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The Primary Purpose of a Church Staff

Last weekend, I had the privilege of traveling across part of Texas with two associates, David Chrzan (Chief of Staff at Saddleback) and Dave Alford who is doing some preparation work for some big things to come related to church planting. I’m going to take a few days and blog some of the highlights – with whom we met and what we learned.

Stop #1: Aubrey Malphurs

Sitting with Aubrey Malphurs was somewhat surreal. We get to talk to plenty of leaders who are doing great things today. They’re leading large and growing churches or orchestrating massive movements. But with Dr. Malphurs, we had the privilege of sitting at the feet of one who has been pouring himself into the lives of leaders, students, and Pastors for decades.

I first heard Dr. Malphurs’ name in the mid-90’s when I was entering ministry and someone gave me a couple of his excellent books on leadership. He’s a professor at Dallas Theological Seminary and works hand in hand with church planters to help them on toward successful missional work.

He shared far more wisdom than I could ever capture in this space, but the one huge truth that stood out to me was this: The primary purpose of a church staff is leadership development. In other words, the church’s staff isn’t there simply to “run” the church or to “do” the work of the ministry. The staff exists to develop leaders.

We so often fall into the trap of believing that people who work on or around our staff are there to work FOR us. That is, their energy and their resources are intended to help us accomplish our ministry goals. This is the reverse of the way we need to be thinking about people development. Instead, we work FOR THEM. Our time needs to be spent empowering and releasing others to lead.

Stop #2: Gateway Church

As we drove around the Dallas-Forth Worth metroplex, we decided we’d stop off at a church randomly and see if we could just be a blessing to some Pastor on his Thursday afternoon. The next church we stumbled upon was Gateway Church, so we popped in to see who was at home.

After making some connections and putting some pieces together, we realized this church was the home of Kari Jobe, who had led worship at Saddleback’s Easter services earlier this year. (And who, as a side note, has one of the sweetest blog designs on the net).

Two kind ladies directed us a few blocks away to the church’s offices where we spent the next hour and a half learning from a church staff that pretty much dropped everything to sit and share with us what they were doing for the Kingdom. We met Pastor Tom Lane briefly, but it was the time we spent with staff members, such as Sion Alford and Zack Neese, and that made our day. We sat in their offices and learned how the church develops worshippers.

I walked away from this meeting with a renewed confidence in what I would term “Spirit-filled systems.” In other words, the church was highly organized. They had charts and maps through which they moved believers into deeper maturity and avenues of ministry, but they always retained a heavy emphasis on the core concept that the Holy Spirit was fully in charge of those believers’ lives.

Worship, for Gateway, was viewed not as a performance, but on the contrary, as a believers’ personal experience with God as one part of the larger body at worship together. Individuals who express an interest in being part of the worship ministry are assessed and assigned to others for accountability. They attend classes that grow their character and equip them for leadership. Musical talent is important, but secondary to the heart matters. The church desires that those who lead in worship have a firm and Spirit-formed viewpoint of what worship is all about.

The church is reaching thousands and is only ten years old, but their growth is not simply the mushroom effect of popularity or mere attractional tactics. It’s intentional and Spirit-led. They’re in the people-development business, which happens to be one of the chief operations and passions of God Himself.

These two meetings were the tip of the iceberg. Stay tuned as I recount some spiritual lessons from the other nine over this week. Today’s biggest takeaway: the primary purpose of a church staff (even if that’s just one Pastor) is to raise up, empower, and release people for ministry. Just see Ephesians 4.

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