by Thomas L. Law, III
Every church planter deals with a multitude of issues besides the weekly task of preparing compelling sermons. I would like to explore some of those issues through books which will help the church planter as he works through them. These are not the only books on the subject, but they will get us started. Maybe some of you have some other books you would suggest.
Pain of Leadership – One the universal aspects of leadership is that it involves pain. If you don’t already know its effect on you, your family, and your ministry be prepared. If you do, these books will help you as your work through it.
Iorg takes us through the various aspects of leadership which causes us and others pains. He deals with leaders as failed individuals whose personal sin inflicts pain on themselves and others. As leaders help their congregations through change, pain is evident and conflict often surfaces with addition elements of pain. Iorg does a tremendous job of helping us see this pain, its cause, and its benefits to our development as leaders.
Leading with a Limp: Turning Your Struggles into Strengths by Dan B. Allender –
Allender says, “If you’re a leader, you’re in the battle of your life.” He goes on to say, “To the degree you face and name and deal with your failures as a leader, to that same extent you will create an environment conducive to growing and retaining productive and committed colleagues. The surest success comes through being honest about failure.” It is often difficult to look at ourselves honestly and with transparency. Allender holds a mirror up so that we can see who we really are and come to grips with how God can use our weakness for His benefit.
One of the reasons for pain is conflict.
Conflict – Conflict is a natural and normal aspect of life. Where two are more people are together there is the opportunity for conflict. It is imperative that you know how to deal with it.
Well-Intentioned Dragons: Ministering to Problem People in the Church by Marshall Shelley – As Shelley says, “This is a book about ministering while under attack.” He then goes on to identify nine types of dragons: the Bird Dog, the Wet Blanket, the Entrepreneur, Captain Bluster, the Fickle Financier, the Busybody, the Bookkeeper, the Merchant of Muck, and the Legalist”. Shelley says, “The goal in handling dragons is not to destroy them, not merely to disassociate, but to make them disciples.” How well you handle these dragons and how effectively you move them toward becoming disciples of Christ will often determine the success of your ministry.
Antagonists in the Church: How To Identify and Deal With Destructive Conflict by Kenneth Haugk – Although conflict is always present and to a certain degree healthy there are some who take it up a notch to the level of antagonism. Haugk states, “Sooner or later most congregations experience some degree of destructive conflict caused by antagonism.” He goes on to say, “Antagonism should not be confused with mere criticism or healthy conflict in the church. Antagonism is unhealthy conflict, and antagonistic behavior is not honorable.” Then he has a special word for those in in leadership, “All must work together to repel the attack, though by the very nature of their function, leaders will generally assume a more active role than others.” How you deal with these antagonistic elements may determine how long you stay in ministry. Haugk’s book gives you the insight needed to face this difficult subject.
One of the reasons for conflict is change. As a church planter you are a change agent. People will not like everything you are wanting to do.
Change – Understanding the elements of change is imperative. As you initiate a new congregation you are helping the Kingdom of God stake out an outpost in a new territory. The people in the place where you are starting may think they know what life with Christ really means, but we know that most often that is not the case. Your job, we will deal with your “mission” in another section, is to bring about change.
Leading Congregational Change: A Practical Guide for the Transformational Journey by Jim Herrington, Mike Bonem, James H. Furr – In Leading Congregational Change the authors make a clear and understandable presentation of the change process. As the authors are quick to point out, the change process need not be linear, but there are certain elements that are found in all successful change processes. Most of us have not given this the kind of thought that the authors have and have a tendency to bog down at some point and wonder what happened. The authors help us understand what is going on and how to keep the process moving so that we can achieve the results we want.
The Leadership Triangle: The Three Options That Will Make You a Stronger Leader by Kevin Ford and Ken Tucker – As the authors say, “If you’re not making any progress in solving the problem you’re facing, you are probably trying to solve the wrong problem. The art of leadership is in knowing what sort of problem you are facing and what leadership option is required to tackle it. We have identified three primary types of leadership challenges: Tactical, Strategic, and Transformational”. The authors help leaders understand what these kinds of challenges are and how to deal with them. When you start identifying what kinds of problems you face and begin solving problems with the appropriate instruments you set yourself up to accomplish what God has called you to do.
