Over the last several years I have lead and assisted in the start-up of six very different ministries. Some have been churches, others para-church organizations, and some have been ministries within other organizations. While each launch has yet to be proven by time, they’ve taught unique principles of intensely working with organizational and ministry beginnings.
Supplication and Invitation of God
“Prayer does not equip us for greater works – prayer is the greater work.” Thus said Oswalt Chambers. None of the ministries I have been a part of in the last couple of years has moved forward without deep and abiding prayer – life infused with communion. It must mark the life of those in leadership and it should influence ministry strategy. To see the heart of God together can cause deep unity – a needed element for any ministry.
It is important that strategy is both defined and fluid. Direction, vision, plans, purpose, mission, and environment are all items that must be well defined and Spirit given. Without these, the start-up runs the terrifying risk of alienating people groups with which it might want to connect. However, because it is impossible to know how life and context will change during gestational stages, these strategies must also be flexible.
Strategy is Less Important than People
While strategy is important, it cannot be held in higher regard than relationships with people or Christ. Strategy is meant to care for and solidify relationships. When we rely on strategy more than our relationship with Christ we become idolaters. When we love our strategy more than people, we have made our own creation more important than God’s best creation. While there are times when we must stick to our guns for the purposes of defending and caring for what God has entrusted to us, it must always be done in a sacrificial manner that puts Christ first. Without people, we have no ministry at all.
Small is More Important than Grand
It is easy to get caught up in new vision. It is God given and usually provides something people need which has not been offered by other ministries. However, those ministries of which I have been a part who have made less of themselves held within them the seed of healthful growth. This, I think, is because they understood that a seed a small thing and it grows because God causes growth. That seed is important, but it is no tree. The seed holds components for growth, but only faithfulness will tell the whole story.
Submission as Healthy Partnership
The church is Jesus’ body and that means the church is unity. I have learned that partnership is the bedrock of beginnings. So, a leader or leadership who are choosing to forcefully peel themselves away from partnerships with peers or leaders are killing their organization before it begins. They will likely shy away from submitting to or caring for others as well. Without care and submission, especially with those who have different ideas or opinions, unity is impossible.
Suffering and Healing as Characteristics of Start-up Leaders
All the leaders launching ministry who I have been engaged with have been through deep loss or pain. Somehow, I think, suffering and new ministry go together. Past pain in someone’s life makes for a good leader-of-the-new because it takes someone who is willing to be deeply faithful to God’s call to keep something new going. In other words, those who have been faithful through pain and healing are more likely to be able to work through the challenges of development. However, it is important that there has been significant healing from the suffering before something new is begun. This is partly because stamina comes from healing and launching ministry takes a lot of stamina. Find a person who has healed significantly from a deep wound and you may have found your next church planter or ministry starter.