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.

And by the way, my whole goal in coaching leaders is to help them get better because, as Craig Groeschel says, “When the leader gets better, everybody wins.” 

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