Future Perfect: Tenth Anniversary Edition by Stan Davis – Future Perfect is a verb tense in the English language which speaks of the future as if it has already taken place. Davis say, “In the industrial economy, our models helped us to manage aftermath, the consequences of events that had already happened. In this new economy, however, we must learn to manage the beforemath; this is, the consequence of events that have not yet occurred.” This is the critical element of living into your vision. If you are responding to what has already taken place you are, at best, managing events. If God has given you a vision for what He wants to accomplish through you and your people, you have to work in the future perfect world of beforemath. You have to dream the dream and then live the dream into reality.
You cannot do this alone. You need others.
You and Your Team – Understanding who you are will help you understand the kinds of people with whom you need to surround yourself. Understanding your weaknesses (we all have them) will help you recruit those who can help you accomplish what God has put on your heart. Understanding others will help you know how to work with them so that, together, you can be what God wants you to be.
The Me I Want to Be: Becoming God’s Best Version of You by John Ortberg – Ortberg says, “The most important task of your life is not what you do, but who you become. Ironically, becoming this person will never happen if my primary focus is on me. It is receiving power from the Spirit of God to become the person God had in mind when he created you”. If we are to give leadership to God’s family then we must allow Him to make us into what He created us to be.
Discover Your Giftedness by Mels Carbonell – Carbonell says, “Not only was this book designed to help believers identify and understand their giftedness in Christ, it also was written to teach them how to exercise their giftedness”. Church is not a solo adventure. It is something that we do corporately. Understanding ourselves is essential to that process and Carbonell gives us the tools to identify who we are, how we relate to others, our strengths, and our weaknesses. He also helps us understand how to identify those same qualities in others and, maybe more importantly, how to work together.
Empowerment Takes More Than a Minute by Ken Blanchard, John P. Carlos & Alan Randolph – The authors say, “Beliefs change slowly, but the kind of thinking that led to past success will not lead to future success. Success today depends on team effort”. They go on to say, “Permission to take risks, make mistakes, and challenge the way things have been done in the past opens up people’s ability to learn and use their talents”. This brief but significant book helps us understand how working with others will incrementally augment our chances of success as we move forward in the adventure we call life.
How Your Church Family Works: Understanding Congregations as Emotional Systems by Peter L. Steinke – Steinke, states, “We need to pay attention to and work through the presence of anxious forces in the church rather than to be surprised and rendered helpless by them, or retreat from their distressing influence or, worse yet, protect those who spread their disease among others. The goal of this study is to conceptualize emotional processes so that we can recognize them and, ultimately, let them serve rather than corrupt the purpose of our bonding together. System Theory is a way of conceptualizing reality”. If you are going to work at implementing change then understanding of system theory is imperative. Steinke takes the discipline of system theory and applies it to the congregational arena. This book helps us understand how change can happen within the church.
If you are going to be a change agent you need to understand the world in which you will be working.
The World – We live in a crazy messed up world, but we already knew that. It has been that way since the fall and will remain so until Christ redeems it. In the mean time we have to live in it and do our part in the task Jesus has assigned us. In order to do this effectively we need to understand it better. The following are an assortment of books to help in that task.
The Present Future: Six Tough Questions for the Church by Reggie McNeal – McNeal says, “The current church culture in North America is on life support. The American culture no longer props up the church the way it did, no longer automatically accepts the church as a player at the table in public life, and can be downright hostile to the church’s presence”. He then proceeds to single out six areas where he feels the church in America much change if it is to survive. His insightful observations help us understand the world that surrounds us and lead us to better define how we need to transform what we are doing if we are going to impact this country.
The Millennium Matrix: Reclaiming the Past, Reframing the Future of the Church by M. Rex Miller – Miller says, “I have designed the Millennium Matrix: a compelling framework that enables us to view ourselves, our times, and the church in a way that makes sense of the past, the present, and the future. One of the messages of this book is that we live in a time of continuous change, creating an ever greater need for significant relationships”. Miller presents a compelling understanding of where we are in the compendium of history and how this influences where we are going as a culture. He presents how different epochs have been influenced by events and how we can use this information to have a transformational effect on our own time.
The World Is Flat 3.0: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century by Thomas Friedman – Friedman says, “The world is flat. It is now possible for more people than ever to collaborate and compete in real time with more other people on more different kinds of work from more different corners of the planet and on a more equal footing than at any previous time in the history of the world”. This interconnectedness gives us more opportunities to communicate with others the truth of Christ while at the same time presenting us with more complications than ever before.
In order to understand our world it is important that we understand how the business community is changing and how it anticipates change. As you will see in these two books, there are subjects that in the past were uniquely previews of the religious world that are now being presented as “good business practices”. How we address this may determine how significant we are even if we achieve what we determine to be success.
