The Way We Think About Church Leadership is Incomplete

My guess is that you’re looking to maximize your disciple making impact on the world. Some of you have even told me that. For the church to maximize its impact in the 21st century, we need to make an important shift.

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Steve Cloer recently used three metaphors to describe this shift: a lizard, a sailboat, and a terminal

Carey Neiuwhof calls this new kind of leader a spiritual entrepreneur.

Scripture refers to this kind of leader as an apostle (Ephesians 4:11).

There are many ways to state it. But, here’s the bottom line… 

We’ve got to shift from being reactive to proactive. 

We’ve got to become comfortable creating new things. We can no longer wait for people to come to us. We’ve got to go to them.

Our culture is becoming less and less Christian. The fastest growing religious demographic in the U.S. is the “nones.” The days of waiting for people to come to us are over. Yet, a lot of ministry work is reactive. 

When someone gets sick, you visit them. When someone needs counseling, you counsel them. When someone needs to get married, you marry them. The work of ministry becomes responding to the needs of those who are already Christians.

Don’t get me wrong. There’s definitely a need for pastoral care. It’s an important task to love, care for, and respond to the needs of God’s people. I’m thankful for those who are called to this work.

But, if you think about the five gifts mentioned in Ephesians 4:11 (apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, and teachers), most churches have an abundance of shepherds and teachers. The apostles, prophets, and evangelists are under represented. It’s unfortunate.

We need apostles to break new ground and lead us into new places. There are a lot of characteristics to point out in this kind of leader. But, these three come to mind…

1. An Intense Burden from God

I once heard someone say that your ministry flows out of the thing that burdens you most. Will Mancini refers to this as apostolic espirit. I think you can identify this burden by asking…

What makes me cry?

Earlier this year I visited some campus ministry and church planting friends. Nearly every time they talked about people who don’t know God, they cried. The burden on their hearts to reach new people is so strong they’re moved to tears when they talk about it.

Entrepreneurial, apostolic leaders have an intense burden on their hearts to go where others aren’t going to reach people others aren’t reaching.

2. Creative

An apostle is a creative leader. They’re most energized when they’re breaking new ground and creating new things. They’re builders.

If you work with this kind of leader, equip them, empower them, and release them to do the work God’s calling them to do. Don’t be threatened by their creative spirit. It’s just the way God’s wired them. 

Entrepreneurial, apostolic leaders love to create.

3. Visionary

Apostles can see things before most people. 

Stephen Covey is famous for the phrase, “Begin with the end in mind.” He also referred to this as the first creation. Before something can be created in reality it has to be created in someone’s mind. 

Apostles have a knack for seeing new possibilities where others only see challenges. They’re visionaries. They’re able to break new ground and build new things because they can see it before it exists.

Entrepreneurial, apostolic leaders have an uncommon vision for what’s possible.


What do you think is needed most for the church to thrive in the 21st century? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Leave a comment below!

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