, character can be developed.

Confidence in the vision

A movement leader must possess the ability to paint a clear picture of a grand vision, to reduce complex strategies to simple next steps, and to convince others that the vision is bound to become a reality and is therefore worthy of the time, energy, and resources they will sacrifice for it.

The good news is, confidence can grow.

Charisma from the front

I don’t care a hill of beans for the kind of charisma that probably just came to your mind. Flash-in-the-pan rock stars are a dime a dozen and are usually here today and gone tomorrow. I mean the kind of charisma that helps a person communicate in a clear and compelling way. Communication skills are more essential than ever to influencing movements.

The good news is, communication skills can be learned and practiced to proficiency, even by us introverts.

Compassion for People

It may be possible to lead a nation or a business without being a people person, but people are the ministry to which God has called us as pastors and church planters. The world is looking for real love. We are starving for genuine affirmation. And we need friends like never before. Church leaders must pour their lives into people – loving them, serving them, and developing them to their full potential.

The good news is, we can work on this. We can pray for people, make eye contact, become better listeners, and tune into the needs of those around us.

Commitment to the Work

My favorite quote is from Shelton Smith, Editor of The Sword of the Lord:’

The difference between mediocrity and excellence is midnight oil, elbow grease, and the power of God.

While leading a movement requires a proper rhythm, it also doesn’t happen only between the hours of 9 and 4 each day. It’s hard work. People debate Malcolm Gladwell’s assertion that it takes 10,000 hours of doing something to become great at it, but even if Malcolm is wrong, I think it’s a goal worth going for.

And let me say something particularly applicable to aspiring church planters. If relationships will be built, budgets formed, vision statements written, facilities rented, print pieces designed, postcards sent, banners ordered, donuts made ready, musicians recruited, small group hosts recruited, children’s workers trained, or any of dozens of other little duties performed in the planting of a church, there absolutely must be a leader, from day one, who will see to it that it all gets accomplished. If you’re planting a church, no one will wake you up in the morning and tell you to keep going when the going gets tough. If you’re not willing to be a self-starter, don’t plant a church.

If you aspire to lead or plant a church as a Pastor, there are plenty of things you can do to develop yourself in all of these areas. Read books and blogs. Network with other leaders. Stay on your knees and in the Word. Make lists of people and show them love intentionally. But you must start somewhere. This basic list is just what I would consider the core, essential qualities – the non-negotiable starting package.

The good news is, God can start with anyone, anywhere, and do anything through them he wants done. But he tends to look for those willing to be faithful, available, and teachable.

Wear the Belt of Truth

Cool BeltI once had a conversation with some Amish gentlemen who were apparently having fun with my lack of knowledge about their culture. “Know why we wear these black suspenders?,” one asked, to which I replied, “No, why?” “To hold our pants up!,” he said as he and his friends LOL’d.

We would assume that belts are made for the same purpose, but in the day in which Paul encouraged us to…

Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist,…

– Ephesians 6:14 (NIV)

…belts were an important piece of armor for the typical Roman soldier. While the purpose of a sword or a shield may seem obvious, the purpose of a belt was partly emotional – it gave confidence to the soldier. They would use wide leather belts, get them wet and cinch them up tight so that as they dried, they would be even tighter. That feeling of being surrounded and supported gave them a greater sense of strength in battle.

This is what truth does for us. This is what integrity does for us in our lives. When we’re living with integrity, which means to be one person all the time, honoring truth no matter what, we walk confidently. But when we lack integrity, we’re afraid we’ll be found out and we live with the fear that the real us will be exposed and injured.

Don’t go into battle without your integrity intact. This is an area where we grow by soaking up God’s truth and being honest about who we are with others around us. Integrity matters, so wear the belt of truth today.

Every Pastor Should Read ‘Note to Self’

Note to Self by Joe Thorn“Preaching it” is easier than living it. This creates significant problems when our speaking talent outweighs our personal character. Therefore, it is imperative that we, as shepherds, shepherd ourselves – that we hear the Word, do the Word, and preach to ourselves first. That’s why I love Joe Thorn’s book Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself (Re: Lit Books).

We often buy books to help us prepare sermons. You should buy this book to help prepare yourself. The book is divided into three sections, all revolving around the gospel. The first section leads our hearts to assume a posture of praise. The second teaches us how the gospel impacts our relationships with other people. The third reminds us of the impact the gospel should have on self. Here’s a line we need to hear concerning our wives…

You should seek to be the brightest representation of Jesus she sees, as you represent Christ as Savior and servant to her. That would look like seeking her out when you get home from work, instead of seeking solace for yourself. It means affirming her calling and gifts, listening to her, speaking words of encouragement to her, and at all times working for her good. Jesus loves you this way, and in like manner you are called to love your wife.

The gospel is not simply a salvation message intended for people who are lost and apart from Christ. The gospel is the central core of all that we are in Christ and all that we do for Christ. Believers need to be fed from the message of the gospel, and this book drives it home in the hearts of those of us who are most at risk for taking the gospel for granted – preachers.

Grab A Copy

How Important Is Character In Leadership?

There was a recent study that suggested that power increases “moral hypocrisy.” That giving a person power makes that person feel entitled and causes a disconnect in their judgment. It also says that those in high-power positions tend to judge morality of others while not practicing what they preach.

As if everyone NOT in power practices what they preach.

Though I don’t agree completely with the study I will say this: character is a necessity in leadership.

Continue reading How Important Is Character In Leadership?

A Living Definition of Integrity

Like math? An integer is a whole number, right? Our word integrity comes from the same root as the word integer. Integrity is really the concept of being whole, of being one, or of being the same all the time. D. L. Moody said that character is who we are in the dark.

Integrity is the foundation for our relationships as well as our reputation. Much is at stake every time we make another moral choice. Do what is right and it will probably cost you. Do what is wrong and it will most likely cost you far more.

Continue reading A Living Definition of Integrity