Life at the Edge of Chaos: Creating the Quantum Organization by Mark D. Youngblood – Youngblood says, “If our organizations are to create significant, long-term performance improvements and contribute to a healthier society, we must challenge our fundamental ideas about business management. Organizations must transform their basic nature and weave a systemic, organic worldview in the very fabric of corporate life. The reason we have trouble managing organizations today is that we have not questioned whether the fundamental assumptions and unconscious beliefs that power our thinking and drive our actions are still valid. These new organizations operate on the principles of living systems and are characterized by openness, flexibility, responsiveness, resilience, creativity, vitality, balance, and caring”.
Surfing the Edge of Chaos: The Laws of Nature and the New Laws of Business by Richard T. Pascale, Mark Millemann, and Linda Gioja – The authors state, “A complex adaptive system is formally defined as a system of independent agents that can act in parallel, develop “models” as to how things work in their environment, and, most importantly, refine those models through learning and adaptation. A successful leader will develop and maintain a crucial tension between adaptive and operational leadership. The new science of complexity is a broad-based inquiry into the common properties of all living things. This book describes a new management model based on the nature of nature”.
Your Mission – We all dream of being used by God to launch a Church Planting Movement, but understanding that a church planting movement is in reality a rapidly reproducing discipleship movement is critical. It sharpens our focus and helps orient out path.
Contagious Disciple Making: Leading Others on a Journey of Discovery by David L. Watson and Paul D. Watson – Making disciples is at the heart of what we as Christians should be doing. The decline of Christianity in the West over the past fifty or so years would indicate that we have done this very poorly. Many denominations and churches think that if we work harder, giving more effort to what we are currently doing, we will be able to turn the tide. That has not proven to be true. The Watsons have given us a clear path to help us focus on the one priority which we should have – Make Disciples. They show us how to get back to the basic relational aspects of our faith, where one person who has found Jesus helps someone else find Him guiding that person to then disciple someone else. It’s simple, it’s transformative, but it is not easy. It is imperative, though, that we relearn and practice these primary principles to bring about the redemption of the world for which Christ died.
Houses that Change the World by Wolfgang Simson – Simson says, “House church is a model centered on multiplication and discipleship with huge growth potential, because the “cell” is the multipliable unit itself. Mentoring, multiplication and discipleship is the heart of the concept. House churches provide a place of radical transformation of values and reordering of life, offering mutual and organic accountability, where redeemed peer pressure is made to function for good, and not for bad”.
The Missing Church by Robert H. Baldwin, Jr. and Galen E. Blom – The authors state, “Our belief is that God wants to use his church to redeem and reform life in America just as he’s used it in our history. For us the problem of the impotency of the American church to shape our nation’s culture is that the church is missing from the places that matter – our families, our local neighborhoods, our workplaces, schools, and ‘third places,’ those places we gather regularly with friends to socialize or recreate. By missing we mean that we Christians do not understand church to be believers gathered missionally in all the places we spend time together – like family, neighborhood, workplace, and school. We are not saying our current way of meeting in congregations is unimportant. We are saying it is insufficient”.
(A companion to Contagious Disciple-Making is Miraculous Movements: How Hundreds of Thousands of Muslims Are Falling in Love with Jesus by Jerry Trousdale. This book shows how this method is being used transformationally in a very difficult environment. A book with the same purpose is T4T: A Discipleship Re-Revolution: The Story Behind the World’s Fastest Growing Church Planting Movement and How it Can Happen in Your Community! by Steve Smith with Ying Kai. I like Contagious Disciple-Making better because rather than learning stories as presented in T4T, Contagious Disciple-Making focuses on reading Scripture. Real-Life Discipleship: Building Churches That Make Disciples by Jim Putman is another very helpful book in this same genre. I highly recommend all three of these books.)
Every one of these books has something important to say. You can find summaries of them on my website at tomlaw.org/booksummaries. I would encourage you to read the summaries to see which book in each category most speaks to your needs at this moment. Then I would encourage you to acquire the book and read it in depth. Don’t depend on the summaries, they will only start you down the path.
If you would like to explore some of these issues more in depth, and need someone with whom to do so, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tom Law served as missionary church planter for 21+ years with the Foreign/International Mission Board before becoming the Executive Director of Tarrant Baptist Association – Fort Worth, Texas. After retiring, he served as the Interim Executive Director of the Baptist Convention of Iowa. Each of the churches he helped start in Paraguay was an attempt to reach out to a new segment of Paraguayan society.